Corfu is one of the Ionian islands in Greece. It’s located in the Ionian Sea, to the northwest of mainland Greece, southwest of Albania and east of Italy.
Where is Corfu island?
If you are one of the people who are wondering where is Corfu, you are not alone!
Corfu island is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Greece. It belongs to the group of the Ionian islands, and is located in the Ionian Sea.
Looking at a map, you will see that Corfu lies northwest of the Greek mainland, across the sea from the Albanian coast. To be more precise, Corfu is just a little south of the point where the Ionian Sea meets the Adriatic Sea, to the east of Italy.
The beautiful Ionian island has tons to offer, and attracts many repeat travelers. Whatever you are after, you are likely to find it in Corfu!
Brief history of Corfu
And now that you know where is Corfu, let’s find out a little more about this beautiful island.
Corfu has a long and rich history, which goes back to the Paleolithic Era and the times of Odysseus, the legendary King of Ithaca.
The island was part of the Roman Empire, and then of the Byzantine Empire. During the medieval times, it was occupied by the Venetians, who built the imposing castles in Corfu town.
In the early 19th century, Corfu was under French and British occupation. During that time, a lot of infrastructure work was undertaken, which vastly improved the living conditions on the island.
In 1864, Corfu and the other Ionian islands were annexed to the then newly established Greek state, and became a part of modern Greece. Here’s a little more about the Greek Independence War, and how the modern Greek state was created.
Corfu suffered a lot of damage during World War I and World War II. However, the damages were largely restored. The island was the first area of Greece where organized tourism started thriving in the 1950s – long before Mykonos!
By the way, the Greek word for Corfu is Kerkyra. The island was named after the nymph Korkyra, one of the deities that God of Sea, Poseidon, fell in love with.
What to expect in Corfu
Unlike most other areas of Greece, Corfu island was never under the Ottoman rule, so the architecture and vibe are entirely different from the rest of the country.
The highlight of Corfu is its magnificent Old Town, the capital and biggest town of the island. Due to the Venetian influence and overall stunning architecture, Corfu Old Town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.
Apart from that, Corfu island boasts beautiful sandy beaches, stunning verdant landscapes, quaint mountain villages and scenic churches and monasteries.
Corfu is one of the most cosmopolitan destinations in Greece, with several luxurious, high-end hotels. And while a few coastal resorts have been affected by mass tourism, Corfu still has several untouched, quiet areas.
How to get to Corfu
There are two ways to travel to Corfu: by plane, or ferry.
Flights to Corfu
Corfu has an international airport, known as Ioannis Kapodistrias (CFU).
During the tourist season, there are direct flights to and from Corfu airport from several European cities.
You can also fly to Corfu with a connection in Athens, as there are several daily domestic flights year-round.
The airport is located a short drive from Corfu town. Here is how to get from Corfu airport to the town.
Ferries from mainland Greece to Corfu
Another way to get to Corfu island is by ferry from Igoumenitsa, a port town on the Greek mainland. The ferry trip takes about 90 minutes – but allow a couple of hours to be on the safe side.
During the high season there are several crossings a day, while there are fewer daily services in winter. I suggest that you book your tickets in advance, especially if you are travelling with a car, as ferries can get fully booked.
Ferries from Italy and Albania to Corfu
Another way to travel to Corfu is on a ferry from Italy. There are connections with the ports of Bari, Brindisi and Ancona a few times a week. The trip from Brindisi takes about 6.5 hours, which makes it the quickest option if you are coming from Italy.
Sarande port in Albania is another place from where ferries depart to Corfu. The ferry crossing will take you around 1.5 hours.
You can check out ferry tickets from Italy or Albania to Corfu on Ferryscanner.
For more information on travelling to Corfu, have a look at this detailed guide: How to get to Corfu
Best time to visit Corfu
If you want to enjoy the beautiful beaches, the best time to visit Corfu is summer. Maximum daytime temperatures in July and August are usually up to 35C (95F).
Note, however, that temperatures can be higher sometimes. Also, Corfu is a very humid island, so it can often feel hotter. If you are not coping well with the heat, consider visiting in June or September.
If your main goal is to explore the Old Town and visit the historical sites, spring or fall will actually be better. Temperatures are milder during this period, so walking around is more pleasant. Plus, there are usually fewer mosquitoes than during summer.
