Kefalonia or Corfu: Which Ionian Island to Visit?

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by Olivia Ellis


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Both Kefalonia and Corfu are part of the Ionian Islands, an island group known for their lush nature, charming towns, and strikingly hued beaches. Despite their similarities, Corfu and Kefalonia have differences that set them apart, and deciding which to visit can be tricky.

In general, choose Kefalonia if you’re looking for a tranquil escape with beautiful nature, a laid-back vibe and excellent beaches. On the other hand, Corfu is great for those looking for a mix of activities and beach time, those who want great nightlife or who don’t want to rent a car.

However, there is a lot more to unpack when deciding whether you prefer a quiet & peaceful traditional island or a buzzing, cosmopolitan island? Read this article further to better understand which Ionian island is best for you.

Kefalonia

Kefalonia is the largest island of the Ionian island group and it sets itself apart from other islands with its stunning natural landscapes, majestic mountains, aquamarine beaches, and quaint seaside fishing villages that offer a glimpse into traditional coastal life. No matter how long you stay, Kefalonia is sure to capture your heart and keep you wishing to return.

Assos Villages on Kefalonia
Assos Villages on Kefalonia

Accessibility

Beyond the island’s remarkable natural beauty, one of the biggest draws for visitors to come to Kefalonia is its accessibility.

With direct flights to Kefalonia from Athens as well as many other European destinations and regular ferries from the Greek mainland at the port of Kyllini, Kefalonia is an easy island to reach from just about anywhere in Europe. You can organise airport transfers here and book ferries here.

When it comes to getting around the island, things can be a bit trickier if you don’t have a car during your visit.

While there is public transportation to get you around the main areas and towns of the island, if you’re hoping to visit more off-beat, rural places in Kefalonia, it’ll be more difficult and leave you with less flexibility than if you had a car. You can view car rental options here.

This is an important factor to consider when comparing Kefalonia vs Corfu, as Corfu is a much more built-up island with a larger and more frequent transportation system across the island.

Furthermore, as the largest island of the Ionian islands, you’ll find that a lot of destinations, beautiful beaches and secluded coves on the island are on opposite ends, so travel time can be longer than on other islands.

If you don’t want to drive you can rely more on organised tours to get around the island such as this half-day tour or this private tour.

Lighthouse in Argostoli
Lighthouse in Argostoli

Affordability

If you’re searching for an affordable Greek island to visit, Kefalonia is a wonderful option. While tourism is growing quickly on the island, it’s still very much a local island with local prices. Larger islands such as Kefalonia and Corfu have a lower necessity of needing imports from the mainland, in turn leading to lower prices for locals and tourists.

Furthermore, Kefalonia’s tourist infrastructure isn’t as built up in comparison to Corfu, so due to fewer accommodation options, accommodation in Corfu is typically cheaper than in Kefalonia.

Kefalonia has a smaller number of accommodations, with many being pricey villas or cheaper hotels. On the other hand, costs such as activities, food, and transportation are either on par with costs in Corfu, or even cheaper in some categories.

On more “built up” islands that are more popular with international tourism, a pair of beach chairs and an umbrella can cost around €20 or more, whereas in Kefalonia chairs and umbrellas are usually free with a purchase at the operating beach club.

Another factor to consider when deciding between Corfu or Kefalonia is the cost of activities. Corfu is an island with a wide array of activities for visitors beyond beachgoing.

Kefalonia on the other hand, is an island where your sole past time will pretty much be spent at the beach. This really cuts down costs, adding to the affordability of Kefalonia.

Antisamos Beach
Antisamos Beach

Things to do in Kefalonia

Kefalonia is truly a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers; whether you’re keen to spend dreamy days at the beach, kayaking, hiking, or exploring one of the island’s unique natural formations.

For those that are interested in a classic Greek island getaway, you’ll be pleased to know that Kefalonia is home to one of the top-rated beaches in the world, the breathtaking Myrtos Beach.

