Last updated on February 7, 2023 by Wandering our World
Corfu and Santorini are two of the most-visited Greek islands. Families, couples, and even solo backpackers from around the world make their way to these beautiful locations every year, and it’s not hard to see why.
Boasting stunning scenery, great food, and a relaxing atmosphere, both of these islands can provide the perfect getaway you’ve been dreaming of. But, if you only have time to visit one, which should you choose between Corfu and Santorini?
Well, the first thing to note is that Corfu and Santorini are quite different places. Not only are they over 370 miles apart from one another, with different climates and geographic conditions, but they also have very separate vibes….
Santorini is the quintessential Cycladic island, with the traditional white houses and blue-domed churches, often drawing in couples with its photogenic vistas and views. Corfu, meanwhile, is the product of Greek, Venetian, and Byzantine influences, with lush landscapes, amazing beaches and far more to explore.
Ultimately, when it comes to choosing between Corfu and Santorini, it all comes down to your own personal preferences and tastes.
That’s why below we look at which has the better beaches, nightlife, hotels, which will suit families, backpackers and couples, and lots more. All so you can make the right choice!
- A Quick Overview
- Which Is Easier To Get To?
- Which Is Easier To Get Around?
- Which Has Better Beaches?
- Which Is Best For Activities?
- Which Is Better For Nightlife?
- Which Is Best For Couples & Honeymoons?
- Which Has The Best Hotels?
- Which Is Best For Families?
- Which Is Better For A Family Trip?
- Which Is Better For Backpackers?
- Which Has The Best Food?
- Which Is Cheaper?
A Quick Overview Of Corfu vs Santorini
Corfu: A Quick Overview
Corfu, also known as Kerkyra, is one of the Ionian Islands. It’s located to the northwest of Greece, close to Albania and Italy. The main island of Corfu and its small satellites cover around 235 square miles (610 square km) in total.
This island has played a significant role in Greek history. Many battles took place here, centuries ago, and the island was a key strategic location, targeted by various groups and Empires throughout the ages – we can still see echoes of Corfu’s storied past in the many castles and forts scattered across its landscape.
As the northernmost of all the Greek islands, Corfu isn’t always as warm and sunny as some of the others; it often has high temperatures during the peak summer months, but becomes much cooler towards the end of the year.
Sometimes known as the Emerald Island, Corfu is notable for its lush, green landscapes. It’s a green and pleasant place, with countless olive trees and dense forests.
It’s also a package holiday hotspot, with many families flocking to the island’s coastal resorts, particularly in and around the main hub of Corfu Town.
Santorini: A Quick Overview
The island of Santorini is in a totally different part of Greece to Corfu; it’s located to the southwest, in the Aegean Sea.
Also known as Thira or Thera, this island sits 120 miles from the mainland and is formed of a caldera – the depression left behind after a volcano collapses.
Santorini is actually the world’s only inhabited caldera, and there’s a lot of history on this island, with remnants of Minoan Bronze Age settlements having been found – visitors can even take tours of some of the ruins here to witness what life was like, thousands of years ago.
Santorini covers a total of 35 square miles (90 square km), making it significantly smaller than Corfu. In addition, since it’s located quite far south compared to Corfu and other islands, the weather here tends to be pleasant all-year long, with mild winters and warm summers.
Santorini has some of the classic white coastal towns that many people associate with the Greek islands, like Oia and Fira. It’s also notable for its unique volcanic geography, with rugged rocky areas and beaches with black or red sand.
It’s known as a romantic destination for couples, as well as a highly photogenic or Instagrammable island with jaw-dropping scenery.
Which Is Easier To Get To?
Corfu: Getting There
In the past, getting to many of the Greek islands involved long ferry rides, but these days, a lot of the most popular places – including Corfu and Santorini – have their own international airports, with direct flights all across Europe. So, which of these two islands is easier to access?
Corfu’s international airport is conveniently situated a short distance away from Corfu Town, which is where many travelers tend to stay.
The airport is served by a range of airlines from around Europe, with many low-cost flights here from places like the UK, France, Germany, Spain, and mainland Greece.
