NORTHERN CORFU | GREEK ISLANDS | IONIAN
FROM CORFUTOWN TO PYRGI
A sheltered bay before Gouvia. Once a Venetian port, it harbours pleasure
Just after the crossroads for Dassia a short side track takes you to the old Venetian navy yard. In the multi-arched vaulted arcades were once slipped the Venetian galleys which protected the Ionian Islands and governed the sea routes of the Mediterranean. Nearby, at the top of the hill of Kommeno stands the poly gonal fort of 1778 with 70 embrasures which guarded this strategic position.
The church of the Ypapandi at Diamandopetra is a delightful chapel to be seen on the islet of the bay of Gouvia. A short walk or drive of 2 km to the Hotel Corfu Imperial will impress visitors with its variety of greenery, lovely villas in their gardens and the view of the bay of Gouvia.
CASTELLO and CASTELLETTO
Kato Korakiana, on the hill above Dassia
The Castello is an imposing Italianate-Gothic mansion built in 1905 by the Italian baron Luca Mimbelli. Before war broke out between Greece and Italy, many royal personages had been guests there. But as soon as hostilities began the Mimbelli family was evicted from Greece and their property confiscated. The renovated Castelletto is in the centre of the park and has been the annexe of the National Gallery since 1992.
A village with a variety of trees and with charming traditional houses and cafe-bars with views of Mt Pantokrator. There are two Byzantine churches to see, the Pantokrator with well-preserved frescoes of 1576 and Agios Merkourios with frescoes of 1075.
A detour shortly beyond Pyrgi. The road climbs the hill to the cafe-restaurant Agnandio where the friendly owner, Theophilos, will find a table for you to relish the panorama of the indented eastern coastline all the way to Corfu town. The view is even better if you continue on to the peak of Mt Pantokrator where there is a monastery of the same name.
Pyrgi | Agios Stephano | Kassiopi | Perithia | Nymphes
All the way to Kassiopi this is one of the most splendid routes of the island. The road is in good condition above the little coves with their slopes covered in vegetation reaching down to the small pebble beaches. It is reminiscent of the Corniche of the Cote d’ Azur and possibly even lovelier. As soon as you are past the Kouloura crossroads, stop to enjoy the vista. All along the route the Albanian mountains will form the background. You will eventually reach the hamlet Nissaki with a colourful pebble- beach on which there is a taverna so you can enjoy a pleasant combination of a swim and a meal.
A charming little harbour where the cypress and olive trees grow down to the sea. We picked the taverna Agni for seafood freshly caught by the owner who is a fisherman. Inexpensive and spotless in delightful surroundings.
A small beach with clear waters, excellent for those who prefer pebbles. Attractive surroundings and tavernas.
A pretty harbour with a curved mole, fishing smacks and plenty of foliage. You can see there the fortified Venetian house of the Gennatas family, formerly the Quartano mansion. In 1537 in the course of a massive incursion by the pirate Barbarossa, a quarter — 22,000 — of the inhabitants of the island were captured, among them the seven year-old daughter of that Venetian family, Kalli Quartano. The little girl’s good looks and intelligence procured her an aristocratic upbringing and in time she became the wife of the Sultan Selim II and mother of Sultan Murad III – she was the Valide Sultana Nur Vanu. She did what she could to help the Greeks and on her death she was given Christian burial in Agia Sophia.
A village with traditional architecture and a small port for fishing- and pleasure-boats. It stands amidst olive groves, next to Kerassia beach. It’s especially worth visiting for a meal in one of the tavernas on the waterfront. We chose the Efkalipto.
Nowadays a charming little town with a lively tourist trade, it has been inhabited since antiquity and was known for its ancient theatre and temple of Kassios Zeus. Pyrrhos king of Epiros, founded it in 281 BC and the city used to be second in importance in Corfu. A promontory divides it in two and on the low brow of the hill there are still today the ruins of the castle named Pyrgos which the Angevin French erected on the remains of a Roman fort. There is an interesting medieval church to see, the Panagia tis Kassopitras which was built in the early days of Christianity over the ruins of the temple of Kassios Zeus. It was ravaged by the Ottomans and later rebuilt by the Venetians in 1580.
