Guide to Corfu, Greece
Corfu!!! Also know as “Kerkyra” in Greek, Corfu is the north island of the Ionian islands of Greece. Corfu is located between Italy and Greece, surrounded by the Adriatic and Ionian Sea. The Ionian Islands are unique with their beautiful green mountains and forests. This contrasts with the dry rocky terrain of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea. The main port, Corfu Town, was built under the Venetian Rule, so the architecture reflects the Island’s history. The Ionian Islands can be a sweet getaway from busy tourist areas of Greece and Greek islands.
The official language is Greek but most citizens are able to communicate in English and even Italian. When traveling into Corfu from Italy or mainland Greece, most companies will check your passport for purchasing tickets.
The sea water is calm and clear and the island offers a variety of things to do and see. It is a large island that can take months and years to explore every corner. There is always a beach to see and a different point to watch the Grecian sunset.
Ferry: Many backpackers find themselves taking a ferry from Italy to make their first step on Grecian land in Corfu. The shortest ferry rides are about 5 hours from Italy leaving from Brindisi and Bari (6 hour train ride from Rome) that run daily in summer high season and only cost 18 -25 euros including port tax. Other Italian locations you can leave from are Ancona and Venice. If you have an Interail or Eurail, “ferry tickets” are sometimes included in those packages. Note: Some ferries are not direct. Most stop in Igoumenitsa, a city on the coast of mainland Greece, and then carry on to Corfu (a hour ferry ride from Igoumentisa.
You can also take a short ferry ride from Albania – you can see Albania from Corfu. There is a Bus-Ferry option from mainland Greece, read under Bus section.
Flights: Flying to Corfu is simple and semi-reasonable. If you are on traveling time constraints, Athens is only a 45-minute plane ride from Corfu. There are also charter flights from Ryan Air to Bari, Venice, and Brindisi – from there you can catch a ferry to Corfu. Olympic and Aegean Airlines service flights to Corfu from Athens and Thessaloniki. Aegean Airlines: +30 22860 28500. Olympic Airlines: +30 22860 31525,31666.
Bus: There is a bus from Athens Kiffisos Station that takes about 8 hours to Igoumenitsa. From there you are transferred to a local ferry boat to Corfu. This is a long and somewhat uncomfortable option due to overnight travel and older buses and mid-night transfer onto a ferry boat. Upside: Saves a night’s pay of accommodation and is approximately 30 euros. Athens Kiffisos Ktel Bus Station Tel: 210 51 29 443 or 210 51 34 559.
There are also buses that run from Thessaloniki’s Bus station opposite the Train Station. Tel: 2310 52 860.
Corfu Town Arrival: Whether you take the Bus-ferry option, or ferries from Italy, you will be bombarded by hostels, campsites and hotels and pensions holding up signs and pictures of their accommodation. Do some research before you arrive so you have an idea of where you want to stay. Arriving on an island port can be intimidating when you have people yelling and grabbing at you to stay at their hostel, campsite, etc.
How to Get Around
Corfu Ktel Buses run to main towns and on village borders around and all over Corfu. The main bus station is just up the hill from Corfu Town port – +30 22860 25404 , 23812. Radio taxis are also available in Corfu, but expensive +30 22860 22555, 23951, 23952. Hostels like the Pink Palace offer four-wheeler Quad rentals to get around the island. There are many moped/motorscooter rentals around the island – although a dangerous option in Greece. Car rentals are a safer option and offered around main towns and tourist areas.
Corfu Town has money exchanges and ATMs around the port, along with banks, a hospital and tourist information. Many hostels and hotels also have ATMs, money exchanges and medical clinics in nearby areas. Telephone Area code: 22860 Hospital/Doctor: +30 22860 23123, 23333(Corfu Town) 23615, 71227 (Oia), 29144 (Thirasia), 31207 (Pyrgos), 81222 (Emporios). Police: +30 22860 22649. Post Office: +30 22860 22238. Over the years, Corfu has incorporated more of these services for the convenience of their tourists.
One of the best ways to see the beautiful areas of the island is to go where the churches are built. Around the monasteries and churches, towns flourish and beautiful scenery surrounds.
- The church of St. Spyridon: The church of Saint Spyridon is located in the town of Corfu. It is the most famous of all churches in Corfu.
- The early Christian Basilica of Paleopolis: The ruins of the Basilica of Paleopolis are located in the area of Kanoni, a suburb of Corfu town.
- The Monastery of Panagia Palaiokastritsa: The monastery was built in the 13th century on the hill of Palaiokastritsa. This is a beautiful area to visit! One of my favorites!
- The Monastery of the Blessed Virgin Platytera: The monastery is located in the suburb of Mandouki. It was first built in 1743 and then renovated after its destruction in 1799 in the Franco Russian-Turk war.
- The Church of Pantokrator: It is the little church which is located on the little islet of Pontikonisi, opposite to the area of Kanoni.
- The Palace of Saint Michael and Georges: It is located at the northern end of the Esplanade and is one of the most elegant monuments of the island of Corfu.
There are a number of “museums” to view Byzantine art and even the manuscripts of the Greek poet Solomos.
Things to Do
|Booze Cruise at the Pink Palace|
Beaches: If you are planning on exploring the beaches of Corfu, there are plenty of spots that will keep your day filled. Agios Giorgios is a 5 km large beach in southern Corfu, recently developing like a resort and surrounded by green hills – popular among German and English tourists. Sidari, Kalamaki, Ermones, Glyfada, Kalami, PalaioKastritsa, Agios Gordios, Roda, Arrilas, Kavos and Agios Stefanos are popular resort-like beaches with sand (unlike many Greek beaches) and offer water sports, nearby tavernas and sun beds. For a very chill beach, check out Pelekas and stay for sunset. For the romantics, go to Liapedes and find privacy between the rock formations.
Go to Kanoni and visit the two islets off the coast. One of the islets is known as Mouse Island, and legend has it is actually a ship turned to stone. A small boat ferry will carry you to Mouse Island to visit the 13th-century chapel set among the trees.
Rent kayaks at Agios Gordios and explore nearby caves, and “private” beaches.
Take a mini-cruise to small islands around Corfu – Paxos, Parga, and Antipaxos.
Getting another stamp in your passport may be on your list: Go to Albania! Visit the local tourist office in town and find out ferry times or excursions trips for reasonable prices. Tip: get friendly with waiters, taxi drivers or locals and ask where they go for fun on their day off – it may be a special quiet beach that isn’t known on the map or a nearby water park – Acharavi’s Hydropolis or the famous “Aqualand” in Agios Ioannis.
Places to Eat, Drink, and Stay
Take a taxi to Paleokastritsa to La Grotta Café. Situated on a small bay you can go in for a dip after you guzzle down your kiwi margarita – it is beautiful and serene, popular among Italian tourists. Go to Benitses for dinner and walk along the town strip and find a yummy taverna that line up along the path. There are a number of great lunch places for a quick gyros pita in Agios Gordios, but they also have a Mexican and Chinese restaurant if you have that crazy craving. Go to Agios Georgios and pick from a number of café’s and restaurants located along the beach. For the best chicken lunch – Greek style, ask about the Bat Cave in Corfu Town – check with the locals. If you want good authentic Greek food, steer away from tourist-geared menus and ones that feature “English Breakfast” and 5 language translations on their menus – hit-or-miss but usually overpriced.
|Sunset on Agios Gordio|
Links (to regional and related websites)