Santorini: Getting There
Santorini’s airport is also nicely located close to the main town of Fira. Oia is a little further away, but since Santorini is so small, getting around isn’t much of an issue (more on that below).
Just like Corfu, the Santorini airport is served by various European airlines, with flights from the UK, France, Italy, Germany, and so on.
There are no direct links between either of these islands and North America, so travelers from the US or Canada will need to connect elsewhere in Europe. Or, you might choose to fly into a big Greek city like Athens for a few days first and then take a short flight over to either island.
Both places are relatively easy to get to for most travelers, and there’s very little difference between them, although Corfu’s airport does have a slightly higher number of direct flights from various countries around Europe.
Which Is Easier To Get Around?
So, we’ve seen how to get to Corfu and Santorini, but once your flight has landed, how will you make your way around either one of these gorgeous Greek islands?
Santorini: Getting Around
Well, since Santorini is by far the smallest of the two islands, it’s really easy to traverse. It has its own handy bus network, with frequent services – especially in summer – and rapid travel times from town to town.
The buses can get a little crowded though, so you might prefer to take a taxi, if you’re willing to spend a little extra.
You can also rent a car, motorbike, or even an e-bike to help you get around. Having your own vehicle gives you more freedom, but Santorini isn’t the easiest place to drive around, with its narrow roads and high levels of traffic.
Parking can be problematic, too, so most travelers are better off relying on the island’s public transportation.
Corfu: Getting Around
Corfu is quite an easy place to traverse as well, and even though it’s a lot bigger than Santorini, it’s still possible to get from one side of this island to the other in less than two hours.
Driving is also quite easy on the island, and renting a car can be the best way to access Corfu’s secret coves and most secluded spots.
Like Santorini, Corfu has a good bus network. Buses are color-coded – blue ones will take you on short trips around Corfu town, while the green ones travel long distances and connect the different towns and village.
There are also taxis and water taxis, and since Corfu is such a great place for package vacations, you could also consider booking coach tours via your hotel or travel provider.
Overall, both of these islands are easy to navigate. Santorini’s small size makes it really quick and convenient to get around, although it’s not the most walkable place. Journeys take longer on Corfu, but the island’s brilliant bus network is the ideal cheap option to get around.
Which Has Better Beaches?
Many travelers to the Greek islands spend lots of their time relaxing on beautiful beaches, feeling soft, sugary sand beneath their feet or taking a dip in the blissful blue waters of the Aegean, Ionian, or Mediterranean seas.
So, if you’re planning a beach getaway and love to spend time laying back on a sun lounger or feeling the waves wash over your feet as you stroll along the shore, which island should you choose between Corfu and Santorini?
Well, while some of the other categories might be hard to call, this one has a clear winner: Corfu has many more beaches than Santorini and is also famed for the comfort and visual appeal of its coastal spaces.
Many of the beaches of Corfu are well-developed and easy to access, with hotels and restaurants right around the corner. A lot of these beaches are also simply stunning to look at, backing onto Corfu’s famous green forests and impressive cliffs.
The beaches of Santorini are very different. Due to its volcanic past, this island has a lot of rugged and unusual beaches, with some boasting black or red sand and several being made up entirely of pebbles, too.
These beaches can be fascinating to look at and provide fun backdrops for family photos and social media selfies, and there are some super romantic spots to discover if you head off the beaten path. But Santorini’s beaches aren’t exactly the most family-friendly or traditional.
Below we look at the beaches in a little more detail so you can make your own mind up!
Corfu: The Beaches
As explained above, Corfu has a great mixture of fabulous beaches stretching out along its 135 miles of coastline.
Many of these beaches are well-developed and perfect for families, like Agios Gordios, just a short drive away from Corfu Town, or Arillas, which is well-protected by a pair of peninsulas on either side.
Marathias Beach is a popular spot with the locals, offering gorgeous golden sands and crystal clear waters, while Alonaki is an excellent place for swimming. Kavos Beach is another top spot with quite a lively atmosphere – you can find happy crowds of tourists hanging out here all day long.
Or, you could head to Paleokastritsa, one of Corfu’s most popular beaches – stunning, tree-covered cliffs surround this spot of the coast, and you can even take boat tours to explore the various sea caves nearby.
