Corfu belongs, geographically and administratively, to the Ionian Islands complex. It has a surface area of 592 Km² and 214 Km of coastline. Corfu is 18 nautical miles from the Port of Igoumenitsa and 132 from the Port of Patra. There is a permanent population of about 115.000 people, of whom approximately 6.000 are non-Greek Europeans, predominantly British. English is the second language and very widely spoken on Corfu.
Life on the island dates back to prehistoric times and, because of its strategic position, on the sea lanes to the coasts of the Adriatic, Italy and other parts of the western Mediterranean, Corfu was invaded by many foreign conquerors throughout history. The strongest cultural and architectural influences in modern times, still evident today, can be attributed to the Venetians, the French and the British. The Venetian rule lasted for over 300 years before the French settled on the island at the end of the 18 th century. On the fall of Napoleon, the Ionian Islands fell under the exclusive protection of Great Britain until they were finally re-united with Greece in 1864.
The island’s natural beauty is truly exceptional and Corfu has justly been described as the jewel of the Mediterranean. Its abundant natural water supplies, lush, sub-tropical vegetation, abundance of olive groves and cypress trees, enchanting golden sand and pebbled beaches and majestic mountains combined with a superb climate and a laid back lifestyle, make it a very attractive destination for a holiday and for establishing a second home or a place to retire, where one “can get away from it all”, yet be within easy reach of all major European cities.
The calm blue waters of the Ionian Sea, the well sheltered coastlines of the islands, full of natural harbours at easy distances from each other, and the favourable winds, make it one of the yachting enthusiasts’ most favourite European destinations, and Corfu is proud to have one of the largest and best-organised marinas in the Mediterranean, to serve the thousands of visitors every year.
The main income producing activity has traditionally been agriculture, although this has been overtaken by tourism in the last 30 years or so. During Venetian rule the inhabitants were financially motivated by the governing body to plant olive trees and this has resulted in Corfu having in excess of five million olive trees and being one of the most cultivated of all the Greek islands. In addition to olive oil, other local products include wine as well as the famous Cumquat liqueur.
The thriving tourist activity in recent years has transformed the island somewhat, yet it has managed to remain fairly un-spoilt, whilst developing the necessary infrastructures to meet growing needs. The extensive transport structure includes regular flights from Athens and Thessaloniki throughout the year, charter flights from many European cities during the summer months and a daily ferry service, linking Corfu with both Italy and mainland Greece. There are choices of accommodation to suit every budget, from excellent first class town hotels and resort establishments to the more affordable self-catering options. Commercial activities such as banking and insurance, the building industry, the medical facilities and light industry are all well developed. Annual events, unique to the island, such as the spectacular festivities over Easter, special interest facilities like the Aqualand water park, the marina, the 18-hole golf course and fantastic hiking trails, all combine to attract a variety of international visitors, which contributes to the island’s cosmopolitan image.
The capital town of Kerkyra, a hub of activity throughout the year, is the heart of the island. Predominant in the historical center is the characteristic Venetian architecture of tall apartment buildings, narrow lanes decked with drying laundry, gates and walls, archways and broad stairways and the imposing Venetian Fortresses. The impressive Liston, built by the French, with its many coffee shops under the arches, the large Spianada Square, the colonial palaces built by the English, the many elaborate churches, all add to the atmospheric feel of this unique city. In addition, there are museums, art galleries and a superb selection of shops and restaurants. The Ionian University is also located in Corfu Town, contributing to the lively vibe of the city during the winter months.
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