Looking for 2017 holiday inspiration? How about Corfu…
When you think of the Greek island of Corfu, there’s a chance you picture the notorious clubbing town of Kavos and scenes you’re most likely to have seen on Sun, Sex & Suspicious Parents or What Happens in Kavos.
Kavos has helped put Corfu on the map in recent years but there is so much more to the island than the well-known party town. Most recently the island has been associated with ITV drama The Durrells based on Gerald Durrell’s Corfu memoirs.
So I visited the beautiful island earlier this year during Greek Easter. Corfu has an idyllic mountainous skyline and over 200km of coastline with sparkling blue sea and Instagram-worthy views. I couldn’t get over the views, I snapping away at everything!
Corfu is known as Greece’s ‘Emerald Island’ due to its curtain of beautiful wild flowers, bushes and shrubs.
But don’t forget your umbrella as the island has regular rainfall, however this has its benefits as it means the island produces a variety of excellent local produce. It is particularly famous for its wine, olive oil, and honey.
You’re bound to fall in love with the food, views and culture Corfu has to offer.
Prove to the Greeks that the British are not all the same. As one taxi driver said to me, “the British like to come here for a good time, get drunk and ‘jiggy jiggy’”. Experience the vibrant culture within Corfu town.
Corfu town (also known as Kerkyra Town) is maze of quaint streets and alleys filled with coffee shops and genuine leather stores with gorgeous handbags, shoes and belts, all made by the local shopkeepers.
The Old Fortress is the most famous castle in Corfu and has a rich history. It was built to protect the island from invasions, today it is visited by thousands ever year and it is also a popular venue for summer concerts. Stop for lunch by the fortress at Corfu Sailing Club restaurant (you can pick up a shuttle from outside the fortress) where you can admire stunning views of the harbour and the fortress by the gently lapping crystal clear waters, as you sip on an ice cold Corfu beer. Bliss!
What to do
Surprisingly Corfu is home to a Museum of Asian Art. The museum has been dedicated to Far Eastern and Indian art and antiques since 1927 and has around 10,500 objects on show.
Visit the famous Vlacherna monastery, a post-card perfect view and the most well known image which comes to mind when people think of Corfu. The white building sits perfectly amongst the blue sea and sky. It’s open to the public all year round and the perfect place to visit for peace and tranquility.
If you are feeling adventurous then there’s also opportunities for a day trip visit to Albania from Corfu Town. The boat from Corfu to the ancient city Saranta, Albania takes just 90 minutes and from here visitors can take a guided tour to the archaeological site of Butrint to see the ancient theatre, gymnasium and Roman baths.
The food and drink
Immerse yourself in the Greek foodie scene and feast on olives, Dolmades, feta and cheeses, honey, baklava, grilled meat and fresh sea food including octopus as well as some of the freshest fruit you will ever come across.
Greek cheese pies (Tiropitakia) are game changers. This greek feta wrapped in puff pastry beauty is the best thing you will ever try and you cannot visit Corfu without trying it.
I could have got used to this desk view…
If you have a sweet tooth then you can’t beat pistachio and honey Greek Delight, it is the perfect sweet treat and a great gift to bring back home (a box costs around 2 euros).
You’ll need plenty of ouzo to wash down all that grub. Ouzo can be enjoyed straight or mixed with water. There’s also a variety of local beers (we recommend a red ale special Corfu beer) and Corfu is best known for its white wines.
If you are lucky you may even get to see local wildlife during your stay. Flamingos have been spotted at the Lefkimi salt pans on Corfu island and a boat trip may lead you to spot dolphins!
Swallows are seen almost everywhere and even more so if you venture up just a few minutes up the mountains.
Go on a hike
If you want to experience true tranquility then go on a solo hike up the mountains for stunning views of the Ionian sea amongst the orange trees and olive groves and experience silence like you have never before. Stand amongst the lush curtain of trees and wild flowers with nothing but the sounds of cockerels, views of the shimmering coastline and as swifts dart around you.
You can’t visit Greece without a visit to the beach and of course there are plenty of stunning beaches on the island. The Ionian Islands of Greece are known for their beautiful beaches, my hotel, MarBella Corfu, had its own beach for guests to use.
Paleokastritsa is the most famous beach on island as it is the most picturesque (or Instagrammable). It has six pebbly and six sandy beaches where you can bask in the sun amongst the beautiful scenery.
I visited for Greek Easter as Corfu is the best and most colourful place in Greece for Easter celebrations. Easter in Corfu is a big deal and celebrations last for a week and thousands come to the island just for the celebrations. Stand back as at 11am on Holy Saturday suddenly plates, pots and vases are hurled from buildings in Corfu Town. This unique tradition is done to banish misfortune.
Greek Easter 2017 is 16 April 2017.
That evening eve mass takes place and at midnight there are fireworks, church bells ring and everybody lights a candle. The following day, Easter Sunday, lambs are roasted on the spit as you watch traditional Greek dances with ouzo in hand.
Where to stay
I stayed at luxury retreat MarBella Corfu Hotel which is a short car or boat journey into Corfu Town and the ideal place to revive and rejuvenate.
The five-star hotel has a fantastic dining scene and is home to six restaurants and six bars, serving amazing pineapple mojitos and kiwi daiquiris, as well as its own private beach. Platea Greek restaurant serves authentic Greek cuisine with a selection of local and regional specialities on the menu. The chef even goes out and fishes locally so the seafood selection on the menu changes daily.
Each room has a gorgeous garden or sea view and the hotel has two adult pools but you can also book a junior suite with your own private pool or whirlpool – which means you won’t even need to leave your room!
But if you do decide to leave your room, enjoy dining al fresco and have breakfast on the terrace and come evening sip an aperol spiritz as you watch the sun go down between the forested hills and Ionian sea.
Time to relax
If that doesn’t relax you enough then MarBella Corfu Hotel also has a natural well-being Apivita spa.
We always knew that wine was good for you and at the spa you can enjoy the wine without the hangover (who knew it was possible?). The Wine elixir anti-wrinkle treatment proves just that. The treatment uses antioxidant qualities of red wine and the main active ingredient of wine naturally increases collagen which is said to give a unique elixir of youth and will show immediate and visible results.
MarBella Corfu offers a superior double room with sea view from £65 per person per night on a half board basis for the 2017 season. I travelled with easyJet from Corfu. Airport Lounge Access available through Dragon Pass.
As if you needed a reason to reach for your passport?
Disclaimer: I originally wrote this article for Metro, see here.