A Dutch/English couple on holidays in Corfu was intrigued when they read about Palia Peritheia, a centuries-old ‘ghost’ village hidden in the green mountains in the north of the island. They visited and instantly fell under the spell of its beauty and quiet, and were surprised to find out it actually still had two permanent residents, and also… five tavernas! For several years in a row Saskia and Mark came back and they started dreaming of living in this mesmerising village. They ended up buying three houses set under one long collapsed roof, where once a doctor, a carpenter, a weaver and a farmer had lived and worked. After a thorough restoration there are now four suites and one room with twin beds, all offering great comfort, some traditional-style furniture, a feeling of British elegance, luxurious Dutch bedspreads and a few Venetian touches in the decoration. The suites on the top floor are set under high, sloping ceilings; the others, on the ground floor, have the advantage of opening directly on to the terrace and the (small) garden. I was lucky to be among the very first guests to stay at The Merchant’s House. It was in the spring, and sitting out in the little garden, I wondered what was louder, the singing of the birds, the buzzing of the insects, or that little voice inside me that pleaded me to never leave.
This is all about unwinding, letting go of stress. Palia Peritheia is so charming, so peaceful, so quiet – a perfect place in Corfu to forget about the rest of the world. Add to that the comfort of the suites of the Merchant's House and the wonderful hosts, and you’ll get it: this is heaven.
The drive to the nearest beach doesn't take all that long (about 15-20 minutes), but the sea is not close enough to go for a quick pre-breakfast dip when you are staying at the Merchant’s House. And swimming pools are not allowed in Palia Peritheia, which is a heritage-protected site.
4 double suites; extra bed for child (10-14 years) possible in some suites
1 suite for 2 persons (with twin beds)
En-suite bathroom (shower)
iPod docking station
Air conditioning (on request)
Iron and ironing board
The Merchant’s House does not have its own restaurant, but a wonderful breakfast is served on the terrace or in the adjacent taverna. There is a great selection of home made jams and compotes, as well as local eggs, bacon, yoghurt, and a choice of cereals and fruit. Fresh orange juice is extra. You can let Mark and Saskia know if you have any specific dietary requirements (for instance gluten free).
For lunch and dinner you have a choice between the four or five Greek tavernas of Palia Peritheia, which are all only a short stroll away. I tried two different ones and had an excellent meal (traditional Greek cuisine) in both.
Walking and hiking
Take a leisurely walk through Palio Peritheia, and dream of what you what do if one of the abandoned houses was yours. Or put on your hiking boots and follow (some of) the Corfu Trail, a 220 km sign-posted hiking route which passes through the village.
There are several beaches within 15-30 minutes’ driving distance from the village. Some are sandy, others pebbly; some are more sheltered than others, and most have one or two tavernas so you don’t have to bring your picnic if you go for the day. There are a few that offer water sports (windsurfing, canoeing, sailing).
Rent a small motorboat for the day (no need for a licence for boats up to 30 hp) and explore small beaches and coves that are hard to reach by land.
Give scuba diving a try. There’s a PADI diving centre in Kassiopi, with courses and programmes for all levels. Great visibility; explore reefs, rocks, underwater caves and a shipwreck.
Rent a mountain bike to explore the area. Get bikes for the day or for the duration of your stay; there’s a good shop in the village of Acharavi. They also organise guided bicycle tours fitting various levels of fitness and skill.
Bring your camera and/or painting materials and let the surroundings inspire you. You’re in heaven for nature photography and landscape painting.
The Merchant’s House is in Palia (Old) Peritheia, reputedly Corfu’s oldest village. It dates back to the 3rd century BC, when after a devastating tsunami hit the coast, the survivors sought safer grounds away from the sea. When in the 14th century Corfiotes were suffering regular pirate attacks, many sought refuge in the village. It was a flourishing place with some 1,500 inhabitants until the mid-20th century, but then people started moving back to the coastal areas. In the end, there were two villagers left, and as many places to eat. Even though most of the village’s gorgeous Venetian-style houses were crumbling, it still was a beautiful place to visit, and after one family living by the sea had the bright idea to open another taverna in Palia Peritheia, soon two more followed. And that pretty much sums up what you have today: a handful of tavernas, one bed and breakfast, beautiful old, abandoned houses, several centuries-old churches and endless walking trails leaving practically from your doorstep.
Corfu is relatively easy to reach: there are several daily flights from Athens and there are also direct flights from abroad. If you come by car, you will cross from Igoumenitsa (the ferry ride takes about one hour – several ferries a day). I strongly recommend that if you come by plane, you rent a car from the airport. Saskia and Mark can give you detailed driving instructions. They suggested I take the scenic route, which indeed is a lovely drive. You should follow the coastal road via Nisaki all the way to the north of the island. Then about 5 km after Kassiopi you turn left and follow signs for Loutses and Palia Peritheia. It is an 8 km drive up the mountains. Park at the entrance of the village and you will see The Merchant’s House on your left after the first taverna.