Skip to content

Walking the Corfu Trail

July 25, 2017

 

I’d never been to Corfu before but the Corfu Trail (CT) seemed an ideal way to visit the island without being stuck in one resort so my good friend Chris and I decided to give it a go this June (2017).

Corfu is one of the larger Greek islands – roughly 40 miles long and 20 miles at its widest point. The CT – see map – initially goes west-east-west then up along and near the west coast before circling round and up the mountainous and wider north. The western coast is always interesting: hilly with jagged bays as well as some longer beaches. From a few hundred metres up there are great views across the island with views of villages, woodland, the coastline and the Ionian Sea to the west and the straits across to Albania to the east. The island’s capital, Corfu Town (Kerkyra) often comes into view from different angles.

We greatly enjoyed it and would recommend CT to others who are fans of the Mediterranean and like the idea of mixing walking through quiet woodlands, olive groves, orchards and  hill villages with busy coastal villages and resorts, and plenty of really attractive beaches and bays.

The trail is officially 92 miles although longer in practice allowing for intentional and unintentional detours. It was devised in 2001 and like many long distance walks (such as the French GR’s) cleverly links together established paths and tracks between valleys and inland and coastal communities to provide an interesting, varied and – at times – challenging route.

It was designed partly to attract walkers to the islands especially during the quieter times in the season.

In June, the main challenge was the heat – 30+ degrees every day – and the main walking seasons are April and May, and later in the year- September and October. However the long days, warm sea and blue skies made it well worthwhile.

 

Corfu is green and hilly so the walk goes up and down but, other than the last day, rarely goes higher than 300 metres so the ascents are not too lengthy. The views are fantastic across to the sea (sometimes to East and West from the same point) and looking back at the villages and hills of the day’s walk. To the left is the view south west from Pelekas, an inland hill village.

 

 

 

Much of the trail follows the west coastline from the busy resort town of Kavos, with cafes offering a full English breakfast for 2 or 2.50 euros, past more remote beaches (see Chris crossing Arkoudilas beach a few miles from Kavos), smaller coastal villages set in steep sided bays, and larger resort villages with plenty of hotels, restaurants and cafes. June is mid-season so there’s plenty of room to eat and bathe.

 


Often you walk through olive groves (netted in preparation for harvesting). There are an estimated 3 million olive trees on Corfu; it was the main activity before the rise of the tourism that is now the island’s main industry.

 

 

 

Villages on the route provide a welcome break and a quiet contrast with the coast. The picture illustrates one, Afionas, at its most picturesque; beautifully kept and with lots of flowers standing out against whitewashed walls. In some villages this exists alongside signs of depopulation and some of the strains on Greek society: abandoned cars, half completed buildings and uncollected rubbish.

 

 

We completed the trail in ten days with a mix of longer and shorter days walking.

Prologue: arriving in good time at Asprocavos (just south west of Kavos) we walked up to the remains of the Monastery of Arkadoulis: a brief (4-5 mile circular walk) which introduced the area with views to south and east.

Asprocavos to Santa Barbara: this was the longest day – over eight hours walking and just over 20 miles according to my fitbit! Along Arkadoulis beach with a detour round the headland as the road to the beach had collapsed. Through Spartera and then through olive groves to Lefkimmi, Corfu’s second largest town. From there back to the west coast again through olive groves to Gardenos followed by a stiff climb and descent above the coast and ending with a beach walk in Santa. Some people split this stage in two, staying in Lefkimmi.

Santa Barbara to Paramonas: it was June 9th so got up this morning to see that ‘Britain wakes up to a hung parliament’. Cheered us up no end and plenty to talk about en route. Walked along the beach through the resort village of Agios Georgios South and then back on Issou beach before finding (after some false starts) the path through to Lake Korission and round along the spit between the lake and Halikounas beach. I was a bit disappointed with this stretch as the lake and the sea were hidden by high bushy undergrowth. Walked round above Alanoki Bay (picture) and then through olive groves in the shadow of Prasoudi mountain to reach Paramanos, a small coastal village; great swim from the beach- the sea on west coast is choppier and cooler but so clear and a beautiful setting. The owner of the guest house picked and gave us the sweetest and juiciest apricots I’ve ever tasted and the restaurant by the beach boasted the best sunsets.

Paramonas to Benistes: today we crossed to the East coast leaving the trail at Dafnata to get accommodation at Benistes.  Started with a steady climb up the side of Parasoudi mountain and then down to the hill village of Ano Pavliano- well ready for a lemonade break. Carried on through Vouniatades towards Strongili, passing a small church with a terraced garden (picture) and on to Dafnata having a ginger beer there and chat to the café owner, Kostas, a big Corfu Trail man and used to work with Alex Ferguson. He keeps the antidote for viper bites and should be phoned if you’re bitten. Then down hill to Makrata and then the track to the east coast resort of Benistes for the night. We’d been through Benistes driving from the airport to Kavos; like much of this stretch of  ribbon development on the east coast it was busy, with scooters, mopeds and quad bikes buzzing around  and very much geared to the tourist trade.

