Corfu is a Greek island located in the northwest coast in the Ionian Sea. Greece boasts an impressive number of 227 islands, many of them being popular tourist destinations. The key to choose the best island for your holidays is to know that each of them specializes in different type of attractions, some are perfect for romantic stay for couples, some are known for great parties and busy nightlife, there are also islands with wide sandy beaches and calm atmosphere well-suited for families with small children.
From my experience Corfu has a little bit of everything, If you’re a culture lover you will find here plenty of historical sites. Especially Kerykra (the island’s capital) has interesting post-Venetian architecture, museums, churches and ancient fort, it is also a place where Sissi built her Achilleion Palace to find here retreat after death of her son, the island is also the place of birth of Prince Philip, the husband of the late British Queen.
If you want to spend most of your time in nature, Corfu offers picturesque beaches nested between green hills with crystal clean water and possibilities to snorkel. You can also climb the nearby mountains to enjoy beautiful views at the area. You will find here steeper beaches good for snorkelling, diving or canoeing as well as more shallow ones with warm water which are more suitable for children.
Corfu offers also many cameral picturesque towns which are perfect for stay for couples and you will find lively places in the island’s capital Kerkyra. In fact Kerkyra is very versatile, you can have here parties, quiet evening with dinner in one of many restaurants serving delicious Greek dishes and local cuisine with plenty of seafood, you will also find many attractions for children, museums and historical sites for culture enthusiasts as well as very nice spots to swim with surprisingly clean and transparent water.
Corfu is very diverse and that’ why I find it a very good choice for your Greek island’s experience, also if this is your Greek first island out of 227. You can easily do here many activities depending on your interests and preferences, for me a big plus is that you can have here a very balanced itinerary and I love mixed explorations in my destination and enjoy both nature and cultural venues.
In this post I will write you about my relaxed yet well-balanced itinerary for Corfu. You can get to Corfu by plane or by ferry from Italy (Venice, Bari) or nearby Albania.
Where to stay?
If you plan to rent a car you can choose among wide offer of accommodation around the island. If you travel with children it’s best to stay closer to the sandy wide beaches such as those in Cavos or near Agios Georgios Beach, Agios Stefanos Beach or Ipsos Beach. The waters here are shallow which makes them safe for kids. The further from the coast you search, the cheaper the hotels and houses to rent tend to be, so if you’re on a budget look for cameral spots in the middle of the island. If you plan to rely on public transport and would like to move around Corfu, then is best to choose Kerkyra from where you can get to most of the popular attractions.
Day 1 & 2 & 3
We have chosen our hotel in Kerkyra and started our explorations in the city. Kerkyra is a lively town with many interesting cultural sites. I recommend visiting orthodox St Spyridon Church which is a 16th century building with elaborate marble iconostasis.
Just in front of it there is a lovely museum called Casa Parlante. You can visit it with a guided tour even if you’re alone. My guide was a very charming person who had a very good knowledge about the house and its history, I could ask all the questions that came to my mind during my tour. Casa Parlante is relatively new museum (opened in 2014) which was once a house of a noble family living here in the 19th-century. Walking through the rooms you learn their history as well as get a good idea how their daily life looked like. There are also few surprises during your visit such as animated robotic figures representing some of the family members.
Another site I recommend exploring is Old Fortress of Corfu which is a Venetian bastion erected in the 15-century. From the top of the hill you can enjoy a beautiful view at Corfu and Albania which is a short ferry ride away (in case you want to have a one day trip to Albania note that the country does not belong to European Union nor is in Schengen zone so check your entry requirements also in Kerkyra our phones were often switching to Albanian operator which offered expensive roaming so be vigilant).
When exploring the old town don’t skip the beautiful Venetian (Venetians controlled the area until 1797) Spianada Square with impressive building of Old Town Hall of Corfu (San Giacomo Theatre). Nearby streets are filled with local charming restaurants and bars as well as souvenir shops so you can spend here as much time as you need to relax the way you like.
If you want to have a little break in sightseeing and fancy a swim I recommend checking Faliraki which is a nice area below the Old Corfu with well-maintained beach facilities, the water here is very warm and (surprisingly for biggest town in Corfu) clean, the sea is very calm here and when having your dip you can enjoy beautiful views at the bay. If you brought your snorkeling mask, you can observe the colorful fish coming close to the coast.
We have spent here jointly three days interchanging between visiting historical sites and swimming in the sea, the Faliraki beach positively surprised us with its clean, calm and warm water.