With stunning views, and clean, crystal clear electric blue & green water, it’s hard to deny the accolade that the beach has. Beyond Myrtos Beach, there are many beautiful beaches in Kefalonia worth visiting, with different draws for different interests.

If you’re interested in different outdoor activities, you won’t be at a loss of options. Kayaking at Antisamos Beach or elsewhere in the town of Sami is a peaceful thrill. Enjoying the scenic boat trip into the uniquely mesmerizing Melissani Cave is equally delightful.

Additionally, hiking in Mount Ainos National Park adds further to the possible outdoor adventures in Kefalonia. If you’re staying a generous amount of time on the island, another option is to visit the nearby Ionian islands of Ithaca or Zakynthos for a deeper Ionian experience.

While Kefalonia is a large island with year-round residents and is not only busy during the summer months, there isn’t much of a nightlife scene compared to other Greek islands such as Corfu. The nightlife in Kefalonia is suited to a more mellow crowd, with a few clubs, a handful of bars, and “nights out” are relaxed, in comparison to long, energetic, outings.

Because of this, if you’re a couple or family searching for an ideal Greek island, Kefalonia is a solid option for a peaceful, Ionian retreat.

Melissani Cave
Melissani Cave

Where to Stay on Kefalonia

Mouikis Hotel Kefalonia – This 3-star hotel in the town of Argostoli is an excellent base for mid-range visitors to lovely Kefalonia. They offer an array of bright and comfortable rooms to choose from along with an excellent location for seeing the island.

Thalassa Boutique Hotel – If you’re looking for luxury while in Kefalonia, then this boutique hotel located in the charming town of Lassi is an excellent choice. They have two swimming pools along with a number of beautiful rooms to choose from.

Staggia Studios – Located in the town of Sami, these studios are an excellent choice if you’d like a self-catering option while staying on Kefalonia. They have several fully-furnished studios to choose from that come equipped with all you may need.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Kefalonia hotels!

Myrtos Beach on Kefalonia
Myrtos Beach on Kefalonia

Corfu 

Located on the northwest coast of the Greek mainland, Corfu is culturally rich, elegant, and full of peaceful and party beaches. Corfu is easily the most well-known of the Ionian islands as well as the perfect island destination for anyone searching for the perfect blend of sun, sea, history & culture. 

Accessibility

Similar to Kefalonia, Corfu is one of the most accessible Greek islands to reach. If you plan on flying into Corfu, Corfu’s “Ioannis Kapodistrias” International Airport services flights from Greece’s mainland, as well as a large number of European cities and is conveniently located near the center of the island.

Additionally, due to Corfu’s close proximity to the Greek mainland, regular ferry services are available between Corfu and the northwest mainland. You can check schedules here.

When it comes to getting around Corfu during your stay, you’ll find that the accessibility is a lot better in Corfu vs Kefalonia, especially if you don’t have a car to get you around.

Corfu is an island with well-developed infrastructure, for both locals and tourists, with an extensive bus system connecting the island with frequent buses to most areas in Corfu. Additionally, Corfu is also full of pedestrian areas with pleasant areas to walk around and take in the island. 

Ferry sailing near Corfu
Ferry sailing near Corfu

Affordability

Due to Corfu’s concrete tourist and local resident infrastructure, there are a wide array of options in Corfu leading to opportunities for just about any travel budget.

Corfu has many different areas, from coll Corfu town to seaside villages like Kavos to expensive resort areas and more remote countryside accommodations, and because of this, Corfu really is a prime island to visit for whatever you’re looking for and what you’re able to spend. 

The same trend continues for restaurants on the island, with food opportunities ranging from classic souvlaki shops to traditional taverns and fancy, high-end restaurants. This makes it easy to budget and spend money the way that you wish rather than be restricted to one type of restaurant and price range on the island. 

