Corfu or Kerkyra is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the second largest of the Ionian Islands. The municipality includes the island Corfu and the smaller islands Ereikoussa, Mathraki and Othonoi. The principal town of the island and seat of the municipality is also named Corfu.
The island is connected to the history of Greece from the beginning of Greek mythology. Its Greek name, Kerkyra or Korkyra, is related to two powerful water symbols: Poseidon, god of the sea, and Asopos, an important Greek mainland river. According to myth, Poseidon fell in love with the beautiful nymph Korkyra, daughter of Asopus and river nymph Metope, and abducted her. Poseidon brought Korkyra to the hitherto unnamed island and, in marital bliss, offered her name to the place: Korkyra, which gradually evolved to Kerkyra (Doric). Together, they had a child they called Phaiax, after whom the inhabitants of the island were named: Phaiakes. This term was transliterated via Latin to Phaeacians.
Coordinates: 39°40′N 19°45′E (1) Kerkyra (Corfu) (2) Paxoi
Two high and well-defined ranges divide the island into three districts, of which the northern is mountainous, the central undulating, and the southern low-lying. The more important of the two ranges, that of Pantokrator (the ancient Istone) stretches east and west from Cape Falacro to Cape Psaromita, and attains its greatest elevation in the summit of the same name.
The second range culminates in the mountain of Santi Jeca, or Santa Decca, as it is called by misinterpretation of the Greek designation (Hagioi Deka), or the Ten Saints. The whole island, composed as it is of various limestone formations, presents great diversity of surface, and views from more elevated spots are magnificent. Beaches are found in Agios Gordis, the Korission lagoon, Agios Georgios, Marathia, Kassiopi, Sidari, Palaiokastritsa and many others. Corfu is located near the Kefalonia geological fault formation; earthquakes have occurred. Corfu town and countryside have not lost the traditional architecture from the 16th century.
Corfu’s coastline spans 217 kilometres (135 mi) including capes; its highest point is Mount Pantokrator (906 metres (2,972 ft)); and the second Stravoskiadi, at 849 metres (2,785 ft). The full extent of capes and promentories take in Agia Aikaterini, Drastis to the north, Lefkimmi and Asprokavos to the southeast, and Megachoro to the south. Two islands are also to be found at a middle point of Gouvia and Corfu Bay, which extends across much of the eastern shore of the island; are known as Lazareto and Ptychia (or Vido). Camping areas can be found in Palaiokastritsa, Agrillia, with four in the northern part, Pyrgi, Roda, Gouvia and Messonghi.
Corfu serves as a capital for the periphery of the Ionian Islands. The city with a population of nearly 29,000 in 2001 is a major tourist attraction, and has played an important role since the 8th century. The city has become known as a Kastropolis (Castle City) because of its two castles. In 2007, the old town of the city was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Read more about the architecture of Corfu city
The town of Corfu stands on the broad part of a peninsula, whose termination in the Venetian citadel is cut off from it by an artificial fosse formed in a natural gully, with a seawater moat at the bottom, that now serves as amarina and is called the Contrafossa. The old town, having grown within fortifications, where every metre of ground was precious, is a labyrinth of narrow streets paved with cobblestones, sometimes tortuous but colourful and clean. These streets are known as kantoúnia, and the older amongst them sometimes follow the gentle irregularities of the ground; while many are too narrow for vehicular traffic. A promenade rises by the seashore towards the bay of Garitsa, together with an esplanade between the town and the citadel known as Spianada with the Liston (it) arcade to its west side, where restaurants and bistros abound.
The old citadel (in Greek Palaio Frourio) is an old Venetian fortress built on an artificial islet with fortifications surrounding its entire perimeter, although some sections, particularly on the east side, are slowly being eroded and falling into the sea. Nonetheless, the interior has been restored and is in use for cultural events, such as concerts and Sound and Light Productions, when historical events are recreated using sound and light special effects. These events take place amidst the ancient fortifications, with the Ionian sea in the background. The central high point of the citadel rises like a giant natural obelisk complete with a military observation post at the top, with a giant cross at its apex; at the foot of the observatory lies St. George’s church, in a classical style punctuated by six Doric columns, as opposed to the Byzantine architectural style of the greater part of Greek Orthodox churches.
