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Telegraph: Corfu travel guide

An insider's guide to Corfu, featuring the island's best hotels, restaurants, bars, shops, attractions and things to do, including how to travel there and around. By Marc Dubin, Telegraph Travel's Corfu expert. Click on the tabs below for the best places to stay, eat, drink and shop, including the best things to do and what to do on a short break.

OVERVIEW
Why go? Corfu has figured in our consciousness since Edward Lear visited and painted while it was a British possession from 1814 to 1864. The Durrell brothers (and Henry Miller) lodged it even more firmly in the Anglo-Saxon psyche with their late-1930s sojourns, and subsequent rhapsodising in print.Today the island has a somewhat chequered reputation, due in part to its associations with Peter Mandelson/Jacob and Nat Rothschild (habitués of the north-east coast, popularly dubbed “Kensington on Sea”) but also the notoriously downmarket excesses of Kávos in the south. Yet there is plenty in between for the rest of us, on one of the greenest of the Greek islands – thanks to intermittent but torrential rains from September to June, and the thousands of olive trees that carpet the land­scape. It is also, perhaps surprisingly, one of the more rural, sleepy islands away from the touristic honeypots. Tourist development is quarantined on certain coastal patches, and once inland you really seem to be on another island, even another era.  Secondary roads appear not to have changed (in width at least) since British times, and perennially rutted surfaces make driving a challenge. In remote glades, Corfiot villagers still celebrate summer-and-autumn panigýria (religious festivals-cum-fairs) with music and merchandise stalls – watch for posters (usually Greek only) plastered onto olive trees, and don't expect much action until after 8pm as a rule. Olive culture was traditionally rather desultory – the Corfiots for years didn’t prune, or pick the fruit, local patron saint Spyridon having forbidden the practices in a vision – and many groves still retain a romantically half-wild aspect. The old quarters of the east-coast capital, Corfu Town, have been designated a Unesco heritage site. There’s nothing else quite like it between here and Dubrovnik.With last winter's torrential rains – a record 132cm between September 2014 and early June in 2015 – finally over, now’s the time to begin seriously considering a spot on one of Corfu’s many beaches – those along the west- and southwest-facing coasts rate among the finest in Greece, with enough heaped sand to satisfy the most jaded Californian or Australian.
When to go. Corfu is “open for business” from (Orthodox) Easter until October, though many resorts hotels only work from May to September inclusive. Climate patterns, as worldwide, have been changing locally, with the last strong spring rains bucketing down as late as the end of May in 2013 and 2014. For discounted room rates, better taverna service and moderate weather, late May to late June, and the last two-thirds of September, are the best times; during July and August everything is fully functioning, and the sea thoroughly warmed up, but you’ll contend with crowds and either intense heat or the maïstros, the infamous north-westerly wind which buffets beaches all afternoon.
Where to go. Kérkyra Old Town is unbeatable for strolling, but do pop into the Museum of Asian Art and the Byzantine Museum. The only other museum of similar calibre on the island is the National Gallery Annexe in Káto Korakiána. Paleá Períthia on the slopes of lofty Mt Pandokrátor constitutes a museum village, architecturally unchanged since Venetian times. Down at sea level, plenty of beaches beckon – sandy west-coast ones like Marathiá, Gardénos and Íssos never fail to please. Especially if on Corfu for two weeks, take a day trip to ancient Butrint in Albania, or the idyllic islet of Eríkoussa.

GO
By air from overseas. Since spring 2015, British Airways (britishairways.com) has served Corfu seasonally from London Heathrow at least four days weekly (most likely Thur, Fri, Sun & Mon), with comparatively civilised flight times in each direction. easyJet (easyjet.com) flies direct from Bristol, Gatwick, Luton and Manchester; Ryanair (ryanair.com) from Stansted, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford and Manchester; Jet2 (jet2.com) from East Midlands, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford and Newcastle. Thomson, Thomas Cook and Monarch also all serve Corfu between May and September, from a range of UK airports. Regrettably, the long-mooted expansion of Corfu Airport’s international passenger terminal is unlikely to proceed in the current economic climate.
Transfers: the airport lies just over a mile south-west of town; blue city bus number 15 shuttles to town fairly regularly 7.00am–10.05pm Mon–Fri, 10.30am–10pm Sat, and 11.45am–10.40pm Sun; confirm all this on astikoktelkerkyras.gr. Arriving on a flight outside of these hours, you have to take an (overpriced) taxi, or pre-arrange car hire. All ferries – including cruise ships, international services from Italy and domestic ones from Igoumenítsa or Pátra – dock at the New Port, 0.6 miles west of town. The number 15 bus calls there too.
Public transport: Corfu has two separate bus services based in Corfu Town: the blue-coach suburban lines from Platía Sarókko (aka San Rocco), and the green, long-distance, island-wide lines starting just west of the Néo Froúrio (New Fort).
Car hire: as buses from town to the villages and resorts halt fairly early in the evening, renting a car is advisable through the usual online sources, or (more expensively) at major resorts. One company we've used three times with no hassles and genial staff is autoUnion (00 30 26610 33976, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), its depot conveniently just outside the airport. They frequently show up on online aggregator sites. Rates seem to have fallen recently, and outside peak times (e.g June, Sept) it's possible to get the smallest category car for around £80/€108 per week, including the most advantageous fuel policy (return at same level as pick-up).