On Corfu’s southern coast, you can find touristic spots like Issos and Agios Georgios, with tavernas and resorts within walking distance. Meanwhile, the beaches along the north coast tend to be more secluded and secret, like Peroulades and Agios Spiridon.
Santorini: The Beaches
Santorini has a much smaller coastline than Corfu (around 43 miles, or 69 km, in total) and therefore has a smaller quantity of beaches. However, there’s still an impressive amount of diversity here, and Santorini has some truly unique seaside experiences that can’t be found on any other Greek island.
Red Beach is arguably the most iconic of the Santorini beaches, and it often tops the list of most visitors’ must-see locations. As the name implies, this beach is made up of red rocks and sand – it almost looks like the setting of an old science-fiction movie.
Two of the most-visited beaches on Santorini are Kamari and Perissa. A large rock, known as Mesa Vouno, separates these two beaches from one another, but they’re both quite similar, with Tiki-style beach umbrellas, lots of sun loungers, black sands, and plenty of crowds during the peak summer months.
Corfu definitely has longer and larger beaches than Santorini, but Perivolos Beach, south of Fira, is a good place to go if you’re looking for an expansive stretch of sand.
This beach goes on and on, with several hotels and bars just a short walk from the sand. There are also some more secluded and romantic spots like Armeni Beach and Baxedes.
Overall, the beaches of Santorini are often interesting to look at, but a little less pleasant to spend time on. The coarse sand, pebbles, and strong winds make these beaches less hospitable than the long golden expanses of Corfu.
So, if you’re the sort of person who loves to find a cozy spot of sand and sunbathe the day away, Corfu is the island for you.
Which Is Best For Activities?
As well as spending time on the beach, you might like to enjoy a range of other activities on Corfu or Santorini.
That why in this section, we’ll take a look at how the two islands compare in terms of things to do, like shopping, cultural sights, and historic landmarks, so you can see which suits you best.
Corfu: The Activities
If you’re heading to Corfu, your journey will probably begin in the island’s capital of Corfu Town. Here, you can shop to your heart’s content in souvenir boutiques and traditional stores, while roaming along the town’s winding alleyways and cobblestone streets.
You can really feel the mixture of cultural influences as you explore Corfu Town, with Venetian, Greek, and Byzantine elements among the various buildings and landmarks. Nowhere is this more evident than the city’s Old Town district, home of some amazing architecture and charming streets.
While in Old Town, you can tour the elegant Achilleion Palace – named after the legendary Greek hero, Achilles – or leave the city behind to take a tour of the ruins of Angelokastro Castle.
This castle sits on one of the island’s highest points, looking out over the sea, and once helped to defend Corfu against would-be invaders.
There are a range of small towns and villages to visit around Corfu. Sidari is a nice place to spend an afternoon, with some secret coves for snorkeling and swimming, while Paleokastritsa is another charming spot, complete with its own 13th century monastery.
Corfu is also a great hiking location (much better than Santorini is that respect), and there are plenty of trails to suit all ability levels where you can look out for dozens of different plants, birds, and other forms of wildlife along the way.
Other popular activities include boat tours to nearby islands, horseback rides, and scuba dives.
Santorini: The Activities
Despite being such a small island, there are still several fun things to do on Santorini. A lot of visitors enjoy spending time in the various coastal towns here, like Oia and Thera, admiring the whitewashed homes and archetypal Cycladic architecture.
There are also some wineries that you can visit in Santorini’s more rural locations, as well as fun and romantic activities for couples, like dinner cruises and cooking classes with locals.
If you love history, you can also take a tour of Santorini’s ancient archaeological site of Akrotiri. Similar in many ways to Italy’s Pompeii, this place was destroyed in a volcanic eruption, but many remnants and artifacts have been uncovered from under the ash and rubble.
Hiking is also possible in Santorini, and one of the best routes will take you right to the top of the volcano on neighboring Nea Kameni island. However, there are far fewer trails here, and the hilly, mountainous terrain makes Santorini quite tough to traverse on foot.
