In the heart of the Adriatic Sea is Corfu, one of the Ionian Islands. The Greek island of Corfu, also known as Kerkyra, has been under the control of many different cultures and nations, giving it a cultured and fascinating history. Corfu Town is the biggest town on the island, but there are many more historic landmarks, fishing villages, religious structures and beaches that attract visitors. Take a closer look at the top attractions in Corfu in order to understand all that this Greek island has in store.
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Arguably the most beautiful of the churches on the island of Corfu is the Saint Spyridon Church, which was constructed in the 1580s. It boasts the highest bell tower in the Ionian Islands, and it is located in the heart of Old Town Corfu. The church houses a collection of relics from St. Spyridon, which belonged to the Voulgaris family until the 16th century. The church’s crypt also houses the remains of the saint himself in a double sarcophagus. Venetian silver and stunning paintings decorate the church, making it a truly breathtaking interior that even those without religious affiliation will appreciate.
The highest peak in all of Corfu is Mount Pantokrator, making the mountain an easily identifiable landmark for residents and visitors alike. From the summit of the peak, it is possible to see all of Corfu in one panoramic view, and even Albania can be spotted off in the distance. Hiking to the summit of Mount Pantokrator takes an average of two hours for a reasonably fit adult, but it is also possible to drive to the top. A 17th century church stands near the summit, reminding visitors about the strong connection between mountains and gods in Greek culture.
For anyone interested in history, or anyone simply fascinated by the traditional culture of the island, one of the top attractions in Corfu is Old Perithia. This village is the oldest that remains in Corfu, though it is almost completely abandoned. Located at the base of Mount Pantokrator, the town was founded as a secure location that offers vantage points to the sea but can’t be seen from the coast. Old Perithia still boasts eight churches and more than 100 traditional Corfiot homes. Travelers can walk through Old Perithia and see some of the few locals that still call the village home, dine at the few tavernas in the village and watch the sheep roam among fig and cherry trees.
On the easternmost point of the peninsula where Corfu Town is located stands the Old Fortress of Corfu. Known to Greeks as the Paleo Frourio, this incredible medieval structure was built in 1546 when the Venetians ruled over the island. The history of the site goes back even further, however, as a Byzantine castle one stood where the fortress is currently located. Separated from the town by a moat, the Old Fortress boasts two small peaks, or korypha, that are responsible for the island’s name of Corfu. Inside the fortress, visitors will find several British structures, such as the Church of St. George, which were installed in the place of the original Venetian buildings.
The northeast section of Corfu is home to Kassiopi, a scenic coastal resort that is popular with travelers from around the world. Brits, in particular, gravitate to the resort’s large beaches, fantastic eateries and relaxed atmosphere. Kassiopi is said to have been founded in the third century BC, and a Byzantine fortress still stands on a hill overlooking the town and its beaches. On the pebble beach, all kinds of recreational activities are available, letting visitors enjoy parasailing, horseback riding, scuba diving and swimming.
On the western side of the island are several popular resort areas, most of which are busy year-round thanks to international tourism. One, called Sidari, is especially popular thanks to its proximity to a natural landmark known as the Canal de l’Amour. Accessible on foot right at one end of the beach, the Canal de l’Amour is a series of narrow inlets created by sandstone cliffs. Each of the inlets offers something unique, ranging from a pristine strip of white sand to paths that lead to gorgeous stone archways or hidden caverns. Thanks to the cliffs, the inlets are protected by the winds, making them a great place to soak up the sun on cooler days.
One of the most iconic landmarks, and one closely associated with the Corfu’s history, is the Vlacherna Monastery. The woman’s monastery is located on a tiny island off the coast. In order to access the island, which is almost entirely covered by the monastery itself, visitors have to walk along the narrow wharf that leads from the coast to Vlacherna. The bright white architecture of the Vlacherna Monastery, built at the end of the 17th century, stands out against the background of the blue waters surrounding it, creating an iconic image that is even more beautiful in person than in photographs.
One of the most beautiful landmarks in Corfu is the Achilleion Palace. As the name suggests, the palace was built with the theme of Achilles himself, so there is an emphasis throughout the structure on beauty, symmetry and sculpture. The opulent palace was built in 1890 by Empress of Austria Elisabeth of Bavaria (also known as Sisi), a woman known to be obsessed with physical beauty. After the death of her son in 1889, she threw herself into the creation of Achilleion Palace, which served as a summer palace for decades. Visiting the palace today offers the chance to see inside the refurbished rooms as well as the sculpture garden, including the noteworthy sculpture of Achilles dying.
Paleokastritsa, which translates to the place of the old castle, is a small village in the northwest of Corfu Island. Although there are several monasteries and churches of historic significance located there, the biggest attraction is the main beach. A paved promenade hugs the coast, offering the chance to walk alongside the sand and enjoy views of the water. The beach is a fantastic spot for swimming or sailing, and several restaurants are just steps from the water, serving up coffee, drinks or Corfu’s many culinary specialties.
Arguably the most popular sight in all of Corfu is the Old Town, which is definitely the hub of the island and the spot where visitors will find the greatest concentration of noteworthy historic attractions. Of particular significance is the Palace of St. Michael and St. George, or Palaia Anaktora, which was built in the 19th century and now houses the extensive collections in the Museum of Modern Art. Also in Corfu Old Town is the Esplanade, a promenade and park built by the French when Napoleon was in power. Truly reminiscent of France, the Esplanade is a popular spot in which to stroll and take in the beauty of the Old Town.