Corfu Island, Greece
Corfu has long been attracting tourists and while the type of tourist has changed over the years, one thing never changes – the island’s hospitality.
It is of the most welcoming of the Greek islands; renowned for being a safe place to bring children (as are all the Greek islands really) and for its warm atmosphere, whatever your background.
As you’d expect, there are lovely beaches, beautiful scenery, great food, history and culture to explore on this, the second largest of the Ionian Islands.
Travelling to the Island
Corfu is right at the north western edge of Greece and actually overlaps the coast of Albania.
It is quite close to the ‘heel of Italy’ and well linked by ferry services from Italy and of course from Greece itself.
The best way to arrive in style is by luxury yacht and there are several marinas close to Corfu Town where you can moor.
Being at the northern end of the country the island would make a good place to start a cruise of the Greek coast and Ionian Islands, so consider this as a setting off point.
Most tourists arrive on the island by plane, landing at the International Airport – aka Ioannis Kapadistrias – and there are minimal services to the island throughout the year, with the majority only operating during the summer months.
Most airlines are charter, bringing the package tourists from the UK, Germany and other European countries but if you prefer to go scheduled you can fly with Olympic Air from Athens, Monarch from London Luton, or Aegean Airlines from several different cities around Europe.
There are no direct flights from outside of Europe, but by travelling to a major hub such as London, Amsterdam, or Frankfurt, there are numerous options for flights from there.
Once landed there are taxis and public buses to take you into Corfu Town.
The Major Destinations
As Corfu is significantly smaller than Crete you’ll find far fewer destinations here.
That isn’t to say there’s nothing to see or do, but it is a quieter island and this serenity is likely to appeal to some visitors more than others.
Corfu Town, known locally as Kerkira or Kerkyra, is by far the main destination on the island.
Its historic old town is a major attraction and, as the home of both the airport and the main port, most of the island’s visitors arrive here.
The old town has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you can easily see some of the architectural influences from past foreign powers such as the Venetian and the British.
Two other popular destinations are Benitses, and Paleokastritsa, as well as Kavos which is a livelier resort town right at the southern end of the island.
Corfu Town, A UNESCO World Heritage Site
To most visitors it is known as Corfu Town, but in modern day Greece the main city on the island of Corfu is actually known as Kerkyra.
Either way, this is the chief destination for the entire island and serves as a regional capital for the whole archipelago of the Ionian Islands.
It’s a great place to stay if you want to enjoy the more lively side of the island, or simply come here for a couple of day trips from one of the smaller towns or resorts as there are always buses traveling this way.
When to Visit
Corfu is more rainy than you might expect but the great thing is, almost all of the rain falls outside of the summer.
This means if you visit during the summer you’re almost guaranteed hot and sunny days with barely a cloud in the sky!
June, July and August are by far the driest months of the year and the temperature in June is a warm 28C (average high).
July and August are several degrees hotter at 31C and although it drops back to 28C in September this is a wetter month.
By October, when many Greek islands would still be very nice for visiting, this island receives heavy rainfall, peaking in November and December.
This makes it an unfavorable destination for winter travel and in the spring you’re better waiting until May for pleasant temperatures are less rain.
What to See and Do
One of the town’s nicknames is Castle City as it is home to two castles.
The aptly named New Fortress and Old Fortress are actually both old, but the older of the two was built by the Venetians on an artificial islet.
Though some of the external fortifications are eroding there are parts of the interior that have been restored and it’s now a popular cultural venue.
While this is recommended for a visit the New Fortress is even more impressive.
It’s a large construction that offers fabulous views over the city and is fully open to the public for tours.
You could easily spend an afternoon here, exploring its corridors.
The Old Town is the part of the city that’s been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
This is also a great place to wander around the narrow cobbled streets, most of which are too narrow for today’s vehicles. Down by the water, near the fortress, you’ll find some great restaurants and bistros.
Where to Stay
As the main town on the island you may expect to find dozens of hotels though this actually isn’t the case.
In fact, the whole of the island has not been overdeveloped so it’s retained a special charm that some tourist destinations just don’t have.
That being said, there are 20 places to stay in the city on Booking.com and if you’re looking for luxury two of these are 5 star hotels:
The Cavalieri Hotel, for example, is set within a former 17th century nobleman’s mansion and is 4 star rated. Another 4 star property is the Siorra Vittoria Boutique Hotel which was an 18th century mansion.
Both these large hotels offer all the facilities and services you could possibly need, and the former is only a ten minute walk into the town centre.
If you do like the larger resort style hotels there are several others to choose from as well, such as Ariti Hotel, but some of the smaller hotels have a wonderful charm that should be considered too.
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San Pedro del Pinatar and Mar Menor in Spain
When travelling south from Alicante in the direction of Cartagena you will find that after 20 kilometres the landscape changes dramatically.
You are leaving the Mediterranean and its beaches behind and enter the region of the Mar Menor, which is Europe´s biggest salt lake.
A massive lagoon, separated from the Mediterranean by a 24 kilometres long sand bank, known as La Manga.
The first town you come to is San Pedro del Pinatar, a very popular holiday resort with several attractions.