You can also tour small towns and villages, like Megalochori, and step inside some of the island’s churches and other old buildings, but overall, there’s a lot less to do here and Santorini is much more suited towards travelers who want to simply rest and relax.
Which Is Better For Nightlife?
If you want to make the most of your nights, as well as your days, during your stay in Santorini or Corfu, you might like to know about these islands’ clubs, bars, and evening entertainments.
Well, while neither of these islands can measure up to Mykonos in terms of parties and clubs, they still have decent nightlife scenes, with a few key hotspots for young people and party-lovers to enjoy.
On Corfu, the best place for evening fun is Kavos. There’s a whole strip of bars and clubs there, and it’s a really popular place with the 18-30 crowd from countries like Germany and the UK.
Ipsos and Sidari are other interesting nightlife areas around Corfu, and a lot of the big resorts have great bars, parties, and evening entertainment to please their guests.
Over on Santorini, things are a little more subdued. In the evenings, a lot of people here simply prefer to watch the sun go down or take in a fancy evening meal at one of the many seafront restaurants.
However, there are still a few good cocktail and jazz bars around Fira, in particular, along with nightclubs like Mamounia and Enigma.
Of the two islands, Corfu is probably the better choice for nightlife fans, thanks to its diverse range of options and the lively Kavos strip.
Which Is Best For Couples & Honeymoons?
Perhaps you’re planning a romantic vacation with someone special or even a honeymoon on one of the Greek islands? If so, it can be tricky to choose between Corfu and Santorini, as both of these islands can be fun and pleasant for couples of all ages.
Of the two, Santorini is arguably the most romantic, thanks to its unbeatable views and picturesque panoramas. It’s one of the prettiest places in Europe, and couples can have a lovely time simply sitting together, admiring the views or enjoying a great gourmet meal in Fira or Oia.
With that said, Corfu is still a very romantic destination, with lovers’ landmarks like the Canal d’Amour – legend says that couples who swim through this water together will never fall out of love.
There are also lots more things to do on Corfu, making it a good spot for more active couples who want to try out watersports, hike the trails, or visit various towns and places.
Which Has The Best Hotels?
While they both have some fantastic hotels, the range of accommodation options varies quite significantly between Corfu and Santorini.
On Santorini, you’ll find a lot of luxurious, boutique hotels that are primarily designed for couples and stand out for their distinctive beauty and high prices – it’s even possible to find some hotels built right into the cliffs, with private pools and cave-like spaces.
The hotels on this island generally have an exclusive, deluxe feel, and many travelers choose to spend a lot of time in and around the hotel to appreciate its amenities.
You’ll also need to book in advance if you plan a trip to Santorini, as many of the top hotels can sell out up to a year in advance.
Over on Corfu, there’s much more diversity to the accommodation. Yes, you can find 5-star, luxury hotels here, but you can also find much cheaper options, as well as family-friendly resorts and even all-inclusive hotels serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner – this sort of thing is almost impossible to find on Santorini.
Hotels are typically cheaper on Corfu too, and there are far more of them, so you won’t have to worry too much about places being sold out, even if you’re planning a last-minute getaway.
There are even some very budget-friendly hotels in Corfu, ideal for backpackers hopping around Europe.
But ultimately choosing a place to stay will depend heavily on your personal preferences. That’s why we have a few recommendations below to try and help out:
Corfu: Our Recommendations
With gorgeous sea views, fantastic amenities and a massive infinity pool perfect for photos and utter relaxation, staying at the five-star Angsana Resort & Spa is one of those things we should all do at least once in our lifetime. Luckily this is luxury at a price many can afford (see photos and rates).
But if you want to be based in the heart of the action rather than by the beach, then staying at New York Luxury Suites in Old Corfu Town could be perfect. The suites themselves are tastefully done and sit in a superb location (see photos and rates here).
Santorini: Our Recommendations
Santorini is all about luxury and romance, and what sums that up more than your own suite complete with private pool and gorgeous sea views. That’s exactly what you’ll get at Aqua Luxury Suites (see photos and rates), where the service is world class as are the views. It doesn’t come cheap, but for a couple this place is hard to beat.
