Corfu

Visitors and settlers have been delighted by the green and pleasant island of Corfu for thousands of years. It was already a popular holiday destination in Roman times, and today it is one of the busiest spots in the Mediterranean. 

Corfu TownCorfu Town

What's in a name?
The Greek name for Corfu is Kerkyra. According to one tradition this derives from a nymph named Kerkyra or Korkyra, brought to the island by the sea god Poseidon who was in love with her.

Another possible derivation is from the Greek kerkos, meaning ‘handle’, referring to the island’s shape. Corfu has also been known as Drepanon or Drepani, meaning ‘sickle’.

The English name Corfu probably comes from the Greek word korifai (peaks), as a twin-peaked citadel once stood on the site of Corfu Town. The name was corrupted into Corfu by European settlers, and this is now how most of the inhabitants refer to the island themselves. 

Corfu has a population of just over 100,000, packed into its 593 sq kms (229 sq miles), making it one of the most densely populated parts of Greece – and that’s without the annual impact of almost one million visitors. Nevertheless, such figures are misleading, as about 40% of the population lives in the capital, Corfu Town.

A bay and beach on Corfu in the Greek Ionian islands

Corfu History

It has been established that Corfu Town was one of the first settlements on the island, with remains dated back to about 50,000 years ago. The island’s fertility, size and natural beauty all contributed to its development, and by the time of the Persian Wars it was so powerful that only Athens contributed a greater naval fleet to the Greek forces massed against the Persians. It remained a strong Greek power, and little surprise that it was coveted by the Romans, and indeed by many other powers over the succeeding centuries.

See our page on Corfu Writers and Artists.

It was the Venetians who have left the most impact culturally and architecturally, after their occupation here from 1386 to 1797, which also means that the Turkish influence, so strong elsewhere in Greece, is here quite negligible. Instead you will see in Corfu Town the tall houses, with wrought-iron balconies and shutters, and the narrow streets so typical of Italian towns, and reminiscent in places of Venice.

The British also ruled Corfu for a time and left behind a quirky legacy - a love of cricket on Corfu!

Walking on Corfu

For some suggestions about walking on Corfu, see these pages:
The Corfu Trail
A Walk in the Old Town of Corfu
A Lawrence Durrell Walk

And this one about Corfu's neighbour:
Walking on Paxos

Driving on Corfu

For some suggestions of drives you can do on Corfu, see:
Drive to Palaiokastritsa
Mount Pantokrator Drive
Northern Corfu Drive

Corfu's Coastline

Corfu has some 217km (135 miles) of glorious coastline for visitors to enjoy, and the vast majority of these visitors shoehorn themselves into a handful of bustling seaside resorts, so escape from the crowds is still possible. Take a look at little Kalami, as one example. And though few coastal villages are totally untouched by tourism, some have not yet been taken over by it. 

Corfu's Wildlife

Be sure to read our pages on Corfu's Wildlife and Corfu's Marine Life.

Corfu's Food and Drink

Corfu's food and drink is definitely one reason to visit the island. Check out these pages:

Corfu's Food and Drink
Corfu's Olives
Corfu's Special Cuisine
Where to Eat in North-West Corfu

Lizard on Corfu in Greece

Corfu's Popularity

What has made Corfu so popular? For one thing, it can boast some of the best beaches in Greece. Its climate is warm for most of the year and regular rainfall makes Corfu an unusually green Mediterranean island.

The scenery is outstanding, with the north dominated by the majestic slopes of Mount Pantokrator, and the people possess the traditional Greek friendliness (in Greek the word for ‘stranger’ and ‘guest’ is one and the same). To see the best of the scenery think about walking the Corfu Trail.

View from Mount Pantokrator on Corfu towards AlbaniaView from Mount Pantokrator towards Albania

The island is divided into a mountainous north and a lower-lying south, with a flat and fertile plain in-between, so lush that it can provide the islands’ only golf course. The bulk of the tourist development is in the northeast, spreading north from Corfu Town, and there are numerous excellent beaches all around the island, which is big enough to provide escape from the crowds into untouched mountain villages, as this drive indicates. And finally, Corfu Town is probably the most attractive capital to be found in any of the Greek islands. 

