Agios Stefanos, in northeast Corfu, is not to be confused with the bustling resort of the same name on the opposite coast. A peaceful hideaway, it has a pretty bay, good tavernas and a resident artist
Agios Stefanos, on the northwest coast of Corfu, attracts families with its large sandy beach and the usual bustle of such places. But if you’re looking for somewhere quieter, the other Agios Stefanos (Saint Stephen), on the rocky northeast coast, may be for you. It’s a small village just a few kilometres south of Kassiopi, the nearest resort town.
Your first view of Agios Stefanos from the steep and winding approach road is straight from the tourist brochure, but if you’re the driver, stop to take it in – it’s a long way down to where you will land if you put a wheel over the edge. The village is clustered around the head of a small sheltered bay within the rocky coastline, the water is classic shades of blue, and there's always a yacht or two at anchor. As in much of Corfu, there's a lot of greenery here compared with other Greek islands.
Where to stay
There is no hotel or pension; all the tourists are accommodated in villas or apartments, or on the yachts anchored overnight in the bay. For that self-catering trade, the village has two decently stocked mini-markets, one with English newspapers available.
We booked a one-bedroom, air-conditioned Damianos apartment through www.sunisle.co.uk at a discounted cost of £615 for two weeks in June 2009. The building stands in its own grounds on the edge of the village centre, just a couple of minutes' walk from the sea. We have used Sunisle several times – they are choosy about the accommodation they offer, their website is good and their office staff are helpful and knowledgeable about their properties.
The one-bedroom apartments are on the pool terrace level, but we were lucky to get an upgrade to a two-bedroom apartment on the top floor, with a view over the treetops and a good-sized balcony. The apartments are of a good standard, and the roomy dining/kitchen area was well equipped. The pool is plenty big enough for the 12 apartments, and is clean and well maintained.
Out and about
The front of the bay is occupied by tavernas, café bars and boat hirers, and to the left is the main beach, which has sun beds and parasols. It’s stony, and unless you have leather feet, you will need swim footwear, but once in the water it’s a lovely swim within the sheltered bay. There are much larger shingle beaches a couple of kilometres to the south, where the road ends at Kerasia, and to the north at Avlaki, reached along the back road to Kassiopi.
At Avlaki, there is a sailing school (www.corfu-sailing-events.com). The bay is ideal for fun sailing in a dinghy – if you just want an hour, hire rates are €35 for a basic Topper, and a bit more for Lasers. Windsurfers are also available and when I visited, they were busy devising a teaching simulator of their own design. For €45 upwards, you can hire a motor boat for a day from one of the three outfits doing that business in Ag Stef. They are all modern, with sun shade, and are ideal for getting to some of the small coves that are otherwise a bit of a trek (or inaccessible) by foot, or for a bit of fishing. Try San Stefano Boats: www.sanstefanoboats.com.
In the summer months, Ag Stef also features a resident artist, Chris Stephens. You'll find his place easily, a short distance along a track from behind the San Stefano Boats’ office. Chris is a friendly guy to while away a bit of time with as you browse his works. It’s a gallery in that some of his drawings and paintings are displayed there - but they're displayed in and around his small cottage; negotiate his bed to get close to some of his life studies. His range is not limited to Corfu scenes, which he does in his own style. Posters in the village advertise his official open days, but go along any time and, as he says, if he is at home, he is open. You can view some of his work at www.shopforprints.com.
There are five tavernas to choose from in Ag Stef and others at Kerasia and Avlaki. I say tavernas, but sadly the traditional Greek family taverna of fond memory (with its ragged menu just an indicator of what they might have, so you visit the kitchen and choose from what you see) is an endangered species. These days, many so-called tavernas are, in reality, restaurants – cloth table coverings instead of the plastic sheet and paper variety are the giveaway. In Ag Stef, it’s around €25 a head for two courses with a glass of house wine, whichever place you choose; share a bottle of wine, add mineral water, a sweet and coffee, and you are up to €35 a head.
Ta Fagopotion boasts traditional cooking, and you will find new things to try there, but it also has traditional taverna seats, so take a cushion if your personal padding is a bit thin. An expat resident informed me that Taverna Cochelli, the last one on the road out of the village, with elevated views of the bay, had the best chef. When we ate there, I chose the Corfiot speciality of sofrito (beef fillet in herb and garlic sauce) - it was beautifully tender and tasty.
Night life in Ag Stef is limited to the two café bars, Wave and Damianos. Both have comfortable seating and internet facilities that are free to paying customers, which is nicer than being charged by the minute.