There’s no doubt that all 227 inhabited Greek islands have something unique to offer, be that stunning beaches, incredible nightlife, or unbeatable culture. However it’s not possible to visit them all – at least on our budget! – which creates a difficult decision. Which do you choose? When you have two iconic Greek islands like Corfu and Zakynthos – also known as Zante – then that decision is even harder.
Both of these Ionian islands are known for their blue water and lush greenery, but they’re also very different. Thankfully we know both islands well, and are here to help!
Below we pit Corfu vs Zakynthos. We look at which island has the better beaches, activities, nightlife and more!
Corfu vs Zakynthos: Which Has the Better Beaches?
When it comes to the beach battle, we think Zakynthos just shades it. While both of these islands have plenty of scenic beaches to choose from, Zakynthos is home to one of the world’s most famous beaches.
That’s Navagio Beach, or as it’s better known “Shipwreck Beach”. This beach can only be reached by boat and is one of the most photographed beaches in Greece and the world!
That’s because this beach has a huge shipwreck sitting on the sand, and with the huge white cliffs that flank the beach and bay, it’s one of the most beautiful places to sunbathe in the world.
Another must visit is the tiny island of Marathon which is ust off the coast of Zante. This islet has a beach that juts out into the sea and is surrounded on all sides by spectacular hues of blue. It’s a fantastic swimming and diving spot.
For nature lovers spend a day at Zante’s Paralia Laganas – a popular beach for spotting loggerhead turtles. (Recommended: The Best Greek Islands for Couples).
Corfu has its fair share of fantastic beaches too, but none as iconic – or arguably as pretty – as Zante’s Shipwreck Beach.
In Corfu’s west coast you will find sandy beaches that stretch for miles, whilst the east coast has pebble beaches that are exceptionally pretty. The village of Paleokastritsa on the northwest coast is a must visit for the quaint feel, family-owned tavernas, and six sandy beaches set against ancient olive groves.
Halikounas is another great option, as this beach boasts golden sands and warm shallow waters. It can be a little windy at times and is a popular kitesurfing spot because of that. However we recommend coming here in the late afternoon as some of the best sunsets in Corfu can be found on this very beach.
Corfu’s Limni Beach Glyko may be one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece – this double beach is flanked on either side by a bay with a sea colour palette of different blues.
Corfu or Zakynthos: Which Has the Better Attractions?
There are so many things to do on both of these islands that it’s impossible to choose which one is better in this category. It really depends on personal preferences and what you’d like to do and see on your vacation.
Corfu is a great island to visit if you want to spend time in nature. If feeling adventurous you can make the journey to the top of Mount Pantokrator. It’s the highest peak on the island and you can reach the top by driving, taking a minibus tour, or hiking. The breathtaking panoramic views of the island and across the sea are worth it.
In fact there’s lots of great hiking routes on Corfu, and we definitely think this island is better than Zante when it comes to hiking and walking thanks to the mountains, valleys and gorges on the island. (Recommended: Hiking and Walking in Corfu).
A more historical location in Corfu is Angelokastro, a castle built in the 13th century and which sits more than 300 meters above sea level. In fact this whole island is dotted with an array of ancient castles, monasteries and fortresses, so if you’re a history buff you will love this place!
Zante also has many monasteries too, and one of the most famous is the Anafonitria Monastery. This monastery was consecrated sometime in the middle of the 15th century, and makes for a great place to visit due to its architecture, history and beautiful courtyard.
While Zante has less opportunities for hiking, it does have many beach activities. Along with the usual boat tours, sunbathing, snorkeling, diving and jet ski rentals that you can do on both islands, Zakynthos has the added bonus of being a popular island with turtles!
Gerakas Beach is one of their favourite spots, and turtles use this beach as a nesting site from late May to August. Part of the beach will be closed off during this period, but if you go down before dawn you will get the chance to watch the eggs hatch and see baby turtles make their way to the sea!
Another must-see attraction is Keri Lighthouse, not only because it’s a scenic place but also because the views out towards the sea are some of the best on Zante. There’s a restaurant near the lighthouse (Keri Lighthouse Restaurant) that sits on the cliff and faces west, perfect for witnessing a beautiful sunset while enjoying an ouzo, of course.