Benistes to Pelekas: taxi to Makrata to re-join the trail. Good days walking with excellent views especially towards Corfu Town. Went through Agio Deka and Kamara to Sinarades where the rain came down. Sheltered for a while then cooler walk up to the hill village of Pelekas where we stayed at Jimmy’s Taverna. The rooms here are quite basic but it’s a popular stop as the food is varied and very well prepared. I had numbulo salad (smoked ham from pork fillet) followed by local sausage with mustard, washed down with half a litre of retsina.

IMG_1951.jpg
Roof top view from Jimmy’s in Pelekas

Pelekas to Liapedes beach: another long day’s walking starting by going above the renowned Mirtiotissas beach, past a splendidly maintained monastery and then a steady climb across Agios Georgios mountain before descending into Kelia and then Vatos (lemonade break). From there along the Ropa valley and up to Giannades for a lunch break – fruit and chilled ‘Liptons’ outside the local mini market. The remaining walk was mainly through olive groves getting to Liapedes and then down to the beach in good time for a swim.

Liapedes Beach to Agios Georgios north. A shorter day but started with a stiff climb up to Lakones that stretches along the road, crowded with visitors and buses, and looking down to the monastery and many coastal developments below. Then through olive groves and the village of Krini and the first glimpse of Agios Georgios north reached by following the kalderimi, an ancient stone track cut into the side of the hill. Agios Georgios north has a splendid beach and plenty of hotels and was the place for our rest day.

IMG_2024.jpgRest day: round walk to Afionas and Porto Timono: strongly recommended for today was a trip to Porto Timono where two bays meet at the headland beyond Agios Georgios north bay. This involved a road walk up to the finely manicured village of Afionas and then a tricky descent down a well used path to the bays.

 


Agios Georgios North to Rekini: a shorter walk today to catch a lift down to the resort of Roda for accommodation. Along the beach and then an ascent to Pagi, down and up again to Asprotades, Manatades (pic below) and Agros.

image
Stopping there for a lemonade, the cafe keeper was a lover of mountains and knew Albania whose formidable mountains can be seen clearly from Corfu. He was (justifiably) surprised that we thought Roda was a fishing village! It isn’t; it’s a pretty tacky resort town. Anyway we continued the walk to Rekini and picked up our lift to Roda.

Rekini to Spartillas (then dropping down to Barbati for accommodation): a hilly day’s walking through the villages of Valiano and Sokraki (pic below)- stopped here for a ginger beer; an attractive but quiet hill village.

image

Continuing we walked along a fertile valley with vineyard. Earlier a farmer harvesting apricots had given us a couple of handfuls. Although vines and fruit are important products, up till now it had mainly been olive groves that we’d seen. Continued to Spartillas and then a quiet winding road down to Barbati for accommodation. The sea was beautiful- a stoney beach but clear and warm water. 
Spartillas to Agios Spyridon: the last stage of the CT. Managed to find the trail and followed an established stoney path uphill; it was shaded but humid and after half an hour or so emerged on to a

imagemountainous terrain: bushy undergrowth, rocky and uneven but a well marked trail that took us to a track below Mount Pandakratoras. The trail skirted round the mountain before heading north and down to Old Perithia pic below.

 

 

 

image Old Perithia dates back to the Middle Ages and at one time was a prosperous farming village with more than a thousand inhabitants. Once deserted it’s been revived- with EU money-  and is a popular spot with plenty of cafes and restaurants. We stopped for a fresh iced lemon and ginger drink and a slice of orange cake.
The final stretch took us down to the northern coast and the northern most point of the

imageisland: Cape Agia Ekaterinis. The coast line here is wilder and less developed and there are good views back to the mountains. The trail concluded a couple of miles later at the village of Agios Spridonas, named after the patron saint of Corfu. So that was the walk done and time for an ice cream, lemonade and a swim before a lift into Kalami and the night’s accommodation.
Epilogue: we spent a further two days on Corfu staying at Kalami: a striking coastal village with Durrell connections- the White House is now an upmarket restaurant. One day we did the Kalami to Menegoulas loop, described by Gillian Price as an ‘excellent if tiring circuit above the north eastern coast’ in her Cicerone guide. The other day we got the bus into Corfu Town: busy with two fortresses, lots of Venetian buildings and great views across to Albania and inland to the hills and Mt Pandakratoras.

Practical points:

The route is way marked but there are gaps and tricky bits. We used the Cicerone guide by Gillian Price, the freytag and berndt 1:50,000 map which marks the trail and instructions from New Experience Holidays.

Download a street plan of Lefkimi so that you can plot your way through; it is in effect five coterminous villages and quite hard to navigate.

New Experience Holidays booked accommodation. Arrangements on Corfu were made by Anna Apergi Travel and Tourism a local family firm. They were always helpful and everything worked well.

Stock up with water each day. Six 1.5 litre bottles can be bought at mini markets for two euros or less.

 ‘Walking the Corfu Trail’ by John Waller is an amusing account and reflection by an English migrant and friends: strong on food and flowers but not really a trail guide. ‘My Family and other Animals’ by Gerald Durrell is well worth a read ( as is Laurence Durrell’s   ‘Prospero’s Cell’;) they give amusing and idiosyncratic perspectives from an eccentric upper middle class family in the late 1930’s before mass tourism – among other things – transformed the island.

Advertisements

From → Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: