Is Corfu worth visiting? It all really depends. Let’s put it this way: If you’re the sort of traveler that likes idyllic coves and turquoise seas, rugged mountain landscapes dashed with pine forests, long-lost villages of half-crumbled cottages and rustic restaurants, and moody monasteries perched on the cliffs, then yes, Corfu is very much worth visiting.
It’s no secret that this is one of the most prized of the Ionian Islands. It’s long been considered one of Greece’s most gorgeous destinations, offering two very different coastlines, some vibrant towns, and some chilled family resorts. Oh, and it’s home to arguably the most hedonistic destination of the lot: Kavos.
This guide will run through 11 reasons why you should totally consider Corfu when you come to book that next Greek getaway. From the blinding beaches to the adventures that await inland, the unique Corfiot kitchen to the rich history and culture of Corfu Town, it’s got plenty to tempt all sorts of travelers, that’s for sure.
Because it’s easy to get to
Corfu is lucky enough to be one of the Ionian isles with its very own airport. Cue the Ioannis Kapodistrias International Airport (CFU). It’s actually one of the best-connected in the region, too. Flights – as is the same at most Greek island airports – usually run seasonally between May and September but there’s all sorts of on offer, including links in from London and Edinburgh and Bristol on budget carriers like Ryanair and easyJet. There’s also a non-seasonal link to Athens, so you can jet over from the Greek capital no matter the month.
On top of that, Corfu is a hub for cross-Adriatic ferries coming in from Italy. We’ll talk a little more about the joys of being able to hop on a boat going somewhere else after seeing Corfu a little later but it’s also good news for arriving. Commercial ferries take around 12 hours from Italy, coming from ports like Ancona, Venice, and Bari, usually going overnight. And, of course, there are ferries from the mainland of Greece, too, most originating at the port in Igoumenitsa.
Let’s cut to the chase – most travelers come to Corfu for the beaches, right? Right. Thankfully, there’s such a sheer overload of them here that you could fill weeks and weeks of vacation time and still not visit the same one twice. Yep, we’re talking a whopping 57 designated beaches, along with countless little coves, rocky inlets, and cliff-backed coastal stretches besides.
Generally speaking, the more popular beaches are on the east coast. They get protection from the dominant westerly swells that roll across the Med, so tend to be calmer overall. It’s the area you’ll find family friendly towns like Benitses, but also the quaint fishing harbor or Kalami. The west coast of Corfu mimics that of Zante a little. It’s got wild rocks lurching straight from the water, boulder-dotted coves, and some seriously dramatic locations.
So, is Corfu worth visiting for the beaches alone? You bet it is. Here are the ones we’d 100% have on our itinerary if we were heading over this year…
- Paleokastritsa – Five beaches for the price of one, and all downright stunning. That’s Paleokastritsa, the jewel of Corfu’s west coast.
- Agios Gordios – This one sits under the lush coast mountains out west, a long beach of pebbles and sand that’s very, very relaxed.
- Rovinia – Romantic Rovinia is a stunning pebble beach with high cliffs.
- Bataria – The most built up but also the prettiest beach in Kassiopi on the north coast of Corfu.
Corfu’s beaches might steal the limelight but they’re really just one chapter in the book of Mother Nature that describes this island. the vast majority of the inland part of Corfu is dominated by green hills, forest-filled valleys, and soaring peaks. In fact, there are two distinct ranges on the island, one in the north and the other in the south.
Those areas are perfect for those who want to pull on the hiking boots and steer away from the crowds. You can scale the peak of Mount Pantokrator in the north. It’s over 900 meters above sea level and offers summit views that take in the Balkans and Albania over the strait. Or there’s the trail to Agi Deka down south, which whisks ramblers through springtime wildflower meadows outside of Pelekas village.
Hiking paths also wiggle and weave their way all around the shoreline. Cape Drastis is definitely one to have on the radar. It’s a strange land of alabaster tors chiseled by the waves of the Adriatic Sea. Then there’s the path through the coastal scrub to Porto Timoni, a hidden Shangri-La of a beach on the western shoreline that wouldn’t look out of place in Thailand.
Things to do
You know, Corfu holidays aren’t all about lazing around on the sands topping up the tan. Nope, there’s way more to do here than just that, with something on the menu for culture buffs, romantic types, history lovers, and more.
In true Greek style, boat trips often come top of the itinerary. They can whisk you out of towns like Agios Gordios, Kassiopi, and Palaiokastritsa to secret parts of the Corfiot coast where the rental car simply can’t go. Day trips usually include a pitstop at Paradise Beach, for example, which is hemmed in by huge cliffs and has striking grottoes carved into its rocks.
