Today, Corfu ranks amongst Europe?s most fascinating destinations. Marked by intriguing contrast and consecutive influences, the island is a crossroads of colors and civilizations. It is located in the northern Ionian Sea, at the entrance to the Adriatic Sea, between Greece?s mainland and Italy. Due to its strategic position enables visitors to reach the island by direct flight from almost all European countries, while there are daily ferry connections with many Italian ports.
The Mediterranean climate and the high quality of life make Corfu an ideal place to stay any time of the year. The winter is mild with relatively high temperatures (7-200 C) and sunshine for approximately 4,5 hours per day, so one can often go on excursions to admire Corfu?s beautiful nature. Springtime, with theceaseless colour alternations is undoubtedly amazing! During summertime, the fascinating beaches, the cosmopolitan atmosphere and the uncountable traditional festivals guarantee a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. In autumn, time has come to take your last plunge into the warm sea waters.
The whole town of Corfu is a monument. Narrow paved lanes (kantounia) with hung out laundry, flowering bougainvilleas, buildings with traces of Venetian, French and British influence attract any visitor. Local history, culture and tradition are thoroughly protected in museums and collections. In Corfu town?s historic center, the medieval fortresses and the peripheral fortifications compose a unique architectural ensemble, which was added in 2007 to the list of UNESCO?S World Heritage Monuments.
The Old Fortress and the New Fortress, perched on commanding locations on either side of the town, offer panoramic views of the Old Town of Corfu. Their architecture is testament to all the major advances in 15th ? 19th century defence-related design. The famous Liston, which constitutes the meeting point for most social gatherings and is the symbol of Corfu?s historic centre, is the most characteristic monument that bears traces of the French presence on the island. The ?San Giacomo? building, which accommodates today Corfu?s Town Hall, was erected by the Venetians in the 17th century in order to house the Loggia dei Nobili. Findings which come exclusively from the island of Corfu are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Palaeopolis, in the Mon Repos Mansion. These exhibits display the island?s continuous presence in the ancient world. The neo-classical style building of the Ionian Parliament is the place where the unification of the Ionian Islands with Greece was passed.
Today, the building operates as a branch of the Municipal Art Gallery and serves as the venue for civil marriage ceremonies. The Ionian Academy housed the first Greek University and nowadays is a department of the Ionian University. Further significant cultural places are: the Reading Society of Corfu, which is the oldest intellectual institution of modern Greece; the Archives of Corfu, which are accommodated in the building of the former British Barracks inside the Old Fortress, and the Municipal Theatre, with an intense cultural activity, illustrating the Corfiots? need for quality entertainment.
Some of the island?s religious sites that are worth visiting are: the Church of St. Spyridon, which accommodates the Holy Relic of the island?s guardian Saint in a silver shrine; the Church of St. Jason and Sosipater, which constitutes the island?s most significant byzantine monument and the Metropolitan Church, which accommodates the Holy Relic of St. Theodora. A visit to the Anglican Church, the Roman Catholic Cathedral ?Duomo? and the Jewish Synagogue will acquaint you with the town?s multicultural character. At a breath?s distance from Corfu Town lies the green island Vido. Worth a visit on the island are two well-maintained beaches, the historic Church of St. Stefan and the Serbian Mausoleum.
In the suburbs, the well known Pontikonisi island and the Vlacheraina Monastery, compose Corfu?s most familiar and recognized picture. The Museum of Asian Art, which is unique in Greece, is exclusively dedicated to the art and antiquities from the Far East. It is housed in the Palace of St. Michael and St. George, a characteristic sample of British neo-classical architecture. The same palace is the home of the Municipal Art Gallery of Corfu, with outstanding exhibits of the Eptanesian School.
In the Byzantine Museum of Corfu (Antivouniotissa) are exhibited icons from the 15th to the 19th century, which bear witness to Corfu?s outstanding role in the evolution of the ecclesiastic art of painting. The Banknote Museum of Greece in Corfu is one of the top banknote museums in the world. Its collection includes rare banknotes and is accommodated in the historic Ionian Bank building.
A visit to the Music Museum ?Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros? brings to light Corfu?s long music tradition. The house where Dionysios Solomos, Greece?s national poet, lived, houses a museum of the same name with a rich library. In the Serbian Hearth (or the Serbian House) revive moments of the past, when Corfu, which was the allied forces? military base, offered shelter to the Serbian army. Villages and traditional settlements, depending on the years they were inhabited, trace back to the Byzantine epoch, the Venetian Epoch but also to 20th century folk architecture.
