Explore the Untouched Beauty of Corfu and Zagori Mountains
When we think of Greece, the first things that come to our minds are probably sandy beaches and high-end vacation spots. However, Greece has much more to offer than that. Agritourism and sustainability are flourishing in Greece, and there’s a much lesser-known side of the country that’s worth discovering.
In this episode of ‘Explore,’ we leave behind the classic itineraries of the island of Corfu and visit the mountains of Zagori, which lies in the north-west of the country. On the way, you’ll discover the beauty of nature, the exceptional hospitality of locals, and the bragging rights that come from visiting some of the most untouched regions of the country.
Corfu, one of the greenest Greek islands, is known as the ‘Emerald Isle’ of Greece. The unique natural beauty of the island and its incredible diversity of flora and fauna make it an attractive destination throughout the year. The so-called ‘Corfu Route’ is a hiking route that stretches the length of the island and takes hikers through spectacular landscapes and rustic villages, which are far from the busiest tourist areas. Hilary Paipeti, the founder of the route, says that “it’s like it was thirty or forty years ago,” and it’s outside the tourist centers.
The path runs through a huge variety of landscapes, from the coast and quiet, unspoiled beaches, to dunes covered in juniper trees, mountains, forests, and olive groves—making it a very pleasant destination for walkers. Outside of the high season, it’s the perfect time for hiking when spring flowers are in bloom. Wildflowers abound in Corfu, including over 30 different varieties of orchids.
For lovers of extreme sports, the ‘Corfu Route’ hosts an annual ultratrail race, with a distance of 103 kilometers. This year, the race will take place on May 6th and 7th, 2023.
In Corfu, olive oil is also an essential part of the island’s economy. The Governor Olive Oil is located along the ‘Corfu Route,’ in Agios Mattheos. The Dafnis family, who has been producing olive oil for over a hundred years, has developed an award-winning olive oil recognized for its multiple health benefits. CEO and Co-Founder Spyros Dafnis explained that they grow olive trees that are “a living natural monument,” following the principles of organic farming and respecting nature and the environment.
We leave the ‘Corfu Route’ to take the ferry to the northwest of Greece, to the mountains of Zagori. This unspoiled region, with its picturesque stone villages and bridges, is one of Greece’s best-kept secrets. The Zagori area of Epirus is home to 46 charming traditional villages perched on the slopes of the mountains. Until the 1950s, there were no roads, only hundred-year-old bridges and cobbled paths that linked the stone towns—now offering hikers endless places to explore.
The area is home to the magnificent Vikos Gorge, the narrowest canyon in the world, and the Voidomatis River, reputed to be the purest and cleanest in Europe. The area is experiencing a boom in sustainable agritourism, allowing visitors to stay in country houses or farms and experience first-hand Zagori cuisine, culture, and traditions. Lena Gerothanassi and her family own the farm and Rokka pension, where they welcome visitors into their ‘home.’ Lena offers weaving classes on a traditional loom, a skill she learned from the older women of the village.
Those wishing to experience the impressive diversity of Greece, with its traditional mountain lifestyle, leisurely excursions through lush green nature, and the chance to taste delicious local produce, should not miss Corfu and the Zagori Mountains—far from the beaches and high-end vacation spots.