There are countless places to visit in Corfu that are worthy of your time. Corfu (locally known as Kerkyra) is one of the most popular summer getaway destinations for Greek and international tourists alike.
A Little History of Corfu
Corfu is the northernmost of the Greek Ionian islands. Various civilisations have lived on or conquered these lands throughout the centuries.
Each has left its mark on the architecture and culture of the Ionian today. The Macedonians, Spartans, Illyrians, Romans, Normans, and Venetians all controlled this island at one point.
The Venetian rule was a particularly prosperous period for Corfu. It is for this reason that parts of Corfu’s UNESCO-protected Old Town look more reminiscent of Italy than Greece.
The Best Places to Visit in Corfu
While you are forgiven for thinking that Corfu may not necessarily be the place to go if you are looking to escape the crowds, know that some places are popular for good reason. Virtually every square inch of the island exudes beauty.
Regardless of the island’s popularity, it still boasts its fair share of secluded coves, hidden beaches, and peaceful villages. You don’t have to venture too far to discover off-the-beaten-path highlights.
Navigate the Winding Streets of Corfu Old Town
Corfu’s old town should be included in any Kerkyra itinerary. This beautiful Venetian city sits less than 10 minutes away from the island’s international airport.
The city’s narrow winding streets, with their cobbled floors and porticoed structures, are reminiscent of a city in Northern Italy. Many of the structures here date back as far as the 8th century, and the entirety of the old town is a UNESCO-protected world heritage site.
The crumbling remnants of old fortresses still stand guard, scattered around the town. These defensive buildings were built by renowned Venetian Engineers so as to defend themselves from the Ottoman Turks.
One or two days is sufficient to discover the highlights of Corfu Old Town. From there you can move on to the sleepy coastal towns of Kerkyra.
See the Planes Coming in to Land at Kanoni
The beach town of Kanoni is set right on the doorstep of Corfu’s Ioannis Kapodistrias airport. You may question this close proximity.
However, it does not detract from Kanoni’s scenic beauty. Nor does it affect the cleanliness of its crystal clear waters and tranquil white-sand beaches.
Being on the doorstep of the island’s international airport actually gives Kanoni a certain je ne sais quoi. From this point, you have exceptional up close and personal views of commercial planes as they are coming in to land.
You could sit for hours watching them from the Kanoni coffee shop. There is also a small walkway that connects Kanoni and Perama. From here, the brave can stand right beneath the planes and capture some incredible photographs beneath the aircraft as they are coming in to land.
Kanoni’s beach is surrounded by jagged rock formations and verdant greenery. The mysterious Pontokonissi island glimmers in the distance.
It is seldom crowded, even in the popular Greek summer months. The nearby tavernas allow you to pull up a chair right on the beach and tuck into fresh seafood delicacies that have been sourced locally.
Spend a Day in Pelekas Village
Pelekas village is a quaint mountain village situated 13km away from Corfu town. Its hilltop location means that from here, you can enjoy panoramic views across the island and out to sea.
The village is a nice place to spend a day or two amidst nature. From here, you are also close to the beaches of Myrtiotissa, Gialiskari, Pelekas, and Glyfada.
Cross the Kanoni Pier to Vlacherna Monastery
The Vlacherna Monastery sits on a tiny islet that is connected to the Kanoni mainland by a small stone pier. The building dates back to the 17th century.
Although it has not operated as a monastery since the ‘80s, the interiors of the small church are still quite beautiful. Better yet, it is possible for tourists to venture inside.
The whitewashed architecture here is somewhat reminiscent of what you would expect to see in the Cyclades, rather than the Ionian. Keep an eye out for the resident stray cats that call the monastery home.
Take a Fishing Boat Out to Pontikonisi Island
Pontokonissi is a tiny island that floats just off the coast from Kanoni. It is also known as “Mouse Island”.
This is supposedly on account of the fact that the island looks like a mouse from up above. The literal translation of Pontokonissi from Greek is “island of mice”. However, whether it actually looks like a mouse or not, is debatable!
It is possible to take a fishing boat from the whitewashed Vlacherna Monastery for just €2.50 and the ride takes only 5 minutes. The area is filled with rare and verdant greenery, tall cypress trees, and beautiful flora.
Pontokonissi, like many places in the Ionian, has roots in Greek mythology. Legend has it that the island was actually Ulysses’ boat. A storm washed the boat out to sea and so, the God Poseidon transformed it into the island that sits here today.
You can walk the entirety of the uninhabited island in 10 minutes or so. The views of Kanoni, the Corfiot coastline, and the planes coming in to land are beautiful from here.
The Monastery of Pantokratoras is the only structure on the island. It lies mostly in ruin today. However, the little chapel here is sometimes used for weddings and celebrations.
Lounge on the Beaches of Paleokastritsa
Paleokastritsa is the place to go if you are looking for a slice of R&R in Corfu. The coastal town awaits just 24km north of Corfu old town, with regular buses connecting the two locations.
According to Greek mythology, Paleokastritsa is the place where Odysseus is said to have disembarked and met Nausicaa for the very first time. Paleokastritsa has stunning postcard-perfect views.
Understandably, the town is popular and famous among tourists. However, if you know where to go, you can avoid the crowds – even in the height of summer.
There are six rocky and sandy beaches in Paleokastritsa. The town’s namesake Paleokastritsa beach seems to be a go-to starting point for most tourists.
If you walk a little further along the coast, the beaches of Agia Triada and Verderosa are more tranquil. Heading to these spots for sunrise or sunset early in the morning means having the beaches virtually all to yourself.
