CORFU: BUDGET TRAVEL GUIDE
Corfu isn't the 'typical' white streets and blue domes of Santorini and Mykonos, however it holds its own charm that is just waiting to be explored. As the second largest Greek island after Crete, Corfu is dotted with hundreds of stunning beaches, mountains, monasteries and so much natural beauty.
Located in the Ionian sea on the north west of the Greek mainland and very close to Albania, Corfu is a little out of the way compared to the clusters of other islands in the Aegean sea, however with a large international airport, you have no excuse but to visit! I think due to it being so out of the way and the 'hype' that surrounds the super famous Greek islands, it's a destination that is missed off most backpacker's radars.
However I'm here to tell you, you need to add it to your list right now!
I had only booked to stay in Corfu for 8 nights, however had so much fun and met some amazing people so ended up staying for a full two weeks. It's definitely one of the more affordable options among the 'popular' Greek islands and for the whole two weeks I was in Corfu I only spent around €750, which I don't think is too bad.
Although I spent two weeks in Corfu, you can see the main sites and do the best activities in 6 - 8 days, however some lazy beach days are needed in my opinion. Even though there weren't nearly as many tourists as usual due to COVID (I imagine it must get pretty hectic in normal times), there was a great mixture of natural beauty, history and there was even a party scene, something I definitely want to revisit when travel can resume as normal.
Compared to the 'hot spot' tourist islands like Mykonos, Santorini and Ios, Corfu isn't too expensive, but it's still not as cheap as the Greek mainland. All up you could get away with around €40 - €70 a day in Corfu, including accommodation. I was spending between €17 - €20 a night for a 3 bed dorm, which I had to myself for the majority of the time, a greek salad was between €6 - €8, a carafe of wine (0,5l) was between €4 - €8 and for a dinner out was between €15 - €30. For me the big money spender was eating out. The hostel didn't have a kitchen available so I would eat out for dinner every night, and sometimes lunch too!
HOW TO GET FROM THE AIRPORT
While I was staying in Corfu I stayed at Pink Palace, which is located around 35 minutes from the airport and Corfu Town - although it's more like 25 minutes with Greek driving. The hostel offers a €5 shuttle bus transfer from the airport, which is much more affordable than the €30 - €40 taxi you would otherwise pay. I would recommend emailing as soon as you book your room, confirming your stay, your arrival date and flight number/time of arrival, so a transfer can be organised for you. Much like everything else in Corfu, everything runs on Greek time so the shuttle was actually around 30 minutes late, but I was just grateful that someone came to pick me up!
It's hard to get around Corfu without a car due to the size of the island, which is something I didn't consider before arriving. Most of the main sights people visit are located across different parts of Corfu, so consider renting a car or an ATV for a few days out of your trip so you can make the most of your time while you're visiting. The price of a car isn't actually too expensive and a group of 4 of us ended up renting a car for the day which cost £40, so £10 each - which isn't bad! Just make sure you know how to drive a manual car because they don't offer many automatic car options, and if they do it's a lot more expensive.
WHERE TO STAY
As I just mentioned I stayed at Pink Palace hostel, notoriously known as one of Europe's best party hostels. Located in Agios Gordios, on the west of the island, the Pink Palace can host well over 600 guests (my guess is between 600 - 800 at full capacity), and I've heard that pre COVID things used to get pretty wild, and while COVID ruined some of the fun, all was not lost and I still had an amazing time during my stay at the Pink Palace.
I paid £17 a night for a 3 bed room, which had aircon and it's own little balcony which looked out onto the mountains (and carpark, but that was fine). The room also had its own ensuite, which was definitely handy. Pink Palace offers breakfast every morning for €5, which was a range of meats, cheese, egg, veggies and bread, I didn't get much use out of it because I can't eat most of those food groups, but it's a great option to consider, and a great way to meet people!
