3 things inspired our ladies long weekend on the Greek island of Corfu; a keening for off-season sunshine, a childhood full of ancient myths, and, well, Instagram – let’s keep things properly millennial and real here. Whilst we were there, we visited some really interesting corners and coves of the island – inspiring this list of the best things to do in Corfu (a much-requested travel blog post!)
When you slip around hairpin corners to jaw-dropping cliffside views, you understand just how ancient myths and fables were inspired by this wild beauty and used to explain the world around the generations of ancient settlers. Or, perhaps I’m just being fanciful.
The Greek name for the island – Kerkyra – comes from the nymph who was the daughter of the river-god, Asopos. Posideon, the god of the sea, fell in love with her on the island, where she gave birth to the race of the Phaeacians. Then, in The Odyssey, the shipwrecked hero Odysseus is washed ashore with the help of the goddess Athena and awakens to the laughter of princess Nausikaa and her friends washing clothes in a nearby stream (widely thought to be somewhere on the northwest coast, possibly at modern Érmones).
Practicalities of visiting Corfu in the shoulder season:
- We hired a car at the airport which was a saving grace of our weekend. The roads are busy even in the shoulder season, but most local drivers were pretty chilled out. GET A SMALL CAR – especially if you want to explore the beautiful coastal coves.
- We stayed in a lovely AirBNB with parking close to the airport (which was also only a 5-minute drive from the Old Town) – most people recommended hiring a villa on the coast if you hired a car, rather than finding or paying for car parks in the Old Town if you stay in a hotel.
- We visited at the beginning of April, just before the island began to open for the busy season. It meant that fewer restaurants were open, but the roads were much quieter.
- On your flight home, sit on the left-hand side of the plane for the breathtaking views.
Our favourite places to visit in modern-day Corfu were:
The beautiful Vlacherena monastery is a Corfù icon and was founded many centuries ago on a little rocky island as a women’s monastery. Two of the modern inhabitants – a sleepy dog that slumbered in the sunshine, and (at the time of writing) a ‘little bit pregnant’ Calico cat welcome visitors to this peaceful spot – local and tourist alike. It does get busy – when we visited there were a few student groups, oh, and incoming flights swoop thrillingly close to the bell tower as they come to land at Corfu airport.
Catch a local boat over to Pontikonisi, also known as “Mouse Island
On the boardwalk to Vlacherna Monastery, we joined a group of local women who were paying their respects at the Byzantine chapel of Pantokrator, dating back to the 11th century. According to the legend, Pontikonissi was Ulysses’ ship, the vessel that brought the legendary king of Ithaca and the hero of Homer’s epic poem the Odyssey to the island of the Phaeacians. It was during a terrible storm that the boat was washed out on the shores of the island, and Poseidon turned his boat into this green rock, giving it his name. Others say that the island got its name because when seen from above, it looks like a mouse.
Take your picnics and towels to the Marathiá/Agía Varvára beaches
With golden sands stretching as far as the cove curves around and a few cafes dappled along the beachfront, it would be easy to spend a fair amount of time relaxing here.
Spot the cats
There are droves of cats living semi-wild on the streets, verges and boat prows of Corfu – some super friendly, some incredibly wary of humans. Our friend Kara only discovered just how feline-obsessed Jess and I were, when we went to Corfu and squealed our way around the various kitty residents.
Porto Timoni, Afionas Village
On the west coast of Corfu island, cobblestoned pathways twist between tiny whitewashed restaurants and tucked away homes. They lead down a gravel path to the beautiful beautiful double bay beach of Porto Timoni, which we didn’t manage to get down to – but again we visited offseason – and the coastal views we enjoyed were worth it in any case.
Wander through the winding streets of Old Town Corfu
The beauty of the Venetian and Byzantine buildings are eclipsed only by the turquoise waters that lap the walls.
Make sure you put aside a few hours to wander the winding pedestrian pathways, oh, and enjoy an ice cream. I loved the Baklava and Pavlova flavours that I found…
The Corfu Old Fortress
The natural rock promontory offered protection for the residents of the 5th century AD, when the ancient city of Corfu was moved here after the destruction of the ancient city by the Visigoths. The edifice was converted into a fortress by the Byzantines in the 8th century AD and contained all of the small medieval town.
The views over the harbour waters are well worth exploring the old fortress for – just make sure you visit more than an hour before closing (though we found a lovely, sunny terrace on which to spend an hour or so on within the grounds).
Αγγελόκαστρο – the Castle of Angelos or Castle of the Angel is a Byzantine castle. It is located at the top of the highest peak of the island’s shoreline in the northwest coast near Palaiokastritsa and built on particularly precipitous and rocky terrain. Sadly it wasn’t open when we visited (despite what Google maps said) but it was magnificent, even in the wind-driven rain – so check before you go.
Day trip to Albania
You can hop on a ferry from Corfu over to to the misty hills of Albania, a taste a little of the local culture.
It’s so hard to distil the soul of an ancient isle into the length of a digestible blog post – but these are the places that we wanted to linger in the longest which should give visitors to Corfu a taster.
Have you been to any of the Greek islands? If so, which was your favourite?
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