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For nature lovers, hikers, cyclists, bird-watchers and wildlife photographers… but also for fish and seafood lovers! In the wider area of Agios Matthaios, on the southwest coast of Corfu, there is the largest lake on the island, Korission lake, which was turned into a lagoon since 1923, when a channel was created to connect the lake with the sea. It is a rare wetland of unique beauty, protected as a Natura 2000 site. This somewhat exotic wetland, spreading over 4,000 acres, is home to an impressive ecosystem of rich flora and fauna, including a variety of fish, birds, plants and trees. Out of the 200 species of birds, you will notice the exotic flamingos that look like they dance rhythmically as they cool off in the lake. Out of the 162 species of plants, you will notice the fragrant white sea lilies and the impressive orchids (14 species) that grow in the sand! And above this enchanting scenery you will see a veil of thousands butterflies. In the tranquil waters of the lake, there are many species of fish, eels, oysters, crabs, as well as small prawns, which are fished by traditional lagoon boats (koritos) and are served fresh at the nearby taverns. Before lunch at the nearby taverns and before swimming in Halikounas or Issos beach, the beaches surrounding the Korission lagoon, you can hike (with a guide) at the dense Cedar Forest (Natura 2000), which extends north, from the mouth of the lagoon, for three kilometers! In any case, do not miss the opportunity to visit the Korission lagoon’s wetland and the surrounding beaches to admire this impressive lagoon ecosystem that has existed in the area for centuries as an ancient monument of Nature.
The village of Agios Matthaios is embraced by huge olive trees, which at first glance do not even look like olive trees, but do indeed produce one of the best olive oils in the world, the “Governor olive oil”, which has unique phenolic content! Governor olive oil is produced by a small local olive mill, continuing the family tradition, with a modern and extroverted way!
This is a vertical chasm cave on the mountain on Agios Matthaios, featuring a rich decoration in its main part, and is believed to have 10 levels of several meters! Although it has been discovered since 1822, it has not been extensively explored. Two exploring attempts took place only recently. An effort was made by the members of the Hellenic Institute of Speleological Research (HISR) and another one by the French speleologist René van Vliet. However, it is yet to be confirmed if the cave actually leads into the sea (hence the name), as the locals believe!
On a hill, near the village of Agios Matthaios, stand the remnants of the Gardiki castle, an octagonal Byzantine castle, with eight towers and three gates, built in the 13th century to protect the inhabitants of Zygonos, at that time. But neither they nor the village could be saved from the raid of Hayreddin Barbarossa, who plundered the entire island in the 16th century! (The village of Zygonos was rebuilt in the 16th century at a higher and more inaccessible place, under the name of Agios Mattheos!)
Through a narrow alley of the village you get to the homonymous mountain (Agios Matthaios), and start climbing it until you reach the top, where stands the Pantokratoros Monastery (this monastery is other than Pantokratoras Monastery located on mount Pantokratoras). The Monastery of Pantokratoros on the mountain of St. Matthew remains closed all year, except August 5 and 6, when the Transfiguration of the Savior is celebrated. But it is worth a visit anyway, just for the route and the magnificent views!