The highest peak on the island (914 metres), Pantokrator, rises in the middle of the north-eastern part of the island and shapes the character of the entire region. More than 60 settlements have grown up here with a population of about 6000 people, on the flanks of the mountain for the most part, but also beside its shores. The sheer eastern slopes, covered with olive groves and looking out towards the mainland opposite and the Albanian coastline, drop sharply to the sea, forming a series of little coves and beaches, a mainly rocky coastline with picturesque headlands and peninsulas. The coastal road which leads into the Mount sets off from town, heads north, and runs right round the coastline, almost encircling the whole region, before turning south and returning via an inland route. Numerous side roads lead off to the left, to climb up the slopes of Pantokrator towards picturesque abandoned villages with panoramic views.
The areas around:
Almiros: It is a long, beautiful sandy beach, with crystal clear water, unspoilt scenery which remains as it was years ago and a lovely view over the Albanian mountain range. As the area is not touristy (yet!) you will find very good fish tavernas in good prices. In the spot known as Ammokoulouma, the burial ground of a farming community of the Hellenistic Period has been discovered and is being excavated.
Antinioti Lagoon: covers 400 stremmata (100 acres) and it provides a home for fish, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and many rare birds ( 96 different species have been spotted here). It is an important biotope and it is protected by law.
Acharavi: or Anacharavi, according to one tradition was in ancient times named Ivi. In 32 BC the Romans destroyed the settlement and slaughtered all its young people. After this event, it was called ‘Unlucky Ivi’ (‘Ahari Ivi’ in Greek). Located between Roda and Almiros, today it is the capital of the Municipality of Thinali, and was developed into a large tourist resort with numerous hotels, restaurants and bars. You can find almost anything you need in Acharavi.
Agios Spiridon: the northern, treeless flanks of Mt. Pantokrator drop to shores which are in general rocky, except for the peninsula of Agios Spiridon, where the church of the Saint is located and the homonymous sandy beach. Continuing the main road you will encounter a small bridge that passes the outlet of the Antinioti Lagoon and you will find Yaliskari Beach, a secluded lovely little sandy beach where you can bathe nude if you like. In the same area lies the Monastery of Agia Ekaterini (St. Katherine) which was founded in 1713 and where remarkable frescoes dating from the 18th and 19th century are preserved.
Old Perithia: a Venetian village with roots in ancient times, with stone-built mansions and many churches, Old Perithia is the most impressive example of a traditional Corfiot inland village. The village was once the capital of the Municipality of Kassopaion and was extremely wealthy – its fields stretched as far as the settlement known today as New Perithia. It owes its inland position not only to the fear of pirate attacks but also to the effort to avoid the mosquitoes which thrived in the fever belt close to the sea. When, in the 20th century, these threats ceased to exist, the village was abandoned. Today, it is a ‘living museum’, with most of the houses remaining abandoned but a few wonderfully renovated in the old style. The village has a small number of permanent residents, who occupy themselves in animal-breeding. The last Sunday in July sees a procession, when the icon of the Virgin is carried around the village in memory of the time in 1863 when the Virgin is believed to have intervened to save the village from an epidemic. In the summer the village is full of life, as it has a few lovely traditional tavernas and nice stone paved narrow streets for those of you that enjoy walking. If you want to taste authentic Greek food in an unspoilt traditional environment, Old Perithia is a must.
Old Sinies: is another abandoned village, located on the southern flanks of Pantokrator. As in the case of Old Perithia, it was founded as a refuge from pirate raids, and abandoned when the coastline became safe.
Agios Stefanos-Kerasia: exceptionally pretty locations lying on the closest point to Albania, with a number of tavernas and restaurants. They are reached by way of a road which turns right at Sinies (Elaiourgia). The Kerasia pebble beach is absolutely impressive as the green of the hills almost melts into the blue of the sea. Agios Stefanos beach is also nice.
Astrakeri: a bay with a quiet, sandy beach and a few small tavernas. On May Day an unusual and very lively fiesta takes place on the seashore organised by the Karoussades Cultural Society. Not to be missed if you are in Corfu at that time and are interested to hear some original folk music
Afionas: a peninsula which affords a fantastic view towards Agios Georgios Bay and over the open sea. From here you can see the island of Karavi (literally means ‘Ship’ in Greek) which has been the inspiration for many myths and legends. According to Pliny, it was the petrified ship of the Phaeceans, while in the surrounding villages they speak of the historical queen Pamphlagona, who ruled the city of the same name. It was said that her husband went away to fight a foreign queen, with whom he fell in love, and they fled together on his boat. The deceived Pamphlagona invoked Saint Nicholas, who punished her unfaithful husband by turning his ship to stone.
The village of Afionas was first inhabited in the 6th century BC but it was abandoned shortly afterwards and re-inhabited in the 6th century AD by a dark-skinned race, probably members of a Mongolian tribe. Today it is a wonderful picturesque little village with nice traditional houses, narrow white-paved streets, colourful gardens and breathtaking view.
Agios Georgios (Pagi): a huge sandy beach on the bay of the same name, with crystal-clear, cold water (‘Pagi’ in Greek means ice!). The afternoon wind, the ‘maestros’, makes it a favourite venue for fans of windsurfing. At the southern end of the beach, just where the road runs out, a footpath leads after a walk of about fifteen minutes through wonderful olive groves, to the picturesque ‘Fisherman’s Taverna’.
Paleokastritsa: is situated about 25 kilometres from Corfu town, linked to it by one of the widest and best laid-out roads on the island. Consisting of two impressive headlands and six coves, the area’s unique combination of lush vegetation, precipitous cliffs and sandy beaches has established it as a top-class resort. The northern promontory belongs to the Monastery of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was founded in 1225. The building we see today is of a later date and houses a museum of Byzantine and post-Byzantine icons. Alipa Bay, apart from being the site of a naval base, has a small marina where visiting yachts and local fishing boats anchor. In the immediate surroundings of Paleokastritsa you will find some of the island’s biggest hotels, best restaurants and liveliest bars. Special note should be taken of the wonderfully clear, deep sea of the area, a favourite spot for scuba diving and harpoon fishing.