Where to Stay on Corfu



Other Corfu pages

  • The Invasion of Corfu

    From Nero to Nicolas Cage, the invasion of Corfu goes back to Roman times and through to Hollywood today!

  • Northern Corfu Drive

    There are two sides to every Greek island, the tourist and the traditional, and this drive from Corfu Town through northern Corfu shows the two faces of Corfu.

  • Corfu’s Special Cuisine

    Corfu’s special cuisine includes dishes like sofrito and pastitsade and the chance to try ginger beer and kumquats.

  • The Achilleion Palace

    The Achilleion Palace is one of the most visited sights on Corfu and contains a museum and impressive gardens with wonderful views over the coast.

  • Mount Pantokrator Drive

    This Mount Pantokrator drive takes you to the top of Corfu’s highest mountain with wonderful views to Albania, mainland Greece, and around Corfu.

  • Corfu Beer Festival

    The First Corfu Beer Festival took place in Arillas in North West Corfu and celebrated the beer of Bavaria and of Corfu, in the Ionian islands of Greece.

  • Two Corfu Saints

    The main two Corfu saints are Saint Spyridon, the patron saint of Corfu who saved the island four times from disaster, and Saint Theodora Augusta.

  • Southern Corfu

    Southern Corfu has busy beach resorts like Benitses, historical buildings like the Achilleion Palace and Gardiki Castle, and wildlife at the Korision Lagoon.

  • Corfu Writers and Artists

    Corfu writers and artists inspired by the island include both residents and visitors, like Gerald and Lawrence Durrell, Edward Lear, and Henry Miller.

  • Kalámi

    Kalami in north-west Corfu is a hidden gem which many people know about because writer Lawrence Durrell once lived here in The White House.

  • Northern Corfu

    Northern Corfu is the most diverse part of the island, with Corfu's highest point, Mt Pantokrator, and beach resorts like Sidari and Palaiokastritsa.

  • Best Beaches on Corfu

    The best beaches on Corfu, chosen by Greece Travel Secrets, include Paleokastritsa, Mirtiotissa, Sidari and Cape Asprokavos.

  • Corfu Festivals and Events

    Information for travellers to Greece on Corfu festivals and events including Easter, the Feast of St Spiridhon, Carnival and Name Days.

  • The Corfu Trail

    The Corfu Trail runs from the southernmost point of Corfu at Cape Asprokavos and winds for 220km (137 miles) to the northernmost point near Andinioti Lagoon.

  • Paleokastritsa, Corfu

    Paleokastritsa is on the west coast of Corfu and is one of the most popular holiday spots. This page gives information on beaches, boat trips, weather and map.

  • Best Things to Do on Corfu

    The best things to do on Corfu include visiting Palaiokastritsa, a day trip to Albania, seeing the Achilleion Palace, and the museums in Corfu Town.

  • Where to Eat in North-West Corfu

    Greece Travel Secrets has its list of favourite places where you can eat in north-west Corfu, including in Paleokastritsa, Pelekas, and Ayios Stefanos.

  • Drive to Palaiokastrítsa

    This drive to Palaiokastritsa starts at Corfu airport and takes you across the Ropa Plan and through hill villages before returning to Corfu Town.

  • Corfu Offshore Islands

    There are three islands off the northwest coast of Corfu, Erikouusa, Othoni and Mathraki, popular with day-trippers from resorts like Sidari.

  • Corfu Food and Drink

    Information for travelers on Corfu Food and Drink including restaurants and tavernas, Corfiot specialties, desserts, wine and other Greek drinks like ouzo.

  • Corfu Town

    Corfu Town is the capital of Corfu and of the Ionian Islands and has museums, two forts, several museums, churches, and many other attractions.

  • Corfu Wildlife

    Corfu’s wildlife includes rare and colourful birds, snakes, lizards, fireflies, and insects, with plenty of places to watch the wildlife like lakes and lagoons.

  • Mount Pantokrátor

    Mount Pantokrator is the highest mountain on Corfu and it’s easy to drive to the top for spectacular views of Albania, Corfu, and even sometimes to Italy.

  • A Lawrence Durrell Walk

    This Lawrence Durrell walk takes you from Kaminaki Beach in northern Corfu to the White House in Kalami where the writer Lawrence Durrell lived for four year.

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