Corfu : the British beach favourite
Photo: Claudia Schulte
Corfu is one of best loved Greek holiday islands and a major target of British tour companies offering bargain beach holiday deals in the Greek island.
Corfu is not only the closest Greek island destination to the UK but it also boasts a great number of sandy beaches and some lively resorts.
Most of the bigger beach resorts lie on the north and east coasts but, away from the crowded strips, visitors can seek out more relaxed resorts, while inland hill villages are a step back in time.
Relatively close to the UK, Corfu has been popular with Brits since Victorian times — the capital town even has its own cricket pitch.
Called Kerkyra in Greek, Corfu is the greenest of the Ionian islands thanks to some very heavy rains over the winter, even more rainfall here than London it's said.
Corfu Town is the island capital and boasts a beautiful old centre of 18th century buildings flanked by two impressive forts.
The elegantly arcaded Liston is packed with restaurants and cafes while the tall bell tower of St Spiridon dominates everything.
Corfu Town is proud of its cultural and artistic heritage made immediately visible in its many fine museums and its warmly welcoming Italianate architecture.
Mountains dominate the northern half of Corfu where dramatic cliffs drop to the island's most popular beach resorts.
Holiday hotspots are concentrated around Corfu Town in the east and along the island's north coast at resorts like Sidari and Roda.
Corfu's holiday beaches are considered by many to be among the best in the Greek Islands and a large number of them have European Blue Flag status. Corfu regularly tops the European table for its clean beach awards.
Corfu is awash with good sandy beaches. All-inclusive holiday hotel complexes tend to cluster around Corfu Town although the beaches here are not always the best, mostly narrow strips of shingle and stone.
Small beach coves are typical of the mountainous north east while popular package holiday resorts are spread along the sandy north coast with Roda and Sidari the biggest.
The more lively package holiday crowd heads for the string of busy east coast resorts that stretch from Ipsos to Kavos. Swamped by cut-price hotels, late-night discos and English style-pubs these are not the most relaxed of Greek resorts but they do offer plenty of nightlife.
The northern coastline is dominated by big family-friendly beach resorts with Roda and Sidari largely given over bars boasting big-screen TVs, happy hour cocktails and karaoke nights.
Further west things get a little more sedate with a string of quiet resorts peppering the north west coast with Paleokasistra one of the most celebrated of Corfu's beauty spots.
Beaches turn wilder as you head south and remains relatively unspoilt with its quaint hillside villages, picturesque coves and pine carpeted mountains.
The flat and fertile southern tail of Corfu has just a few large beach resorts interspersed with empty windswept beaches and salt water lagoons, while Corfu's interior is full of rolling hills and peaceful countryside, carpeted in vines and groves of olive and citrus.
Exceptions are the south-east coast beach resorts of Benitses, once the heart of package tour country and, further south, Kavos, a magnet for clubbing holiday youngsters
As well as beach activities such as jet-skis, water-skiing, windsurfing and scuba-diving there is golf, horse-riding, mountain biking inland with particularly fine walking on the recently restored Corfu Trail.
Sited in the centre of Corfu old town the church was built in 1589 in typical Venetian style and boasts the tallest bell-tower on Corfu. It has several good frescos and some ancient icons. Saint Spiridon is the island saint and his coffin is paraded through the town four times a year.
This is one of Europe's largest water parks with giant water slides, river rapids, mega jacuzzis, wave pools and plenty more. It's located at Agios Ioannis, to the west of Corfu Town in a beautiful forest setting. The waterpark opens May to October and there are free sun beds and umbrellas, free changing rooms and showers and good parking.
The monastery of Moni Theotokou is on Corfu's west coast near the popular beach resort of Paleokastritsa. Set high on the hillside the 18th century stone-built monastery is one of the most visited tourist attractions on Corfu and a major target of tour buses. The monastery museum is open to the public and has a small tourist shop.
Corfu Walking Trail
Corfu's long-distance footpath is is about 220 km long and runs the length of Corfu north — south. The trail is clearly way-marked with yellow signs with 11 sections that each take about a day to walk. The best months to follow the trail are early and late in the year and teh terrain varies from mountain mule trails to cliffside paths.
This is one of the most impressive buildings on Corfu with exquisite gardens and picturesque views over the Ionian. Located in Gastouri, about 12 km south of Corfu Town, the palace was built in 1890 with the theme of the mythical Greek hero Achilles. It can get very busy in the summer so it's best visited early in the day.
There is plenty of good accommodation in most of Corfu, except inland and in the less populated south. Rooms can be booked online at all the major resorts. Those escaping the crowds can head inland where villages are untouched by tourism.
Many hotels close down from November to March and it's not wise to arrive in July or August without advanced reservations. Small hotel owners will still meet incoming ferries with offers of rooms and the Corfu Room Owners' Association posts a list of hotels and phone numbers at the main esplanade in Corfu Town.
Corfu is one of the most popular beach holiday islands and charter flights are constant throughout the summer season. The airport also has domestic flights to Athens and Thessaloniki but the vast majority of traffic is from Europe.
Corfu is also a major port of call for ferries, notably from Italy en route to mainland Patras. Some independent holidaymakers opt for cut-price flight to Italy and a fast ferry to Corfu. Ferries from mainland Igoumenitsa run hourly every day
Buses run from the main road in front of the airport to Corfu Town and the journey takes about 15 minutes. Taxis are also parked outside the terminal.
Corfu holidays offer typical hot Mediterranean summers. The Corfu holiday season kicks off mid-April as spring temperatures hover around 20°C, with nine hours daily sunshine.
Thermometers rise to 24°C in June and 26°C in August with daily holiday sunshine at 13 hours. Corfu gets very heavy rainfall over the winter (even more than Britain), which helps keep the island green and lush all year round.
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The 18-hole golf, par-72 course nestles in the Ropa Valley on Corfu island is an ideal day out for golfers and their families with a club house serving up great lunches and snacks.
Agios Spyridon is the most prominent church in Corfu and it's dedicated to the island's patron saint, revered throughout Corfu for having saved the island from disaster four times.