Corfu or Zakynthos: Which Has the Better Resorts and Accommodation
This time Corfu is the clear winner in our mind! There are far more options and variety when it comes to accommodation in Corfu compared to Zakynthos. That’s mainly because Zante is the smaller island.
However we’ve also found most of the accommodation in Zante to be heavily geared towards tourists looking for resorts or all-inclusive experiences. That’s fantastic if you want an all-inclusive package, but it’s not great if you want a more genuine Greek experience like staying in an old shepherd’s hut or a taverna by the sea.
Because of Corfu’s size there’s more options if you’re looking for unique stays, hotels and package holidays too. Although there’s also some great choices in Zante too, just less options.
If you do choose Corfu, then Kontokali Bay Resort & Spa is a great option. They have beautiful rooms and suites, each with fantastic views of either their lush gardens or the Ionian Sea. Not only that, but they also have a private beach, a seawater pool, four restaurants, and even a tennis court.
If you’re looking for more upmarket experiences then consider basing yourself on the north-coast of Corfu. The options there tend to be more expensive and upscale but well worth it if you want a bit of solitude. There are a lot of great villas you can rent in the area, including Villa Regina which comes with its own private pool, garden, and parking.
One of the best luxury hotels in Zakynthos has to be Porto Zante Villas and Spa. Right on the beachfront, they have a lot to offer such as private heated pools and gardens. They have a Greek and Mediterranean restaurant, as well as one that serves Asian dishes.
For a more quiet and laid back time you can stay in Pansion Limni located in Keri. These budget-friendly self-catering rooms are simple, but feature a fantastic view of the Ionian Sea.
Corfu or Zakynthos: Which is easier to travel to?
You can get to both Corfu and Zakynthos from mainland Greece easily, but the one issue that arises with both is the fact neither are well connected to any of the other islands. That means if you want to visit several islands during your trip you would have to fly to Athens and then get another flight.
The best way to get to Corfu is through Athens but air travel is really the only option to get there directly as there are no ferries from Athens to Corfu. Luckily there are direct flights from Athens to Corfu throughout the year.
You can also catch a direct flight from many major European cities to Corfu, although most only run during the peak tourist season (April through October mainly).
If you’re willing to go out of your way in order to take a ferry instead, then you can drive five hours from Athens to Igoumenitsa where you can catch a ferry to Corfu.
Just like with Corfu, there are no ferries going from Athens to Zakynthos. If you want to catch a ferry then you can drive about three hours from Athens to Killini, and then take a ferry to Zakynthos from there. Traveling by air gives you more options, as there tends to be direct flights to Zante year-round from Athens and seasonal flights from major European cities.
Corfu or Zakynthos: Which Has the Better Nightlife?
There’s an easy winner in this category, as Zante is known as being one of the best nightlife spots in Europe!
This party island is home to boat parties, pool parties, numerous beach clubs and bars, and is one of Greece’s funnest islands. In fact Zante starts rockin’ the later in the evening it gets, and the popular bars and nightclubs don’t close until the sun begins to rise.
The Laganas Strip is the main nightlife spot in Zante, and that’s where you can find thousands of people enjoying the many bars and clubs. This is the liveliest spot on the island – and one of the livelist throughout Greece. It’s popular with the 18-30 crowd, so expect plenty of cheap drinks and deals.
Corfu has its nightlife spots too, and Corfu Town does have clubs and bars, but as an island its nightlife is much more laid back than Zante. Corfu is more about cocktails on the beach or glasses of wine in a taverna watching the sunset, rather than wild beach parties with pitchers of beer!
For many that’s a plus point to Corfu. However as Zante’s nightlife is so famous, it has to win this battle.
Corfu or Zakynthos: Which is the Better Choice?
Whichever island you choose you’ll have a great time. That said, there’s notable differences between both that will influence your holiday choice.
Corfu, as the larger island, has better hiking and walking opportunities and more beaches, and has more accommodation options. It’s a more laid-back island than Zante and will probably give you a more authentic Greek experience, so may be the better choice if you’re looking for more of a Greek vibe.
Zante, however, has arguably the better beaches and has opportunities for turtle spotting too. What may set it apart from Corfu more than anything else though is its energetic nightlife scene, and its reputation as a party island is certainly warranted.