Luxury at a budget price point is hard to find in Santorini, but Astro Palace Hotel (see photos and rates) in Fira with it’s pretty outdoor pool. stunning views and modern furnishings is as close as you can get.
This five-star hotel is surprisingly cheap considering its location and the fact it’s on Santorini.
Which Is Better For A Family Trip?
If you’re heading away with children on a family vacation, Corfu will probably be the best choice for you. It’s much more family-friendly than Santorini, with larger and safer beaches, more things to do, and specific kid-themed attractions, like the Aqualand water park.
Not only that, but Corfu also has plenty of family-oriented resorts, and it’s easy to book a package trip here, providing you and your family with flights, accommodation, food, and more, all-in-one.
Santorini can also work for families, and those with older kids, in particular, might appreciate this island’s small size and calmer vibe. However, the lack of attractions and harsh nature of some of the beaches make this island less appealing to little ones.
Which Is Best For Backpackers?
Backpackers can also have a great time exploring Greek islands like Corfu and Santorini, and both of these islands offer the budget accommodation and easy transportation you need to get around and see the sights with minimal fuss.
Corfu is a super spot for backpackers, with a selection of hostels in key areas, like Corfu Town, that you can stay at to save money and socialize with other voyagers from around the globe.
The buses in Corfu make it easy to explore, and the island’s decent nightlife scene and cultural landmarks should appeal to the average backpacker.
Santorini also has some hostels hidden away between its glitzy boutiques and glamorous resorts. You can enjoy the beaches and mountain hikes for free here, but it can be a little trickier to get around and the average costs for food and activities are higher.
Which Has The Best Food?
Food is one of the big draws of any Greek island, and these places are known for serving up some of the finest Mediterranean dishes around, along with freshly-caught seafood. But which island has the best places to eat?
Well, when it comes to comparing the dining scene on Corfu and Santorini, it’s all about quantity vs quality.
As the larger island, Corfu definitely has the quantity. There are lots of eateries here, ranging from traditional Greek tavernas to Italian restaurants and seafood bars down by the beach. With so many options, you’re sure to find something you like.
Santorini has fewer places to eat, but in terms of quality, it might just have the edge. There are some truly world-class restaurants here, many of which provider diners with awe-inspiring views across the sea. Eating at one of these places is an experience you’ll never forget.
Santorini also has some exquisite local dishes, like fava me koukia (mashed fava beans) and saganaki (fried cheese in a honey-sweetened pastry), and it’s one of the top Greek islands for wine, with the volcanic soil helping to produce some highly-rated bottles.
Which Is Cheaper?
Cost is always a big factor to think about when traveling, and you need to weigh up the prices of flights, accommodation, food, activities, and so on. So, which of these two islands is better-suited for the budget-conscious traveler?
Well, this category is an easy win for Corfu. As the bigger island, it has more hotels, more places to eat, more shops, and therefore more competition, which leads to lower prices across the board. Everything from hotel stays to street food is cheaper in Corfu.
You can save a lot of money by choosing Corfu over Santorini, although you will need to spend a little more on getting around via your own rental car or public transportation.
With that said, there’s no need to rule-out Santorini if you want to have an affordable vacation; it’s still possible to find cheap hotels there, as long as you book in advance. And most of the main activities are totally free, like days at the beach or a walk around Oia.
Corfu vs Santorini: Which Is The Better Choice?
And now we come to the conclusion. We’ve seen Santorini vs Corfu in all of the most important areas, from activities and food to beaches and average costs. So, which one stands out as the top choice for most travelers?
Well, while both islands have a long list of advantages, Corfu takes the win in this comparison, purely due to the fact that it can appeal to a wider range of people.
Everyone can have a great time here, from nature lovers to families with young children. There’s such a lot to love about Corfu, and it’s a place you can return to again and again, seeing something new each time.
Santorini, meanwhile, is still a magical and visually stunning location, with some of the most unique scenery of any Greek island.
It has a wonderful romantic theme and relaxing vibe, perfect for those moments when you just want to get away from it all, but it isn’t quite as deep or varied as Corfu, which could leave some travelers a little let down.