Kerkyra (Corfu)


The choice of the location of our next trip was determined by desire to see other Greece, with the landscape not of the red-grey stone covered with pale bushes, but properly green, forest one. A rather small island Kerkyra (also known as Corfu) is located at the opposite side of the country to our previous journeys, on the northwest edge of Greece, next to the Albanian shore, it is suitable to our requirements as well as possible.

As usual, we (I and my wife) began to prepare for the trip beforehand, in April. This time our travel agent was "Biznes-okean". There were proposed many apartments in different parts of Kerkira on their website. As a place of our dislocation during all two weeks of our stay, we chose Agios Stefanos settlement at the northwest margin of the island, away from the basic tourist centers. As the island is small, cannot compare with Crete, it was seemed to me that it is easy to reach any point of the island, to see all the sights there and to return late in the day. We selected the "Andy's studios and apartments" hotel with the sea view and with the special proposal - a car all the time of our stay.

I called to the "Biznes-okean", we came to an agreement about everything with the manager Irina, and then we have to do nothing more than to wait. Visas were made a month before the trip, a day before the departure they gave us tickets (30.08.2008 - 13.09.2008) and changed hotel, instead of a studio we got two-room apartments in the "Mikelis" hotel at the same settlement without additional payment.



The Boeing-737 of airline "Aeroflot-Nord" departed without delay from Sheremetievo Airport towards Kerkyra. After emerging from the clouds, which overhung the island, aircraft landed on the runway, which was located right in the gulf beside a picturesque place Kanoni not far from the capital of island.

After long standing in queue to the passport control, we were met by Elena, the representative of the host agency "Corfu Tourist Services" - Greek girl, who well speaks Russian. We passed to the parking place, where a small four-door Hyundai Atos awaited us. After explaining road and supplying with map and booklets, Elena has rapidly removed - there was Saturday evening, no one wants to stay on the job at this time.

It grew dark completely at that time. We were faced with the trip in the darkness through the unknown locality to the unknown settlement, where we had to find the unknown hotel. However, all this would be unknown, if there was not a long preparation for the journey: searches in the Internet, a study of the locality plans in Google Earth and accessible maps of the island. It was found even a panoramic photograph of our settlement with the "Mikelis" that was indicated with a pointer (although the hotel has not a website, and I it did not find any reference about it).

Even this preparation did not help us to find the settlement Agios Stefanos at once; we had to stray along the local roads, which were laid between numerous villages with the dense network. Finally, we reached the sea, it became easier to orientate there, and at half past ten we reached the goal. "Mikelis" was found at once, we stopped to ask for road beside a souvenir shop, there was our hotel next to it. The owner both of the shop and the hotel, who, apparently, waited for us, came to us, point the way to the yard, where we have parked, and led us into the room.

"Mikelis" apartments are located on the eminence and are the white two-storied house, which consists of three blocks. We got a room in the upper floor of the last block, moreover if in other blocks there were two accommodations in a floor, then our accommodation occupied entire floor in the block.

Behind the entrance door there is a hallway/kitchen with a full-valued gas-stove (although not a new one), and with a sink, a cupboard, a table and a refrigerator. There is also a washroom next door, unfortunately without a bath, only an angle for shower. Further, there are two rooms, identical in area extent, with two beds, a wardrobe, a table and a way out to a balcony in each. There is a small TV set in one of the rooms. The view from the top of the yard, the settlement and its main street is opened from the balcony.

As usual, the balcony was the basic place of our evening pastime. At this time there were arranged folk dances alternately in nearby restaurants, the music, which is not characterized by variety, reached us from there, special popularity enjoyed sirtaki and one song (unfortunately, I do not know its name).

Trees and bushes with bright flowers grew in the yard of the hotel; they filled air by amazing fragrance, especially in evenings. The owner and his family lived close by, in a house with the souvenir shop.

Click the images to enlarge them.

We spent each day in journeys through the island (total path 1670 km), in the evening we returned, prepared supper, and then we sat for long on the balcony: had supper, drank retsina.

Twice we walked to the nearby restaurant to try local cuisine. The dances were arranged there two times within the evening. The flammable liquid was spilled before a dancer and was ignited, sometimes the dancer had to dance on the table, which was also set on fire.

There was excellent sunny weather all two weeks of our stay in the island, only at night it was getting a little cooler. The climate in Kerkyra is more humid; therefore, the heat is endured here more heavily than, for example, in Crete. Foot passages, ascents-descents came not so easily to us.

