Corfu walking vacations
After a long day on the trail, imagine being able to kick off your shoes and head downstairs for a freshly prepared meal. Accommodations on our Corfu walking vacations are frequently arranged in small village tavernas where you can feast like a returning Argonaut on home-cooked Greek food and, if your luck is in, be entertained at the same time by local musicians propping up the bar. No plate smashing though, no matter how much fun you’re having, okay?
Corfu inspires a great deal of affection in travelers, not least for the hospitality of its tavernas. In My Family and Other Animals, the first of his ‘Corfu trilogy’, the conservationist Gerald Durrell described how the magic of this Ionian island, shaped like a horse’s leg in motion, settled gently over his family like pollen. In the 80 years since the Durrells left Corfu an astronomical growth in tourism, especially the curse of package vacations, has transformed much of its coastline, and rarely for the better. But escape from the resorts and the beaches where you’ll seldom find space to fling a towel down in high summer, and you can still find the languid charms that captivated one of England’s foremost conservationists during his childhood.
Our Greece walking Vacations
The Corfu TrailAs with so many of the Greek Islands, the most satisfying way to explore Corfu is on foot. Walking vacations here typically follow a section of the Corfu Trail, a long distance (220km) route that begins in the far south and snakes up the west coast before curving inland to reach the northern tip of the island. Since most of the big resorts are situated in the north and east, it presents an appealing way to discover a slower and more traditional way of life on an island that was one of the earliest to experience the detrimental effects of mass tourism.
The Corfu Trail is well-marked but even so you won’t have to pay too much attention to directions, since you’ll be joining a guided small group tour. Trekking alongside a local doesn’t simply provide valuable employment, but it also helps you gain a greater understanding of the island’s history, its culture and traditions. Vicky Garnett from our specialist tour operator Explore agrees, “Our Corfu Trail leaders, Costis and Spiros, are brilliant, so knowledgeable about the trail, flora and fauna and passionate about the island, greeted with affection by people everywhere they go. Our tour leaders are drawn from a Corfu walking club, run by volunteers, that maintains footpaths and aims to improve access.” You’ll be walking point to point for much of the trail’s southern and western sections, staying somewhere new every evening, so your luggage will be transferred between accommodations while you need carry only a daypack.
What do Corfu walking vacations involve?In most cases you’ll arrive in Corfu Town, which, despite the cruise crowds, remains one of Greece’s most magnificent island capitals. The cobbled Old Town sits above the port and between two hills, each crowned with a Venetian fort. The capital is a lovely place to spend a little time, especially in the evenings when the bars are still busy but the streets are quieter, before you lace up your boots and hit the trail. Over the next week you’ll discover a much quieter side to Corfu though, one of abandoned monasteries set in walled gardens, lakes where freshwater turtles swim, sand dunes fragranced with cedar trees, olive groves and old mule paths through pastures and fields.
Naturally there are beaches – some vast stretches of golden sand, others pebbled. Who needs a hotel pool? Myrtiotissa was a favourite of Durrell, and was Corfu’s best-known nudist beach in the 1980s. Today the beach itself has been reduced to little more than a sliver by erosion. The walks take in sublime views over both east and west coasts – including from the observation point at Pelekas nicknamed ‘Kaiser’s Throne’, a vantage point prized by Kaiser Wilhelm II for admiring the sunsets, presumably with ‘an imperious gaze’.
Sticking with the Corfu Trail for much of its length, you’ll pass a succession of sleepy little villages surrounded by olive groves and vineyards, including Liapades, notable for its beautiful old mansion houses. Lunches might be prepared by your last night’s lodgings, or you might stop for home-cooked fare served in small tavernas along the way. On some days there will be little difference given that accommodation is frequently arranged in rooms attached to these traditional, family-run restaurants. Staying in them is a delightful, and often musical, way to experience local life, and you certainly won’t be sweltering in the heat as you wait for a table to free up, as you will at over-stuffed restaurants on the glitzier beaches.
There’s nothing especially challenging about the terrain here, and the route, comprised of dedicated coastal and mountain paths, minor roads, old mule tracks and beaches, is generally well-looked after. Your trip price will include a trail fee that contributes to maintenance and improvements to infrastructure. There are some steep ascents and descents involved though, such as reaching the summit of Agii Deka, the island’s second-highest peak.
The longest day will be around eight to nine hours, covering some 23km, but if you’re picturing a hard slog throughout, have no fear. Your guide will frequently call a halt for snacks in the shade, refreshing dips in the Ionian Sea, to pop into an interesting little folk museum or proudly point out a fabulous view. Taxis can also be arranged for anyone that doesn’t feel in the mood for a particular day’s walk.
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Best time for walking in Corfu
Vacations operate in April and May, and September and October, so you’re avoiding the hottest (and busiest) months of the year, and at the same time spreading tourism income outside the main season. And really, summer is not the time to be walking in Corfu. A decent level of fitness will be perfectly adequate in the cooler autumn, but who wants to be trekking for hours in July when daytime temperatures can easily reach 32°C?
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