Corfu’s soft, sandy beaches have a way of making your cares melt away. As you paddle this Greek island’s clear waters and amble through olive groves, the last thing you need is to worry about is your budget.
There are plenty of cheap flights to this Ionian isle, and you don’t need to spend like an A-lister when you arrive. With a little planning, you can keep costs down while enjoying the best scenery, culture and food that Corfu has to offer.
In Corfu Town, spacious rooms with sea views carry a high price tag. Your wallet will thank you for staying further along the coast, like in Gouvia and Dassia.
Molfetta Beach Hotel in low-key Gouvia is just 9km north along the coast from Corfu Town. This atmospheric hotel – think stone walls, cosy bedrooms, and traditional entertainment – overlooks a pretty cove, and you can snap up rooms for £48 per night in low season (or £86 in high). A little further north, Dassia has a handful of two-star resorts, such as Red Dragon, which offer two-bedroom apartments from £58, barely 50 metres from the beach.
Many of Corfu’s small hotels are family-run, and this means good value along with filoxenia – exuberant Greek hospitality. The Wave, just outside Sidari on a spectacular stretch of Corfu’s northern coast, is managed by two friendly brothers, whose parents run an authentic Corfiot kitchen. At this welcoming resort (with a pool and playground), one-bedroom apartments with private bathroom, kitchen and a spacious terrace start at a rock-bottom £34 in low season (or £63 in high).
The temptations of Corfiot food make it all too easy to forget your budget. There’s sofrito, beef simmered in wine, parsley and garlic; bourdeto, fish cooked in spicy tomato; and that’s before you’ve even started on the syrup-drenched pastries.
The trick is to eat where locals eat, and to keep costs down with occasional self-catering. Fridges come as standard in most hotel rooms, so it’s easy to supplement tavernas with picnics. And there’s no shortage of lovely beaches to unwrap a spread of plump olives, tomatoes and fresh-baked flatbreads.
Restaurant prices inevitably rise in popular locations, so head to quieter villages for great-value dining. You can eat very well for less than £18 per head at Taverna Stamatis (+30 2661 039 249) in the hills of Viros, 6km southwest of Corfu Town, which serves homespun Corfiot cuisine and freshly baked pies. Likewise, Klimataria Nikos Bellos, in east coast fishing village Benitses, serves mouthwatering bourdeto along with catch-of-the-day specialties from fresh anchovies to boiled octopus in lemon and olive oil.
Even cheaper is Greece’s ultimate street food: gyros, rotisserie meat tucked into a flatbread with salad and lashings of tzatziki (usually less than £3.50). Even Corfu Town has great-value snacks, if you know where to look. Stop by Alexis Dairy (25 Ethniki Palaiokastritsas, Corfu Town), just 200 metres west of main square Pl. Enoseos, for Corfu’s best takeaway desserts: rich, creamy rice puddings, in flavours from chocolate to cinnamon, for only a few euros.
Wriggling your toes in the brown-sugar sand of Corfu’s beaches is one of the greatest pleasures of a holiday here, and it needn’t cost you a penny. Every coast has spectacular shores, from snorkel-friendly coves in northerly Kassiopi to idyllic Gardenos down south.
On the west coast, the crystal waters of cliff-backed Ermones Beach are popular with swimmers. Just south of here you’ll find acres of space along golden Halikounas Beach, which borders Korission Lagoon. This wetland nature reserve is home to strutting egrets, herons and even flamingos – so you can enjoy some bonus birdwatching while you’re in the area. Discover Greece has some great suggestions for less-trafficked beauty spots.
Aqualand waterpark is one of the most popular family attractions, though ticket prices might feel steep (day tickets adult/child aged 5-12 £24/17); consider the two-day ticket (adult/child £31/22) for better value. Alternatively, stay in a resort such as kid-friendly Aquis Sandy Beach, which has its own waterslides, and you may not need to factor in waterparks as a separate cost.
Corfu Town has the best museums, although entry fees (£1.80-7) can add up. To gallery-hop for less, there’s a slim saving with the £13 three-day pass. Alternatively, get a dose of Corfiot culture for free by visiting monasteries around the island: 18th-century Paleokastritsa Monastery has flower-draped gardens, delicate mosaic art, and a church that gleams with gold icons.
Likewise, it’s free to ramble the trails to Corfu’s dramatic fortresses. Park your car in Krini village and walk through an olive orchard to Angelokastro, a craggy Byzantine-era castle that fended off the Turks throughout the sieges of Corfu in the 16th century.
Good news for road trippers: a glut of Corfu car hire operators has created stiff competition, so prices are reasonable (from £20 per day in high season, as little as £10 in low) – use TravelSupermarket to browse different operators and cherry-pick the best before your arrive. If you prefer to find a car when you arrive, ask for quotes from a couple of places; there are some great deals.
If you want to sun-worship up and down the east coast, you don’t even need a car. Cheap and efficient local bus services can whisk you north from Corfu Town to beach towns Gouvia, Dassia and Ipsos, or south to lively Kavos. A day-ticket with unlimited journeys is only £4.50; get buses and timetables in San Rocco Square. If you’re car-free, remember that airport buses stop at 10pm. Still, it’s only a short hop by taxi into Corfu Town (around £9).
Most hotels in Corfu have three or four sets of room rates: they’re highest in July and August, slightly lower in June and September and very reasonable during the beginning and end of the season, May and early October. If you can be flexible, you can almost halve your accommodation spend.
If self-catering, look out for tourists traps masquerading as supermarkets. The sign might say ‘supermarket’, but a few are souvenir shops with a fridge full of overpriced groceries and staff waiting to give you the hard sell. There are plenty of small supermarkets in Corfu Town and smaller villages, where locals shop, and roadside fruit stalls are also cheap.
A balcony that opens onto a sapphire sea is heavenly, but it certainly raises the price of a room. Instead, make time to drink and dine with fabulous views. Golden Fox in Paleokastritsa has a cafe-restaurant peering over the Ionian Sea. Further south, Golden View Cafe is perched overlooking olive groves that tumble down to the sapphire sea.
Midrange and high-end hotels often have a spa, where treatments start at around £27. Or you can feel the benefits of Corfu’s mineral-rich mud for free, at coves like the geologically spectacular Canal d’Amour in northerly Sidari. Do like the locals do: slather some clay onto your skin and stretch out on the sand – you’ve earned it.
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