Pink Palace also offers a range of tours, I believe they offer more during non-COVID times, but while I was there they had kayaking tours and quad bike safaris, both around €20 - €30. I chose not to do either of these, but I heard great things about both! I'll definitely have to revisit Pink Palace when it is in full swing, as I was told some wild stories of its three story club, beach front bar and weirdly enormous jacuzzi.
WHAT TO DO IN CORFU
As you walk through the main strip of Agios Gordios, you'll notice the number of tourist centres all offering a variety of different tours that you can choose from. Most of them offer very similar routes and price points, and I ended up going with a full day tour to the islands of Paxos, Anti Paxos and Blue caves on Ionian Cruises for £34.
From start to finish the tour takes just over 12 hours, starting with a transfer from your hotel/accommodation at 7am. We drove from Agios Gordios to Corfu Port, on the east of the island, ready to set sail at 8:30. Holly, an Irish girl I met and I were both trying to deal with crippling hangovers from the night before, so the 2 and a half hour boat ride from Corfu to Lakka, which is a small town in the north of Paxos, was painful to say the least. Once you're dropped off in Paxos you have a couple of hours to wander around, there are some beautiful beaches for you to swim and relax, or you can opt to walk through the small town and look at the shops or check out the restaurants.
Once you reembark the boat the tour sails along the coast line towards the blue caves, Ipapanti and Ahai. Much like the name suggests, the water is a mixture of crystal clear and electric blue. The caves are stunning, and the boat even goes into one of them as 'whimsical mermaid' singing plays through the speakers. This is only a short part of the tour and you don't leave the boat.
The last stop is Anti Paxos, a small island to the south of Paxos. The boat moors at a secluded beach called Vutumi, and when I tell you the water looks like heaven on earth, I'm not lying. Although the water is fairly deep you can see straight down to the bottom and the only way to access the small rocky beach is by swimming. The tour stops here for a little over an hour and a half, and you can swim, jump off the boat on its diving boat or off the top railing, which is around 6 - 7 meters high, or just lay on the small rocky beach (the drone video in this section is from this spot). This was my personal favourite part of the trip and definitely made up for the painfully long ride to these islands.
The tour was a personal highlight of my time in Corfu, and you definitely got your money's worth in terms of a full day out. The only things I would mention is the ride to and from the islands is LONG, and sitting in the sun, especially with a hangover, is not fun. The journey back on the boat took close to 3 hours and I was very ready to be back at the hostel by that point, however I would HIGHLY recommend doing a tour like this because my time on those islands was unforgettable, just don't forget to bring snacks and lots of water.
RENT A BOAT
A few days after the day tour with Ionian Cruises a group of us decided it would be fun to rent our own boat for the day and ride around some of Corfu's coast line. The receptionist told our group that if we walked up to the small supermarket up the road they have an associated boat company that was affordable and could organise a boat for later that day.
We managed to get everything sorted and between 8 of us we paid €20 each (€160 total), which included a transfer to and from the port which was situated in Paleokastritsa, around 30 minutes away from Agios Gordios. The price also included a boat driver too, which I am thankful that we had because midway through our boat journey it started torrential raining with some MAJOR waves.
Before that, however, we were having a blast with a speaker, snacks and lots of drinks that we had bought beforehand at the supermarket. The driver drove us to different spots along the coast where we could jump off the boat and swim. While we didn't last on the boat for long due to the weather, the few hours we had were a lot of fun and I would definitely recommend trying to get a group together for a boat day.
Arguably the most famous part of Corfu is the double sided beach of Porto Timoni. You can find this haven in the north west of the island, around an hour and a half from Agios Gordios. Having a car is pretty much essential when you're planning on visiting Porto Timoni, bearing in mind that the drive is incredibly windy and you do end up going down some very questionable roads. Once you arrive to Porto Timoni it can be difficult to find somewhere to park if it's busy, however we managed to park at a restaurant/resort called Zeus' Throne, which was right at the top of the path leading down to the beach. Although you have to eat at the restaurant if you park there!
