Sunday, 29 March 2015

CORFU in 4 days. Green and hot.



August 2nd 2014

The island of Corfu in the north-western corner of Greece , or Kerkyra (ker-kih-rah) in Greek is one of the greenest. With more rainfall than any other island there is a variety and abundance of plant life that makes this Ionian island in combination with its charming architecture and hospitable people a great place to visit. Beaches with sometimes oppressively thick development punctuate the entire coastline. But if you have someone to guide you, you can still find some secluded beaches far away from the crowds. 



The ferry from Igoumenitsa to Corfu town
I took the ferry from Igoumenitsa, Greece to Corfu town (round 10€, much less than the 26€ they asked in Saranda, Albania), took two hours. I was lucky to find a host on Couchsurfing because right after arriving at the port I met 2 South African girls and a German guy I met In Berat, Albania and they weren´t as lucky. My host Padelis told me how to get to his place by bus but the bus driver forgot to tell me to get off when we were at the stop so I was taken on a tour around the island…1,5h later we got back to my bus stop, I made sure he remembers that time. 



 
The classic death notices and white walls
Padelis´ house was quite unique, in the middle of nowhere, didn´t even have an address. It was pretty old but it had a big garden (where they grow their own vegetables, the tomatoes were so tasty!) and the whole vibe was amazing. Everyone was very relaxed and laid back, like all the Greeks I happen to meet. They told me where the best beaches and less touristic sites are so I spent my time exploring the island and spending the nights in the garden with them and their many friends drinking beers and chatting…
Hitch hiking in Corfu is relatively common and easy, mainly due to the large number of tourists and Greek people who live abroad and come back for the summer. I didn’t have to wait for buses and get frustrated how bad transport is. The good part is that there are buses and the bus stops are often also good hitchhiking spots Got picked up even by an Albanian girl on her scooter! If it wasn’t that hot it would have been just perfect. I thought that Albania was hot but the heat in Corfu was even worse. It kind of sucked out all my energy so despite my ambitious plan to go to beaches situated at 3 different corners of the island, I couldn’t do it. Still managed to get to 2 different places every day, which was pretty good considering the heat (between 12 and 4pm you cannot do anything).
 
Kontogiaos beach near Pelekas. Way too crowded
 
Mirtiotissa beach, Corfu. It is a nude beach so be prepared
 
The smallest beer bottle ever!
Pizza for everyone
I was told by my lovely hosts that their favourite spot on the island was the southwestern corner where Korrisson lake is (the biggest one in Corfu). In a very small area you can see the lake and its lagoon, the massive sand dunes and a nice cedar wood. Of course I headed that way. My first stop was Chalikounas beach. Being part of the Korission lagoon it is one of the few beaches where little or no development is allowed as it is part of the Natura 2000 areas, so by today's standards one of the few 'wild' beaches left unaltered by human intervention and yes it is also one of the windiest beaches of the island.
The beach is a long, wide stretch of soft yellow sand backed by bushes and wild vegetation, there are a couple of beach bars which serve drinks and basic snacks, beds & umbrellas can be hired at a few locations along with basic showers. Which makes it a luxurious spot for surfers, lots of space to rig up, very few swimmers to worry about, no parking problems or having to carry equipment on your back, leave your stuff on the beach to go for a drink and it will all be there whenever you go back. For surfers this is the closest you can get to 'lounge surfing' but not really a place to sunbathe (way too windy).
 
Chalicounas beach - the kite surfing paradise
Korission lagoon stretches on one side to the soft sands of the sea on the other, this area is both beautiful and wild. The wind swept steepy dunes meet the beaches of St Georges, Issos and at its far end separated by a small inlet channel the beach of Chalikounas. Along the lagoons shores there is a rare cedar forest which I happened to cross going from Chalikounas beach to Issos. Took more than an hour and a few times I thought of going back being afraid of getting lost.

Issos
Issos lays east of the Korission lagoon opening and in essence is a continuation of Chalikouna with a very similar look and feel, but very different in use. Issos is well sheltered from the wind with no waves to talk about and being close to a number of tourist resorts it is a popular and busy spot for lots of young people.  
I had previously arranged to meet some of the people from the house I was staying at so I wasn´t worried about getting a ride back home (the other side of the island) and enjoyed the sunset at Issos beach. 

Issos beach
Lots of people on top of the sand dunes at sunset
Moraitika
And... it was time to go...To make it more interesting and not repeating the route, I headed to Lefkimi, another port at the bottom of the island to take the ferry to Igoumenitsa (only 6,50€) and then back to Albania. Hitch hiking went smooth and made it on time for the ferry which was much less busy compared to the one I took to Corfu town. 
 Have you been to Greece? What´s your favourite island?

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