... and where better to wallow than Corfu, in the heart of the land of lotus-eaters. Chris Caldicott reveals the island's best-kept secrets
In 1930 Evelyn Waugh wrote: "I cannot conceive why rich people go to the French Riviera when there are places like Corfu left in the world." Today, although parts of the island have suffered the degradation of mass tourism, Corfu is still a likely contender for one of the most idyllic Mediterranean destinations - if you know where to go.

Getting there

The only scheduled flights are from Heathrow via Athens on Olympic Airways (0171-409 3400), whose cheapest fare is about pounds 230 return. Lower fares, or at least more convenient flights, are available on numerous charter airlines. Ask a travel agent or check the advertisements on ITV Teletext.

More information is available from the National Tourism Organisation of Greece, 4 Conduit Street, London W1R 0DJ (0171-734 5997). A good source for books on Corfu and elsewhere in Greece is Hellenic Bookservice, 91 Fortess Road, London NW5 1AG (0171-267 9499).

Getting around

The airport is close to Corfu's capital, Kerkira, only a cheap taxi ride, or a hearty walk, from the downtown hotels. Hire cars are available right outside the terminal building, and one of the cheapest options is a sort of poor-man's jeep called a Daihatsu Zebra. These are open-top and unlockable (although with a blissfully low crime rate on the island this is no real handicap) and the modest engine is perfectly capable of getting four people up even the steepest mountain roads.

Where to stay

The bays and woods around the tiny port and village of Agios Stefanos in the north-east corner of the island (just two miles or so from the shore of neighbouring Albania) are discreetly scattered with self-catering villas, some charming with verandas and cascading bougainvillaea, others modern, with lots of space and light. The majority of the villas here are available through CV Travel in London (0171-581 0851), which also rents out Lawrence Durrell's old house in nearby Kalami. Of course there are similar properties all around the north-east of the island and up in the hills they usually have spectacular swimming pools with stunning views - no substitute, in my opinion, for the pleasure of sliding into the sparkling Mediterranean at the bottom of your garden for a morning swim and messing around in boats all day.

For those not taking the self-catering option there are several attractive and reasonably priced hotels in Kerkira, like the Hotel Constantinoupolis (00 30 661 48716), where a double room with a view over the ocean, private bathroom and breakfast in the romantic port area ranges from pounds 30-pounds 40 a night, depending on season. A similar deal at the luxurious Corfu Palace (00 30 661 39485) can cost more than pounds 150. Beyond Kerkira most accommodation is geared towards package tourists and is often full in season. Rooms and houses can be negotiated by the day in Agios Stefanos by asking around, although pre-booked weekly deals are almost always better value.

What to do

Once settled in, life in Corfu soon becomes a series of lazy days pottering around by boat, buying fresh bread, yoghurt and honey for breakfast, having long lunches of fresh seafood and olive-oil soaked vegetables followed by afternoon siestas. After plenty of sun and swimming, balmy evenings are finished off with fine Metaxa brandy and deep sleep.

The best of the bays of crystal clear water backed by tranquil olive groves are found around Agios Stefanos. A narrow winding road, too small for coaches, offers the only land route here - although many of the bays beyond the village are completely inaccessible by car.

Further inland, on the slopes of Mount Pantocrator, Corfu's highest mountain, are tiny, timeless hill villages. On Sunday mornings elderly couples search the road sides for wild oregano and people gather in the village cafes for coffee, and often something stronger, before attending church services conducted by wild-looking priests in Greek Orthodox finery. In the pretty square of Strinilas delicious lunch-time mezes are served in the shade of a mighty elm tree.

What not to do

The only thing you definitely shouldn't do is get too close to Albania, where a situation of considerable instability has put the country once again off limits. A very high-profile presence of Greek Navy patrol boats in the narrow channel ensures there is no danger to Corfun