Named after Kerkyra, the nymph daughter of river-god Asophos, this UNESCO World Heritage island offers untold natural and historical treasures. In Homer’s Odyssey, the hero Odysseus is washed ashore and takes refuge on the idyllic island, and there is surely no better place to be shipwrecked than its green rolling hills and captivating coastline, especially if you are holed up in a state-of-the-art hideaway courtesy of luxury villa specialist CV Villas.
Over forty years ago, CV Villas’ founders fell in love with the island, particularly the beautiful north east coast – with its traditional Greek harbours, historic villages, crystal-clear waters and beachside tavernas – and this is where the majority of CV Villas’ elegant properties can be found.
As a relatively small island (230 square miles), it is easy to get around with a rental car, and the pretty north makes an excellent base for exploring whilst being a peaceful spot to which to return each day. With something to suit everyone on Corfu, from ancient churches and scattered ruins to rugged hiking trails and the sun-drenched coastline, here are CV Villas’ top tips for making the most of a visit this year:
Dating back to 700BC, the abandoned village of Old Peritheia on the slopes of Mount Pantokrator was once one of the wealthiest on the island, but has been uninhabited since the 1960s. Explore its abandoned cobbled streets and hand-built stone houses, some of which have been lovingly restored, and get a glimpse into bygone life in Corfu’s oldest mountain village.
Corfu’s cultural heritage and architecture is defined by its years under Venetian, Byzantine, French and British occupation. Inhabited since the Stone Age, there is evidence of Paleolithic and Neolithic life in the villages of Agios Mattheos and Sidari. Byzantine churches are dotted across the island, there are Ancient Greek and Roman settlements, such as the Palaiopolis site, various Roman baths such as Benitses, and plenty more of interest to the archaeology buff. The old quarter of Corfu Town boasts perfect examples of ancient Venetian and Byzantine architecture, medieval fortresses, and historical homes and museums such as the Archaeological Museum and Achillion Palace which are open to the public.
The chic north east of the island has attracted the rich and famous for decades, earning it the moniker of ‘Kensington-on-Sea’. Starting of course with writers Gerald and Lawrence Durrell, it’s also played host to Jude Law, Bryan Ferry, various royals and the Rothschilds. The archetypal Greek fishing village of St Stephano is lined with waterfront tavernas and myriad sailing craft – a perfect spot for people watching with an ouzo of hand. Barefoot-chic Kassiopi is dotted with turquoise coves and candlelit tavernas, the quaint fishing village Kerasia boasts a cypress-shaded beach attracting stylish holidaymakers, and beautiful Kalami Bay is famously home to the Durrells’ former residence, The White House.
The lush Ropa Valley, a 20-minute drive from Corfu Town, is home to the highly recommended Corfu Golf Club, an 18-hole course set amidst olive tree groves, ponds, streams and rolling hills and considered one of Europe’s hidden golfing gems. The island is also ripe for exploring on foot with miles of rugged coastland and inland hiking trails – including the 220 km Corfu Trail stretching from south to north – with beautiful flora and fauna and a huge number of silvery olive trees.
The immense greenery of the island lends itself to fantastic cuisine and foodies will be enticed by fresh fish, vibrant fruit and vegetables, local honey and cheeses and beautiful pastries. Many thousands of olive trees make up much of the landscape and small, rural, sleepy towns with little shops sell fresh olive oil and other local produce. Highlights include Taverna Toulas, set on Agni Bay, with sublime views across to Albania, serving whole, freshly-caught fish, gigantic seafood platters and zingy Greek salads. Taverna Cochelli overlooks the pretty harbour of Agios Stephanos – a tiny restaurant boasting elevated views of the bay and a welcoming vibe. Or visit local supermarkets for freshly-made hummus, tzatziki and taramasalata and to order fresh fish for next-day collection such as sea bream and bass (superb stuffed with lemon and herbs and chargrilled on the BBQ back at the villa!).
New for 2019, the three-bedroomed Pythaia is a short stroll from St Stephano’s pretty harbour, waterside restaurants, bars and shops, and five minutes’ walk from the beach. A beautiful pool sits on the villa’s sunny lower terrace, adjacent to the pool house with built-in seating and a TV room with PlayStation. The main terrace has a built-in breakfast table boasting sea views, a summer kitchen, barbeque and second dining area. The inside living area benefits from a large balcony and the three bedrooms provide flexible accommodation, whilst an upstairs terrace gives stunning sea views, perfect for that early-evening G&T.
One week’s stay at Pythaia (sleeps six) during summer costs from £879 pp (£5,726 total), including maid service on five days. Flights extra.
Gazing down to St Stephano harbour, the three-bedroomed Stephanos is a single storied hideaway nestled on a low headland and surrounded by a screen of silvery olive trees. A sociable living and dining area open out on to a shaded veranda overlooking the pool, alongside which sits a shaded barbecue area perfect for long and leisurely al fresco lunches.
One week’s stay at Stephanos (sleeps six) during summer costs from £733 pp (£4,398 total), including maid service for five days. Flights extra.
Surrounded by seascapes stretching for miles and miles, with a backdrop of the rolling mountains of the mainland, Gallini basks on low slopes close to the water’s edge. Its swimming pool feels like the prow of a ship, and behind it a stylish gazebo houses a built-in barbecue and al fresco seating and dining areas. The villa is furnished in a relaxed, country style, with each of the four bedrooms opening on to outdoor space. The buzzing harbour restaurants of St Stephano are just a few minutes’ stroll away.
One week’s stay at Gallini (sleeps eight) during summer costs from £1,305 pp (£10,441 total), including maid service for six days. Flights extra.
The two-bedroomed peacefully-located Kokkini is perfect for a family of four, but also a wonderfully romantic retreat if chosen for two. A charming cottage making use of rustic Corfu stone, its chic interiors feature natural palettes, squishy sofas, stylish wrought iron beds and thoughtfully curated homeware pieces. Outside, a spacious infinity pool overlooks the azure waters, and al fresco dining area and seating spaces covered by canopies of twisting vines are the perfect relaxation spots. Kalami, Avlaki and St Stephano are all within ten minutes’ drive.
One week’s stay at Kokkini (sleeps four) during summer costs from £803 pp (£3,212 total), including maid service for three days. Flights extra.
The three-bedroomed Moira is a modern and stylish property with inside and outside areas on several different levels, making use of its hillside setting and the magnificent views stretching out over the sea and to Albania beyond. Chic interiors feature wooden beamed ceilings, chandeliers, plush and cosy sofas and elegant tiled bathrooms, with each of the bedrooms opening on to outdoor space. A curved-edged infinity pool is the perfect place to plant yourself with a glass of rosé in hand as the sun sets over the olive groves and sea.
One week’s stay at Moira (sleeps six) during summer costs from £392 pp (£2,353 total), including maid service for five days. Flights extra.
For more information on the many summer holiday options from which to choose, call CV Villas on 020 7261 5401 or visit www.cvvillas.com.
For more than 40 years, CV Villas has organised tailor-made villa holidays in inspiring locations across Europe and the world. A CV Villa holiday combines beautiful villas in unrivalled settings with (if required) flights, car hire and expert local support.
From its origins in Corfu, the 900-strong portfolio now features villas in some of the world’s most sought-after locations, including Greece, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Morocco, the Caribbean and the USA. Many properties are exclusively available through CV Villas.
CV Villas’ Private Collection is an exceptional portfolio of the world’s finest and most luxurious fully-staffed villas in stunning settings.
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