“My childhood in Corfu shaped my life. If I had the craft of Merlin, I would give every child the gift of my childhood […] Gradually the magic of the island settled over us as gently and clingingly as pollen.” 
― Gerald DurrellMy Family and Other Animals

There is something in Corfu that has always fascinated visitors, from Elizabeth of Bavaria and Kaiser Wilhelm II to Nat Rothschild and Bruce Willis who, like Gerard Durrell, cannot disentangle themselves from its alluring charms, so they choose to spend their precious leisure time on this blessed island. Corfu is like an ancient nymph wearing her multi-hued veil of emerald mountains, turquoise waters, silver olive leaves, pink and lavender flowers and red parasails. She unravels her beauty in an impressionistic dance destined only for the eyes of her admirers, thereby, forever securing their affection. Despite all the above, Corfu is, perhaps surprisingly, one of the more rural, sleepy islands away from the tourist honeypots. We will get to know better this emerald island, the greenest in the Ionian Sea, in the Second Part of our Trilogy of Trips.

Sharing the fate of the other Ionian Islands, Corfu was under Venetian, French and British rule before being reunited with Greece with all these rulers leaving their distinctive architectural and cultural marks on the island, visible especially in its capital Corfu Town. The heart of the city beats in the largest square in the Balkans, Spianada square, designed in the 19th century French architectural style where locals indulge in long games of cricket - a favorite pastime unknown to the rest of the country and introduced by the British more than a century ago. On the east side of the square lies the impressive Liston building that retains an air of exclusivity; in the past, only members of the aristocracy whose names were included in the “Gold List” or “Libro d’oro” were allowed to walk there. Today however, Liston is buzzing with life and activity due to its many inviting cafes and restaurants nestled under its romantic arches.

The Old Town of Corfu with its Old and New Fortress, on the other hand, is designated as a UNESCO World heritage site adorned with buildings of rare architectural beauty and traditional maze-like narrow streets called kantounia where one can taste handmade delicacies in traditional shops. A visit to the church of Saint Spiridon nearby (patron of the island) dating back to the 16th Century is highly recommended.

If you are tired of the hubbub of the capital, head for the resort of Paleokastritsa in the west. The quiet rocky bay with the bright azure waters is believed to be the place Odysseus disembarked and met Nausicaa, the daughter of the King of Phaeacia, the last stop on his journey to Ithaca; the locals still believe that the rock in the bay is the petrified ship of the weathered traveler. Climb the winding road to admire the view and grab the opportunity to visit the Monastery on the top of the hill dating back to the 13th century. Hidden within are relics and outside, you will be amazed by the breathtaking vistas of the bay below making the humble Monastery a favorite among visitors.

From the humble to the grand, Corfu was –and remains still- a popular holiday destination for the rich and famous. In the previous centuries aristocrats and nobles belonging to the ruling classes adorned Corfu with luxurious palaces and mansions many of which survive and are open to the public today. Mon Repos Palace, which was built by the British Commissioner Adams as a gift to his Corfiot wife, has been turned into a museum. The gardens around the palace are ideal for long, peaceful strolls. Another palace recently turned into a museum is Achilleion, the personal haven of Elizabeth of Bavaria. Built on a forested hill, among ancient trees, the palace is dedicated to the hero Achilles who, for Elizabeth, symbolized the Spirit of Greece. The views from the palace of the green island justify the Empress’ growing attachment to it and enchant visitors from around the world.

Still, Corfu is best known not for the valleys carpeted with olive trees, but for its stunning beaches. Some are bustling with liveliness, like cosmopolitan Glifada beach and the well developed Ai Gordis, famous for its golden sand, whereas others such as Mirtidiotissa are less easily accessible yet equal in beauty. Undoubtedly, the most famous beach in Corfu is the ethereal "Canal d’ Amour"; here, the endless fight between sea and rock has resulted in a series of other-worldly stone formations, winding sea canals and tiny caves. According to a local legend, if lovers swim in these waters they will never part. Whether you choose to believe it or not, the Canal d’ Amour is definitely a place you simply cannot miss when you visit Corfu.

There you'll find all these sights, plus hospitable people, amazing food, wine and atmosphere. Corfu remains an enchanting mixture of simplicity and sophistication, ready to be explored. Come and explore it with us!