Corfu is the island that has everything, so where do you start? Katie McGonagle finds out.
Brits have long had a love affair with Corfu, and it’s easy to see why. It’s the closest Greek island to the UK, but also the most diverse, boasting golden-sand beaches, lush greenery, mountain landscapes and a bit of history and culture thrown in for good measure.
Photis Lambrianides, Olympic Holidays commercial director, says: "It’s one of the most scenic of the Greek islands. You’ll find an abundance of greenery wherever you go, coupled with a lovely coastline and crystal-clear waters.
"The people of Corfu have been welcoming the British for decades and have a special relationship with us. And their love of children helps to make the island truly family-friendly."
Here is a run-down of what to see, where to stay and how to sell it.
No matter where clients stay, Corfu town is within easy reach. They can get lost in the Old Town’s labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets, step back in time at the old and new forts, or get a real taste of the culture with a culinary walking tour.
For those keen to get out of the city, suggest driving north through Ipsos and Kassiopi for unmissable views of the Albanian coastline. Once there, Kassiopi is one of the best diving centres on the island. Alternatively, head south for a boat trip to Pontikonisi, aka Mouse Island, and stunning views of Kanoni bay.
Lambrianides also recommends a trip to nearby Achilleion, the summer palace of Empress Elizabeth of Austria at Gastouri, which is filled with statues of Greek mythology. "The palace served as a casino in the 1981 James Bond film For Your Eyes Only and has since been a museum. Parts are open to the public and it makes a great day out," he says.
For the best scenery on the island, venture west to picturesque Paleokastritsa. The 13th-century Theotokos monastery is perched high on a clifftop and affords the best views of the bay, plus a fascinating glimpse of its religious history and even a silver bible inlaid with jewels.
Glass-bottomed boat tours from the nearby harbour of Alipa are the best way to see the crystal-clear waters of the Ionian Sea, and visitors can finish off the day with a taste of the famous Corfiot liquor at a nearby kumquat distillery.
Although the island has some amazing sights, it’s also within reach of other popular attractions. Planet Holidays offers agents 10% commission on trips to the small islands of Paxos and Anti Paxos, packed with endless olive groves, vineyards and isolated bays, perfect for getting away from it all.
For history buffs, suggest hopping across the water to see the rich heritage of Albania. It’s only a stone’s throw from Corfu, and has Greek, Roman and Ottoman influences as well as a fascinating recent history.
There are resorts to suit every client, whether they want buzzing bars, knockout views or a chance to soak up some sun.
The north of the island is home to the most established family destinations. Sidari’s long sandy beaches offer water sports for every age and a host of child-friendly restaurants. Cosmos product manager Erica Collins recently took three generations of her family to Sidari and says it was the perfect choice with activities to suit everyone.
For a quieter family feel, try nearby Roda, or head eastwards to Nissaki Bay and Kalami, where the 1930s home of British authors Lawrence and Gerald Durrell is a popular sight. It’s worth warning clients that Kalami and Nissaki have shingle beaches with just a bit of sand at the waterline to avoid any disappointed youngsters crying into their buckets and beating the floor with their spades.
The east and west coasts are a haven for couples, with upmarket resorts such as the five-star Kontokali Bay Resort & Spa offering affordable luxury. Kanoni’s stunning scenery and easy access to the capital make it popular too, particularly among older visitors.
On the western edge, Paleokastritsa – the island’s best beauty spot – can get crowded with day-trippers, but those who stay at one of the romantic hideaways along this part of the coast will have time to seek out quieter beaches.
Sunvil managing director, Noel Josephides, also recommends the quiet village of Maltas, which has one of the longest beaches on the island. He says: "Hidden away on the southwest coast, it really is a taste of old rural Corfu and is still a farming community. It gets busy on Sundays and on Greek holidays with locals, but other than that remains a peaceful backwater."
On the other hand, clients who want to party until dawn and work on their tan during the day can try Kavos, which turns into a hive of activity after nightfall. Clubs and bars fly in DJs from around the world and there’s music to suit every reveller.
Corfu is the second-largest Greek island and lies further north than most, meaning it escapes the other islands’ scorching summer temperatures and instead has a lush, green landscape.
It also has the shortest flight compared with other Greek islands – three to four hours – with departures from more than a dozen regional airports. Cosmos has introduced weekly charter flights from Newcastle and East Midlands airports this summer, plus a scheduled service from Luton.
There’s also no shortage of supply – the tourist board estimates there are 140,000 beds in hotels and apartments across the island.
If the prospect of rugged mountains and stunning scenery don’t tempt clients, suggest they try one of the many activities on offer. Hiking, horse-riding, cricket, golf, diving, windsurfing and other watersports are all popular on the island, with options available at most resorts.
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