By Imogen Cox, Digital Marketing Executive

I’ve been visiting Northern Corfu in Greece for years. My great-grandmother lived here for most of her adult life so, every year, my family take a multi-generational trip to San Stefano (also known as Agios Stefanos), a village on the northeast coast which she called home. Because of this, I’ve been able to experience the island from a local’s perspective. My grandparents are treated like royalty on their annual pilgrimage to the village; they’ve seen Corfu evolve over the years and know exactly where to go and where to avoid, and I’m going to let you in on some of our family’s favourite spots! 


Why northern Corfu?

Around the same size as Mallorca, Corfu is the second largest of the Ionian islands. Don’t get me wrong, Corfu is not an under-the-radar destination. Developers are creeping in and constructing bigger and blander resorts to accommodate the rising number of tourists, but that is predominantly towards the south. Head north and you’ll find plenty of peaceful, unspoilt pockets away from the crowds, if you know where to look.

Northern Corfu, or as it’s come to be known, Kensington-on-Sea, has become a hotspot for the old-money crowd. Home to the likes of the Rothschilds and other famous names, there’s some impressive property to spot around the area, but the humble villages made famous by the Durrells still remain. And, along with the nouveau glitz and glamour, there’s exactly what you’d expect from an island in the Ionian: kind people, amazing food and untouched coves waiting to be explored.

The landscape consists of leafy hills climbing to the inland peak of Mount Pantokrator, while olive groves, eucalyptus and cypress trees spread out to the coast. This side of the island boasts views to the undulating outline of Albania, just a thin slice of azure Ionian sea separating the two lands, and glorious pink skies at sunset. Pebble beaches, small scalloped bays and glistening crystal-clear water rub shoulders with family-run tavernas, and plenty of charming villas and hotels.

I’d recommend staying on the northeastern stretch of the island (as a rule of thumb, somewhere between Barbati and Kassiopi), and using this as a central base to head west, explore the rest of the north, and travel down to Corfu Old Town. I’ve never ventured south of the airport, and unless you’re headed to party-town Kavos or, conversely, walking The Corfu Trail, I wouldn’t bother.

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What to see in northeastern Corfu

Explore the beaches

There are so many incredible beaches and small bays to choose from, particularly on the northeastern corner of the island, it would be impossible to list them all, but here are the highlights: Barbarti is best for stylish beach bars; Agni has relaxing tavernas to watch the world go by from; Avlaki is known for wide, pristine beaches without the crowds; Kerasia for clear waters surrounded by greenery; Nissaki has the best snorkelling; Agios Stefanos (NE, not to be confused with it’s namesake on the west coast) for hiring boats; Glyfa for a quiet lunch if you’re arriving by boat.

One of my favourite things to do is to walk the coast in search of hidden bays and scramble down to the beach. You can often find a spot where you’ll see no one else for the whole day; just come prepared with snacks and water. If you’re looking to escape tourists and tackiness, avoid Gouvia and Ipsos!

Walk the Corfu Trail

If you’re a keen walker with time to spare, you might be interested in the Corfu Trail, which spans from the southernmost tip of the island to the northernmost. Established in 2001, it’s a whopping 220 kilometres and takes approximately 10 days to complete. The path covers extremely varied terrain; you’ll spend no longer than an hour in any one landscape, from the expansive beaches and juniper dunes in the south, through rolling groves in the hilly interior to the rugged gorges of the north, passing through areas unaffected by the mass tourism that has scarred portions of the coastline. Follow the path in spring for the carpets of colourful wildflowers and mild temperatures. If you don’t want it to take up your whole trip, you can, of course, walk smaller sections as part of a leisurely day out.

