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.
It isn't just that Mount Pantokrátor is the highest point on the island. Visit the top and see the abundant wildlife, and the views which really make you appreciate the scenery in this part of the world, and you might understand why the monastery and mountain are named for Christ Pantokrátor: the Judge of All.
Flying into Corfu sometimes gives you a great view of its highest mountain, Pantokrátor. It is 906 m (2,972 ft) high, a whole 270 m (900 ft) higher than the second highest peak on the island, Áyii Déka. Its bulk totally dominates this north-east corner of the island, forcing the main road to stick very close to the coast, especially in a few places where the lower slopes come tumbling down almost to the sea.
Until recently, visitors had to walk to the top from one of the villages lower down, but a good concrete road now goes all the way from the village of Petália. It is a wonderful drive (see our Mount Pantokrator Drive), but many people still do hike up to the top for that personal sense of achievement.
Any time is a good time to visit the mountain and surrounding area, but the late spring months of April and May are the best times, when the flowers are really flourishing. The unspoilt slopes of Pantokrátor are a botanist's paradise at this time of year, and you won't even need to venture off the path to see orchids.
Among the ones growing here have been spotted both the brown and yellow bee orchids, man orchids, monkey orchids and tooth orchids. Other spring blooming plants include crocuses, iris, marigolds, borage, anemones, and gladioli.
Ornithologists can sometimes be seen scouring the skies with their binoculars, having perhaps spotted a golden eagle or an Egyptian vulture soaring on the warm thermals. Peregrine and other falcons occur here too, along with goshawks, buzzards, and kestrels.
Less picturesque when you reach the top of the mountain are the radio and TV masts which were put up in 1971 and which mar the view of the monastery, requiring photographers to be creative in keeping them out of their shots. Perhaps one day when the world goes totally digital the masts can be removed to return the view to its former more natural look.
Before visiting the monastery you will want to stop and admire the views. You can see all around the island, and to the east are the mountains of Albania which merge to the south into the mountains of northern Greece.
If you look in the other direction, towards the northwest, it is said that on a very clear day you can make out the coast of Italy, which is remarkable given that it is about 130 km (81 miles) away. Look south and you will make out the island of Paxós, and perhaps Lefkás beyond that.
After taking in the views, and perhaps a visit to the small café and the gift shop, you will want to allow time for seeing the small monastery church. It is only small but it is quite beautiful and historic, and shamefully ignored in many books about Corfu.
The exact date when the monastery was founded is not known, but it is thought to be early 14th century. There are certainly documents from the 1340s indicating the collecting of money for the building of a temple on this spot, where buildings of some kind may have already been in existence.
Inside the church the walls are covered in frescoes, and some of them have been dated back to those earliest times. They really are breath-taking, beautifully detailed, and oozing history.
There are a few other small buildings around the church, but nothing that can be entered as the place is still home to just two monks, who look after it and welcome any donations towards its upkeep.