After far too months of lost travel, due to the global health crisis, I finally felt confident enough to book a vacation abroad. In an attempt to catch the last rays of summertime, I dug up old spreadsheets/research from my 2020 cancelled trips and re-booked a version of a replacement holiday that lead me to the distant shores of Greece and Albania.
Corfu (the queen of the Ionian Sea), was a lovely place to spend a week with three girlfriends. We stayed at Villa Litsa, in the traditional seaside village of Benitses (population 1,000). Our villa provided us with tons of space and a private pool. The host was an absolute gem (she even drove us from/to the airport)!
The villa was nicely situated about a 20-minute walk into the Old Village of Benitses.
Benitses offered a plethora of restaurants and tavernas and a low key, but pleasant nightlife. Below are my recommendations for Benitses:
Big Bite - This taverna might not look like much from the road, but if you walk through, you'll end up with your feet very nearly in the sand. We only went for a sundowner, but I've read the breakfast is great.
Argo's poolside was a lovely, atmospheric spot to enjoy some Greek/Mediterranean cuisine.
Klimataria: Whatever you do, don't miss dinner here. Be sure to book in advance though, as this family-run restaurant only has 11 tables.
Benitses was about a 30-minute drive to Corfu Town. My recommendations in this area include:
Imabari Beach Club: The only place in Corfu city with access to the sea. It's a great spot to eat and drink the day away. The staff were lovely and accommodating as well.
Bristol Cafe: This popular bar, right in the heart of Corfu Town, has a laid-back vibe, cool decor and delicious cocktails.
Venetian Well: A little difficult to find, but well worth the search. Vaccinations were a requirement to dine here. The food was a gastronomic delight!
Whilst on the island of Corfu, I would also highly recommend getting out on the water, to spend the day cruising the blue waters around Paxos and Antipaxos. But I would strongly suggest booking a private boat, rather than a tour. The boat we went on was way too busy and cruisey, but the scenery was still something to behold.
From Corfu, we did a day trip to Saranda, Albania (AKA the Albanian Riviera) .
Ionian Seaways offered fast ferries (called the Flying Dolphin) from the port in Corfu Town to Saranda, which took 35-mins and cost €19 each way. *Fun fact: Albania is an hour behind Greece, so when you take this vessel, you arrive before you left. All that was needed to travel from Greece to Albania was a passport and confirmation of both vaccinations. On the way back, a Greek passenger locator form needed to be completed in addition.
After arriving into Albania, we got some breakfast at Bar Restaurant Limani, in the Saranda promenade. The breakfast was nothing to write home about, but I can imagine this being a great place to grab an afternoon drink!
At 10am, our private guide, Eraldo, showed up and we set off on our half-day tour.
The first stop was the beautiful Blue Eye, about a 20-minute drive away. Divers have descended to fifty meters, but it is still unclear the actual depth of this spring water natural phenomenon.
After hiking around for a bit, we enjoyed a traditional Albanian tea in this hut. It was all very zen.
Then it was onwards, another 20-mins or so, to Lëkursi Castle - basically an old castle turned restaurant/beer garden, with beautiful views of Saranda and Corfu.
The last stop on our tour was Ksamil beach, which was absolutely stunning! Instead of having Eraldo drive us back to Saranda, we decided to stay in Ksamil and then taxi back later, in time for our return ferry. We ate lunch at Restaurant Guvat and then went down to their private beach and sunned ourselves.
If you find yourself in this part of the world, I highly recommend visiting Corfu and making a day trip over to the Albanian Riviera. Neither were a disappointment!