Take the ferry to Albania for the day

If you’re staying on the northeastern side of Corfu, chances are you’ll be able to see Albania on the other side of the sea. With the coast around Ksamil dubbed as ‘the Maldives of Europe’, it’s becoming an increasingly popular beach destination. So, why not head over on the ferry for the day to see what all the fuss is about? This is certainly on the to-do list for my next visit. The relatively inexpensive journey is just 30 minutes on the fast ferry, and an hour on the slower one, with up to 13 crossings per day. Expect crystal clear waters, cheaper food & drinks and fewer crowds, for now!

Visit Corfu town 

You’ll fly in and out of the capital city, also called Corfu. It’s well worth spending a day exploring the old town, perhaps on the day you arrive or leave if flight times allow. Don’t plan too much, just get lost in the maze of cobbled streets as you dart in and out of the boutiques and bars. The Venetian architecture here is stunning, with something interesting at every turn. The new and old fortresses are a must-see, not only for a dose of history but for the sweeping views over the old buildings. Both the Byzantine Museum and the Archaeological Museum are worth a visit if you have the time. If you get too hot sightseeing pop down to Faliraki Beach for a dip. To round things off, head for dinner at The Venetian Well; a historic and romantic restaurant overlooking the beautiful Kremasti Square. Be sure to leave enough time to navigate your way there!

Enjoy a leisurely boat trip

You can hire a small motorboat from several bays in the north of the island. Some will allow you to travel further than others, but this is the best way to find the tiny coves which are tough (or impossible) to reach by foot. It’s also ideal for taverna hopping! I’ve previously used Balos Yachts for a skippered yacht day charter from Gouvia marina, who also do daily cruises. This is great if you have a little more flexibility with time and cash, and your skipper can plan an itinerary based on your group’s needs.

Explore the coast & head inland

Set aside a whole day to head west across the island. Hire a scooter or drive along the coast; there are plenty of worthwhile stops on the way to break up the journey. Porto Timoni bay offers one of those wow-factor views from above, but if you’re heading down to the beach prepare for a hike, or scramble. Also, make sure to check out Canal D’Amour, an interesting formation made up of rocky cliffs, which are great fun to jump into the sea from, though you’ll have to arrive early to avoid the crowds. After these stops you’ll be suitably tired out, so enjoy an afternoon of cocktails, music and watching the crazy locals cliff diving at one of my favourite buzzy beach bars, La Grotta. On the way back, I’d recommend going cross-country for stunning views through the hilly interior of the island. Make sure you’re prepared for long windy roads, and have Google Maps on hand!

Where to eat in northern Corfu

I’m a big foodie, and most of my plans tend to revolve around where to eat. Of course, in each bay, everyone will argue over their favourite tavernas, but these two are the ones my family have been going to for years, and are still run by the same families they were decades ago when my great-grandmother used to visit. Galini Taverna in Agios Stefanos is my grandparent’s absolute favourite (manager Nikos’ father built my great-grandmother’s house) and we love the olive tapenade and the seabass carpaccio. In Agni, stop by Nikolas Traditional Taverna for friendly service, fresh seafood and stunning views. On days where we want to stay in, we make the trip to a local fish market early doors to snap up the morning catch and barbecue it at our villa.

Personally, my favourite foodie experience in Corfu thus far has to be Glyfa Taverna, a tiny family-run restaurant on a remote part of the coast. The best way to arrive is by boat, and they can arrange for a water taxi to collect you. Try to get there just before sunset to enjoy pink skies on your way in, or visit for lunch and enjoy their day beds and private beach. Another must-do is to dine like the Durrells at The White House Restaurant, set inside the internationally-known White House, once the home of author Lawrence Durrell. They serve Corfiot recipes handed down over the generations, many of which were supposedly favourites of the island’s most famous family.

If you’re near Kassiopi don’t miss Cavo Barbaro for great food just across from Avlaki Beach, one of the quietest stretches of beach in the area. If you’re looking for a casual beach bar to eat at, try Akron (on the northwest coast) or Piedra del Mar on Barbati Beach, a good stop-off if you need somewhere to hang out between check-out and your flight.

Where to stay in northern Corfu

More places to stay