Back on land, we’d also recommend checking out Vlacherna Monastery. It’s set on a pinprick of an island south of the airport, with whitewashed walls and shrines that date back to the 1600s. There’s another haunting church over in Paleokastritsa, now more than 800 years old and replete with intriguing Byzantine relics. And you’ll find another capping off Pantokratoras mountain up north. That’s known as Pantokratoras Monastery and it’s still a major pilgrimage site.
Corfu pulls in the fresh Mediterranean flavors of Greece and combines them with some of the rusticity and heartiness of the Slavic cooking that you get on the Balkan Peninsula. On top of that, there’s a big influence from Italy across the Adriatic, bolstered by the availability of seafood thanks to some of the most able fishing fleets in Ionia. The result? A range of dishes that’s sure to tingle the taste buds of any traveling foodie.
Be sure to sample:
- Sofrito – Beef cuts in onion and white-wine sauce with an overload of peppercorns.
- Pastitsada – A very filling, very heavy highland stew made from game meat, mutton or lamb, oil, spices, and rich tomato passata.
- Bourdeto – The Italian influence is clear to taste in this mix of baked peppers and onions, topped with lemon zest and parsley.
Traditional Greek tavernas dot most towns and villages. Even in the smaller highland hamlets there’s usually at least one place to sample the local kitchen. For seafood, check out the old fishing ports of Kassiopi, Kalami, and Nisaki, where it’s often possible to get stuff straight off the boat.
Corfu has been inhabited since way back when. The ancients called the island Kerkyra and it actually played a pivotal part in the start of the Peloponnesian War (the hardest-fought conflict in ancient Greece) and even in mythical tales such as the quest of the Argonauts and the Homeric epics. Today, you can see some traces of those old days. Check out…
- Temple of Artemis Gorgon – The impressive remains of a huge temple that had haunting friezes of a gorgon on display, considered the first example of the true Doric architectural style. The whole thing was built in 580 BC!
- Palaiopolis Archeological Site – This vast dig site encircles the ruins of the town that’s thought to have once been ancient Kerkyra.
But Corfu’s history doesn’t end with the ending of the ancient era. Nope, this isle is also replete with more modern wonders. They come in the form of the great Corfu Old Fortress, a stalwart citadel that was built by the Venetians to guard the entrance to the harbor. There’s more for culture buffs over at the Paleokastritsa Monastery, too. It’s a beautiful place painted bright yellow with flowers blooming on the sides and mystical shrines to the Virgin Mary within.
The uber-charming towns
Corfu is riddled with enchanting towns and villages. Yes, there are some that have been overwhelmed by the coming of mass tourism. But the sunbeds and the hotels haven’t reached all four corners of the island. That’s especially true if you delve inland. A short drive of about 15 minutes is enough to trade in the coast for the long-lost hamlets in the highlands. Expect some zigzagging roads, but also immersive spots like:
- Pelekas – Draped over a perfectly formed hill close to the west coast, Pelekas is a true Corfiot village with loads of character. Don’t miss the Kaiser’s Throne, a high-perched sunset viewing point.
- Perithia – Clinging to the north slope of Mount Pantokrator like some hardy limpet, this half-ruined village was built during the Byzantine era some 700 years ago. It’s still considered one of the most historic towns in Greece.
- Sokraki – Stone-covered streets and stoop cottages make Sokraki a real vision of raw, Ionian mountain life.
But the charms of Corfu’s towns also aren’t limited to the highlands. You’ll find enticing places all along the shoreline, from family resorts with safe beaches to salty fishing villages where the seafood is second to none. They include:
- Kassiopi – Our favorite beach town in Corfu, Kassiopi is hemmed in by excellent snorkeling coves and has bobbing fishing boats in its marina. You’ll love it.
- Agios Gordios – Loads of excellent sea-view holiday rentals await in this relaxed town on the western coast.
- Benitses – Once a major tourist hotspot, Benitses is now reclaiming its roots and transforming into a low-key fishing town once again.
Corfu positively pumps with nightlife. Not all quarters of the island, though. Mainly, the after-dark action is anchored on the 18-30s resort of Kavos. It’s located at the very southern tip of Corfu, fronted by a sparkling sand beach that has front-on views of the Greek mainland in the distance. But people don’t come to laze and recuperate. They come to party.
Kavos is actually one of the most famous nightlife destinations in the whole of the Med. It’s up there with Malia and Magaluf. The place to be for raucous shindigs is the Kavos Strip. That runs for about a kilometer up the side of the beachfront. It’s a medley of neon-lit discos and karaoke bars, shot outlets and house-thumping dancefloors from end to end.
