Fabulous Paleokastritsa is one of the most recognizable and striking destinations of the Ionian Islands having even been used in a scene from the James Bond movie “For Your Eyes Only”. The verdant, rocky hills that frame the beaches, with their crystal clear, amazingly blue waters, captivate the visitor. It owes its name to the neighbouring Byzantine castle of Angelokastro, located on its northern side.
Approximately twenty minutes from the city of Corfu (25 km), Paleokastritsa is situated on the northwest coast of the island. It consists of two green peninsulas with various beautiful beaches and bays dotted all around them.
History - Mythology
According to historians, it was the capital of the island of Phaeacus. Homer describes it in the “Odyssey”, at the time when Alcinous reigned and Nafsika met Odysseus.
The first inhabitants of the village, according to local tradition, were Lacedaemonian travelers who, on their way to Greater Greece, were caught in a storm, ran aground in the area and remained there permanently. Frequent pirate attacks and looting later forced residents to move to the mountainous, neighbouring village of Lakones.
The main beach of the area is located below the monastery of Panagia Paleokastritsa and is the largest, with excellent tourist infrastructure. The most isolated, smallest bays are Alipa, Agia Triada, Agios Petros, Ambelaki and Platakia, all a short distance from each other. At Alipa there is a little port from which boats depart to explore the more southern, hidden beaches. Umbrellas and sunbeds can be hired on most of the beaches, the main ones also being equipped with showers.
There is the very rugged, craggy La Grotta beach, which has a vibrant, beach bar in an elevated position overlooking the scintillating, azure waters. It is well worth the trek down the 142 steps to get to, as it is a truly enchanting! The beach bar has a great selection of cocktails and drinks. It caters for a younger crowd in summer with loud, chill-out’ music being played. If you are in search of peace and quiet this beach is not an option.
Around Paleokastritsa, especially to the south, there are many beaches of unique beauty, the majority of which are either difficult to access or very isolated. Many are only accessible from the sea. These hidden beaches generally are comprised of small pebbles and a little sand but have the amazingly turquoise, crystal-clear water in common. They normally have no tourist development so are totally unspoilt. This adds to their exotic beauty. Renting a boat is recommended as there are numerous caves to explore along this part of the coast.
The sea at Paleokastritsa, and on the west coast of Corfu, is typically cold. There is also a scuba diving centre and the area is suitable for snorkeling too.
Holy Monastery of Panagia Paleokastritsa
Perhaps the most popular due to its stunning location, the monastery of the Most Holy Theotokos, also known as the Monastery of Paleokastritsa, is one of the oldest in Corfu, dating back to 1225. Located at the top of one of the two caverns in the area, the view is strikingly breathtaking and indescribably beautiful. In front of the monastery stand the islands of Ortholithos, Kolovri and Skeloudi.
Angelokastro is the Byzantine castle to which Paleokastritsa owes its name and one of the most important in Greece. It is one of the oldest as well, as the site has been fortified since at least the 7th century. It is located at the top of the highest peak of the island on the northwest coast, near Paleokastritsa. Perched on the edge of the peak, it is surrounded on all three sides by the sea. On a clear day, the whole island is visible from the apex.
Paleokastritsa is also characterized by the custom of Varkarola, a theatrical dance performance that takes place at sea every summer on Paleokastritsa’s main beach. It is a custom that connects antiquity and modern history, recounting the adventures of Odysseus and ending with the salvation of the island by St. Spyridon during the 1716 siege by the Ottomans.
Exploring the surrounding areas, it is well worth visiting the quaint village of Lakones which is located directly above Paleokastritsa. Enjoy a coffee with a delicious slice of cake, a tyropita (cheese pie) or spanakopita (spinach pie) at the delightful, family owned bakery. The view from the bakery’s balcony is idyllic. Lakones truly has one of the most magnificent, unlimited views, not only of Paleokastritsa but also the entire Ropa valley to Corfu Town.
Other villages to visit in the vicinity are Krini, Doukades and Makrades. A little further south is the village of Liapades, one of the oldest and most beautiful on Corfu, which is renowned for its superb beaches.
Shops - Fun – Accommodation
There are several shops along the beach road including mini markets, bakeries, bars, restaurants, tavernas, travel agencies and souvenir shops. Should one be visiting Paleokastritsa and traveling from the Corfu Town side there is a the winery, local pottery, olive wood shop and kumquat factory en route; all of which have lovely wares, souvenirs and products which make great gifts.
Paleokastritsa offers a large range of daytime activities including boat trips (Corfu Explore Boats) for those who want to explore the hidden areas and beaches. A visit to the Corfu Aquarium should not be missed as they have, not only, a huge number of species of Mediterranean fish, but some very fascinating reptiles, snakes, shellfish and mollusks from around the world.
Paleokastritsa is a medium-sized village with rich tourist infrastructure offering the most picture-perfect panoramas and most wonderful beaches of the entire island. It is therefore extremely popular with tourists, so is equipped with a significant number of hotels, apartments and studios to accommodate various needs and budgets. Explore it for yourself…you will not be disappointed!
“Η σαγηνευτική Παλαιοκαστρίτσα”, https://faiakonnisos.blogspot.com/2019/08/i-sagineytiki-palaiokastritsa.html
COOK, Adelia (2019). “Monasteries of Corfu”, www.mykerkyra.com
ΚΑΣΤΡΟΛΟΓΟΣ: Κάστρα της Ελλάδας. “Αγγελόκαστρο”, https://www.kastra.eu/castlegr.php?kastro=angelokastro