The stone paved houses, the classic town square with the small coffee houses, the picturesque chapels and above all, the hospitable people will charm you and make you feel at home. Here, you will find unique sights to visit including imposing castles as well as collections and museums illustrating the island?s identity in history, art, local habits and customs. The findings from the Roman mansions in the northern and southeastern coasts but also the famous ?Achilleion? prove that Corfu is an alltime tourist destination. The palace which was once the summer residence of the Empress of Austria Elisabeth and later on of the German Kaiser Wilhelm II operates today as a museum and as a cultural events? venue. In Palaeokastritsa, the Monastery of Virgin Mary, with panoramic view, attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world.
The Pantocrator Monastery, with notable frescoes, is located on Corfu?s highest mountain and constitutes the reference point of the broader area. Angelokastro, one of the most considerable castles in Greece, is located on a 330 m high slope and offers a magnificent view. Two further castles, the Kassiopi Castle on the northeastern edge of the village and the Byzantine Gardiki Castle of the 13th century in the southern part of Corfu, date back to the distant past, at the time of the battles with pirates and aspiring conquerors. In the southern part of Corfu you can see the Lefkimi Salt Pans, which date back to the Byzantine era. Two of the restored Venetian salt warehouses are used today by the Municipality of Corfu as venues to host cultural events.
In the Kapodistrias Museum, 4 kilometres away from Corfu Town, are exhibited personal objects of Greece?s first Governor, Ioannis Kapodistiras, who was an outstanding personality in the history of Europe. The Castello Mimbelli Villa, in the village Kato Korakiana, accommodates a branch of the National Art Gallery. In the village Sinarades, there is the Historic Folk Museum of Messi, an original 19th century house presenting the everyday life of a rural family from that time. The Olive Tree Museum, which is housed in an old olive press in the village Kynopiastes, acquaints the visitor with the traditional olive tree processing methods.
The olive tree products are directly related to the locals? way of life. The images drawn from Corfu?s countryside in the early past century are complemented by a visit to the Acharavi Folk Museum Chic and delicate by nature, Corfu has an unsurpassed natural beauty. The sea, the sun and the wind have carved an impressive shoreline on the island. Golden sandy and snow-white pebbled beaches, fine carved rocks resembling sculptures from a modern gallery, trees which stretch out their shadow up to the water. With an exceptional geomorphology and notable contrasts, Corfu hosts wetlands of unsurpassed beauty and unique ecosystems, which attract fans of alternative tourism.
The east coast beaches, which are protected by the mainland shore-line are ideal for swimming due to their still waters as well as for explorations due to their rich seabed. In the northeastern coastline, there are wonderful sandy beaches with shallow waters, abundant shade and small taverns by the sea. Corfu?s west coast beaches are ?caressed? by the winds. The prevailing wind Maistro brings waves and breeze from Venice, while Ostria carries heat waves from North Africa?s beaches. As a result, the landscape is marked by long sandy beaches and some of the most beautiful rock formations. The northwest side of the island is dominated by rocky, rugged shores and it is ideal for underwater explorations.
The endless golden sandy beaches and the shallow turquoise waters of the entire west and southwest coast, at times crowded and at times hidden from the public, will always tempt you to play with the waves, the sun, the wind or read a book in peace. Some miles away from Corfu?s cosmopolitan life, some beautiful small islands stand out for their peaceful way of life, offering an alternative to anyone who wishes to enjoy tranquil and serene holidays. The picturesque settlements and paths, the small traditional taverns and the crystal clear waters compose a ?different? suggestion for paradise-like holidays, carefreeness and touring in a unique natural landscape.
The island of Othonoi, the werstern most point of Greece, is the ideal place for sailing, trekking and fishing. You will be thrilled by the Calypso cave, the beaches Ammos, Lefki Ammos (white sand) and Fyki. Ereikousa is a round-shaped island. Its name derives from the heather bush (reiki in Greek) which is met in abundant quantities on the island. The south coast, where the settlement Porto is located, is an immense stretch of sandy beach. A footpath leads northwards, through the lush vegetation to the Pangini beach. Mathraki is the smallest of the Diapontian islands. Its shores form small bays with Ammos and Apidies being the two most significant ones. Both of them serve as harbours for the small caiques, which connect the island with Corfu.
