The shiny new addition to our luxury Europe portfolio, Corfu is a gloriously green Greek island that surprised me in, well, how none Greek it felt. Instead of the charming white-washed walls, blue windows and checked tablecloths that I’d usually expect, the island’s architectural style is much more Italianate, due to its proximity to Italy and fascinating colonial history. Like much of Greece, it is a key destination for culture-seekers, though less in terms of the ancients and more to spot the western invasion influences and Venetian treasures. Of course, it’s also seriously impressive in terms of scenery as well, with olive grove covered (and I mean covered!) interiors and beaches to rival anywhere else in Greece. On a recent trip with my colleague Vanessa, I was lucky enough to enjoy several great experiences and excursions that I’d heartily recommend for your next luxury holiday to Corfu…
1. Explore Corfu Old Town
Unlike some other Greek islands, where various towns, hamlets and resorts are dotted around, Corfu Old Town really felt like this island’s centre; charming, compact and easily strollable. It has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status due to its fascinating history and unique architecture, much of which comes from its time under Venetian rule. As I said before, walking around the town, I felt like I could have been in Italy, passing buildings, squares, streets and the Old Fortress that show clear signs of the island’s past invasions. I would certainly recommend a guided walking tour to get the most of your time here, with our friendly guide showing us sights and sharing facts that I’d otherwise have no idea about. Sipping a coffee in a café in an elegant arched parade after the walking tour, I felt as though I’d been transported from Italy to Paris, showing again the fascinating blend of influences on Corfu over time.
2. Taste Award-Winning Olive Oil
Driving across the island, I was shocked by just how much of Corfu is dominated by olive groves. In fact, there is said to be over three million olive trees in total! Naturally then, olive oil is a huge part of the agriculture here with some seriously highly awarded products coming from Corfu.
Domes Miramare is a contemporary and cool hotel on the east coast, once owned by the famous Onassis Family, their legacy still clear in the sheer glamour of the entire property, though it still always felt laid-back and relaxing. I would recommend the accommodation in the Haute Living Selection which includes access to a lovely living room where you can help yourself to drinks and snacks throughout the day, as well as an exclusive swimming pool area – though many of the suites have pools of their own!
Taking part in a great excursion that Domes Miramare offers, we head to The Governor Olive Oil groves and mill, which has been owned by the Dafnis Family for three generations. Two brothers now head the process (one of which deals with the farming and one with the oil production), the eldest of which showed us the olive oil making ropes. After a warm welcome and a crisp glass of Greek wine, we begun a tour of the fascinating mill, walking through the groves, tasting the delicious olives, learning more about the traditional machinery, the myths and truths of olive oil, and the perfected process from start to finish. This carefully tested process actually produces olive oil that is classified as a medicine, winning awards as the global leading olive oil with the highest concentration of Oleocanthal, renowned for its huge health benefits. Sampling it, I could absolutely taste the difference between this ‘ultra-premium unfiltered extra virgin olive oil’ and the one I buy in the UK… the quality was just next level. Though I wonder whether all the amazing bread and feta cheese I sampled it with still makes it a health food!? Now, this brand may be family-run but that is not to say it’s small-scale. It has won global awards and is stocked around the world, including in Harrod’s, a testament to just how incredible it is.
3. Visit the Palace of Sissi
A short drive south of Corfu Town, I head off to explore the Achilleion Palace, otherwise known as the Palace of Sissi, a stunning white colonnaded building set on a hilltop with absolutely amazing views over the sea and island. Somewhat of an independent woman for her time in the late 19th century, it was built as summer palace for the Austrian empress Elizabeth (often known as Sissi) who was fleeing her husband at home, though sadly, it became a retreat of mourning after her only son died. I learned all this and more on an informative walking tour here, passing through the beautiful gardens, home to impressive statues of the Greek gods, as well as of ancient hero Achilles after whom the palace is named. Inside the Italian-designed palace, I was blown away by the ornate murals, frescoes and paintings, used as the casino setting in James Bond film ‘For Your Eyes Only’.
4. Live Like The Durrells in Danilia Village
Another of the incredible luxury hotels that we feature on the island is the Grecotel Imperial Corfu, nestled on a private peninsula with distant views of the UNESCO Old Town. Bustling and giving off a really atmospheric village feel due to its promenade lined with boutiques and restaurants – I had some incredible French dishes at Aristos – the hotel hosts a range of activities for all ages. As well as offering five Blue Flag beaches, luxury pontoon cruises across to the Old Town and an impressive kids’ club that my girls would have loved, Grecotel also owns and offers great excursions to Danilia Village and Museum slightly inland. This unique open-air museum was built by a philanthropist back in the 1970s, designed to exactly replicate a traditional 1930s Corfiot village and used as a set for ‘The Durrells’, the smash ITV series. Recently restored, it was fascinating to explore the Venetian houses, squares, church and tavern, feeling as though I’d genuinely gone back in time.
The four activities above are simply some of those that I enjoyed on my recent trip and, of course, the island’s treasures aren’t limited to them. For more inspiration of things to do, browse our dedicated destination guide, or give us a call today to start planning your luxury Corfu holiday.