At the last day we packed things, left key in the lock of entrance door outside, there were nobody of the owners in the yard and near the house, and we did not enter inside the house; therefore, we left and did not say goodbye. The departure was planned at 20.15, and remained time we spent in the capital Kerkyra, going for a walk on its by-streets, buying souvenirs. At six o'clock, we have left the car at the same place where we have taken it - at the airport parking.

This time our flight was delayed for four hours, two of which we had to spend in the departure zone. Admittedly, there are no places for smoking in this zone, as for us, inveterate smokers, is inadmissible, especially if one takes into account forthcoming three and a half hours of flight. However, thanks to a good man, I knew about existence of a secret place in the men's room, where it seems to be allowed to smoke, at least several men like me smoked there (in confidence, I report: the men's room near duty free shop, extreme right cabin, there is a breach in the wall instead of a toilet sink, which opens a narrow space between walls).

After delay, approximately at midnight, our aircraft successfully took off, and then it landed in Sheremetievo Airport. This night an identical aircraft of the same airline crashed in Perm.

A little of general information. Kérkyra (Corfu) is the island that washed by Ionian Sea, it is the northernmost from the group of Ionian Islands and it is located not far from the coasts of Albania and mainland Greece - Epirus. The island has oblong, crescent form, maximum length - 60 km, width - from 30 km in the northern part, to 4 km in the south. The capital of the island is the only one city of the same name, also Kerkyra, is located on the east coast of the island.

Island map
Click at the part of the island to jump to its description.

The island was named in honor of the nymph Cercyra, who, from the affair with Poseidon, gave birth to Phaeax - the ancestor of the ancient inhabitants of the island - Phaeacans. According to myths, Jason with the Argonauts stayed here, they returned from the campaign for Golden Fleece; and Odysseus, whose ship suffered a wreck here inshore, stayed here too.

Distant from the main centers of antique civilization, the island is famous, first of all, by its new history. The first "Governor" of independent Greece Ioánnis Kapodístrias strias (Ioann Kapodistria - one time earlier he was the Russian foreign minister) was born here. The national poet Dionísios Solomós (he was one of the first who wrote on the people's language - Dimotiki), the author of national anthem, lived and died here. Furthermore, the island was the residence of various royal persons (for example, prince Philip - the husband of current queen of England was born and spent first year of his life here). Today Kerkyra is one of the main centers of Greek tourism, attracting many guests from entire Europe by its nature, by the beauty of coastal views.

Further in this story there are the descriptions of the specific places of the island: settlements, beaches etc. The island is not great, therefore it seems no use to describe our routes, just as the chronology of our trips, because of this, my story will a little resemble a guide. We will pass along the shore around Kerkyra clockwise, beginning from the northwest (Liapades, Paleokastritsa…), sometimes going, of course, inland. The story is divided into the following parts, according to my separation of the island as it is shown on the map: Northwest(1), North(2), Northeast(3), East(4), South(5), West(6). After this, I will describe my voyages to the adjacent islands: Erikoussa, Paxi, Antipaxi.

All photographs of our journey in overall size can be found here.


Kerkyra, the Northwest

One of the main roads in the island passes from the capital to Paleokastritsa that is the invariable point of all local excursions. At the 16th kilometre of road, to the right, the factory of products from koumquat "Mavromátis" with the shop is located. Koumquat is the citrus plant of Chinese origin with small fruits of orange color, oval form and uncommon taste, which resembles a little anise or mint. It has been growing in Kerkyra since 1860, as the English agriculturist Merlin brought it from China. There are for sale in the shop: two kinds of koumquat liqueur - orange from the rind and yellow from the juice; jelly-candy; sugared fruits in syrup and separately; some other alcoholic beverages and sweetness. However, much of this can be purchased almost in each shop of the island.

Following further along the road, we turn to the left towards Liapádes village. Small sand-pebble beach is located beyond the village. In its right part, the coast is dotted by enormous stone-cliffs, partially sunk in the sea, which divide the coast to the sequence of small beaches; it is possible to climb on these stones and to jump into the water. In general, we like the beach, in spite of abundance of people.

To the west from Liapades along the coast, and by way of a detour along the road, is located Paleokastrítsa village, which is considered as the most beautiful place on the island. The indented rocky shore is diluted by several beaches. We went down along the slope, which was overgrown with olive trees, to one of these beaches, pebble and stony, situated in the small bay. Popularity of Paleokastritsa ensures a constant inflow of tourists, and it affects the populousness of its beaches.