We had lunch at Zeus' Throne before heading down to Porto Timoni beach, and were surprised about how delicious the food was, so we actually ended up going back for dinner after the beach.
The walk down to the beach is pretty rocky and steep. Like always I was wearing incredibly inappropriate shoes which ended up slipping everywhere and with the addition of sweaty feet, it wasn't fun. The walk up and down only takes around 20 minutes but it's pretty intense, especially in the midday sun. We arrived down at the beach at around 3pm and it was PACKED. Thankfully because we got there late we stayed well past 8pm and by the time we left the beach was practically empty.
Porto Timoni is, in my opinion, the gem of the island. Taking a day out of your trip to visit is a must and I feel like you haven't really seen Corfu if you don't make the stop off to come visit this little paradise!
If an outdoor bar with cliff diving and swimming sounds good to you, then La Grotta is the place you need to visit. It seemed to be well known to most people I spoke to at Pink Palace and it was packed with tourists when I visited. La Grotta is situated in its own little cove surrounded by massive rock formations on three sides. You can either choose to sit in some of their lounges and listen to the live DJ or jump off the diving board, the cliff ledges or just swim in the amazingly refreshing water.
They serve both food and alcohol, which isn't as expensive as I was originally expecting. I ordered a Greek salad (no feta) and a watermelon daiquiri and paid a total of €13! This is a perfect spot if you're looking for a boozy day out or just a cool place to visit, however you need to drive there so someone will have to stay sober!
Check out this gopro video I made from my afternoon at La Grotta!
Corfu Town is the capital of the island and is bustling with shops, restaurants, bars and historic sites like its fortresses. To get from Agios Gordios to the capital you can get the bus which runs around 1-2 times an hour. It costs €2.50 and only takes around 30 minutes to drive - and THANKFULLY the bus has air conditioning.
Once you're in Corfu town everything is walkable, with a mixture of streets full of high end clothing shops, historic little alleyways and the main 'tourist' streets with plenty of souvenir shops to look through. Ideally a full day or even just an afternoon is enough to see the main sites of the city and if you need some time to cool off there are also a few spots you can dock and swim in the sea, right in the middle of the old town!
There are a few main sites you'll want to stop off at while you're in Corfu town, the main one being the Old and New Fortresses of Corfu. While I was in the city I stopped off at the old Venetian Fortress, located right in the heart of Corfu Town on the waterside. You have to pay to enter and the price of a ticket is €6, which gives you access to the entire fort. You can explore the Fortress's prison, military Church and its archive which holds many old documents and Corfu Byzantine Collection that includes icons, sculptures and paintings of the Byzantine period. Not only that, the Fortress provides amazing views of the entire city as well as stretching views of the sea.
If you have time you can also check out Corfu's new Venetian Fortress, built in 1570, which was designed to help protect the land that the Old Fortress couldn't. The ticket price is slightly cheaper at €4 and this fortress will also provide stunning views of Corfu Town and the surrounding areas!
I am a huge fan of baklava and I always hunt it down whenever I can, so I knew I had to find some while I was in the old town. Baklava is a sweet dessert that originated in the Ottoman empire and is now very common to find among the Middle East, Eastern Europe and some central Asian countries. Bohotis Gelateria Patisserie is a place that popped up on my favourite vegan app, Happy Cow, and I knew I had to try it out. The patisserie sold a wide range of different flavours, all of which were vegan. I ended up going for a range of nutty baklavas, and I easily could have eaten them all in one sitting!
I obviously spent a lot of time Agios Gordios, which is the village where the Pink Palace was located. It's very clearly a spot designed for tourists and there is copious amounts of accommodation, restaurants, and tour coordinators for you to choose from when you visit. During my two weeks on the island I went to a new restaurant every night and only ever went back to the same place twice, so that just shows how much choice you have!