On one side of the town there is the small harbour and the beach is on the other. You’ll find little bars in good taste, also diminutive attractive beaches easily reached on foot.
OLD OR UPPER PERITHIA
An abandoned hamlet on the slopes of Mt Panto krator. Enchanting mountain scenery with stunning stone houses and rich vegetation.
One of Corfu’s traditional villages. 1 1/2 km from it, beautifully situated amid the foliage, is the abandoned monastery of the Pantokrator tou Askitariou dating to 950. Ask the village priest for the key and start out on the practicable dirt track (50 m from the cemetery) through dense olive groves. Youcan see there some exceptional wall paintings, the chapel of the Evangelistria and hewn into the rock the hermitage of the first monk to live there, Artemios Paisios.
Outside the village is the church of the Estavromenos, of unusual aspect with two domes. The second is the bigger, and hexagonal.
Skripero | Sidari | Kavadades | Arkadades | Angelokastro | Paleokastritsa
This route takes us through pleasant villages to scenery of unparalleled beauty with sublime panoramas which reaches its apex as we approach Paleokastritsa.
SKRIPERO – ANO KORAKIANA
Skripero is worth a stop to enjoy the vista and stroll in its alleys. There are more than 30 churches in the village of Ano Korakiana in the traditional style of architecture.
SIDARI – AKROTIRI DRASTIS
Stop a moment to see the famous Canal d’ Amour, which is worth it if only out of interest in its geology and then immediately set off again. September might be a time to enjoy it because in other summer months the place seethes with umbrellas and tourists.
If you are interested in the unusual geological structure of rock formations, continue on to the neighbouring village of Peroulades and follow the rough dirt track starting from the square down the hill to Cape Drastis for a secluded swim in this peculiar landscape.
FROM PEROULADES TO ANGELOKASTRO
After Peroulades you can take a detour from the coast road and the long sandy beach of Agios Stephanos, choosing the narrow but good road of the interior leading to the village of Kavadades. From there, with minimal deviations, you can pass through the villages of Rahtades, Daphne, Aspiotades and Kastellanous. These are not overrun by tourists and show the true aspect of Corfu and its nature. From Kastellanous you can approach Angelokastro either via Troumbeta or the village of Pagi, where the route is more beautiful but the condition of the road much worse.
A Byzantine fort built on a sheer cliff at 300 m. As many as 4,000 people from the environs could find shelter here in times of peril. Genoese pirates in 1403, Saracens, even the terrifying Suleiman in 1537, were baffled and departed! There is visual contact from the fort with the forts of Corfu for the purpose of signalling. The Venetians however ceased to make use of it from the 18th c., leaving but a minor guard and the British later abandoned it. The paved road from Angelokastro leads to Bella Vista with its cafes, definitely a place to stop! Even before ordering take a look at the view. Paleokastritsa and its neighbouring creeks with their steep slopes down to a translucent sea will take your breath away. The road downhill from Lakones through olive groves prolongs the enchantment of this route until you reach Paleokastritsa.
Second to Corfu town, the island’s best-known spot. It has been a famous resort since between the World Wars. Tradition places here the palace of King Alkinoos, father of Nausicaa. The beach is less stupendous than the scenery, with its creeks and the extraordinary turquoise colours of the sea, despite the graceless constructions in the vicinity. Unlike the old days, the waterfront tavernas appear to us to cater to throngs of famished tourists. At the top of the hill you can see the Byzantine fortress-monastery of the Panagia tis Paleokastritsas. Spend a little time on a boat trip with an outboard engine to the three grottoes and the relatively peaceful beaches nearby – in particular the beach of Liapades.
MONASTERY OF THE PANAGIA TIS PALEOKASTRITSAS
Founded in 1228, this monastery has a collection of Byzantine icons of the Cretan School, a parchment manuscript bible of the 12th c., devotional books and vessels, a Stone Age axe of 7000 BC and the bones of some sea-monster washed ashore centuries ago.