To reach Mount Pantokrator, the highest peak on Corfu
, you need to rent a car or quad bike. Some people like to walk it up but it does take an estimated 7hrs and a good pair of boots. We decided to get a car. We really wanted a suzuki jimny as we saw them all over the island and thought it would be cool to drive a jeep around. Unfortunately we did leave it a bit last minute and didn't get the car we wanted. We arranged it through the guy at our reception desk at the hotel. He had a friend at Sluta Leta holiday cars based in Gouvia
and managed to secure us a suzuki samurai, also a jeep but a 'rougher' kind as the guy so eloquently put it.
Filling up in Sokraki
Th cost €60 for the day including all paper work and insurance etc.
We set off after 10.30am with a basic island map and our courage. We unraveled the canvas roof of the jeep, dusted it off a little and set off heading North. The first 10mins was a bit rough as we tried to get acquainted with each other. The steering wheel the gear stick and pedals all feeling a little rusty, like driving a go kart. We follow the red route shown on the map as a major road, following the east coast. We reached Dassia in no time at all and decided it would be a good idea to ask a local the best route to take. We managed to locate a guy familiar with the area, the roads and the route to Mount Pantokrator. He advises us to stay on the red route, major road, past Ipsos
Lady and her donkey
From there the route splits and we are advised to follow the left route going inland, here the signs for Mount Pantokrator should start appearing.
We Leave Dassia and continue on the road, we drive along the coast and pass Dassia beach and Ipsos beach. Before long I spot a brown sign for Mount Pantokrator and direct Otu onto this route. The road starts climbing inland and up hill, steep and narrow. The roads can only manage one car along the path so we start to slow done just in case of any oncoming traffic. Some of this route become so tight that we passed in between two houses where we could literally look into their windows. Somehow, the roads feel so intrusive in these tiny towns as our huge jeep comes blasting through. We then spotted signs for Agios Markos and realised that we were on a de-tour route, we had turned too early.
12km to Mount Pantokrator
The route we were on now was a municipal road, shown on the map as a yellow route. These roads were much smaller and harder to drive on, you have to take more care on these roads especially on the bends and blind spots. We climb higher and higher and the views of the higher land is amazing. The sea view is refreshing as we watch the sun sparkling in the sea but also the view of the route going up higher further into land, the view of all the lush green trees, probably olive trees line the face of the peaks. There are a few small towns that we pass and we spotted some signs for a few different monasteries. We even pass a lady pulling her donkey carrying a heavy load along the road.
On the map we see that the yellow route starts to become really windy as it heads uphill into Sokraki.
917m at the top
We brave the roads as we drive round bends that hug the face of the mountain. I get increasingly nervous that we are low on petrol and still haven't seen the petrol station that is on the map. We pretty much reach the end of all the windy paths before we spot a sign for shell petrol 350m on what is an off road track. As we are in the jeep we manage the road quite easily. As the jeep blasts through we do kick up a bit of dust. We are glad to see the petrol station. It is run by a tiny old lady and she has an injured wrist wrapped in a bandage. She approaches us and starts to speak to us in Greek. Her dog starts going bonkers at us, barking his head off viciously. Eventually he sees his owner is at ease with us and he settles down and wanders off for a nap in the shade.
As we have no language skills we simply nod and shake our heads and point to unleaded petrol that we require. We pop the cap open and she resets her counter. She turns to us and I can only assume she asks us how much we want. We try to signal €20 but as has no clue of English and we have no clue in Greek. We pull out a €20 note and she laughs and shouts "icosa!" We laugh and repeat "icosa!" "icosa!" "icosa!" with her.
We are back on the road with a healthy tank of petrol. Full speed ahead out of Sokraki, we wizz past Zigos and Sgourades before we see signs for Mount Pantokrator. We rejoin the red route for a short bit and then back onto a yellow route. From here we encounter a few more cars, some oncoming like they have just finished up at Mount Pantokrator and the rest following us in the same direction.
Agios Gordis beach
As we approach the top we can see a huge pylon and a pile of hired cars and tourists. The cars are all line up against the face of the mountain. We join them and park up. Its nice to stretch our legs after an intense two hour journey. We feel the harsh heat and the sun beating down on us. We enjoy the views off the mountain, we can see Albania across the sea and we try to spot the villages and towns. There is a small cafe for refreshments and a monastery. Inside the gates was the monstery and the gift shop. A sign stands reminding visitors that they must be appropriately dressed before entering. The 917m sign hangs proudly on the bars of the pylon.
The monastery is small and dark. The walls and ceilings have painted pictures of saints.
Driving through the small towns
The painting are fairly well preserved except where a few bits have some patches of colour missing. The front of the alter has silver plated impressions of all the saints and some silver plated hanging incense holders. The church has seats around the side in the form of the fold up seats. It is quite nice after a long journey to sit here and enjoy the quiet, peaceful atmosphere. You can take a walk all the way around the outside of the monastery to get some good views off the mountain.
The journey down was much easier. As the signs for Kerkyra
was on every junction. We wanted to go to Aqua land (large water park) from here but on second thoughts we decide that it would probably be filled with lots of screaming hyper kids on their summer holidays and decided to go to Agios Gordis beach instead.
The plane swooped in from above our heads, creating an almighty noise. Before I could get the camera out again the plane had landed smoothly on the runway
The beaches on the west coast are said to be filled with golden sand, whereas the beaches on the east coast are full of fine shingles. As Agios Gordis is on the west coast and has a fine sandy beach. We pass the pink palace, the bright colour stands out from the green trees and rock, as it is on higher land than the beach you just can't miss it. The golden beach is filled with bodies lazing on sunloungers and under umbrellas. There are some jagged features to the main face of the rock, which gives the place a bit of character. There are a couple of huge stray rocks that lie off a few metres from the coast, I guess these are useful for launching yourself off or diving off. We park in the taverna car park right on the sea front for €4 for a whole day.
The east coast
Two sun loungers and an umbrella cost €5. The sea is again unexpectedly COLD at the first touch. Once you swim around for a couple of minutes it does warm up. Lots of people laying on sun loungers and floating and getting their tan on. Kids dunking each other and a few groups playing ball games in the water. We manage to stay for about 2hrs before we decide to take a drive down south and the along the east coast to head back to Kerkyra.
From Agios Gordis we headed down south towards Paramonas, Prasoudi and Kanouli. From this point we cross through inland and start making our way throught to the east coast. We join the east coast at Messonghi
, pass the bigger beach resorts like Moraitika and Benitses. The drive along the coast was amazing, seeing the beaches and the coastline, the sun setting in front of you and the wind in your hair. We pass the runway of the airport and before we know it an almighty noise of an incoming plane is swooping over the tops of our heads and lands right in front of us. I didn't get the camera out quick enough to snap the underbelly of the plane but I did snap it just before it touched the runway.
A full on day of Corfu island but it is absolutely worth renting a car for one day and just taking a trip around the island.