Castle of the Angel
The phrase “no pain, no gain” is rather overused but in the case of Angelokastro, it rings true. Nestled smugly on the highest peak of Corfu is this Byzantine castle. Located along the northwest shoreline near Palaiokastritsa, Angelokastro was built on a precipitous and defensive terrain that simultaneously gifts its inhabitants a phenomenal view of the sea. Surveying the town of Corfu and the mountain ranges of mainland Greece, it is a strategic vantage point in times of invasion.
One of Corfu’s most imposing architectural remains alongside the Venetian Fortresses, Kassiopi Castle and Gardiki Castle, Angelokastro worked with the latter two to triangulate a defense system. Repelling against pirate incursions and the three major Ottoman sieges, its formidable fortifications are believed to date back to 1200s and earlier. It played official capital between late 1300s to late 16th century, as the seat of the governor of the Ionian Islands.
Whilst the castle had undergone a decade long reconstruction from 1999 to 2009, the incorporation of natural elements into its design means difficulty in upkeep. Wildlife and fauna has crept into the crevices of the ruins, butterflies, crickets and flowering insects flitting about in chorus. Nature has dealt damage that numerous invasion attempts failed to do. Nevertheless, there are a few preserved, must-see architectural highlights in this Castle of the Angels.
Weathering the elements and time is the Church of the Acropolis, built on the site of an Early Christian three-aisled church. This tribute site to Archangel Michael overlooks the anthropomorphic graves on the western front; the latter is comprised of seven graves carved in the style of a sarcophagus. On the opposite east side, the tiny Chapel in the rock houses 18th century paintings within its cave-like structure. It was also home to a hermit at some point, although lack of marks makes it difficult to pinpoint. To complete the circle, visit the only surviving battlements along the northern stretch. A circular tower protects the main gate, with the remains of a garrison’s quarters and underground cisterns nearby.
You can approach Angelokastro as both a heritage site and nature trail. The rugged cliff-scape it is perched on brings you 1,000 feet above sea level, laying out the oscillating valleys and turquoise bays that make Corfu so beautiful. For those bringing along their cameras, try for scenic shots from all sides as they yield a diverse landscape. They are guaranteed to turn out beautifully as long as the sun is up.
By Dr.K. – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27105339
Some things to take note of – You have to drive up to the entrance (or take a shuttle from the nearest town) and embark on a steep walk up. Dress practically and wear comfortable shoes as you are scaling a lot of steps. Be careful when you are exploring the edges as well, since there are sheer drops only loosely fenced off. While there are no refreshments on site, there are some restaurants around the entrance to rest up after your visit. We recommend replenishing your energy after the walk up as you may experience discomfort on a full stomach.