Greece holds a special place in my heart. I have visited three times, and each time I have fallen deeper in love with the dry, rocky, cyprus-tree-covered mountains, the sea that shimmers in so many shades of blue, the all-embracing sunshine, and the leisurely pace of life. This summer, my fiancé and I visited Paleokastritsa in Corfu. I’d been to Corfu before on a Contiki tour, but never to the west side of the island, so we were set to explore a new place together.
Corfu is in the Ionian sea, to the north-west of Athens and close to Italy and Albania. It is thought that Corfu is the island referred to in Homer’s Odyssey as the home of the mysterious Phaeacians, and that the main beach in Paleokastritsa is where shipwrecked Odysseus first met the princess Nausicaa. Island of myth or not, there is definitely something special about Corfu.
Paleokastritsa is truly a slice of paradise. A small town on the North West coast of the island, Paleokastritsa is nestled between rocky outcrops and hidden sapphire bays. The mountains and olive groves provide a sense of privacy, and there are many beaches to choose from. We absolutely loved our time there – we spent our days sunbathing, walking, swimming, enjoying cocktails on the beach, exploring the surrounding towns, and simply staring in awe at the beautiful scenery.
We went in the first week of June, just before peak tourist season, so we were very lucky to have visited before the crowds descended on Paleo. The weather was amazing – mid 20s most days, going up to 30 – and the sea was refreshing but not too cold. I’d highly recommend Paleokastritsa as a romantic and relaxing holiday destination – it’s small enough to feel homey, absolutely beautiful, close to Corfu Town (about 30 min bus ride), and there are many great places to stay and restaurants to try out.
So, here are my recommendations for a visit to Paleokastritsa:
Places to visit in Paleokastritsa
- La Grotta
A fantastic swimming hole with a cave bar, sunbeds to rent, and a great view. The stairs down to sea level are quite steep (and challenging on the way back up, especially after a few cocktails in the sun!), but the effort is most certainly worth it. The sea is an unbelievable blue, and perfect for a refreshing dip.
There are bathrooms and tables to sit at, as well as snacks available from the bar, so it’s possible (and highly recommended!) to stay for the better part of a day. There’s also a diving board and a rope for daring visitors to climb up the cliff face and dive into the aqua water below.
- Paleokastritsa Monastery
Perched atop a cliff, Paleokastritsa monastery offers superb views of the island.
There’s a museum inside, a restaurant and gift shop, and lots of local Greek cats that laze about in the sun. The walk up is quite steep (Paleo is known for its hills, and most places are only accessible by walking!) so be prepared for a bit of a slog. Once again, the effort taken to get up is worth it – just don’t forget water and suitable shoes!
Best beaches in Paleokastritsa
- Agia Triada Beach
Small, pretty, and comfortable, this is one of the best tourist beaches in Paleokastritsa. The beach restaurant Akron is perfect for coffee, cocktails, or lunch, and there are free sunbeds and umbrellas right next to the sea. The beach is mainly pebbles, so pack swimming shoes or flip flops to protect your feet! There’s also a pool that’s open to the public, and a boat landing where one can hire a speedboat or a driver to take you out around the island. Perfect for a relaxed day inbetween sight-seeing.
- Paleokastritsa Main Beach
Paleokastritsa main beach is big and sandy, and the bay is perfect for swimming. Great for spending the day outdoors, and catching some sunshine. You can reach it easily by walking along the road that goes through the town. During peak tourist season (July and August) it can get crowded, so I’d recommend arriving early to get a spot near the water.
- Rovinia Beach
This gorgeous, secluded beach is accessible by boat – we rented one from Agia Triada beach, did a tour of the caves, and had the driver drop us off here. The beach consists almost exclusively of pebbles, and the water is stunningly clear. Definitely worth a visit! (Note: There are no amenities on this beach, so bring your own drinks!).
Where to eat/get a drink in Paleokastritsa
- Pergola Bar
Pergola Bar is great for coffee, cake, snacks, and drinks, and it has a fabulous view. The staff are really friendly, and we spent a relaxing hour or two here one afternoon.
- Nausika Taverna
An authentic Greek family-run restaurant, with amazing traditional food. We ate here on several occasions, and every time we enjoyed the experience. Nausika Taverna offers traditional Greek meze dishes like pita bread, hummus, tzatziki, dolmades, olives, etc, an extensive meat menu, and many other fantastic dishes.
The vegetarian moussaka I had was divine, and I’d highly recommend it!
Nausika Taverna also hosts “Greek nights” featuring traditional Greek dancing, fire dancing, and plate-throwing. It’s great fun, no extra cost, and a great night out for couples and families alike. Reserve a table in advance to get a good view of the performance.
Where to stay in Paleokastritsa
There are a few hotels and many apartments to rent in Paleokastritsa. We stayed at “Angela’s Studios”, apartments at the top of a hill. The view was superb, but the decor was dated and the climb up the hill got a bit much every day. Still, it was a budget room and comfortable enough. Click here to find hotel and apartment reviews on TripAdvisor.
Extra Things to Do: Paleokastritsa and Surrounds
- Take a boat ride to see the caves
You can hire a boat with a driver at Agia Triada beach, and take a 30 min tour of the coastline and nearby caves.
We did the tour one afternoon, and absolutely loved it. My favourite was the blue eye cave – light filters down through very deep water to create a bright blue “eye” that is teeming with fish. The boat driver was friendly and a great tour guide, and we were dropped off at a beach of our choice before he came back to pick us up a few hours later.
- Visit Corfu Town
Corfu Town is to the East of Paleokastritsa, and you can either drive there with a rental car or take a bus. The “Green Bus” passes through Paleo several times a day, so check out the timetable and plan your trip in advance.
The town is busy, chaotic, and sweltering hot in summer. You’ll see lots and lots of pharmacies, overloaded motorcycles, churches, and old buildings as you walk around. Head on down to the Old Town for a cultural experience, and visit the Old Fort for some history.
- Sidari and the Canal d’Amour
Sidari is a resort town at the very north of Corfu island, and it’s known for it’s beaches and spectacular rock formations. The town itself is a bit too commercial and touristy, but if you continue on to Peroulades (the neighbouring area) you will find more authentic Greek tavernas and less crowded beaches. Simply look for signs pointing to the “Canal d’Amour”.
The rock formations are truly worth seeing, as the sea has cut deep gouges into the rock, creating interesting channels filled with aqua blue water. There are also many walks and trails in this area, so do a bit of research and plan a day-trip. It takes less than two hours to get to Sidari by car, allowing for photo stops and quick visits to the beaches along the way.
I’d recommend a day trip each for Corfu Town and Sidari, and at least two hours for the boat trip and beach visit.
This is just a brief account of our time in Paleokastritsa – there are so many more hidden gems left to find! I’d love to go back one day, especially as my fiancé proposed to me on one of the beaches. I’ll leave it up to you to guess which one.
*Unless otherwise stated, all images belong to me. Feel free to use them, but please give me credit! Carmen Anderson 2014