Bathed in the deep-blue waters of the Ionian Sea, Corfu is the second largest of the Ionian Islands, and the northwesternmost part of Greece. The strategic location it holds at the mouth of the Adriatic, close to mainland Greece, Italy, and Albania, has made it a focus for invasion, and rulers from the Venetians to the British have left signs of their influence across the island. While its Mediterranean climate has made it a popular beach vacation destination, the interior is a green oasis where old-world ways still hold sway. So whether you’re seeking history and architecture, natural beauty or just a place to lay down your towel and soak up some sunshine, you’ll find what you’re after on Corfu.
Corfu Town, known to locals as Kerkyra, is the island’s capital, and its old quarter is a Unesco-listed beauty. The Venetians ruled Corfu between 1386 and 1797, and it is here in Kerkyra old town that you can clearly see their influence. Cobbled alleys and streets that invite leisurely strolling are lined with tall, elegant, pastel-colored buildings, two imposing 16th-century fortresses standing guard above them all. The Paleo Frourio (Old Fort) and Neo Frourio (New Fort) were used for more than 400 years to defend the Republic of Venice from the Ottoman Empire, but are now some of the best places in Kerkyra for spectacular views across the town and out to sea. Head to the vast green space known as the Spianada (Esplanade) – the largest town square in Greece – for a bite to eat or a drink in one of its many restaurants and bistros. Laid out by the French in the 19th century during their brief period of occupation, the carefully tended lawns are the perfect spot for some people watching – you might even catch a game of cricket, a legacy of British rule.
There are some very good museums and galleries in Corfu Town, so it’s well worth dedicating at least one day of your vacation to taking in a bit of culture. Kerkyra Archaeological Museum displays archaeological finds from excavated sites across the island, most notably from Kanoni, Corfu's ancient capital. Its star attraction is the imposing 55ft 6th-century Gorgon Pediment, a temple carving depicting a towering Medusa with her serpent locks. The Corfu Museum of Asian Art is housed in a handsome neoclassical mansion built in 1816 for the British Lord High Commissioner. It has an impressive collection of Chinese, Japanese, and Indian paintings, porcelains, and sculpture, dating from the Neolithic era through to the 19th century, and its gardens are a pleasant place to while away a sunny afternoon after a morning of art appreciation.
If walking is your thing, then you’ll want to know about the Corfu Trail, which covers 136 miles from one end of the island to the other, and takes around 10 days to hike in its entirety. For those less physically inclined, the walk from the village of Perithia to the peak of Mount Pantokrator is a more manageable proposition. At almost 3,000ft, Pantokrator is the highest point on Corfu, and though you can drive to the top, the two-hour hike takes you through some lovely mountain scenery and allows you a certain amount of smugness when you reach its end. At the summit sits a Greek Orthodox monastery originally built in the 14th century, though rebuilt in both the 17th and 19th and the views down to Corfu’s satellite islands, across to Albania and even Italy on a clear day are magnificent. Make your way back down to pretty Venetian-era Perithia, nestled on the mountain’s northern slope, to enjoy a drink in one of the small tavernas and sample the local cuisine.
Those seeking a spot on a gorgeous stretch of sand are spoilt for choice in Corfu. On the west coast, 10 miles from Corfu Town, the long, golden stretch of Glyfada beach is lined with sunbeds and umbrellas and backed by hillsides covered with pine woods. There are watersports facilities and a string of tavernas means you can settle in for the day without having to think about packing up the cooler. Also on the west coast but further north, Paleokastritsa, often considered one of the most beautiful villages in Greece, sits on a lengthy stretch of indented coast with a number of deep, curving bays sheltering gorgeous beaches that back onto olive groves and cypress trees.
Dotted along the eastern coast of the island, our luxury vacation rentals let you decide which aspect of Corfu to focus on. Choose one of our Dassia villas to stay within easy reach of the restaurants and boutiques of Kerkyra old town, or perhaps one of our Agios Stefanos villas to experience a slower pace of life in a picturesque old fishing village.
The village of Kassiopi is another popular choice. Overlooking a pretty harbor filled with wooden fishing boats, it’s kept its old-world charm but also boasts a lively nightlife, with a good mix of bars, restaurants, and clubs. Rent a villa in Kassiopi with a sun-drenched terrace, serene turquoise pool and views out over the sparkling sea. Choose a rental with a steam room, a private gym or a hot tub, surrounded by lush gardens, with a barbecue for alfresco dining. Take a walk down to one of the local beaches or into Kassiopi for a meal at one of its welcoming tavernas, before returning to catch the sun sinking slowly below the horizon from the comfort of your vacation home.