BEACH
Marathiá/Agía Varvára: The coast southeast of Korissíon lagoon forms an uninterrupted sandy beach divided into various sections.  Contiguous Marathiá and Agía Varvára (aka Santa Barbara, Maltás, Martás) have only a little stream (pedestrian ford) separating them, but a rather different feel: Marathiá is broad but shortish, Agía Varvára more linear. The sand is medium-packed but golden, the offshore water pristine if sometimes wave-y (which delights boogie-boarders).
Gardénos (Paralía Gardénou) The last really big southwest-coast beach before the end of Corfu at Asprókavos, Gardénos offers clean, five-star sand at the end of a long, lush agricultural valley. There's 2km and more of it, merging with adjacent Megáli Lákka just southeast; on the northwest, the beach ends at a tiny fishing port with perhaps 5 boats anchored at any given moment.
Ágios Geórgios Págon Scenically bracketed between Cape Arílla and palisades culminating in Angelókastro, this two-kilometre beach in Corfu’s far northwest is never completely packed out even in peak season. The water at the northwest end away from the stream mouth is reputed to be some of the cleanest in this part of Corfu.
Myrtiotissa Lawrence Durrell’s claim in Prospero’s Cell that this tiny cove in the middle of Corfu’s scenic west coast is “perhaps the most beautiful beach in the world” will seem overblown to many. There are actually three diminutive beaches tucked beneath steep cliffs; the left-most, diamond-shaped lozenge of golden sand, barely 90 feet across at present (it seems to change annually), is now the island’s most famous nudist beach.
Longás (aka Perouládes) The ultimate “sunset beach” on an island not short of contenders, fringed by sculpted reddish cliffs which culminate in Corfu’s northwesternmost point, Cape Drástis. They cramp the strand severely, and make for chilly morning shade, but all is forgiven after noon as one gazes out to the Diapóndia islets.
Halikoúnas Essentially a duney sandspit dividing the open sea from brackish Korissíon lagoon, Halikoúnas is one of the wildest, most unspoilt beaches on Corfu, stretching 3km southeast to the little Venetian-dredged canal joining the lagoon to the Ionian.
Íssos On the far southwesterly side of the Korissíon lagoon, Íssos is every bit Halikoúnas' equal, and perhaps more. The dunes here are higher, the juniper groves stabilising them inland considerable, and the beach itself served as a location for the 1981 James Bond film For Your Eyes Only.

DRIVERS
Starting from Corfu Town, head west to Tzavarátika (Tzávros) junction and fork right (left goes towards Paleokastrítsa). Between Dassiá and Ýpsos, veer left for the short detour (not well marked – look for the much larger sign of Etrusco Restaurant) to Káto Korakiána village and its National Gallery Annexe (1 on map) (Mon,Thur, Sat, Sun 8.30am–3.30pm, Wed & Fri 10am–2pm & 6–9pm; €2), a Venetian-era villa crammed with works by distinguished Greek artists since 1830. Now that the main collection in Athens is shut indefinitely for a ground-up reconstruction, and the Rhodes Modern Art Museum is more temporarily closed, this is your best chance to get to grips with the country's historic art profile. Aside from a single El Greco Crucifixion and some local portraiture, the well-labelled displays take a chronological amble over three stories through the development of Greek painting (as well as sculpture and mixed-media works); all the key figures (especially Nikolaos Gyzis, Nikiforos Lytras, Yannis Tsarouchis and Nikos Hatzikyriakos-Ghika) are represented. It's well worth an hour or so, plus there are some covetable art books for sale at the shop. Return to the coast road but leave it almost immediately again, following signposting for Spartýlas and Strinýlas villages on the southwest flank of  Mt Pandokrátor. At Strinýlas, bear right (east) towards the 914-metre summit, Corfu’s highest point  – but only attempt this in clear, relatively calm weather, as the final approach is narrow and exposed. Sharing the peak with a regrettable thicket of broadcasting and telecoms antennae is the diminutive, stone-built monastery of Ypsiloú Pandrokratóra (daily except 12.30–2pm April–Oct). The views are as you’d expect. Back at Strinýlas, turn right towards the north coast via Eríva and Lávki hamlets, emerging near Aharávi. Time for a swim now – if you favour sandy beaches, Kalamáki towards Kassiópi is the best locally. If you’re a pebble partisan, wait until the various bays of ‘Kensington-on-Sea’, between Avláki and Agni, while if you can't wait to eat, the tavernas of inland Paleá Períthia are not far away. Ágios Stéfanos cove isn’t tops for bathing – just a single pebbly area on the north side – but does have the widest choice of tavernas for lunch and the easiest parking. After lunch, and perhaps a swim at nearby Kerasiá beach (mixed pebbles/sand), continue south along the corniche route to leave the coast road at Ágios Márkos junction. The handsome eponymous village rewards a stroll, and the through road provides a useful shortcut, via Áno Korakiána, Skriperó and Doukádes, to the west coast. Below Doukádes, join the main road to Paleokastrítsa (5) for excellent sea- and cliff-scapes – the most convoluted on the island – in flattering afternoon light, making sure not to miss the little Theotókou monastery on the final headland.Resist the temptation for a second dip here, proceeding instead southeast via Liapádes, Kanakádes and Mármaro along the bucolic secondary road skirting the Rópa valley on its west. In Kelliá hamlet, take the turning down to fabled Myrtiótissa beach (6) – at its best late in the day or season – for another swim. From here, it’s just a short way to the Kaiser’s Throne above Pélekas village, a natural rock formation adapted as a viewing point by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1908 and a favourite sunset venue ever since. Afterwards, descend to the village for an early dinner – again, ample choice – or return to Corfu Town.

