Hiking in Corfu: Greece's Verdant Isle

Soothing Sands
  |  Gorp.com

"Perhaps the loveliest beach in the world," said Lawrence Durrell of his favorite part of Corfu. "Lion-gold sand, the consistency of tapioca, lies smoothly against the white limestone cliff..."

Nearly unapproachable except by foot, Mirtiotissa remains a quiet place where waves dash against sentinels of black limestone and springs drip down amid the ferns beneath the tall limestone cliff. Mirtiotissa is but one of several coves connected by walking trails on Corfu's western coast. In Greece, nude bathing is illegal, but at Mirtiotissa, the authorities turn a blind eye—only rocks crowd the shoreline, and the view of the sea goes on forever, unspoiled. A whitewashed monastery stands guard over the northern end of the cove, where a trail leads on to Agios Gordos and the northern end of the Ropa Valley. From the south end of Mirtiotissa, another trail leads south up and over the jagged peninsula of rock that separates this cove from the tourist-busy but beautiful cove of Glyfada. Feet sink deeply into the soft, tawny sand; springs bubble where freshwater meets the sea, forming quicksand along a ribbon of reef rock.

The parking lot at Issos Beach seemed basic enough, edged by windflowers, emptying onto a strip of golden sand stretching away in either direction. Out in the distance, nearly on the horizon, appears the square form of a fortified island.

"This way, this way!" Sally shouted. She'd already dashed ahead on a northerly course, headed up and over what looked like enormous sand dunes.

They weren't. Instead, we entered a maze of sandstone, the Grand Canyon in miniature, mesas and buttes carved by the wind and the waves from compressed layers of sand along the otherwise gentle shore. It felt like a scramble in Utah, clambering up giant spreading circles of sandstone, looking inland over Corfu's largest lagoon, Lake Korisson. White herons picked at crabs along the shore. Outward, crystalline waves stretched to the horizon.

The unusual rocks give way to dunes, guarding the lagoon against the wave-washed beach. A footbridge crosses an artificial canal connecting the lagoon to the sea; to the north, the dunes grow high, topped by grasses. No hotels, no tavernas, for several blissful kilometers—only sea, sand, and sun, to relax and enjoy.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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