Corfu is a wonderful place to visit at any time of the year; unfortunately many people see it as only a high season destination, choosing to come in July and August with the rest of the hoards. If your only desire is to lounge on a beach with a million Italians, fight to get anywhere on the roads and complain that it’s too hot, and then this is fine and dandy. But it does seem a shame to travel all this way and not actually appreciate the incredibly bountiful flora and fauna, the rich and colourful history and above all its innate beauty.
1) First off, to state the obvious, it is cheap. Thanks to budget airlines like Easyjet and Ryanair it is now possible to fly into Corfu much earlier and indeed later in the ‘season’ than previously. Charter flights all start at the beginning of May, some not really kicking in until late June, which made getting here not for the faint hearted. Out of season it involved flying in via Athens, with an inevitably long stop over; or coming by ferry from either mainland Greece or Italy, which although a very pleasant and scenic way to arrive, it takes a huge chunk of time out of your holiday.
In addition to the cost of getting here, the cost of car hire and accommodation is drastically reduced, although if I can offer a word to the wise, it’s worth checking your car for petrol and your room for heating as both are needed but not necessarily present as you’d presume.
2) Another major benefit, as I indicated earlier, is the fact you have the island practically to yourself. Apart from a few diehard Grecophiles pursuing their philhellenic predilections, you can travel most areas with relaxed ease. In high season, the number of hire cars, scooters and tourist coaches on our sometimes miniscule roads can turn a pleasant coastal drive into something approaching an excursion nightmare for those of us less keen to reverse back on a cliff edge to make way for the more aggressive drivers.
On top of that, it turns the more popular beaches from this…..
So spring is a time you can explore the coastline and mountains in peace, stopping off at traditional, year round tavernas and kafenions for sustenance, amongst the locals who will appreciate your presence a whole lot more pre season.
3) This time of year also produces a plethora of festivals; from carnival week, with its strong venetian influence, in February, Easter week in April to May Day coming up shortly. There are plenty of opportunities to experience genuine Greek culture and spirit as opposed to the increasingly contrived and rather seedy Greek Nights that afflict even the five-star resorts in Summer. There are also many Panegyri’s (Ancient Greek for ‘gathering’) in the villages across the island. Each one widely looked forward to and the entire population is involved in preparations and participation in these street festivals that go on all night.
4) On a slightly more altruistic and vital note, bluntly put, we need you. Tourism has dropped dramatically all over Greece in the last 10 years. I have heard many an argument as to why this has happened, blaming everything from the introduction of the Euro to the Greeks inherent inability to look beyond today and invest in their own future. Personally I believe there are many contributing factors and apportioning blame is not the answer. Encouraging all year round tourism is. Especially on islands like Corfu where tourism provides approximately 80% of the income, you can imagine the catastrophic effect of basically only having two or three months where we are really bustling.
I was pleased to see that the Greek National Tourist Organisation has finally cottoned on to this fact. They announced at November’s World Travel Market that they would be working closely with Uk tour operators to increase awareness to the fact that Greece is open for business all year round. I do however find it strange (tongue in cheek at this point) that they are not working closely with German tour operators considering German tourists account for the largest group of visitors that we have here……Still, one step at a time.
5) Last but by far from least, it is amazingly beautiful at this time of year. After the rains of the winter, the first sunny days appear with blue skies and promises. The fireflies emerge, these nocturnal beetles can produce an amazingly luminescent display across the olive groves and vineyards and it is a truly magical sight which only happens in springtime. Blossom and flowers burst into life, providing a colourful backdrop to our Emerald isle that puts Joseph’s coat to shame. The birds return from their winter sojourns to warmer climes and the air rings with their tremolos and trills as nest building and the sheer joy of flight is expressed through song. We even get Flamingos, all be it briefly and when I hear the first, sonar like call of the tiny Scops Owl I know that summer is well on its way.