We Briefly Escape the Gloomy Weather for the Popular Island of Corfu
With its rugged mountains, ancient olive groves, and resort-studded shoreline, Corfu is one of the most popular of the Ionian Islands with visitors drawn to the rich history, the food and of course the sunshine and sparkling sea
Standing on a private peninsula with unobstructed views of the Ionian Sea, arriving at Grecotel Corfu Imperial feels a world away from the weather we’ve gladly left behind in Newcastle. The stark contrast – from seemingly constant rain to sun-dappled cypress trees – belies the four-hour flight time and seamless airport transfer it took to reach this sun drenched island.
The hotel group boasts three further properties on Corfu (and 40 in total across Greece), but this isn’t a case of a cookie-cutter approach, with each destination offering its own distinct identity and draw. And as the name would suggest, the Imperial is the crowning jewel.
After check-in, we’re taken to our room: a two-bed waterfront villa with direct sea access. The interior is all clean lines and marble, and floor-to-ceiling windows to make the most of that view. The variety of accommodation here ticks every traveller’s hit-list; from rooms and suites with connecting doors for families, to private palazzos with al fresco spaces in spades, there’s something to suit every guest.
Steps lead from our gated garden to a private cove and curving wooden boardwalk which connects the resort, winding its way through beach platforms, pontoons, and out towards a headland, where watersports – in the form of paddle boards and kayaks – call for summer days spent at sea.
Curse the 4am alarm all you like, but there’s something a little ‘cheat the system’ about arriving at your destination in time for lunch (preferably poolside and with a perfectly pale Provençal rosé). We opt for fresh pasta at the Trattoria, swirling forkfuls of plump prawns and lemon-laden tagliatelle as the waves lap mere metres away – these are the days we’ve been daydreaming of at our desks, and they’re just as good in reality. After a quick pitstop for post-lunch gelato and a browse in the boutique, we wander back to our villa through gnarled olive trees and manicured gardens. Firmly on island time, there’s little else on the agenda bar a siesta by the pool, where we enjoy every minute under the sun, until it dips below the horizon.
‘The evening begins with lychee martinis at Alkinoos Bar
before heading to Merlin’s, a striking space
overlooking the palm-lined pool’
Dressed and ready for dinner, the evening begins with lychee martinis at Alkinoos Bar before heading to Merlin’s, a striking space overlooking the palm-lined pool. The menu hints at what’s to come: a masterclass in Asian and Latin American fusion, with robata grilled meats, dim sum, and just-caught seafood sushi and sashimi, including a vibrant salmon tiradito, dressed in ponzu and passion fruit.
We’re visiting as the island is awakening from a long winter slumber, but that doesn’t mean the service is any less slick. Far from it. A handy in-house app is helpful for restaurant bookings, kids’ club, and browsing the array of activities on offer, but if you’d prefer, the concierge will take care of it all, as well as personalise your experience with private beach BBQs and sunset cruises.
Morning arrives and given the thread count and unspoilt views across Kommeno Bay, a coffee in bed seems all too tempting, but we opt to check out the fitness suite instead. It’s a welcome rarity to find a hotel gym of this standard; quiet and well thought out, with first-rate cardio equipment and ample floor space for morning pilates (there’s the option for semi-personal and private PT classes, too). We’d like to say that we began every day in such a virtuous manner… but there might have been one occasion where the siren call of another thimble of tart kumquat liqueur (a traditional Corfiot digestif) put paid to our plans. We were on holiday, after all.
Breakfast is a lavish affair at Mon Repos, where guests can take the direction of clear-the-schedule spreads filled with pancake stacks, live saxophone and unlimited mimosas, or opt for a healthier route with pools of homemade Greek yoghurt topped with local honeycomb, and green smoothies. After made-to-order omelettes and platters of fruit, we board the hotel’s complimentary shuttle to the historic Old Town of Corfu. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Corfu Town is a maze of narrow streets lined with boutiques, Venetian-style buildings and fortresses. We visit the Liston promenade, inspired by the Rue de Rivoli in Paris, and the impressive Old Fortress, before seeking cortados, baklava, and a spot of yacht-spying at the harbour.
Another 20-minute journey and we’re back at the hotel, in robes (it’s what the Ancient Greeks would want), and beelining for the Elixir Spa. After an hour of all-out indulgence in the form of a full body massage, we drink herbal teas in the loggia as the scent of rosemary fills the air, and wonder if we must make tomorrow’s flight after all.