Most famous are the mud baths of Lo Pagan to which healing properties are attributed.
In the summer, people have fun playing around on the beach, covering each other with the mud, letting it dry and washing it off with a refreshing swim in the shallow salt rich waters.
A bit like the Dead Sea in Europe although unlike in Jordan or Israel you cannot lie on your back and read the paper supported only by the strong salt content of the water.
The huge lagoon has its own climate, flora and fauna and the wetlands are a paradise for hikers and bird watchers.
Many species nest and live here which cannot be found anywhere else in Spain.
San Pedro has a long promenade where you can walk along the wide beach until you reach the port with many fishing and sports boats.
In the distance you can see La Manga and its high rises and more boats anchored off shore.
All that walking, swimming, hiking and mud slinging will make you hungry and here is an insider tip for a fantastic restaurant where you can pile all the calories back on which you might have lost during the day.
La Casa del Reloj is situated at the entrance to San Pedro and is a historical building.
Constructed as the summer residence of the Servet family between 1888 and 1895.
The building impressed with a variety of styles and a mixture of architectonic elements as was very much the fashion among the wealthy at the time.
Surrounded by a garden and an alley with palm trees which leads up to the entrance, you enter a world of lavish decorations, chandeliers, paintings and sculptures.
The first President of the first Spanish republic, Emilio Castelar died here in 1899 and a ceramic plaque next to the entrance commemorates the fact.
The chef offers a great variety of starters and main courses not forgetting to include a few traditional dishes as prepared by past generations and following original recipes.
Smaller and bigger dining rooms, salons and a glamorous bar round out La Casa del Reloj, so called because of the clock embedded in one of the turrets.
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Amsterdam – Canals, Bridges and Canal Cruises
Amsterdam is probably best known for its canals, and for good reason! There are more than one hundred kilometres of canals here, and crossing these waterways are roughly 1,500 different bridges. With so many canals and bridges the city has long had the nickname ‘Venice of the North’, and the 17th century canal ring area was added to the prestigious list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2010. The three main canals are named Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht and they were built during what was called the Dutch Golden Age. These three canals form concentric belts around the city and they are also linked to numerous other notable, and not so notable, canals. Walking around the medieval centre of Amsterdam is a real joy, crossing all the canals over its many bridges. The only drawback with so many canals and bridges is that it’s easier to get lost as many do look similar! Ask for a good map from your hotel reception desk so that you can navigate the streets successfully.
Canals and Bridges
Amsterdam is probably best known for its canals, and for good reason! There are more than one hundred kilometres of canals here, and crossing these waterways are roughly 1,500 different bridges.
With so many canals and bridges the city has long had the nickname ‘Venice of the North’, and the 17th century canal ring area was added to the prestigious list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2010.
The three main canals are named Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht and they were built during what was called the Dutch Golden Age.
These three canals form concentric belts around the city and they are also linked to numerous other notable, and not so notable, canals.
Walking around the medieval centre of Amsterdam is a real joy, crossing all the canals over its many bridges.
The only drawback with so many canals and bridges is that it’s easier to get lost as many do look similar!
Ask for a good map from your hotel reception desk so that you can navigate the streets successfully.
Seeing the canals from the streets is great but you can cover a larger distance on a boat cruise, and you’ll get to see some buildings and areas of the city that you probably wouldn’t otherwise.
As you might expect, there are several different companies offering cruises along Amsterdam’s canals.
Tour times, duration, and routes vary so you may want to compare them and find the one that suits your schedule best.
The cruises they offer can vary, but here are some tips on boat trips that looks exciting.
Hop on hop off cruise
Canal Company also has a variety of different cruise options. The Canal Bus is a hop on/hop off boat for which you buy a ticket that’s valid for one or two days.
You can stop at many of the city’s most popular sites, get off, see the site, and get back on a later boat.
Standard Sight-seeing Cruise
A more typical canal cruise lasts one hour and you listen to a personal audio guide that’s available in 15 different languages.
This tour takes you around all the main places of interest.
Canal Cruises for any taste
It’s very cool that you can take boat tours in several niches, here are some choices;
- Candle-light Wine and Cheese
- Evening Beer Cruise
- Day Pass and Heineken Experience
- Pizza Cruise
- Red Light District + walking tour
- Cocktail Cruise
- Harbour Sightseeing
Hope you find a joyful trip, and enjoy the city and canals.
Hotels in Amsterdam
There are literally hundreds of hotels located across Amsterdam’s various districts but for tourists wanting to explore around the canals and historic centre you should look for a city centre location.
The city has hotels for all budgets – at the luxury end there are hotels like the fantastic, luxurious De ‘Europe Amsterdam; a 5 star hotel set on the Amstel River, and a 10 minute walk from Dam Square.
The Radisson Blu Hotel is also at the high-end. It’s a 4 star hotel situated in a quieter street, only 7 minutes walk to Dam Square.
The building has an historic, grand feel to the outside with modern guest rooms inside.
There are many great budget hotels too if you want to save your money for shopping and sightseeing, or opt for the middle range and choose one of a number of 3 star hotels, an overview here.