Of course, you don’t have to go there to enjoy some nightlife. Corfu Town has its own array of more local venues that serve craft beer and host live music. There’s also a mix of pretty lively places in the northern resorts of Kassiopi and Sidari.
Corfu is the jack of all trades when it comes to the western islands of Greece. It can cater to all sorts of travelers, no matter if you want to laze down on the beaches for a week with the fam or go off track on the donkey paths in the mountains with your other half. The hotels of the island mirror that. There’s something for every globetrotter, from five-star palaces worthy of a honeymoon jaunt to simple highland cottages where you can cozy up.
Here’s a look at some of the stand-out hotel options that Corfu can muster:
- Aroggia Farm ($$) – The high ratings come thick and fast for this unique stay up in the wild highlands of Corfu, where you’ll keep the company of farm animals and get to watch the sunset over the forested hills.
- Domes of Corfu, Autograph Collection ($$$) – This is a never-forget-me hotel with five stars, a sumptuous set of suites, and a crazy nice pool outside.
- The Pink Palace Hostel ($) – A bargain hostel in a lively pad near the beach, great for the younger backpacking crowd with a penchant for pub crawls.
The rustic side of things
Most travelers to Corfu will stick to the popular beach towns of the west coast and the north, or head across to the celebrated coves of Palaiokastritsa. We’re not going to knock that – there are lots of reasons why they’re the most popular spots on the isle (because they’re stunning, for one!). However, there’s also another side to Corfu; the rustic side.
Escape the shores and drive the winding lanes into the hills and mountains that cover the heart of Corfu. Things get rural fast. The roads become lined with goat-dotted fields and olive groves spill out from crags of stone. It’s a great place to explore with a hire car or by foot, since there are oodles of hiking trails linking up most of the towns and villages.
Talking of villages, the inland hamlets of the island can be downright lovely. Take Pelekas, a crooked mass of venerable townhouses and squares with plane trees shading its tavernas. Then there’s little Lakones, a place that looks more like an Italian alpine outpost than a Greek hill village. The interior of Corfu is also covered in cool farm stays if you really want to get away – check out Aroggia Farm ($-$$) for a fine example.
It’s the perfect gateway to the Ionian region
Last but most certainly not least, is Corfu worth visiting because of where you can go after? This is one of the best entry points to the Ionian region of Greece. That can be found on the far western side of the country, stringing along the edge of the mainland and the Peloponnese in a series of shimmering islands that offer some of the most jaw-dropping beaches in the world, not just in Europe.
There are decent ferry links between all of them, so you should be able to find connections to other isles pretty easily. That said, nothing can beat chartering your very own yacht, which will let you hoist the sail and whiz down to whichever takes your fancy next. Some of the places we can wholeheartedly recommend include:
- Kefalonia – A honeymooner’s dream, Kefalonia slows the pace of life and offers stunning countryside aplenty.
- Lefkas – Lazy days on empty beaches and mountain adventures through cypress woods abound here.
- Zante – A vibrant island that’s famed for Shipwreck Beach, one of the most photographed beaches on the planet!
So, is Corfu worth visiting?
Is Corfu worth visiting? How could you say otherwise? This guide has revealed the sheer wonders of the Corfiot coastline, which include the postcard-worthy bays of Paleokastritsa and the handsome pebbles of Rovinia to name just two. Then, it delved inland to the mountains, where intrepid hikes to lookout points over Albania await. Then, we hit the villages to see charming Byzantine churches and age-old cottages.
There are loads of reasons why Corfu is considered one of the mainstay vacation destinations in Greece. It can cater to all sorts of travelers and has plenty of activities up its sleeve. So, no matter if you’re a family looking for some R&R in a relaxed resort, a hedonist on the hunt for the Kavos Strip, or a rambler wanting to get some Greek hiking under your belt this year, Corfu could just be the perfect pick!
How many days in Corfu, Greece, do I need?
We’d say a week is the perfect amount of time to spend in Corfu. That allows for plenty of beach time but also some explorations of the mountains and the mountain villages. Of course, you could also do a lot more than that, especially if you wanted to tie in your trip to visits to nearby Ionian islands like Lefkas and Zante.
When is the best time to visit Corfu, Greece?
We think the best times to visit Corfu are the spring or the fall. They are the sweet spots either side of the uber-busy and uber-hot peak season in the summer. They are times when the prices drop but the temperatures stay warm. You should find some good bargains on hotels and flights in months like May and September, only with just a fraction of the crowds on the beaches.