As for hiking, it takes some blows. I joined a local hiking club on a nine mile hike through remote, mountainous northeastern Corfu. The peak is Mount Pantokrator, which at 2,972 feet is the highest point on the Greek island.
Cypress trees tower through lush terrain that smells of olive groves, fruits and cyclamen. We pick pears and wild strawberries; We sniff bay leaves and herbs. I even see a praying mantis.
Everything is the view from the rocky top. Opposite is Albania and the Greek mainland, with only a kilometer-wide shimmering strip of the Ionian Sea in between.
Idyllic: Paleokastritsa in Corfu. The island is the northernmost of the seven Ionian islands in Greece and is shaped like a scythe
“On a good day you can also see Italy,” says the founder of the hiking club, Stefanos. But it’s not a good sightseeing day. Sand pouring in from the Sahara obscures the view, but this geographic location is exciting.
And now that Greece would like to take us in as soon as we are allowed to travel again, the thrill should hopefully be open to everyone from May 17th.
Corfu is the northernmost of the seven Ionian Islands in Greece and is shaped like a scythe. The pantocrator is at the top of its curved tip.
My base is the luxurious MarBella Corfu Hotel halfway along the 40 mile long island that hangs on the hills above the coastal village of Agios Ioannis Peristeron. There are 388 rooms but somehow it never feels crowded.
Located 10 miles south (15-minute drive) of the UNESCO-listed capital, Corfu Town, the hotel is exactly the place to come back after a five-hour hardcore hike.
During my stay last November, it was named Top Greek Resort 2020 at the annual Greek Hospitality Awards.
I had looked at the hotel’s Covid-19 security protocols, which will remain in effect this year. Employees wear masks, hand disinfection stations are on every corner and elevators can only be used by one “bubble” at a time.
In-room touchpoints such as TV remotes and hairdryers will be cleaned and sealed, and the open-air design of the entire ground floor of the hotel – which includes the reception area and main bar – would receive approval from UK Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty.
The capital of Corfu is the depicted city of Corfu, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has fought relentlessly for Corfu’s strategic position between East and West. For five centuries it was occupied by the Venetians, French and British
Once in a bathing suit, this is all far from your mind. Thatched parasols shade sun loungers around the palm-fringed pools and beach. The next morning I park my tired limbs on such a lounger, my toes just inches away from the waves.
I intend to stay here but then I see others taking their pedals out of the hotel’s water sports center and wondering why not? Then I take part in a stand-up paddleboard safari.
On the hotel’s shoreline is a protected underwater ecosystem called Posidonia Meadows, a vast expanse of rare, silver algae rich in marine life. The sea is so clear that I can see this realm of water under my paddleboard.
After lunch on a Greek salad, I return to the meadows with a snorkel. There is a sweet spot that has so many fish that I almost feel attached to it.
The view from the top of Mount Pantokrator, which at 2,972 feet is the highest point on the Greek island of Corfu
Seven nights half board at MarBella Corfu with Jet2 (jet2.com) from £ 670 per person including flights. The Corfu Hiking and Mountaineering Association (posk.gr) offers free hikes.
Some are as small as a match, others as big as a mackerel. All are translucent with occasional bright colored stripes. It has fought relentlessly for Corfu’s strategic position between East and West. For five centuries it was occupied by the Venetians, French and British.
Remnants of this time can still be seen in Corfu Town, which is a half-hour bus ride of € 1.70 away. Its beating heart is a pedestrian maze of narrow alleys in which the laundry is hung up to dry.
Local guide Anna Vasilaki shows me around and explains how the Venetians gave the city cobblestone and pastel facades, and how the French built the Liston arcade lined with chi-chi cafes.
“What about the British?” I ask. “Ah, you gave us ginger beer!” I buy a bottle in a bar on the town hall square.
Hit ITV drama The Durrells was inspired by writer Gerald Durrell’s stories about life in Corfu. There is a statue of him near the city’s old fortress. “Rubbing his nose should bring good luck,” says Anna. I cannot resist friction (and then disinfect my hands).
Families at MarBella who want to hold on to their bladder can enjoy a new private “vacation day”. You will receive a rental car, picnic lunch and directions to a beautiful beach. I do the same and drive 20 minutes southwest to Issos, a wild, endless stretch of honey-colored sand lined with dunes. I later learned that this was the setting for a car chase in James Bonds For Your Eyes Only. It’s the perfect place to put a towel and graze on the spanakopita (Greek pastries filled with spinach and feta) in my cool box.
Corfu has a certain ease. It has great beaches, great history, great hiking trails, and nowhere is it difficult to get to. And it is crucial that the Corfiots really want us back.