You should also know that, due to its geographical location, Corfu has higher chances of rain than most other Greek islands. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it helps cool things down!
Here is my complete guide to the best time to go to Corfu.
Highlights of Corfu
Corfu island is big, and there are many areas to explore than can keep you busy for weeks. Depending on where you will stay and what you want to do, you’ll also have to consider how to get around Corfu.
Here are just a few of the most popular attractions in Corfu.
The amazing Corfu Town
The magnificent Old Town of Corfu is the undisputed highlight of the island. If you are arriving on a cruise ship and only have a few hours in Corfu, you should just spend your time walking around the town.
The Venetian influence is visible everywhere, and is combined beautifully with buildings that were constructed during the time it was a British protectorate.
You should definitely explore the collections at the Museum of Asian Art, which is located inside the imposing Palace of Saints Michael and George. This was my favourite museum in Corfu, along with the fantastic Banknote Museum – a lot more interesting than it sounds 🙂
Allow enough time to explore the large open spaces and narrow streets in Corfu town, and observe the beautifully preserved buildings all around!
Close to the town, you can also visit the quaint Vlacherna Monastery, and then take a short boat trip to Pontikonisi, which literally translates to “Mouse island”. Then, head to Skyview all-day cafe – restaurant – it’s a really cool spot to watch the planes landing at the airport!
The monastery in Paleokastritsa, or Palaiokastritsa, is one of the most visited attractions in Corfu. It was first built in the 13th century, at the location where an icon of Virgin Mary was found. Inside, you will find an interesting museum with several religious artifacts.
You will need to dress appropriately, covering your shoulders and knees. There are toilets outside the monastery, but they only operate with a 1 euro coin – make sure you’ve got one!
Paleokastritsa is located on the west side of the island, a 40-45 minute drive from Corfu Town. You can get there by bus, taxi, rental vehicle or book a tour from Corfu town to Paleokastritsa.
If you are driving, make sure to leave your car at the parking next to Paleokastritsa beach. Driving up the hill all the way to the monastery is a terrible idea – I’m talking from personal experience as we were unaware of this and were stuck in a large queue!
On the way down, you can spend some time on one of the nearby beaches, or perhaps go to La Grotta, one of the oldest and most famous beach bars in Corfu.
I have to say, the whole Paleokastritsa area was too busy for my taste, even though we weren’t there in high season – but to each their own!
The Byzantine castle of Angelokastro, or rather what’s left of it, was one of my favourite attractions in Corfu. It’s built up on a hill of about 300 m (984 ft), offering incredible views of the coast.
There is evidence that the area was first inhabited around the 5th-6th century AD. Fortifications were likely constructed during the 13th century, to protect the island from pirate attacks.
Some people will find the walk to the castle rather steep – but the amazing views of Paleokastritsa will reward you for sure!
On the northern coast of Corfu island, you will find an area called Kassiopi. This is a popular resort, which boasts another impressive Byzantine castle and many small, pebbly beaches.
It’s important to note that, unfortunately, the castle is not so well kept. I personally enjoyed walking around the semi-abandoned grounds with the incredibly tall olive trees, but it was also a little disappointing as it feels abandoned.
Kassiopi has some of the best beaches in Corfu if you are interested in snorkeling. The water is crystal-clear, and a bit warmer than in other areas of the island. My favourite beach in the area was Syki, which was unspoiled and very quiet at the time we visited.
The park of Mon Repos Estate
Mon Repos Estate is a large park located near Corfu Town. It is open to the public, and you can see people strolling along the beautiful gardens, having a picnic or even jogging.
Inside the park, you will see a beautiful villa, which was once the summer residence of the British Lord High Commissioner of Corfu and the Ionian islands.
Today, it is home to the Museum of Palaiopolis, where you can see ruins from the nearby site of Palaiopolis. There are also assorted artefacts from the period of the British rule.
Just outside the park, you can see the remains of the ancient site of Palaiopolis. The site is closed to the public, but you can see the impressive ruins from outside the fence.
The famous Achilleion Palace
Another of Corfu’s attractions is Achilleion Palace. It was built in 1890 as a summer palace for Empress Elizabeth of Austria, who had endured various tragedies in her life.
