Corfu, Greece: The idyllic Greek island villa for a perfect low-key holiday

You can't really consider yourself off the grid when the nearest negroni is just four minutes' walk away. This is a disconcerting realisation. We have become so accustomed to feeling ensconced in a universe of our own, sitting on one of the terraces of our terracotta villa and gazing out to sea, that it is a shock to remember that civilisation lies at the bottom of our driveway.

All we have to do is stroll down our zigzag drive and we step right into the middle of the village of Kalami. Just a few steps more and we're already out of town. Kalami is compact, with one street, two mini-markets, and a couple of tavernas fronting on to the main beach. The deckchairs may sit on stony ground but the clear water lapping the shore is a shade of blue-green designed to break hearts.

Kalami is not a holiday hotspot. Located on Corfu's scenic north coast, it's sleepy compared with nearby tourist towns such as Kalliopi, and a world away from the package resorts that have ravaged the island's west coast. The driver who brings us here assumes we have visited before and when we tell him we haven't he is impressed. "You hit the jackpot on your first visit," he says. We soon realise how right he is.

Our brief was simple: we wanted to hole up somewhere nice and relax. The moment we lay eyes on our villa – with its three terraces, its sea-green shutters, a heated pool, bougainvillea framing the doors and a front-and-centre ocean view – we realise we have come to the right place.

The villa is surrounded by the verdant vegetation that sets Corfu apart from many other Greek islands. The slopes around us are covered with a tangle of trees and bushes: cedars, olive trees, eucalypts, bougainvillea, succulents and tall grasses all jostle for space. It's a landscape lovingly recollected by Gerald Durrell in My Family and Other Animals, the memoir of his Corfu childhood. Unlike the young Durrell, however, we have only the occasional encounter with wildlife, including a delightful pink gecko that I spot running across a wall.

Our days are the opposite of action-packed. Mornings we laze around; afternoons are for exploring. We enjoy a scenic boat tour organised through our villa manager, and visit Corfu Town with its elegant Venetian architecture. Some evenings we cook for ourselves, finishing our meals with basil or rosemary that we harvest from the garden; other nights we head to a taverna. One night our villa manager organises a cook to come in and prepare a meal. The Mediterranean feast that Sia whips up is not only delicious but so generous that we feast on the leftovers for several days.

With three beaches within walking distance there are plenty of swim spots to choose from, but our favourite is a hidden cove accessible only on foot or by boat. The prime perches include a small pontoon and a gently sloping slab of rock where you can sun yourself like a seal.

Kalami even has its very own Durrell connection, in the shape of The White House, a waterside taverna that was once home to Durrell's older brother, novelist Lawrence Durrell. We head there for lunch one day but the service is so disinterested that we give up and go elsewhere for our meal. Every paradise comes with a touch of trouble; if this is as bad as it gets, you can colour us content.


Ute Junker was a guest of The Thinking Traveller.




Aegean and Olympic airways fly to Corfu from Athens, a flight of around an hour. See


The Thinking Traveller has a range of villas in a range of Mediterranean locations, and also offers excursions and on-the-ground support. Rates for Villa Jasmine in Corfu start at €2880 a week. Phone (02) 8046 6499. See