Achilleion is a palace built in Corfu by Empress of Austria Elisabeth of Bavaria, also known as Sissi. Elisabeth was a woman obsessed with beauty, and very powerful, but tragically vulnerable since the loss of her only son, Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria in the Mayerling Incident in 1889. A year later in 1890, she built a summer palace in the region of Gastouri, now the municipality of Achilleion, about ten kilometres to the south of the city of Corfu. The palace was designed with the mythical hero Achilles as its central theme.
The casino scene of the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only (1981) was filmed at the Achilleion.
Transportation in Corfu
The island is linked by two motorways, GR-24 in the northwest and GR-25 in the south.
Corfu has ferry services both by traditional ferries to Gaios in the island of Paxoi and as far as Patras and both traditional ferries and advanced high-speed ferries called Flying Dolphins to Igoumenitsa and Sarandë in neighbouring Albania. The small port of Lefkimmi is also to be found at the southernmost tip of the island on Cape Kavos, offering a ferry service to the mainland.
The Ioannis Kapodistrias International Airport is located around three kilometres south of Kerkyra, just half a kilometre north of Pontikonisi. The approach and landing, in a northeasterly direction, afford passengers spectacular aerial views of Pontikonisi and Vlaheraina Monastery, also taking in the hills of Kanoni, as the runway employed for landing lies a few hundred metres from these spectacular local landmarks. The airport offers domestic flights from Olympic Airlines, and Aegean Airlines. Seaplanes, Air Sea Lines, a Greek seaplane operator, offers scheduled flights from Corfu to Paxoi, Lefkada, Ithaki, Kefalonia, Ioannina, Patras and Brindisi in Italy.
The buses to the main places on the island run about six times a day between the city and Glyfada, Sidari, Pleokastritsa, Roda and Acharavi, Lefkimmi, Lefkimmi and Piri. Other coaches drive up to twice a day to Athens and Thessaloniki. City buses run through the city to the Achilleon, Gouvia, Afra, Pelekas and some other places of interest. There are no public buses to the airport.
Activities in Corfu
Birdwatching in Corfu: Corfu is an interesting and rewarding destination year-round for bird watchers, where sightings of over 150 species of native and migrating birds delight both amateur and professional ornithologists. Fall and spring mark the peak of the birdwatching period, where over 90 species – many of them rare – pass through the island.
Caving in Corfu: Sea and land caves are abundant in Corfu and well worth exploring. Myths and legends accompany a number of these caves and locals will gladly regale you with action-packed stories about pirate raids that forced fleeing villagers to seek refuge in the island’s caves.
Klimatia Cave (also called Anthropograva cave) located close to Klimatia village in the northern part of the island just a few metres off the road that leads to Agia Triada Monastery.
Grava Loutson cave which you’ll find at the foot of Mount Pantokrator in the north, close to Loutses and Old (Kato) Perithea villages near Kassiopi.
Sea Caves dot the coast of Corfu so when you’re in Paleokastritsa on the north-west coast take the opportunity to rent a small boat and explore these underwater masterpieces. Water taxis abound in this area so rely on the locals to take you to the most impressive caves and isolated coves.
Diving in Corfu: Begin your underwater excursions in June – it’s the ideal time for this sport as the sea starts to warm up. If you’re a beginner, take advantage of your time in Corfu to get trained and licensed. There are diving centres as well as PADI resorts located in all the popular areas, including Agios Gordios, Paleokastritsa, Kassiopi and Ermones. If you’re already licensed, ask the local diving teachers for advice on which areas are off-limits to scuba divers and where you should be wary of strong currents. Some areas are best explored with a local diver who’s familiar with any potential dangers.
Wildlife in Corfu: Corfu’s protected habitats are the best places to see a variety of animals in their natural environments. Lake Korission and Antinioti Lagoon offer opportunities for nature-lovers to observe a variety of birds, turtles and terrapins. Vido Islet is home to pheasants, hares, partridges and rabbits. Also, a number of lizard species inhabit Corfu’s mountains.
Volunteering in Corfu: If you’re looking for a more hands-on and rewarding experience, there are volunteer organisations on the island that provide visitors and locals a chance to help abandoned or abused animals heal.