The island has fine-sandy beaches, while the reefs and the rocky islets around it attract the fishing boats from all over the region. At the two ends of the island are located the two villages, Ano Matrhaki and Kato Mathraki. The upgraded infrastructure and touristic services make Corfu an ideal destination for group tours. Conventions, religious and study tours, yacht races but also the Rally Antika make their appointment every year on the island of Corfu. Corfu?s market resembles the mirror of its history, while its atmosphere will transport you to Corfu?s 17th and 18th century commerce.
Today, high-quality local products are be found in every corner of the island but also shops, which keep alive the tradition of past centuries. Handmade jewels, ceramics, wood-carved objects, wine, honey, koum quat, pure olive oil, green soap, delicious delicatessen and the tsitsimpira (a type of ginger beer) are some of the traditional products you will find in abundant quantities and at good prices. With internationally recognized philharmonic orchestras and choirs, Corfu is a perennial source of music. This cultural dynamic is prominent in the world of music and is stamped on the religious festivities and music events with exceptional quality. You will find out that, music is the prevailing Art on the island. Music exists everywhere; in the fetes, in the Saint?s processions, even in Corfu?s dialect.
The magnificent melodious nights in the town?s narrow paved streets, the international music events and the Ionian University?s seminars attract thousands of music fans every summer. Easter time is probably the best period to discover the decisive influence of music in the island?s religious tradition. Choirs, ecclesiastic music concerts, bands and the processions of the Saint express the Divine Drama. Devout atmosphere, thousands of visitors, the unique habits and customs like the ?Pot throwing (botides)? offer an once-in-a-lifetime experience! With typical Mediterranean characteristics and Venetian influences, Corfu?s cuisine bears witness to the island?s exceptional cultural influences.
The single-crop farming of the olive has endured since its imposition in the period of the Venetian rule. As a result, Corfu?s landscape is dominated by immense olive groves. Abundant oil and high quality wine from the dry-soil slopes are present every day on the table. Delicious fish from the crystal clear Ionian Sea waters, local fruits and vegetables and first quality cheese products from small producers, guarantee unique culinary experiences. Don?t miss a stroll in the island?s outdoor markets to experience images, tastes and smells from Corfu?s countryside! Corfu is without doubt the ideal maritime destination. The island is privileged not only due to its thousands-of-year long maritime tradition but also due to the favorable conditions for sea voyagers: there are short distances between the shores and there are favourable conditions regarding the wind force and the land and air temperatures. There are certainly amazing water sports and recreation opportunities to cover the needs even of the most demanding fans.
Scuba Diving The coasts, the coves, the capes and the endless reefs compose a small paradise for the seabed fans. Therefore, plenty of organized scuba diving centers operate all over the island. Water sports On many of the island?s beaches, there are water sports centers where water sports trainers will initiate you to the charm of a ride over the waves: water ski, sea jet, windsurf, kite surf, parachute but also pedalos and canoes stay anytime at your disposal in order for you to trace out your own course on the sea?s surface! Trekking The lush vegetation, the traditional villages and the mild terrain make trekking on the island of Corfu an exciting experience.
Even on your first ?off the road? walking route, you will encounter uncommon wildflowers, ?secret? lakes and shadowy olive groves. Path networks with signs and rest areas offer the ideal conditions to enjoy a wonderful excursion in Corfu?s nature. Horse Riding With horses for beginners but also for experienced riders and plenty of old paths and rural roads, the horse riding centers offer unrestrained possibilities to horse riding fans.
Bicycle tours There are organized tourists? groups who visit the island exclusively for a bicycle tour. An exploration adventure through unknown paths ending up in isolated beaches is a unique experience Golf On the island of Corfu, there is a well known eighteen-hole golf course.
The Corfu Golf Club was designed by the famous architect Donald Harradine and it is located in the Ropa Valley in Ermones. It is open to the public from March until November, and is suitable not only for beginners but also for experienced players.
Cricket An almost two-century tradition has been continued to the present day in Greece?s only place with such a notable infrastructure for cricket. Official tournaments and friendly matches are organized all year round in the most atmospheric pitch in Europe: the Spianada Square (Esplanade), within the historic center of the town. However, the cricket pitch which is located in Gouvia marina offers more comfort and better infrastructure.