If it’s a sun-drenched climate, cobalt waters and laid-back vibe you want, Corfu’s hard to beat. But don’t be deceived – beyond its sunny disposition, there’s so much history and culture to take in. David Fuhrmann-Lim spends eight days soaking up all the idyllic Ionian isle has to offer.
We picked Corfu for a simple reason – because it wasn’t Santorini with its sophisticated shtick, or Mykonos with its marketed modernity.
Corfu somehow manages to strike the perfect balance as a chill beach getaway with enough culture and culinary wonders to hold its own against the other Greek islands. You’ll find certain segments more gentrified and over developed, but pockets of peace and quiet are easy enough to get to.
Corfu, in the west of Greece, is a mere 35-minute flight from Athens.
Thankfully, we booked our trip for mid-June, just before droves of tourists were due to spill onto the island. The party tribes tend to populate the Old Town in the south, Paleokastritsa in the middle, and Sidari up north. The latter was where we made camp. It was also where all the best beaches were.
We stayed in Villa Quietude, up north in Agios Stefanos beach town. This stately mansion was once owned by the Cadbury family – no free chocolates for us, alas. It had a private pool that let us enjoy a front-row seat to a gorgeous sunset every evening, and a verdant garden with its own vegetables – and we quickly learnt that there’s nothing quite like the fresh sweetness of home-grown fruits and olives. The patio where we had breakfast each day also looked out over a crystalline sea and the villa owners’ private stretch of beach. If you’re travelling in a big group, the three bedrooms will easily accommodate a group of 10. It’s a perfect base from which to explore everything up north. Depending on the season, expect to pay some 1,000 euros for a week’s stay.
We rented a scooter – at 100 euros for a week – to get around the island. I recommend skipping the cab rides, because they’re pretty expensive – just the hour long trip from the airport to the villa set us back 60 euros.
Price aside, Corfu’s rugged, mountainous terrain is made for riding – it gives you a visceral feel of the island. But if scooters aren’t your thing, rent a car or dune buggy to get around. You’ll have to, as there are no buses or trains circling the island.
If you’re going it on your own, keep an eye on your gas tank. We ran out of petrol while zipping along – which, while unfortunate, gave us a glimpse into the friendly, unassuming and unguarded nature of the islanders. A Corfiot who saw us in distress offered some petrol – enough to get us to the nearest gas station – and refused to take payment.
That gesture made us feel safe and welcomed.
Eat at local taverns when you can. Order an ouzo as an aperitif, and the homemade wines as well, which are value for money (4 euros a carafe). They’re great with local food, so have them instead of the commercial Greek wines, which tend to be over priced and don’t taste that great anyway.
It’s said that no one visits Corfu only once. After a week of lunches by the beach, wine in the taverns, and being beckoned by lush olive trees as we whizzed by, it’s not difficult to see why.
The Old Foartress looms over Corfu town. Its Venetian architecture reflects the island’s proximity to Italy.