The half-day trips you can have from Kerkyra:
- Achilleion Palace which is famous residence of Austrian Empress Sissi. It is a short ride away by a public bus from Kerkyra. During my stay the residence was undergoing renovations and thus closed to the visitors with only gardens remaining open. Since I was mainly interested in watching the interiors I skipped the trip and decided to swim on the beach instead. Otherwise, I’d definitely would go for a few hours to see the palace.
- Mon Repos villa where Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was born. You can get inside of the building as well enjoy vast gardens belonging to the premises. There is a bus from Kerkyra which will get you there in around 25 minutes.
The fourth day we have spent in picturesque Palaiokastritsa with one of the most beautiful beaches in Corfu. You can get there easily with a bus from Kerkyra. The beaches are nested between green mountains, the water is crystal clean and perfect for snorkeling. Since the descend is pretty steep and the bottom covered by stones I don’t recommend this place for families with kids, but if you know how to swim, want to snorkel or rent a canoe and explore the nearby caves then it is a very good choice. Apart of time on the beach we climbed to famous Palaiokastritsa monastery with a beautiful interior with rare byzantine icons. This place is particularly liked by couples who come here to watch the sunset which is particularly well-visible from the hill on which the complex is located. When done with the monastery I suggest looking around for spectacular views at the area, there is also a very pleasant restaurant just 2-minutes away by walk where you can stop for refreshments. There is a small path leading to another peak of nearby mountain, I recommend having this short and easy walk to enjoy longer the picturesque landscape. When going back to Kerkyra I suggest to take a pre-last bus, the queues in the season can be very long and some people are not allowed on board since the bus gets full so you want to still have the next one as a spare.
The 5th day we have spent in Kavos in the South of the island since we were tempted by the descriptions of the town having one of the warmest waters to swim. You can get there by bus from Kerkyra but the drive is quite long. I admit that water in Kavos was warmer than in Palaiokastritsa. The beach is wide and sandy and water is very shallow, I find it very safe for children. It is noteworthy that this area is a popular spot among British tourists, you will hear more English than Greek all around. The restaurants and pubs will also serve British dishes so consider if this is fine for you. For me personally, Kavos was not very authentic Greek place and water was too shallow for comfortable swimming so I left the town with somewhat mixed feelings.
I didn’t want my holiday in Corfu to be rushed and I think this is the key rule to ensure you have relaxing time in Greek island. This means I didn’t try to squeeze another destination which I was considering along with Kavos. I have chosen this place to swim a bit in warmer water and discarded a very picturesque northern beach called Sidari. This place is famous for the Canal d’Amour which is a beautiful rock formation near the coast. It has many small caves you can swim in. There is also romantic story attached to this spot which says that if you swim through the passageway of the Canal d’Amour, you will meet soon a love of your life. Since the beach is in the North of the island we thought the water would be too cold, we also didn’t plan to swim along Canal d’Amour. But from the perspective of time I would choose Sidari instead of Kavos for beautiful landscapes and water deep enough to actually swim.
The 6th day we have spent in Ypsos beach which is also accessible by bus from Kerkyra. You get off in half of the way to Palaiokastritsa. Ipsos beach was recommended to us by the local Greek family and I recommend this place as it is less touristy with many Greeks coming here to rest. The beach is very calm as it is not crowded (but the road is just behind so you still hear the cars), it also offers beautiful views at the nearby mountains. The water is warm and not too deep, not too shallow – perfect for relaxing swimming. However, it was not very transparent and thus not well-suited for snorkelling which is best to do on the other part of the island. There is not many facilities around, just few restaurants and cafeterias so I suggest going back to Kerykra for snacks or dinner.
I’m on the quest to choose the Greek island which would be perfect for holidays and Corfu stole my heart! Palaiokastritsa is such a gem! I’m curious how good is their public transport? I’m not sure is it worth relying on it?
Hi millicent, concerning public transport, the buses which operate around Kerkyra and the closest area are frequent, but those which go to Kavos or Palaiokastritsa are less frequent and you need to check schedules in advance to avoid situations when you miss the bus and wait long for the next one. The buses are going to most of tourist areas (popular beaches, bigger towns) but some places are not that easy to access (smaller towns, villages, remote sites like isolated monasteries, etc.). There were places where I realized it’s too inefficient to go with public transport and chose an alternative. To decide about car vs public transport I suggest checking places you want to go and then how it is connected. If you have a lot of destinations which are unreachable, opt for a car 😉