Old Peritheia is the oldest village of Corfu, which is located in the heart of Mount Pantokrator. Ruined stone mansions and semi-ruined temples with forever muted bell towers compose the landscape of Old Peritheia, a village which time has forgotten.
With houses from the 14th century, Old Peritheia is Corfu’s most ancient village. Strategically built to be safe from pirate attacks, it’s near the top of the island’s highest peak, Mount Pantokrator.
The village is surrounded by dense forest with views of the Ionian Sea. For decades, this village was deserted until it was completely abandoned in the 1960s, when tourism hit the island. Since 2010, the village has begun coming alive once again, as it continues to be loved by locals and tourists.
Feelings of nostalgia, time, and memory
In today’s village, which lies in ruins, one can walk through and get the deep sense of traveling in time. The natural beauty, unique architecture, and eerie atmosphere of another era have remained unchanged. The ruins of the homes invite visitors to get a taste of another time period, with stately tapestries, fireplaces, and ceilings still at least partially intact.
Paris-based photographer Victor Lazareff captured Old Peritheia in a series of photographs, which reflect the village’s deep sense of time and nostalgia for a time long gone.
Visitors can walk though the skeletons of the mansions and take note of old coats of arms belonging to families still occupying spaces. One really feels as if in another era altogether. In between half-demolished mansion doors, one might also notice rare decorations and objects dominating, further reinforcing the feeling of abandonment.
At the same time, as you enter the ruins, you notice the dates of the houses eloquently written on the walls—”1334″ or “1200,” informing visitors that this village was once a glorious center of civilization.
Viewing the semi-dilapidated stone mansions gives you a sense of watching a movie. The old, abandoned homes evoke sadness and nostalgia, and the fact that little is known about the families that lived inside these once beautiful mansions gives you the chance to draw your own conclusions of what life for them might have looked like.
The monasteries and old churches highlight the village’s strong religious character. Eight picturesque churches belonging to various families of the village are preserved. At the entrance of the village stands the remarkable bell tower of St. James of Persia. On the opposite side of the village is its oldest pre-Cristian church, St. Nicholas of Petra.
Visiting Old Peritheia can also be combined with adventurous hiking opportunities among the numerous beehive farms, abandoned churches, and ruins of the ancient village.
The Corfu Trail, which runs from the northern to the southern part of the island, passes through Old Peritheia.
A few traditional tavernas provide visitors with homemade Corfiot food and a chance to witness a very unique and quiet side of the island. Visitors can enjoy lunch and homemade wine by the old abandoned monasteries.
History of Corfu’s ancient village
Although little is known about the inhabitants and history of the village, it is said to be the oldest village on Corfu, as it was built in pre-Christian years, when the few inhabitants of the time were seeking a safe refuge from the natural disasters that pounded the island. Its population later substantially increased, as it became a safe haven from pirate attacks due to its strategic location. Essentially, you can view the ocean from there, but ships from the ocean cannot view the village.
In addition, Old Peritheia was the first seat of the municipality of Kassiopi. During the years of 1866 to 1912, it was the seat of the northern part of the island. The 130 stone mansions of the village possess a unique Venetian architectural style.
In 1966, the Ministry of Culture declared the village a historic monument.
Threatened by wildfires
Efforts were made to stop the spread of the blaze with various aircraft including planes and helicopters capable of dropping water onto the fire. Sixty-two firefighters, three groups of hikers, and twenty-one fire trucks worked together to put out the flames.
At the time, the mayor of North Corfu Giorgos Mahimaris commented “The fire is burning around the perimeter of the Old Perithea. Air assets are doing an excellent job of containing the front. Things are under control. The situation is better than yesterday when many settlements were at risk. Tourists have started to return to their accommodations.”