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 History - What to see


Aerial view of the marina in Gouvia

Corfu prefecture numbers 101,000 inhabitants, is the most populous of the Ionian islands and one of the most densely inhabited of Greece. Corfu town is the administrative capital of the Ionian Islands Region, and also the largest urban center in the area with a population nearing 40,000. With an area of 638 square kilometers, it is the second island in size. As a town Corfu provides nearly all the facilities to be found in a large city, i.e., health services with a hospital, private clinics, doctors in all specialties, as well as banks, shops, yacht chandlers, etc. The increase οf people on cheap holidays to Corfu has led to very frequent air connections to major European cities and many daily ship connections to Italy.


From antiquity on, Corfu has played an important role in the history of the area, probably because it was fertile and thus capable of sustaining a fairly large population. According to Homer, the Phaeacians had a navy and were such accomplished sailors that they did not need rudders to guide their craft. In remembrance of this ability, Corfu's emblem today depicts a rudderless ship. For about a millennium (775 B.C. till 337 B.C.), Corfu was a colony first of Euboea and then of Corinth, an ally of the Athenians and of the Macedonians, and a possession of Sparta, Syracuse, and the Illyrians who surrendered it to Roman domination. By conquering Corfu, the Romans began their conquest of Greece and threw the island into deep decline. From 395 B.C. on Corfu was part of the East Roman empire and during the succeeding centuries suffered barbarians onslaughts, raids, lootings, and new occupations. Corfu's role increased in importance from the Middle Ages because of its focal position, controlling the entrance to the Adriatic and became very important during Venetian rule. It was the seat of the Provedittore Generale del mar of the Serenissima, that is the Governor General of the Most Serene Republic of Venice in the eastern Mediterranean. The Venetians reinforced the feudal system of government, but did permit the local aristocracy a degree of self-government. They upheld the Catholic church but did protect the Orthodox church from the excesses and persecution of the Inquisition, and permitted Orthodox rites and worship. After the overthrow of the Venetian Empire by Napoleon, Corfu came under French rule; after his downfall, it became the capital of the British Protectorate of the Ionian Islands until 1864 when all the islands were united with Greece. All the conquerors passing through Corfu in recent centuries left some traces on the island's culture. The splendid fortresses were fortified by significant works undertaken by the most celebrated engineers of Venice, Savorgnan, Martinengo, and others, and withstood several sieges by the Turks; Corfu and Vienna were the two points where Turkish expansion into Europe was halted. The Venetians bequeathed the architecture in the old town, resembling that of Italy, the two monumental fortresses in the city and the immense Esplanade which served as a firing ground for the cannons of the fortress, and which is still the town's social and political center. The French left the arcaded buildings on the Esplanade, a reminder of the Rue de Rivoli in Paris, where the locals stroll. The British bequeathed cricket (which is still played on the Esplanade), the fish shops which sell take¬out fried fish, the Reading Society with all the characteristics of a British club, and the palace of the British Commissioner which overlooks the northern side of the Esplanade. (top)

What to see in Corfu

Numerous archaeological findings are exhibited in the town's museum; perhaps the most impressive is the Gorgon pediment, excavated on the Mon Repos estate which is itself well worth a walk. During the classical period (c. 450 B.C.) the town was located slightly south of its present site and had two harbours, the east one where today Corfiots stroll on their promenade and the west one where the airport is now. It is no coincidence that Corfu was a tourist destination even before World War I, when the word «tourism» did not even exist, and the activity as such was indulged in only by royalty and their followers. There is something unique about the island's atmosphere: it has something to offer each and every visitor. The old part of the town is the only complete architectural entirety still remaining in Greece, other than Nauplion. A considerable number of traditional villages still maintain their post-medieval architecture despite the ugly modern constructions surrounding them. There is the absolutely unique and extraordinary museum of Chinese and Japanese art which is housed in the former palace of the British high commissioner; there is the archaeological museum and the Paper money Museum which is located in the building of the Ionian Bank. The Historical Archives now established in a former British barracks in the old fortress includes numerous rare documents from the Venetian period on which are at the disposal of researchers. In Corfu, Easter is the season for the numerous processions renowned throughout Greece for their magnificence, when the island is overwhelmed by visitors. The serene natural beauty and lush vegetation, its fertile soil, are all nurtured by the island's humid climate. On a more practical level, Corfu town and the marina at Gouvia can provide anything a yacht needs in marine goods and repairs. Kassiopi in the north and Gaios in Paxos have many shops, but in Lefkimmi a walk of about two kilometers from the harbour is necessary to reach the stores. (top)

The sea

 Currents - Surface temperatures

The climate


The Sea


Water level variation due to tides is quite small in the Mediterranean and in the Ionian is rarely more than 30 cm. Alterations in water level due to weather variations are more significant, especially in enclosed areas such as the gulf of Amvrakia. Generally, water level is heightened when winds are from the south, and lowered when from the north. Since there is only a small variation in water level, currents due to tides do not occur, with the exception of the Preveza channel. where the current may reach 2 _ knots or even more if helped by wind of the same direction. In the channel of Lefkas, there is a current of _ to 1 _ knot owing to the variation of water level of the two lagoons adjoining it.