36 HOURS IN CORFU...
For guaranteed sunshine, Corfu is about as reliable as it gets at this time of year. It is also at its liveliest – though this doesn’t mean as much as one might think; perhaps surprisingly, away from its resorts Corfu remains one of Greece’s more rural, sleepy islands.
DAY 1
9.30am Supplement your hotel breakfast with a quiet coffee in the shade at the evergreen Café Bristol (5), an art nouveau outpost on Evgeníou Voulgáreos at Platía Vrahlióti in the old town – far hipper than many other overpriced establishments in the area.
10am Time for a dose of culture, but this should be undertaken with a sense of pleasure rather than duty. Start with a trip to the Paleó Froúrio (Old Fort), which in the morning affords excellent views west over the town skyline, in flattering light. With the mercury rising, retreat indoors, across the Spianáda from the Old Fort, to the world-class Asian Art Museum (6) (Tues-Sun, 8am-7.30pm; closes earlier in winter. €3/£2.40), an improbably eclectic collection assembled by two Greek diplomats, covering everything from Gandhara relief art to blue-and-white Chinese porcelain, by way of wood-block prints by Hokusai.
12.30 A short walk west along seafront Arseníou Street through Mourágia district brings you to the excellent Andivouniótissa Byzantine Museum, housed in the eponymous 15th-century Andivouniótissa basilica (Tue–Sun 8.30am–3pm). This  timber-roofed church is one of the oldest and richest on the island, with a vestibule enclosing it on three sides. This now exhibits an impressive array of icons from the 15th to 19th centuries; after the fall of Crete to the Ottomans, many highly skilled artists came as refugees to Venetian-held Corfu.
1.30pm Head for the sandy southwest coast at Halikoúnas beach (7), a sand spit bounding the Korissíon lagoon; some parts of the dunes are clothing-optional. You can also try your hand at kite surfing (kite-club-corfu.com). Lunch will ideally be taken at nearby View taverna (0030 26610 75872; allow €18/£14.40 per head), featuring home-grown vegetables and seafood, such as bianco, a Corfiot fish stew made with lagoon-raised mullet or open-sea species and here garnished with marsh samphire.
5.30pm Head up the coast, via Áyios Matthéos and Sinarádes villages inland, for a change of beach – perhaps to Kondogialós (8) below Pélekas, which is long, scenic and narrow, with boardwalks on the sand, or to nearby Glyfáda, which is more regimented but with heaped, broad sand and water sports available.
7.30pm Return uphill from either beach to the Kaiser’s Throne (9), a natural rock podium above Pélekas, to view the sunset, honouring a precedent set by Kaiser Wilhelm II, who was a seasonal resident from 1908 until the First World War.
9pm until late. Drop into Corfu Town to dine at a local institution,Khrysomalis (Nikifórou Theotókou 6; 00 30 26610 30342; allow €19-23 per person), a reliable source of home-style stews, soups and roasts. Or you may opt for a low-key evening at Lucciola (10), 7.5 miles out on the Paleokastrítsa road at Sgómbou hamlet (00 30 26610 91022), an organic bistro-bar. They host occasional events on an ad-hoc basis. A more cutting-edge venue in Corfu Old Town's Ténedos district is Polytechno (facebook.com/polytechnocorfu), up the steps of Solomoú by the Néo Froúrio entrance.
DAY 2
10am Saddle up for a two-hour horse-ride through the bucolic, well-shaded scenery around Áno Korakiána (11), inland from the resort strip. Your outfitters are British-run Trailriders (0030 26630 22503; trailriderscorfu.com), daily except Sunday. You will need to arrange this well in advance.
1pm Have a classic midday meal in a nearby village taverna: Elizabeth’s (12) at Doukádes (16; 0030 26630 41728), now in its third generation of management. Tuck into pastitsáda, a dish of oven‑cooked chicken with fat, round, brown noodles, and served with a pea-potato casserole and rough-and-ready, rustic wine (under €20/£16 a head).


Marc DubinMarc Dubin Destination expert
Marc Dubin has been writing about Greece for more than three decades, Cyprus in excess of two. He is the author of several books including the Rough Guides and Insight Guides to Greece, the Greek Islands, and Cyprus. He has also written about  Greek cuisine, Greek music and Greek real estate.

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