Corfu: beaches, sun, and beautiful local produce

Continuing our series of first-hand travel experiences, eager traveller Victoria Norris tells us about some of her latest adventures in Corfu.

If you’re wondering where to go for a late summer holiday in Europe, the Greek islands are always worth considering. With so many islands to choose from, all benefitting from beautiful weather, there is an island to suit every taste. You’ll also often find some great last-minute deals!

Corfu is one of the most popular islands, and for good reason. It’s the furthest north of the Greek islands, so it does receive more rain than some other places, but that means you get lovely lush scenery and beautiful flowers to enjoy.

Corfu climate is great in September

September is arguably the best month to visit Corfu. It’s still warm, with average highs of 28C (82F), without the often oppressive heat in the 30s—and the crowds—which come with a mid-summer visit. As an added bonus, the sea has had all summer to warm up, so if you like to swim in the sea, or even just have a paddle, you won’t need to worry about cold toes!

Beaches and hire cars

If you enjoy the wide, commercial beaches with beach bars, loungers, and watersports, then the north of Corfu is packed with resort after resort which will cater for your every need.

However, if you prefer a quieter beach, and are willing to forego some of the facilities and spectacular scenery of the larger resorts, you’re in luck. It’s worth hiring a car and exploring some of the more remote stretches of coastline. You will find narrow stretches of beach where you have the immediate area to yourself. Don’t forget our CHEW Insurance so that you don’t get caught out by unforeseen hire car excess charges.

Corfu has a reputation for being a party island, but for the most part the all-night bars and nightclubs are located only in Kavos, at the very south of the island. The family/couple-friendly resorts are found at the north end of the island. The capital, Corfu Town, is fairly central, so it’s easy to get to regardless of where you are staying.

Traditional olive oil soap factory

Soap factory demonstration

One of my favourite attractions is in Corfu Town and is well worth a visit:

The Patounis soap factory is a family run business, and the recipe and manufacturing methods have been passed down from father to son for five successive generations. The soap factory has been manufacturing locally-produced olive oil soap from its premises in Corfu Town since 1891.

There are still lots of historical tools and equipment to be seen, either still in use today or preserved to view. As a result, the factory is even listed as a monument of industrial heritage with the Greek Ministry of Culture.

The factory offers free tours each day from Monday to Saturday at 12 noon. There is also a shop selling their produce, which is open Monday – Friday 9am-5pm and Saturdays 9:30am to 2:30pm.

If you visit the factory during these times, you will be greeted by a member of staff, often the owner, and shown through to the back of the shop to where the magic happens!

You’ll be told all about the history of the company, and shown the ingredients used to make the soap, and also the manufacturing process. I took the photograph shown here during the demonstration.

The exact method is a family secret, but you get a good overview, with demonstrations of soap cutting and stamping. Then, at the end of the tour, you get to purchase the finished product if you so wish, although there is no pressure to do so whatsoever!

If you want a nice little souvenir for someone special, or even a memento of your holiday for yourself, what could be nicer than some traditionally made olive oil soap?!

Olive oil factory

Sticking to the theme of olive oil (well, why not, it’s healthy and good for the heart!) a visit to Corfu wouldn’t be complete without a visit to an olive oil factory to see exactly how the olive oil is actually made.

My favourite factory is Mavroudis. Again, it’s a family business, this time in the village of Vraganiotika, in central Corfu.

This is a working cold-pressed olive oil extraction mill, which has a fascinating museum. Tours are given by a member of the family and are available free of charge upon request. There’s also a lovely shop where you can purchase all kinds of olive oil produce, including the olives themselves and a huge variety of cold-pressed olive oils, olive-wood bowls, and beauty products such as soaps and lotions.

A really nice touch after you’ve had the tour of their museum and a browse in their shop is the tasting station, where you can dip bread into their award-winning flavoured infused olive oils to “try before you buy”.

The flavours available include chilli, garlic, basil, oregano, orange, and my personal favourite, lemon (excellent splashed over fish and salads).

Like their standard extra virgin olive oil, these are all cold-pressed. This means that without any heat or chemicals involved in the production process, the oil retains maximum nutrient and antioxidant benefits.

Food

The Greek islands have arguably some of the world’s most delicious food. Be sure to sample traditional Gyros, pronounced “year-ros”. Also try the local Pastitsada dish of meat in tomato sauce with pasta, topped off with a yummy Greek salad dressed in lots of that tasty local olive oil.

With free cultural attractions such as these, together with beautiful beaches, spectacular scenery, crystal clear warm waters, and great food, what’s not to love?