Corfu Donkey Rescue in Liapades is a safehaven for abused and abandoned Corfiot donkeys that not only welcomes visitors throughout the year but also trains volunteers in the everyday care of the donkeys. Tel.: +30 6947375992 Email: email@example.com
The Silva Project in Kanoni, also a charity, helps shelter and heal Skyrian horses in need and runs a riding centre that provides therapeutic riding lessons for children as well as regular classes. Tel.:+30 26610 30280 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.thesilvaproject.org
Cycling in Corfu: Corfu is a popular destination for cyclists, attracting over 6000 enthusiasts each year who roam the island’s sprawling road network as a way of getting a taste of authentic Corfu. Bike paths leading to ancient olive groves, sleepy villages and intriguing monasteries offer another view of this beautiful island that is often overshadowed by the busier tourist attractions and destinations.
Corfu Mountainbike Shop (Dassia)
The Corfu Mountainbike Shop has a long history of providing organised eco-friendly cycling and mountain biking holidays. Phone: +30 26610 93344 Email: email@example.com
Hiking in Corfu: Hikers and walkers from all over the world head to Corfu as a way of exploring the island’s natural landscape, traditional village life and beautiful beaches.
The Corfu Trail: This specially designed walking route is an ideal way to immerse yourself in Corfu’s authenticity while visiting a number of important natural and cultural sites. The Corfu Trail (www.thecorfutrail.com) began in 2001 and spans the length of the island from south to north. Email: www.thecorfutrail.com
Horseback Riding in Corfu: If you love horses and long saunters through beautiful scenery, then Corfu will delight you. The island’s natural landscape with lush valleys, ancient olive groves, winding donkey paths and mountain trails is perfectly suited to exploring on horseback.
Trailriders Horse Trekking (Ano Korakiana) Run by Sally-Ann Lewis, a British expat, this riding school close to Mount Pantokrator caters to both beginners and experienced riders. Nearby woods and farms create a beautiful and varied backdrop for horse trekking.
Phone: +30 26630 23090 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Corfu Sea School (Gouvia Marina): This RYA-approved training centre offers a range of excellent courses in an ideal environment and promises to explore the many natural wonders Corfu has to offer with its students.
Phone:+30 26610 97628 Email: email@example.com
Mountain Climbing in Corfu: Advanced mountain climbers will enjoy trekking up Mount Pantokrator (1000 metres) in the north which rewards your efforts with stunning views of the island and the Albanian mainland across. At the summit you’ll also find a café and a 17th Century church. Begin your trek at Old Perithea village that dates back to the Middle Ages and is reportedly Corfu’s oldest Venetian-era settlement.
Before setting out, seek advice and safety tips from the Corfu Mountain Climbing Club Phone: +30 26610 39481
Windsurfing in Corfu: Corfu is a very popular windsurfing destination and kite surfing is gaining momentum amongst watersports fanatics. The west coast of the island offers the best wind conditions due to the landscape and rock formations.
If you’re a beginner, opt for a windsurfing or kite surfing holiday in May or July as winds in August can be quite strong. If you’re eager to start your training, there are schools in Issos beach.
• Municipality of Corfu
• Corfu Travel Guide
• Interactive Corfu Travel Guide
• Aqualand Corfu
• Corfu Archaeological Museum
• Birdwatching in Corfu
• Hiking in Corfu
• The Silva Project
• Donkey refuge in Corfu
Ancient Site of Palaiopolis: Located approximately 2 km south of Corfu Town within the Mon Repos estate in the Kanoni area, Palaiopolis is the site of the ancient city of Corfu and includes the Ancient Agora (only a few sections are visible), the 6thC BC Doric Kardakio Temple dedicated to Poseidon or Askleipion, and Roman Baths built in the 1stC AD. Phone: +30 26610 41369
Monument of Menecrates: This 6thC BC grave monument features one of the oldest surviving Ancient Greek inscriptions. The 10-verse text dedicates the monument to Menecrates, a Corfiot statesman, in honour of his contribution to Corfu town. It is located in Garitsa.
Palaiopolis Museum (Mon Repos mansion): Visitors will find exhibits and artifacts found in Palaiopolis, including household, commercial and religious objects that reveal interesting aspects of the private and public lives led by the ancient Corfiots. Only 3 km from Corfu Town, the museum is easily accessible. Phone: +30 26610 41369