Corfu

Ionian Islands

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.

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.

Corfu's Coastline

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

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).

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. 

You might like these

  • Best Beaches on Corfu

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

  • 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.

  • Visiting Albania from Corfu

    Donna Dailey of Greece Travel Secrets visits Albania by boat from Corfu Town, staying overnight and seeing archaeological sites with Sipa Tours.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 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.

  • 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 Festivals and Events

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

  • 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 Olives

    Corfu olives are an important part of this Greek island's economy, with an estimated 3-4 million trees producing olive oil of exceptional quality.

  • Corfu Climate: Sun, Rain, Winds

    The Corfu Climate page describes the hours of sun, the rain, the winds, to help you plan the best time to visit this Ionian island.

  • 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.

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