Some liken it to the landscapes of the Sahara, particularly those bordering the coasts of North Africa gazing towards the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, it’s surrounded by a rather lush cedar forest. Surf aficionados deem it something of a summertime surfing Eden in the Ionian Sea. That may seem like a juxtaposition, but it’s precisely in these contrasts that Halikounas triumphs: a beach with the most harmonious of natural balances. Considered one of Corfu’s most beautiful and distinctive coastlines, it also presents a vista quite apart from the rest of the island.
Here you will find a tranquil oasis, even on the busiest of August weekends at the peak of summer. Its serenity is owed to its slightly challenging accessibility and its status as an unspoilt beach, forming part of an area of natural beauty protected under the European Natura 2000 network. This means visitors often bring their own beach equipment. However, for those inclined, a sole section permits a beach bar. In the summer, it offers umbrellas, loungers and all the beach food and drink essentials.
Sand, Cedars, and Mesmerising Seas
The beach borrows its name from the village of Halikounas, sprawled across this southwestern area of Corfu at an elevation of 28 metres. Historically, it was regarded as a coastal settlement of the village Agios Mattheos – located 7 kilometres northward. However, now it enjoys its independent identity, albeit remaining a quaint locale with a 2011 census revealing a population of just 81. Halikounas beach is essentially a broad stretch of sand impressively spanning almost 3 kilometres, nestled between the waters of the Ionian on one side and those of the western bank of the Korission lagoon on the other – a significant wetland habitat. Don’t be surprised if you spot flamingos soaring while you bask on the shore. The only divide between the lagoon and the sea is a slender, 250-metre-wide land strip, where a man-made channel, constructed of rocks and concrete, connects the lagoon to the sea.
This particular spot is known as Tayo and marks the southernmost part of Halikounas Beach. Intriguingly, evidence suggests that a settlement existed here during prehistoric times, some 950 to 750,000 years ago. In more recent times, the beach has become home to the local fishermen’s facilities, and you can admire their traditional fishing boats, known locally as ‘korito’.
Just a short distance away, roughly halfway from the beginning of Halikounas, you’ll discover Tayo beach bar. It is an ideal destination for those who fancy a dip in the fresh waters yet appreciate the comfort of an organised facility, complete with sun loungers, umbrellas, and other amenities. Moreover, as previously mentioned, despite its expanse, Halikounas remains an unspoiled beach that is considered an extension of the Korission lagoons. Consequently, owing to the protective status of this neighbouring lagoon, there is a strict prohibition on developing or erecting any infrastructure, be it for tourism or other purposes.
Thus, Halikounas maintains its unadulterated character, emerging as a landscape of wild natural beauty, untouched by the trappings of tourism. This beauty encompasses rugged hills, rich sands that impart a ‘golden’ touch, and the previously mentioned grove of sea cedars – all contributing their unique essence to the idyllic coastal vista.
Despite its prominent presence, the sand does not mingle with the Ionian waters, which remain tranquil and crystal clear even in the shallowest parts. The beach deepens only after several meters. Something to keep in mind is that Halikounas is considered a haven for those passionate about windsurfing and kite surfing. It’s no coincidence that the “Kite Club Corfu” and the “Surf Centre Corfu” have established their summer bases here. This signifies the strong presence of southern and western winds in the area, consistently producing waves. Depending on the wind’s intensity, these waves can sometimes be quite formidable.
How to reach Halikounas
Halikounas is located 31 kilometres from Corfu Town and is accessible by road. Setting off from there, head southwest, following the route that goes through the villages of Perama and Mesongi, leading to the area of Agios Matthaios (mentioned earlier). Estimate a journey time of around one hour. Although the road is well-maintained for the most part, its last 500 meters turn to gravel and can be somewhat challenging: some vehicles, for instance, have found this stretch particularly tricky. On the upside, it’s worth noting that Halikounas is even accessible for those with mobility challenges as there are ramps for wheelchairs strategically placed at various points.
It’s advisable, then, to leave your vehicle a bit earlier and proceed on foot for the remaining distance. You’ll traverse a wooden bridge, which you will observe connecting the lagoon area to the beach. Admittedly, it might not be the easiest venture, especially if you’re carrying your own equipment. However, the distance is rather short, and with a touch of care on the timber bridge, you’ll soon find yourself emerging onto the vast expanse of sandy shore – a sight that’s sure to swiftly captivate you.
Given its vastness, raw beauty, clean, shallow waters, and the fact that it remains untouched by commercialisation, Halikounas has something to offer every visitor, attracting a varied array of guests. A certain stretch of it, towards the furthest reaches of its sands, has become a popular haunt for those who prefer naturism. Lastly, regular beachgoers highly recommend not departing from here until you’ve witnessed the sunset, which is often described as utterly enchanting, awash with deep orange hues that resemble distant flames on the horizon.