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A Trip to South Corfu
Many people would like to cut off the south of Corfu from the rest of the island and set it adrift. They're the ones
who believe that the south is covered with Kavos. They are all wrong. Uncovered, Kavos is just four bar-bordered streets which form a small ghetto. 500 metres away and you wouldn't know it was there. Around the southern tip of
the island lies what is perhaps Corfu's best undiscovered beach, Arkoudilas, backed by immensely high cliffs.
So much for being flat. The Corfu Trail, the island-long footpath, takes a great sweep through the region, passing abandoned monasteries, delving through some of the island's most ancient olive groves and forests, climbing dizzying cliff paths and reaching spectacular viewpoints. So much for the boring scenery. Admittedly, once you've crossed the Messongi Bridge, the geographical start of the 'South', the main road, passing often through semi-commercial areas and low dry-grass hills that resemble slag-heaps, does not offer one of Corfu's more interesting drives. The road has undergone much infrastructural upgrading in the last 15 or so years, so that now it bypasses
the picturesque village centres of Marathias,Gardeno, Vitalades, Perivoli and Lefkimmi, and only the bustling main street of Argyrades rem ins a traffic blackspot. The upside is that it's much quicker to go south these days.

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The much prettier alternative route takes longer but guides you along a stretch of coastline that remains
unspoiled by anything megabetonic. At the big road junction at the southern end of Moraitika, just where a short section of central reservation runs out, go straight on instead of bearing right along the main road. Take great care here as you must give way to traffic coming from the south, from your right. Continue along the straight stretch and over the river bridge (not obvious so look out for it). After that, you've got a choice. Chlomos Deviation: Go straight on, and a steep and twisting climb takes you to Chlomos. If you've got a small-engine hire car and the road is wet you will not make it. Chlomos gets everyone's vote as one of the prettiest of Corfu's villages, with its houses wrapped around the eastern slopes of a conical mount (Kavalovouni, 330 metres at the summit). Though there is little to impede its spread, the settlement is highly concentrated, with a maze of tipsily zigzag streets which rise and plunge, seemingly at random. In the centre, the houses are built up against each other, and residents have confronted their need for expansion by building upwards (like the Romans and the Town Corfiots), so that many houses have either a third floor or at least a usable attic. Full of splashes of colour, the village's location blesses it with the best view of any of Corfu's settlements. Many houses have a vista which takes in the whole southern portion of the island, with the sea on both sides visible. Houses on its northern fringes overlook the channel between Corfu and mainland Greece, and in the north-west corner, the view stretches up to Corfu Town with its background of the Pantokrator Massif.

A twisting road leads steeply down to the coast road on the eastern shore, where you rejoin the main route - but
be warned that it is VERY narrow at one point through the houses. Be also warned that some maps show a passable road from Chlomos to Kouspades, the next village south. This way only exists as a footpath so don't try it!

Just after Messonghi bridge, turn left and head through Messongi village. Keep going straight and gradually development diminishes and you find yourself beside the sea, on a charming road which winds and undulates from cove to pebble cove (the Hlomos Alternative rejoins the way along this stretch). Rustic fish tavemas abound, but if you're peckish try to hold out until Boukari. Here, Karidis Fish Tavema was a select location for filming of Rick Stein's Mediterranean Escape. Even if it's not lunch time, stop for a mid-morning ouzo accompanied by marinated raw anchovies, a speciality of the taverna and one of Rick's Corfu favourites. You might even be lucky enough to see Spires the proprietor preparing a batch. At Boukari, head straight on, not inland towards Kouspades. Last time I tried it, this way was not asphalted, but except after heavy rain it is perfectly passable. A few kilometres further, you encounter Petriti, the last real working fishing port in the south. Here, nets are piled on the quayside, and the largest traditional fishing caiques you've ever seen are being prepared for another night's deep-sea fishing

The settlement of Petriti is a 'New Town' built on a grid system. Some decades ago, the government relocated
the population of the inland village of Korakades here, as the land under the traditional settlement was subsiding.
A short diversion into Korakades is a trip to a ghost village (though some houses have lately been reoccupied). It is the Old Perithia of the South, though much different in character. A road climbs steeply to the village from the middle of the grid of new homes - not easy to find, so ask the way. Continuing your trip, an unbridged river outlet forces you to head inland at Petriti Harbour. At the rear of the grid of new homes, the road makes a right angle turn left and another to the right. Soon after this, look fora road on the left - it's signposted to Agios Nikolaos and Notes. Following this way and ignoring a sign to Roumanades, you should hit the coast again at Notes. This section of coast road, only recently opened up to traffic, resembles the Corfu of bygone years, and long stretches of unspoiled coast are punctuated only by the odd fish taverna and cottage. The coast road finally runs out at Kaliviotes, a little harbour with yet another fish taverna (The harbour is on the front cover). Turn inland, and you are soon in Perivoli, in the old centre of the village and not flashing by on the huge new by-pass. Turn left here and you soon join the main road south - this approach to Lefkimmi is the only drab section of the route. You turn left off the highway at the traffic lights into Lefkimmi. Once into the town proper, you have to negotiate a complex one-way system, made even more confusing by occasionally relapsing into two-way again. To get through the town, follow the signs to Kavos, though you don't have to go there.

Lefkimmi actually comprises five villages which have gradually merged to create today's town. Vestigial remains
of its origins are the old 'village centres' which you encounter on your passage, each bustling with coffee bars and shops, and with a church looming over it all. The most popular of these 'centres' is at Potami, where the road crosses the Lefkimmi River. Here the river is canalised and runs between paved quaysides, which a number of bars and restaurants use as a setting for their tables and chairs. Wild ducks and shoals of fish compete for your attention, and you might even see a guy drive past taking his pet goose for her daily swim at Bouka Beach.

The riverbank is home to The River Taverna, another Rick Stein favourite. Spiros and Loula live in the restauran,
the kitchen is their home's and the premises their lounge as well as indoor eating venue for customers. You get what Loula's cooked that day, a choice of half a dozen dishes which they eat themselves if left over. Her vegetables stuffed with rice, herbs and mushrooms are outstanding and we love the squashy green beans too. Past the tavema, the road runs alongside the riverbank to reach the sea at Bouka Beach. This is the locals' beach, and the beach bar is subsidised so that prices are cheap. The water is very shallow and warm, and apart from the bar there is no development whatsoever, just a backing of trees. But you might like to continue to Arkoudillas, my candidate for best beach in the world. Unfortunately, to get there you have to drive through tacky Kavos, though in daytime it's calm.
Just after Kavos, a dirt but well-made road is signposted to the 'Church of the Virgin Arkoudilas'. About a klm on, take a right and bounce down to the beach. Who would think that you'd find such a paradise in South Corfu! .

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