Old Perithia, Corfu:
A Complete Guide
Having been to Corfu four times, I’d heard many things about Old Perithia, a.k.a Corfu’s oldest village. This so-called “ghost village” is high in the mountains, at the foot of the highest point on the island, Mount Pantokrator. Unlike Paleokastritsa, Kassiopi, and Corfu Town, Old Perithia rarely makes it onto travellers’ itineraries.
If you haven’t heard of this mysterious village, buckle up. You’re about to add it to your Corfu to-do list.
What is Old Perithia?
Corfu has many beautiful places, but it also has a danger-ridden history for the locals. Among numerous invasions from foreign entities, the Ionian tides brought in a constant stream of unwelcome visitors, including marauding pirates and disease-carrying mosquitoes. Such dangers made it a hassle (to put it lightly) to settle on the coast. Pirate attacks were frequent so many islanders headed inland to the hills for protection.
Old Perithia was one of those first havens. It was a safe distance from the sea, both in altitude and distance, so the threat of plundering was extremely low. Plus, it was surrounded by natural beauty which could hardly hurt.
What was Old Perithia like back in the day?
As the mountain was nearby, the area had plentiful local stone which the newcomers used to build agricultural villages. They started sheep farming, among other things, and lived a fairly peaceful life away from the turbulent shores and the chaos of the coastal towns. The amount of olive trees in the region led to the village being a great producer of olive-based goods.
It all sounds so serene, but it’s not called the abandoned village for nothing…
Why was Old Perithia abandoned?
As times changed, tourism affected the island and many of the residents of Old Perithia headed to the beaches of Corfu to find their fortune. A steady stream of villagers left until 1968 when Old Perithia was officially abandoned.
When Yelena and I went, we asked the local beekeeper why the villagers fled the village of Old Perithia and how it came to be that nature has reclaimed the old houses.
He told us that it was simple, really. New Perithia had electricity. Old Perithia didn’t.
Because of the location of the once-abandoned village, they were unable to build the infrastructure necessary to connect it with power. Many villagers moved to the village of ‘new’ Perithia. At the time of their departure, there were eight churches encircling the village, one for every 150 of its 1,200 residents.
After the beekeeper told us his short and sweet story, he gave us some honey to try. One was from spring flowers, while the other was thyme, oregano and other herbs. It had a unique taste to it so we got some as a Corfu souvenir (for my honey-loving gran and Yelena’s ex-beekeeper dad). It was €4 for 100g (so that we could take it in our hand-luggage on the plane), but they also had larger options for those who come for holidays with suitcases.
Why was Old Perithia re-inhabited?
After talking with other Corfiot locals, they told us that a film crew found the village and made a Greek movie among the crumbling stone walls of Old Perithia in the early 2000s. Since then, a whole host of tourists (originating with Greek tourists) wanted to visit the abandoned village of Old Perithia.
Ironically, it was tourism that initially prompted the villagers to leave the oldest village in Corfu, and tourism that encouraged them to come back. While the village is slowly coming back to life, many of the Venetian-style houses are still in varying states of decay. Some are roofless – just four crumbling stone walls. Others have been renovated and still house people to this day.
Many attribute the restoration of Old Perithia to the original restorers and owners of the Merchant’s House, a bed and breakfast that allowed tourists to stay in the village for the first time.
Old Perithia today
Now, Old Perithia is a protected heritage site and a certified tourist destination in its own right. The ghost village is at the start of many great hikes to and around Mount Pantokrator, too, so it attracts nature-lovers and hikers, particularly throughout the summer months.
It was surprisingly busy when we arrived. There were more than a dozen cars from tourists who had come to explore the abandoned village, and this was in October.
Located throughout the ruins of the village, you’ll find eight churches, not all of which are still active. Follow the circular route to go through the ruins. You’ll find nearly 150 abandoned houses, each with wild flowers and fig trees bursting through the windows and doors, and broken flower pots leftover from over fifty years ago.
This 14th century village was originally made with Venetian architecture and you can still see the remains of some of it. If you like to explore unique places and you enjoy a little dose of history on your travels, Old Perithia would be an intriguing place for you to visit.
How to get to Old Perithia
Rent a car
The easiest way to get to Old Perithia is to rent a car. There are no buses that go all the way there. Be warned, the road is steep and, depending on which route you take, some of it is rocky.
Catch a bus to Loutses
If you don’t want to rent a car, the closest destination to Old Perithia that you can reach by bus is Loutses. You can get there by hopping on the A12 from the green bus station in Corfu Town. From Loutses, theoretically you can get a taxi for around €10. However, I’ve never been to Loutses so I can’t testify to how easy this is. Chances are it’s an authentic mountain village with very few public transport options.
Another option for arriving in Loutses is to go via Kassiopi, a gorgeous little village that’s worth a visit all on its own. You can get to Kassiopi from Corfu Town on the A4 bus. It leaves regularly (except on Sundays) from the green bus station. The trip should take just over one hour and tickets cost €3.60. Double check the bus schedule for when you’re going as they may change. From Kassiopi centre, there are regular buses to Loutses.
Alternatively, you can walk from Loutses. It’s 4km and around 200m uphill. It should take just over an hour if you’re reasonably fit. There is only one road from Loutses so you could also try to hitchhike. People are more likely to pick you up when you’re clearly going to the same destination as they are.
Taxi from Kassiopi
If you’d rather get there faster but you don’t want to rent a car, you can get a taxi from Kassiopi, but it will set you back around €30-40.
Walk from Kassiopi
For the super fit, you could also walk from Kassiopi, but it’s 10km and uphill nearly 500m. It’ll probably take around 3 hours with a few short stops.
Explore the ruins of Old Perithia
Because of its uniqueness, Old Perithia is one of the most interesting places in all of Greece.
However you decide to reach the mountain village, make sure you save an hour or so to explore the full circuit. Don’t forget to check out the free honey tasting at the bee farm too. There’s a few small shops and restaurants serving local Greek food like moussaka and beef stifado, as well as the Merchant’s House B&B for those who want to stay a little longer. Old Perithia makes a great base for hiking trips to Mount Pantokrator.