Hike to the Little Village of Lakones
Lakones is a quaint village whose narrow winding streets comprise beautiful pastel-coloured Venetian houses. Lakones sits on a hilltop just above Paleokastritsa and its translucent waters down below.
It is possible to hike from Paleokastritsa to Lakones (and vice versa). A rugged hiking trail named “the donkey trail” leads you through the woodlands and connects the two villages.
The walking route is shaded by trees. This makes it a pleasant place for a walk, even in the height of summer.
There are several excellent tavernas that await you in Lakones. Several of these also offer breathtaking panoramas as you eat.
Sample Sofrito and Local Corfiot Delicacies
The village’s Nereid restaurant and Elia taverna serve up an array of Corfiot and Greek delicacies. For something truly local and native to Corfu, order yourself a beef sofrito.
This dish consists of tender, braised beef cooked in sumptuous garlic and white sauce. It is served with oregano dusted potatoes.
Discover the Abandoned Village at the Port of Alipa
If you are interested in exploring eerie and abandoned places, you will love uncovering the little lost village that sits just above the Port of Alipa in Paleokastritsa. Here, there are several derelict houses and churches that sit on the north side of the cliff.
Few people even know of the existence of this place besides the locals. The hike is challenging, yet rewarding.
The village is not marked on any map. However, you can find it by walking to Alipa beach.
Next, follow the woodland trails towards the Agios Georgios old church. From there, you will see the old stone houses glinting out from the trees.
Spend a Day in Sidari
Sidari, like Paleokastritsa, is one of the liveliest seaside towns in Corfu. The region’s unique natural beauty is what makes Sidari stand out from the crowd. The hilly, pastel-coloured town is encompassed by unique rock formations, jagged cliffs, and olive groves.
A plethora of excellent bars, coffee shops, and tavernas are scattered around Sidari. Don’t miss the Canal d’ Amour (the Channel of Love).
This unusual beach sits between Peroulades and Sidari. Here, sandstone cliffs have been eroded into something of a “moon shape” – a result of time, the sea, and the elements.
Some charming walking paths weave through the area surrounding the Canal d’ Amour. There are also a number of hidden coves and underwater caves that you can reach by swimming and diving in the area.
Take a Day Trip to Paxos and Antipaxos
In an ideal world, you would have several days available to dedicate to visiting Paxos, Greece. However, if you are short on time, it is possible to take a day trip to Paxos and Antipaxos from the port in Corfu town.
The journey from Corfu to Paxos takes just 55 minutes each way. There are 4-5 boats per day that make this journey in the midst of summer.
Paxos is one of the least commercial Greek islands and a true paradise lost. Its neighbour, the tiny island of Antipaxos boasts translucent cerulean waters that would rival those found in the Caribbean. Indeed, Antipaxos is often said to have the very best coasts in the Ionian.
Visit the Ghost Village of Palea Perithia
Palea Perithia is an abandoned ghost village that sits on the slopes of Mount Pantokrator. The village dates back to the 14th century.
It was built in a time when it was necessary for people to move away from the coasts and into the mountains to avoid attacks from pirates. As this necessity subsided, the people left the village and moved back to the coast.
Despite being abandoned, Palea Perithia is quite popular among daytrippers. Excursions run regularly between Kasiopi and Palea Perithia.
The grand, pastel-coloured houses and elegant churches and schools of Palea Perithia are abandoned. However, there are a select few excellent Greek tavernas in the central square that still operate to serve tourists.
Learn About the Island’s History in Achilleio
Visiting the city of Achilleio is one of the best things to do in Corfu if you are looking to get off the beaten track. Venturing here enables you to discover something distinctly Corfiot.
The main promenades and plazas of the city are filled with chic cocktail bars, exquisite restaurants, and scenic marinas. Undeniably one of the most interesting tourist attractions in Achilleio is the palace.
A short drive from Achilleio centre takes you through fragrant olive groves, traditional villages, and past adorable little houses whose walls are laden with pink bougainvillea flowers. The Achilleio palace is a stunning stately home well worth a visit. It was once inhabited by Empress Elisabeth of Austria and Kaiser William II of Germany.
Indulge in an Olive Tasting Tour
Olives, olive oil, and olive-related products are undoubtedly among the most quintessentially Greek agro products. Certain regions of the country are synonymous with their olive produce – Kalamata in Lakonia, Halkidiki, and Kerkyra to name a few examples.
There are more than 4 million olive trees on the island of Kerkyra – predominantly growing lianolia olives. A variety of producers offer tours of their groves and facilities – one such example being “The Governor”.
In Western cultures, olive oil may be seen as no more than something that is splashed in a pan to fry something. However here in the Mediterranean, using quality olive oil in cooking and flavouring foods is of the utmost importance.
Corfiot olive tasting tours enable you to learn the process of making Greek olive oil. You can also sample a mixture of their products with a selection of appetisers.
Not to mention, artisanal food products make fabulous Greek souvenirs for your friends and family back at home.
Have a Lazy Day in Dassia
The beach town of Dassia sits between two relatively major tourist towns in Corfu. Namely, Ipsos, and Gouvia.
The sandy beach here offers unparalleled views across the waters to the Albanian coastline. Dassia beach is serviced, with sunbeds and amenities available for rent for just a few euros.
Dassia beach does get crowded during the months of July and August. For more privacy and seclusion, board a boat to one of the nearby beaches and coves.
Do you have any further questions or queries about the best places to visit in Corfu or Greece trip planning advice? Please don’t hesitate to contact me.
I have lived in Athens for the last four years. I’m happy to assist with any questions that you may have.
Safe travels! Geia sou! Melissa xo