We were keen to do another walking holiday, and after studying brochures we opted for the southern half of the Corfu Trail, which runs all around the island. This involves walking about 70 miles, averaging 12 miles a day. As usual on such trips, we were given detailed directions for the walk, and our luggage was moved from hotel to hotel. Here is an account of our latest adventure.
Tuesday 27 May
The taxi called for us at 5. It was chaos at Luton airport, but we managed to catch our 7.40 flight. At Corfu we were met and transferred to a small hotel in the village of Spartera, in the south of the island. The Corfu Trail starts not far from there, and loops down to the coast before heading north. It was suggested that (time permitting) we should do a circular walk after arriving at our hotel. It was wonderful to be in t-shirts and shorts, enjoying the warmth and the sunshine. We had some great coastal views, and lots of beautiful spring wildflowers. We also saw three snakes; we’d previously been told that there were lots on the island, but assured that only one type was venomous! Walking along the beach we found a wall of rock barring the route. Fortunately there was a narrow hole which we could (just) squeeze through.
Wednesday 28 May
The trek began in earnest, and we settled into a pattern of breakfast at 8 and walking by 9. As we were doing a self-guided walk, there was no deadline, but our luggage had to be out by 9, to be collected and moved on to our next stop. This morning’s walk was wonderful: meandering through woods and olive groves, admiring the wildflowers and butterflies.
We reached the town of Lefkimmi, and found some delightful cafés close to the picturesque bridge. We stopped for drinks, and indulged in home-made donuts – we expected them to be small, but they were enormous, and very tasty. Then it was on to our overnight stop, the small resort of Agia Varvara. We found our accommodation about 4.20, so had time for a stroll along the beach (and in Ian’s case, a swim) as well as drinks at a café on the beach.
As usual, dinner was included at the taverna linked with our accommodation. We had baked Feta cheese in tomato sauce, followed by a vegetable stew made especially for us by the owner/cook, using fresh vegetables from her garden. All very nice – except that Sandie found a small piece of broken glass in hers. Luckily she identified it before swallowing, or our holiday might have come to an abrupt end…
Thursday 29 May
We awoke to find the sun had disappeared, and there were heavy clouds over the island. During the morning, there were a couple of showers, but nothing serious. Most of the walk was along the beach, and it was hard going on the soft sand. In one stretch we had to scramble over rocks. We ate a picnic lunch while sheltering in a beach hut, not currently in use. We emerged thinking that the rain had eased, but in fact it poured steadily for the rest of the afternoon. We had to walk for 2.5 hours through very heavy rain, and arrived at Paramonas soaked to the skin, and freezing cold.
Friday 30 May
Luckily there was no rain today. However, we struggled up a steep, overgrown path to the top of a hill, and since the vegetation was soaking wet from yesterday’s rain, we got wet feet and legs again. We walked through picturesque villages and great mountain scenery. We stopped at a village taverna for lunch: the owner talked us into eating more than we intended, but the food was delicious.
Today’s section of the Corfu Trail finished in the village of Stavros, but as there is no accommodation there, we had a hotel in Benitses, which meant a further walk steeply downhill to the coast. Benitses is a holiday resort, but was very quiet. We had an enjoyable meal in an Italian restaurant. Unusually, we had wifi in our hotel room. Ian checked the weather forecast, which said rain for the next five days – the rest of our time in Corfu!
Saturday 31 May
We were driven up to Stavros, to continue our walk. We went through an area of interesting rock formations – as our guidebook said, it was like a ruined city. Then it was uphill, to cross another mountain. Near the top, we had a heavy storm, but contrary to the forecast, that was the only rain we had all day. Going downhill was difficult, because the path was very rocky and the rocks were slippery.
Our next overnight stop was in the village of Pelekas. After reviving drinks we walked up to the ‘Kaiser’s Throne’ viewpoint. We had dinner with Ann and Derek, another British couple, and swapped notes about hiking in Corfu.
Sunday 1 June
Apart from some dark clouds in the morning, and occasional bursts of wind, the weather today was excellent. So much for weather forecasts! We walked down to the coast and then steeply uphill. We had to descend via a steep narrow path that was mainly loose rocks – we took it very slowly, afraid we might break a leg!
For much of the day we walked through the Valley of Ropa, which made for easy walking, except when we had to cross an olive grove. There was no clear path, the instructions warned us that we would probably get lost – and we did.
Tonight’s hotel was bigger and smarter than the other places we’ve stayed on this trip. But the service was poor, and the facilities were not great. In particular, we regretted the lack of hot water – after trekking 21 km, we really needed a shower!
Monday 2 June
We took photos of the picturesque beach, and then headed uphill. In a couple of places, the going was difficult (‘hands and feet needed’) and at one point there was a ladder to help us climb a rock. But it wasn’t too bad, and we were rewarded by magnificent views of the north-west coast. We stopped for coffee in the village of Lakones, and looked down on the Paleokastritsa, a promontory which is (according to our guidebook) the most celebrated beauty spot on Corfu.
Later we did a short detour to get good views of the Angelocastro fortress. Then it was mainly downhill (with more great coastal views) into the seaside resort of Aghios Georgios, the endpoint of our walk (although the Trail continues beyond).
Today’s walk was shorter than most, so after arriving at our hotel we were able to spend time on the beach. However, we did not rate the quality of the sand, and Ian decided the sea was too cold, even for him!
Tuesday 3 June
We had allowed a bit of time for sightseeing between finishing the Trail and flying home. So this morning we were driven into Corfu Town, and checked into a hotel there. We spent the rest of the morning exploring the Old Fort, and climbed up the lighthouse to get good views of the coast and back to the town. In the afternoon we explored the Old Town, with narrow streets full of shops, cafés and churches. Unfortunately, the sun we had earlier disappeared, and we had rain most of the time, and constant grey skies, making our photos rather dark.
Wednesday 4 June
The sun shone for our last day in Corfu. There were some places we wanted to visit south of Corfu Town, and the day worked out very well, though not quite as planned. Our first stop was the Archaeological Museum, to discover it was closed for three years! We walked on, past a scenic windmill, to the Mon Repos estate, which was rather disappointing: a pleasant woodland stroll, but not particularly exciting.
Next stop was the village of Kanoni, where there is a spectacular view across a bay with two small islands, one of which has a picturesque whitewashed monastery. The bus to Kanoni runs past Mon Repos, but we just missed one bus, and walked on while waiting for the next. We finally caught a bus, only to discover that we were almost at Kanoni anyway! After coffee (enjoying the view) we visited the monastery, and then walked along another causeway which crossed the bay and brought us much closer to our final goal, the Achilleion Palace.
Built in the late 19th century, in neoclassical style, the Achilleion has been called tasteless and ostentatious. However, it is a very popular tourist site, and we enjoyed looking round the house and gardens. Then we took a bus back to Corfu Town, and just had time for a very brief look at the British cemetery, before we were picked up and taken to the airport for our flight home.
Final thoughts on Corfu
Despite some bad weather, and occasional difficult footpaths, we really enjoyed walking the Corfu Trail. The mix of scenery (coastal, mountains, rural villages) makes Corfu a good place for a walking holiday. We also enjoyed the two days we spent in and around Corfu Town. However, we were not particularly impressed by the beaches we saw or walked along. We’ve seen much better ones on other Greek islands, in the south of France, or in Florida. Which, coincidentally, is where we are going next…..