Out of all the countries I've visited in Europe, Greece has always stayed one of my favourites. Maybe it has something to do with the climate, or maybe the language, or maybe just because Greek people are beautiful people, both inside and out. Either way, I find myself drawn to visiting whenever I get the opportunity for a trip away. Last time I went to Crete, South of the mainland, and this time I went to Corfu, which is North of the island. Other than the fact that it's slightly colder in the latter, and a tad more commercialised (because why go to Greece when you have the same experience of walking down Oxford Street in London?), Corfu is gorgeous. And so, here's a quick guide to the island - with a special focus on Sidari.
Where I Stayed, How I Travelled
So a fortnight ago I left London to go on an eight-day trip to Corfu where I would stay in a place called Monika Apartments, which I fell in love with instantly. The people were lovely, the location was convenient, and the place itself was gorgeous, with the layout of a typical Greek village. We had a little road opposite the ocean, with a bunch of little houses dotted around, each with five or six small apartments in them, and a river ran across opposite. It was incredible when we could hear Greek singers over in the main town, overlooking the river with stars over our heads, but was slightly less so when we'd wake up with twelve more mosquito bites (and eyelid bites? totally a thing). We got to and fro from Gatwick to Corfu via an airline called Small Planet, which I was a bit dubious about to begin with (cheaper airlines such as Ryanair always disappoint, no matter how many free boiled sweets they offer for landing), but it turned out to be very friendly and efficient so I really wasn't disheartened. Honestly, Monika Apartments made my stay super lovely, and Small Planet made it comfortable to get to. Turns out that sometimes budget is better.
The Best Things to See and Do
Prior to landing in Greece, I decided that I wanted to go on a couple main excursions. The first of which took me on a boat up to mainland Greece, to a place called Parga. I'm not going to lie, this was probably my favourite trip that I actually went on, mainly because the town was so full of history and culture, and well, everything the majority of holidaymakers wouldn't go out of their way to see - which meant I was surrounded by dozens of locals rather than tourists (win!). This one is technically not in Corfu, but as it was a day trip from the island I thought I may as well mention it.
Another place that I liked was Paxos, which is a little island to the North of Corfu, which is perfect for shopping and trying out your Greek with the locals. There's an abundance of little souvenir shops where you can get presents for the people back home, and they're run by the families of the place which means that you're helping pay for a child's ballet lessons for example, rather than a big corporation. There's also a little church called the Church of Analipsis, which just encompasses the whole attitude of Greek Christianity in one little building, which is quite interesting to see. As an anecdote though, on the boat ride down, the crew members took all our names and information just in case the boat sank. I don't know about you, but that doesn't instil a lot of faith into me.
Paragaea Olive Factory
One place I stopped by on a trip out in Parga was the Paragaea Olive Factory, which is a lot more interesting than it sounds. We went on a tour, which lasted around an hour and told me everything I've ever wanted to know about olives (and more!), and was pretty cool, as we got to try out different oils and pastes and see how they make olive oil, step by step. Honestly, it was cool.
After coming down with food poisoning from an ice cream cone (which actually happened - I had no idea that was even a thing), I had to cancel a day trip I'd booked to Albania and was super hyped for, so our hotel rep pulled a few strings and got us a boat tour to Corfu Town. It actually turned out to be a lot better than Albania (apparently, as everyone I know who went on the trip complained about it), as we got to go around the old town and see the ancient buildings and chill with locals and just.. it was lovely. Minus when I got hit on by a Greek guy who legit just turned around, blew me on the shoulder, and gritted his teeth. Who knew that was a thing?
The Blue Lagoon is actually the name of a beach in Corfu, but I took a boat down to it which just let us dive into the water and swim around. It was lovely, but not as lovely as when I went to Crete, where the water was warm and clear - and I wasn't shoved on a tiny boat with 300 other people. This time I swam in cold water amongst boat oil and fish. So, you win some, you lose some. Also, look out for flying fish if you're going here via boat - but don't get tricked by what I tend to christen the "flying moths", because they don't count.
The Syvota Islands
I thought that I would mention these islands because I went down to a couple one day and had a nice time, but I also wouldn't recommend it as a full day trip because there isn't an awful much to do. I'm the kind of person who would be quite content just walking around the villages and looking at little Greek houses, but on these islands there really is nothing. There's a couple of restaurants by the ocean just for any tourists who plan on stopping there for an hour, but other than that I didn't find anything else of interest. I think they're the kind of place you'd go to just to say you've done it, but not somewhere you'd go to actually enjoy yourself.
The Corfu Mountain Range
Apparently this is a place people don't tend to stop, but I loved it there. You can go high into the mountains and watch the gradient of hills in the distance, or pass through the little villages of Skripero or Sokraki, and it is beautiful. Especially when it's slightly misty out, or the sun is setting and the sky features gorgeous soft pink hues.
On my second night in Sidari, Corfu, I spoke to the bar staff at Monika Apartments and asked if they would recommend a place for food - and they mentioned a place called Bikolis. I want to believe that they recommended it just because it's good and not because their family works there or something, but regardless, the food was super lovely and I think that if you're looking for food somewhere off the beaten track where you're eating with locals and being served by three generations of the same family, this place is perfect. It was so nice and quaint, one of the waitresses even offered to drive us home afterwards. Also - grilled feta cheese with honey and sesame seeds is beautiful, you must have it.
Need To Know
First up, for those of you who don't know, Greece is general is pretty hot, and even on slightly colder islands like Corfu I find that it's still 35 degrees celsius at around 8pm. So basically - even if you think you don't need suncream, I can say you will. Also, you think you need that long sleeved top? Dude, even a bikini will be too hot during high sun.
If you plan on going to the beach at some point during your stay, I find that you typically have the visible bit of beach which is super overcrowded with tourists, and then you have the bit of beach ten minutes away which is completely void of tourists, with only a handful of local families about. It's always worth those extra ten minutes.
If you stay at a hotel that offers a "Greek night" or "tribute night", where they play live music and hire singers and dancers, don't automatically dismiss it like I did, as it may not be as cringey and touristy as it sounds. When my family signed us up for it I was a bit tentative about it, as I didn't fancy being in a group of British people gawking at the Greek people entertain us, as I just think it's a bit iffy - but when the night came I actually enjoyed it as all the bar staff got involved, and it really was pretty good. And then one evening there was a Sinatra tribute act, which wasn't too bad either. All I'm saying is - say yes.
Learn Greek. Now by that I don't mean to learn the whole language before your trip, but a few words and phrases don't hurt. I find that the locals really appreciate it, and it's a great opportunity to get a tad more involved with a certain culture. Also, it makes buying things in non tourist orientated places a hell of a lot easier.
And then all I have left to say to you is - the bugs are big, blood moons are insane, olive nets are everywhere, fish spas aren't so bad (so long as you don't twitch and end up putting a fish in a headlock), and waking up super early just to reenact a scene from Shirley Valentine is always worth it.
And so, to conclude my time in Sidari, Corfu, I was surrounded with many opportunities to engulf myself in Greek culture and cuisines, and seized every chance I could get. Last year I went to Crete and had a great time, and so I knew I would also have a great time this year. However, if I'm honest, whilst I adore Greece in general, I wouldn't go back to Sidari specifically - but that's just because other places like Athens, Pompeii and Santorini await me.
I hope that some of my stories and advice help you guys out if you ever decide to go to this particular part of the world - and if it does, let me know!
Stay safe and adventure, y'all!