The landscape around Paleokastritsa is as beautiful
as you will find in all of Greece. The lush green vegetation
intrudes all the way to the shore line where rugged rocks
and Ionian waves do their best to repel them. The rocky shore
is a great place for seaside activities with numerous beaches
nestled among abrupt cliffs where one can relax under the
sun, while small grottos and caves reward those who venture
further out at sea with paddle boats or canoes. The peaceful
scenery is frequently interrupted by the engines of small
boats that perform short cruises around the spectacular coast.
There are a number of hotels and restaurants built right
on the beach, but they are incapable of disturbing the beauty
of the landscape as they are often hidden behind lush greenery.
The monastery of Paleokastritsa was founded in 1225, while the buildings in their present state date back to the 18th century. It is a great place to enjoy a peaceful sunset overlooking the Ionian sea. There is a small museum in the monastery with Byzantine and Post-Byzantine icons and I was surprised to see a skeleton of a mammoth (or some other prehistoric fossilized beast) in the center of it. I was curious to see a prehistoric skeleton in the monastery to say the least, but I am sure it has fed many legends from travelers who came upon such beast over the centuries. The little souvenir store inside the monastery is the perfect place to buy hand crafted gifts. My favorite were the small bottles of olive oil that was produced by the monks and were contained in the simplest of bottles without any labels. I stood patiently in line for about twenty minutes as the man behind the counter added the prices using a small pencil and a piece of wrapping paper, and when the total was tallied, he proceeded to meticulously wrap every piece as slowly as he could. Time did not matter though.
A visit to Angelokastro (or Agelokastro) is a must if
you have a vehicle. Angelokastro is a spectacular Byzantine
castle that was built in the 13th century by Michael Angelos,
Despot of Epiros, and provided shelter for the local population
during many invasions. It protected the local population
from slaughter during the Turkish invasion in 1537. It
is built on a steep hill about 150 meters above the sea,
and it is surrounded by water on three sides while a narrow
land bridge provides the only access to the castle from
land. The view from the castle is very picturesque, and
the drive to the castle is beautiful.
Paleokastritsa is one of the places that must be on any itinerary when one visits the island of Corfu. Despite its popularity, the town does not feel overburdened by tourists, and the natural beauty of the land and sea is a treat for everyone. Relaxing at the beach is our favorite activity, and you will find the waters around Paleokastritsa particularly clear, cool, and refreshing. Taking one of the small boats for a scheduled cruise around the sea cliffs and caverns is also a great way to experience the coast from a different point of view, or as a more leisurely alternative one can rent a paddle boat or a canoe for a slow sail around. Paleokastritsa is also one of the best snorkeling and scuba diving spots in Corfu, and one of the best in Greece.
From the town of Corfu Paleokastritsa is about 25 (winding) kilometers to the west, and the road is relatively easy to navigate with signs marking the town at regular intervals. You can get to the island of Corfu by Ferry boat from Igoumenitsa. In the summer ferry boats depart from Igoumenitsa every hour or so (More info about the ferries on the Corfu page), or by airplane.
Flashback to summer of 1982. I, along with my cousin George and our
good friend "Cheese" (don't ask) were in the middle of our
summer vacation in Corfu, driving my father's bright orange 1974 Opel
Kadett and making a home out of any soft piece of ground that could
accommodate a sleeping bag. We had made a nice camp at the beaches
of Sidari until one late night when a fist fight broke out next to
us. Some unknown tourists and fellow free campers had decided to solve
their differences in an uncivilized manner, just as we were about
to fall asleep. It was too dark to know what was really happening
but it was way too close to our sleeping bodies. We silently packed
our sleeping bags got in our car and at 1:00 AM we set out to find
a more pleasant place to rest.
Our next planned stop was Paleokastritsa, so we headed for there hoping that it would not be too difficult to find a place to stay at such a late hour. When we finally arrived, it was about an hour later, and we could barely see anything in the pitch dark of the moonless night. We did find a quiet beach though and unrolled out sleeping bags for the second time that night. We soon fell asleep under the stars, serenaded by the rhythmic sounds of the gentle waves and the singing company of a few British tourists that had set a small camp fire on the beach, and accompanied by two (well played) guitars sang ballads until the early morning. Our awakening the next morning was comical as we found ourselves wrapped in our sleeping bags which had slid almost ten meters towards the sea in the sandy slope of the beach. We looked around and saw that this was not a secluded beach at all. Activity abounded all around us as bathers had occupied large part of the sand, and locals went about their daily business.
For the rest of our holiday in Corfu we parked our car and camped close to the Paleokastritsa beach near a water well. We bought ourselves a bucket and rope and we had an unlimited supply of water to wash and drink, solving the biggest problem of free campers everywhere. That was about twenty years ago, and I am not certain if the well still exists, but during my recent visit there with my family, Paleokastritsa exhibited the same spectacular scenery, clean cold ocean waters, and charm that I had witnessed as a high school vacationer.