Most restaurants are at a very similar price point with very similar menus, particularly if it's a Greek taverna you'll likely find dishes like moussaka, stuffed tomatoes/peppers, Greek salad, fish dishes and dolmades (vine leaves). You can expect to spend between €15 - €30 for a meal out, and this would get you a starter, main and a couple of glasses of wine, too!
DIONISOS SPORTS BAR
This sports bar became our little hangout between the group of friends I had made in Corfu. It's right on the main strip of Agios Gordios as you walk down to the beach and it is one of the cheapest options for food and drink. Typically, we would all come here for 'breakfast' at around midday and get a round of gyros, which only cost us €3 each. Half of the group was veggie so our gyros' would just be filled with chips and salad, the perfect balanced meal.
Greek Night's are designed for tourists, but the are a whole lot of fun to get involved in! A restaurant called Romantic Palace, right on the beach of Agios Gordios, hosted two Greek Night's per week and a few of us from the hostel (when I say a few, there were about 10 of us) went along to be a part of the fun.
There were different stages of the night, starting with three of the men working at the restaurant dancing for us while we sat, we then joined in with some dancing and learnt some traditional Greek moves, before being handed some plates for us to smash onto the floor. From there the night escalated quickly and we moved onto dancing with fire on the floor, one of the men was balancing a table in his mouth, and even more dancing... that I was pretty awful at. The night was SO MUCH fun and it was free to join in, just come along, eat some dinner and enjoy!
The Lemon Tree was the go to bar while staying at the Pink Palace. During my time in Agios Gordios it was the only late night bar that was open, and even then it closed at 12am, and they were definitely strict about that. Nevertheless it was a great place to go to after dinner. It was an open air bar with great music, multicoloured lights, and even the menus were glow in the dark!
It was predominantly a cocktail bar, and each cocktail was spectacular in its own right with lavish garnishes and fire being common choices on the list. I became very fond of the Aphrodite's Rose cocktail, I don't really know what they put in it but it was delicious, fruity and most importantly... strong. The cocktails range from €8 - €10, however you could get shots for €2 - €3 and beers for €5 - €6.
We had to be seated at all times while in the Lemon Tree, and even then the bar was heaving with people, so I imagine pre COVID things must of gotten pretty wild! We quickly became regulars at the bar and the waitresses started reserving tables for us without us asking!
PINK PALACE AFTER PARTY
So as I've previously mentioned, Pink Palace is notoriously known as one of Europe's best party hostels, and while it wasn't in full swing during COVID, the guests did their best to still make it a fun time. There are two sites to Pink Palace, the top part, which is where I was staying, and the bottom part right on the beach front, which is where all the larger dorm rooms are as well as the jacuzzi, a large open bar area and a volleyball court - this part was closed during my stay. It only takes around 5 - 7 minutes to walk between the two and after the Lemon Tree closed at midnight every night, people would grab some alcohol from the shop and take it down to the decking area right on the water front and drink down there.
AGIOS GORDIOS BEACH
Being right by the sea is obviously a haven for most, and you will not be disappointed when it comes to Agios Gordios' beach! All along the water front there are deck chairs owned by different restaurants and I'm not sure if its different during non COVID times, but you were able to use the sun loungers all day for 'free', all you needed to do is order food or drink at some point. I think they usually charge a fee for using them, but due to the limited tourist they didn't do it this summer.
I only used the sun loungers a few times, typically I preferred the spot right down the end of the beach near the large cliff. It was away from any of the restaurants and there aren't as many people down that end, which meant I could relax more peacefully! The water was wonderfully clear and refreshing, especially in the hot midday sun.
WATCH THE SUNSET
The village is on the west of the island, which means every night without fail you get to witness the most spectacular sunsets! I always made sure to be down at a restaurant well before sunset so I could get a great seat to watch the magic... and it definitely did not disappoint.
NEED A MAP OF WHERE I WENT?
HERE YOU GO!
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