Empress Elisabeth is better known as Sissi. Her tragic life inspired a series of films, starring Romy Schneider.
Sissi’s summer palace was named after the mythological hero, Achilles, and was incredibly luxurious. Decoration consists of impressive frescoes, paintings and statues. Τhe gardens offer beautiful views to the Ionian Sea.
Note: The Palace is currently closed for maintenance work (July 2023). You can visit the official website for more information.
The views from the Monastery of Pantokrator
For incredible views of the whole island, you should absolutely head up to the Monastery of Pantokrator. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the coast of Albania.
There is a steep, winding road leading to the monastery. You can hike if you want, though most people go up by car or motorbike. Drive slowly, and pay attention to the twists and turns!
Apart from the monastery itself, there is a small cafe, as well as a huge mobile phone tower.
Note: Confusingly, there are two monasteries called Pantokrator in Corfu. The one with the amazing views is this one. In my opinion, this was one of the best things to do in Corfu.
The abandoned Askitario monastery
If you like abandoned places and off-the-beaten-path curiosities, head out to the abandoned Askitario monastery. It’s a somewhat eerie place, especially considering the legend behind it!
You can read more about it here: The abandoned Askitario monastery in Corfu.
Boat trips from Corfu to nearby islands
There are a few islands that you can easily visit from Corfu, either on a day trip or for longer.
The two most famous islands close to Corfu are Paxi and Antipaxi, best known for their crystal-clear waters. We stayed in Paxi for 5 days and I can assure you that the water was super clear, and fantastic for snorkelling!
There are foot passenger ferries from Lefkimmi port, on the south coast of Corfu, to Paxi.
Or, if you don’t have time to stay on Paxi for a few days, you can take an organized day trip from Corfu to Paxi, where you will see all the best beaches in both Paxi and Antipaxi.
By the way, Paxi and Antipaxi were featured in a recent TV show called Maestro, which is available on Netflix. This has increased their popularity even further.
I also loved our day trip to Othoni, a lesser known island to the north-west of Corfu. If you like pristine, undeveloped islands, don’t miss it!
Bonus tip: Enjoy the delicious local cuisine in Corfu
Visitors to Greece usually rave about the food, and Corfu is no exception. You will find the usual delicious dishes that you can get all around Greece, such as souvlaki, moussaka, dolmadakia and the famous Greek salad.
Apart from those, Corfu specializes in a few local dishes, which are based on Mediterranean cuisine with a Venetian twist.
So, when you are in Corfu, you could try the following local dishes:
- pastitsada, beef cooked in red sauce, served with pasta
- sofrito, stewed veal in wine sauce
- bourdeto, a fish stew cooked in olive oil, onions, wine, lemon and vinegar
- bianco, a fish stew cooked in wine and garlic and served over potatoes
- tsigareli, a dish that consists of horta (Greek wild greens) cooked in a red sauce – I loved that one!
Don’t forget to try some of the most common Greek drinks, like ouzo, tsipouro or the local wine and beer.
FAQs about Corfu island
Here are some more insights about Corfu:
Why is the Greek island of Corfu so famous?
Corfu is famous for its magnificent Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its diverse heritage, its lush landscapes and its beautiful beaches. It’s the first Greek island which became a popular tourist destination.
What language is spoken in Corfu?
The official language of Corfu is Greek. In addition to that, English, Italian and more languages are widely spoken.
Is Corfu part of Greece or Albania?
Corfu is one of the Ionian islands of Greece. It’s located in the Ionian Sea, to the west of both mainland Greece and Albania.
What is the ethnicity of people from Corfu?
The majority of people who live on Corfu island are Greek. People who come from Corfu as known as Corfiots, or Kerkyrei in Greek. The Greek word for Corfu is Kerkyra.
How can I get to Corfu?
In late spring, summer and autumn, there are direct flights to Corfu from many cities in Northern Europe. In the off-season, you can fly to Athens, and take an onward domestic flight. It’s also possible to take a ferry to Corfu from Igoumenitsa port, which is located on the west coast of the Greek mainland, from selected Italian ports, or from Albania.
Hi! I’m Vanessa from Athens and I’ve been to over 60 Greek islands (but who’s counting?!) Follow my FB page for more Greece-related news, photos and inspiration!