The basic system of currents in the Mediterranean depends on the influx of water from the Atlantic to compensate for the loss due to evaporation; they follow a generally counter clockwise course. In the Ionian, the current travels north following a route parallel to the Greek coast. It-is feeble, and does not exceed half a knot out at sea; it is nullified or reversed when the wind is from the north. It can be stronger in straits or close to islands, as in the northern straits of Corfu, on the eastern coast of Paxos especially in combination with the land-breeze off Epirus, in the Meganisi straits, and in Ithaca.  (top)

Surface temperatures

The mean temperature of the sea's surface is lowest in February fluctuating around 14° C, rising gradually to 17° in May and to the highest of about 25° in August, after which it begins to drop slowly until November when it reaches around 18°, and then falls more rapidly. The sea is colder, especially on the west coasts of the islands, when there is a northern or northwesterly wind, and warmer when south winds blow. It is also warmer in enclosed shallow areas. (top)

corfu , ionian islands , sailing holidays in ionian sea , sailing in ionian

Map of Corfu



The Ionian is unaffected by the «meltemi» winds which dominate the Aegean. In summer, winds are mainly thermal. The sea-breeze caused by the rise in temperature above land masses generally starts at noon and dies down at sunset or soon after. In most areas it is northwesterly to westerly shifting sometimes to northerly or northeasterly depending on islands' or mountains' influence. Its strength is usually Force 3 to 4 and occasionally Force 5, blowing hardest between 4 and 8 p.m. This wind can strengthen when it blows off islands with tall mountains, as in Ithaca, in the bay of Argostoli, off the south coast of Cefalonia where it blows from the west, and south of Othonoi, In these areas it may be much gustier and stronger than out at sea. Occasionally in summertime when a combination of low pressure in the south-eastern Mediterranean and high pressures in central Europe occur, a stronger northwesterly wind may blow up to three days but it does not usually exceed Force 6. When night falls, land cools off faster than the sea, and thus a land breeze usually develops from NE to E; it normally blows Force 3 to 4 or rarely 5. This land breeze gets up around 10 p.m. and dies down soon after midnight; it is noticeable as far as 10 miles from the coast. It is much stronger wherever there is a dip in the mountain range which runs parallel to the coastline, but in places where the mountains are too high and close to the coast, it may not develop at all. In winter, the winds are due to depressions passing through the area, and conform to the basic principles of meteorology. Southerly and southeasterly winds coming from the open sea produce the larger waves especially evident on the islands' west coasts. Gales (Force 8 and above) are extremely rare in the summer time, and in the winter their frequency does not exceed 5% from January to March. A Rain - Mist The Ionian receives much greater rainfall than the rest of Greece and thus is much greener with abundant vegetation. Generally annual rainfall is greatest in Corfu and less towards the south. Luckily most rain comes from November to March. In summer rain is rare indeed and usually comes in the form of torrential but brief-lived ( half an hour to one hour) rainstorms. Mist is rather rare in the southern islands but can sometimes appear in the early morning hours in the Corfu-Paxos region and north of Corfu; it is burned off by the sun quite quickly. Weather reports from public mass media The Greek National Radio (ERA 1) broadcasts a weather report in Greek every morning after the 06:00 news bulletin, from Patras on FM frequencies 91.6, 105.8, and 92.5, from Kalamata on 94.2, from Pyrgos on 102.4, and from Corfu on 99.3; also on AM 1008 again from Corfu. Greek National Television (ERT 1) broadcasts a weather report and map with wind direction and strength at about 21:35 and again after midnight. The other television stations present a weather forecast after their evening news. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, ERT a has a five-day weather forecast following the 18:00 news bulletin. OTE (telephone company) dial number 149. The Greek Meteorological Service dial number 01 9628942 round the clock and in English. VHF Channel 86 round the clock and on channel 16 if so requested. Also on channel 16 storm warnings are announced at 07:03, 09:03, 17:03 and 23:03. NAVTEXT Corfu (K) at 518 kHz at 01:40, 05:40, 09:40, 13:40, 17:40 and 21:40.  (top)

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