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Corfu

General Info

On the Western Coast of Greece, Corfu Island (Kerkyra) is the second in size and the northernmost of the famous Ionian Islands. Although it is the majestic beaches that draw so many fanatic tourists to it time and again, Corfu is one of the greenest of the Greek islands – partly because of the millions of old, evergreen olive trees that carpet its extraordinary land¬scape. Corfu is called the island of many faces: Tourist development is limited on certain coastal patches, and once inland one feels like one is on another island, even in another era. The island’s characteristic nature, supreme sea and rich history ensure that no matter what you are looking for and what your tastes are, you will be absolutely impressed. Used as the backdrop for epic tales by Shakespeare and Homer, the island today caters for everyone, thanks to its combination if a strong cosmopolitan ambience mingled with its unique traditional character.

History

The name of Corfu (Kerkyra in Greek) comes from the Nymph Korkira, daughter of the Assopos River-God. According to the myth, Poseidon, the Olympian God of the sea, fell in love with the young girl, kidnapped her and brought her to the island, which took her name. Homer’s Odyssey relates the island to the adventures of Ulysses, as it seems to be where he met Nausica, the daughter of the King Alcinoos. Corfu was first inhabited in Palaeolithic times (30000-7000 BC). In the 8th century BC its population was enriched with immigrants from the Greek mainland cities of Eretria and Corinth. In the 5th century BC, Corfu was the cause for the first large-scale conflict in human history, the disastrous Peloponnese War. In the Hellenistic era and afterwards it had the role of a strategic port, and was a favorite destination for eminent Greeks and Romans chose to construct their villas. Following the split of the Roman Empire into Western and Eastern spheres Corfu joined its fate to the Eastern (Byzantine) both in politics and in religion. In the late 14th century and until the late 18th century Corfu was to remain connected to the history of Venice. This period of Venetian rule would contribute to the formation of some of the main habits, customs and traits of the people of Corfu, the Corfiot cuisine and everyday life. The beginning of the 19th century found Corfu as the capital of the short-lived Independent State of the Ionian islands. After Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo, the State of the Ionian Islands became a Protectorate of the English Crown, until the unification of the Ionian Islands with the Greek state in 1864. The influence of the Venetians, the French and the British is very strong on the island, especially in the capital, Corfu town.

Must see

If you like history, you will love Corfu Town. The cobblestone streets of the Old Quarter, a UNESCO world heritage site, are littered with historic sites. The most popular of them is the 10th century Old Fortress overlooking the town from the east, offering visitors the chance to explore the island's turbulent history. Corfu Town is also a very important Orthodox pilgrimage destination as it is home to the Church of Agios Spiridon, which dates back to the 16th century. It's the final resting place of the island's patron saint. Corfu Town is also home to some of Greece’s best museums. The Palace of Saint Michael and Saint George, built during the British occupation of the island, today houses the fascinating Museum of Asian Art. Other excellent options include the Byzantine, the Banknote and the Archaeological museums. The latter is the best in the archipelago. Spianáda, the centre of the city, is the largest square in the Balkans, adorned with 19th-century works of impressive French architecture. Listón, the city’s trademark, has characteristic arcades that form a very romantic background setting for enjoying a glass of wine at one of the town’s cosy cafés. Other places worth visiting include: The picturesque suburbs of Mandoúki, Garitsa and Sarókos. Mon Repos, a small but very beautiful colonial palace, surrounded by a park, is ideal for long romantic walks. Achilleion, a remarkable palace built by the Empress Elisabeth of Austria, who wished to escape from the Austrian court. Paleópolis (at Mon Repos estate), which is where the Agora of the ancient city of Corfu was located and is home to the remains of several public buildings erected there along with sanctuaries, workshops and residencies.

Things to do

The island where Ulysses met Princess Nausicaa, in one of Homer’s Odyssey`s most celebrated rapsodies, is a truly magical destination all year long: colourful music events, culinary feasts, religious festivals, carnival celebrations – famous for their vibrant Venetian influences, and the most joyful Easter celebrations in Greece - offer the visitor a unique and unforgettable mosaic of experiences. If you prefer spending time outdoors, head north of Corfu Town, to Mount Pantokrator, whose summit towers more than half a mile high above Corfu's northeast coast. At the summit, enjoy breathtaking views of both the island and the Ionian Sea.You can also challenge yourself to the Corfu Trail, a more than 200km-long walking route that passes through every one of the island's ecological zones, from wild Cape Asprókavos in the south to the “secret beach” of Áyios Spyrí¬dhon in the far north. Corfu has a another “wild side” too, making it one of the best destinations for those who like to party. The island nightlife is very lively and offers many and very different choices of recreation.

Beaches and nature

Corfu has a stunning coastline that offers many unmatchable opportunities to enjoy the beach and the water, whether you prefer to snorkel, parasail, waterski or simply soak up the glorious Corfiot sun. The best beaches on the island are mostly located on the west side: Agios Stefanos is a long sandy strand near a scenic fishing village. The cosmopolitan Glyfada beach, 15 km from Corfu Town, has turquoise waters, golden sand and many beach bars, popular with both locals and tourists. Agios Georgios is another sandy beach with clubs, bars and many hotels. Kavos beach, southeast of Corfu Town is extremely popular amongst the younger crowds who visit the smart bars until the small hours of the morning. Dassia is a lovely coast, northwest of Corfu Town, with very good facilities. And those with a sense of adventure shouldn’t miss the chance to explore the numerous seaside caves in Paleokastritsa, along the island's northwest coast. Corfu’s natural beauty is for many of its visitors the island’s most important attraction. The islands’ climate, in combination with its fertile soil, contribute to Corfu being green from one end to the other, all year round. The most enthusiastic advocate of Corfiot natural beauty was Gerald Durrell, the famous writer, who lived on it as a child and wrote several books about it.

Need to know (practical info)

Corfu island enjoys a mediterranean climate with mild winters and refreshing summers. Corfu "Ioannis Kapodistrias" airport is very well served by several airlines, and year-round both Greek airlines Aegean and Olympic, have direct 40 minute flights to Athens. Direct Ferry links exist to/from Venice, Ancona, Bari, Brindisi (Italy), Himara and Saranda, (Albania) and Igoumenitsa, Patra (Greece). For those preferring to get there on their own yacht, the Marina Gouvia offers a very comfortable stay, and very close to Corfu town, while in the town they could moor offshore at the NAOK harbour, as well as at the Old Port. One could also moor at Benitses Marina, not far from Corfu town. Apart from the many tourist shops in Corfu town and other places and villages, there are small shops along some of the more major roads, often combined with the arts and crafts workshops where authentic goods are manufactured/produced. In some remote areas, locals sell locallytheir own wine, honey and olive oil from small street-side stalls. The roads are in good condition - The best way to get around Corfu is by car, especially if you want to explore everything this blessed island has to offer.

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