Here the coast forms two small hilly peninsulas, the Theotókos Monastery is located at apex of one of these hills, and the road to Paleokastritsa comes to an end before the monastery with large parking. Monastery was founded in 1225; however, the present buildings were built at the beginning of XVIII century. Immediately after the entrance among the efflorescent verdure it is located the gallery, which passes under the wide arches. On its wall there is an icon that is inlayed with mosaic, here also there is a dried well with a lion head. There is an old olive press in a room by the gallery. Upstairs there are a church and a small museum with a shop. In the museum, besides church utensils and icons, there are enormous bones of whales. Monastery is opened from 7 to 13 and from 15 to 20 hours daily, entrance free.

After leaving Paleokastritsa, we turn to the left towards Lákones village. The road rises by serpentine upwards. Passing the picturesque village, we stop at the observation point called Bella Vista. Here from the top is opened a remarkable view of Paleokastritsa. The road in this place goes along the slope of mountain, and there may arise problems with place for parking.

Then we go further to the northwest, soon will be the turn to the left towards Kríni village. After the village, the road steeply gets down by serpentine to a small parking. A long stairs upward to the cliff appears before us, at the apex of cliff there is the Byzantine fortress of XIII century Angelókastro. It was constructed by the despot of Epirus Michael II Komninós Doúkas, called by Michael Angel, after his father Mikhail I, also Angel, joined the island to his possessions in 1214; the fortress was named in the honor of both of them. Unfortunately, after arriving there, we saw the closed gates of fence before the stairs, the fortress was on the restoration.

Further to the north, on the shore of picturesque bay with the long beach, there is located Ágios Geórgios settlement. White small sand, pure water, beautiful view - all well, however, because of the underground sources - this is the beach with coldest water on the island. We tested it, the water was actually cool, but at the hot air, its freshness is just a plus.

From the north the bay is limited by the hilly peninsula, on apex of which is located the picturesque Afiónas village. There is no thoroughfare through the village, just as there are no bypass streets. Therefore, as soon as the good road ends, one should leave the car on the roadside and further go on foot. First, we passed further, we entered into one of the local "alleys", hoping to be more closely to the edge of peninsula, and then we maneuvered there for a long time, attempting to turn around. Road signs propose to go either downward to the beach or upward to the observation point, we selected the second. The observation point, or just a lawn above a steep, is equipped with benches. There is a splendid view of northwest from here: the sea with small islets close by (Kravía and other), Arillas coast, Kefali cape, Diapontic islands at a distance. We passed further by a goat path to the end of the peninsula, where there is a steep descent and the thin isthmus below, which divides our peninsula with one more. The isthmus is washed from both sides by small bays with the beaches, apparently, the road signs in the village directed to these beaches. We did not begin to get down; we photographed from the top this picturesque view and returned to the car.

Following further to the north, we reach Aríllas settlement with the long sandy beach. We did not stop there for long, therefore I will say only that in the remote part of the coast there is a nudist beach, and here in the coastal cliffs is found "green mud" (I'll talk about it below), some vacationers smear by it their body, apparently, it is considered useful for skin.

Further, after Kefáli cape that is the most western point of the island, our settlement Ágios Stéfanos is located, which became native to us over two weeks. On the south, among the rocky shore of the cape, a port is located, where small ships start their sails to Diapontic islands. Further, after the short rocky section, there is a long beach from the dense fine yellow sand and with the sloping entrance to the sea. The beach expands at the middle and becomes narrow to the northern side, where sheer cliffs from "green mud" approach close to the sea. There are no heaps of vacationers on the beach, just who dwells there, this is because of the place is a little out-of-the-way, distant from the basic roads. This concerns also the beaches of Arillas and Agios Georgios.

Usually we arrived there to bathe at the evenings, during the sunset, we left the car straight on the beach in 10 - 20 metres from the sea, a parking is located there, just on the rammed sand. At the sea, one can see Diapontic islands, small Diaplo islet, and the hills of distant Albanian shore.

Along the sea in the middle of the settlement, its main street with the restaurants, bars, shops and tourist offices passes. Two of the restaurants enjoy popularity in the evenings: "Zorbas" and "Little Prince". There are two large food supermarkets: one near the beach, another, "Arpa", on the main street. In addition, there are several small food, souvenir and jewelry shops.

I must say that we were not disappointed in our choice of Agios Stefanos. One of the best (maybe the best) beaches on the island, well-developed infrastructure, remarkable nature and there is no crowd of tourists.

All-round panorama of Agios Stefanos beach


Attribution-No Derivative Works (CC-BY-ND) by Andrey K.