While Corfu is quite affordable regarding accommodation and eating out, prices tend to be higher regarding activities on the island. When comparing Corfu vs Kefalonia, you’ll find that activities are a lot more affordable in Kefalonia. For example, if you’re interested in taking part in water sports, you’ll likely pay more than double for the same activity in Corfu. 

As for transportation costs in Corfu, prices are pretty fair and equivalent to Kefalonia when it comes to public transportation and car rental costs. 

Centre of Corfu Old Town
Centre of Corfu Old Town

Things to do in Corfu

Whether you’re looking for a relaxed island getaway in the blues of the Ionian, a vibrant and energetic nightlife, a historic and cultural journey or some blend between them all, Corfu is a treasure waiting for you. 

To start with, the main draw of anyone looking to embark on a Greek island getaway is usually the pristine blue seas, the cheerful sun and appetising Greek food.

Corfu has no lack of any of the three, and you’ll find a large variety of different beaches on the island;  from remote beaches only accessible by boat, to organised beaches with comfortable chairs/umbrellas ideal for a day’s adventure.

Corfu is also close to the smaller Ionian island of Paxos, adding to possible opportunities for things to do as well as a wonderful day trip option. Some options include this full-day boat cruise or this similar tour on Viator. 

Ironically, one of the biggest draws of Corfu is the number of things to do on the island beyond the typical beach agenda. Corfu stands as a living testament to the numerous civilizations and empires that have taken root on the island, and this is strongly reflected in the culture, architecture, and heritage of the island.

Spending time in the island’s old town is a must-do, where you’ll find remnants of Venetian, French, and British influence all tied up with Corfu’s own blended culture along with cool historic sites to see and places like monasteries and ruins to tour. You can also take a walking tour.

This is also the aspect of the island’s culture that creates a blended and delicious cuisine unique to the island, reflected in many of the island’s traditional restaurants and taverns. 

Finally, if you’re craving vibrant energy and an active nightlife during your visit, Corfu’s nightlife comes alive with an electric atmosphere as the sun sets.

From the numerous bars and clubs in Corfu’s cobbled, historic old town, to a large number of beach bars spread throughout the island, there’s something for everyone; whether you’re interested in a glass of wine with a view or dancing until the sun rises.

Paxos
Paxos

Where to Stay on Corfu

Eros Beach Hotel – Mid-range visitors to Corfu will love this little hotel located right on the beach. They have several great rooms on offer – some with sea views – along with being in an excellent location for exploring all the attractions on the island.

Art Hotel Debono – This 4-star hotel is perfect for those looking for a luxury option while on Corfu. They have several gorgeous and plush rooms to choose from, a wonderful swimming pool along with plenty of great amenities to enjoy.

Brentanos Apartments – If you’d like your own flat when staying in Corfu, then these apartments are a great choice. They offer a range of fully-furnished flats to choose from along with a great location and a wonderful on-site swimming pool!

Angelica’s Backpacker’s Hostel – Those visiting Corfu on a tight budget or who want a good social atmosphere will love this hostel on the island. They offer both private rooms and dorms along with great common areas and self-catering facilities.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Corfu hotels!

Corfu Fortress
Corfu Fortress

Kefalonia vs Corfu: The Verdict

If you’re planning your trip to Greece and are torn between a trip to Kefalonia and Corfu, one of the greatest deciding factors will be whether you’re more drawn to a destination with a vibrant, wild landscape or a destination with a large historical and cultural factor.

If you’re hoping to get away and mainly spend time in nature, Kefalonia is the best option between the two. On the other hand, Corfu is the better choice if you’d like to spend time on a more inhabited island, with a large town, exploring history and rich culture.

Kefalonia is much more of a low-key island, full of numerous beaches, a higher number of vacation home/flat accommodations, and a relaxed nightlife scene. Because of this, Kefalonia is a great option for everyone, but more geared towards families or couples searching for a quiet, yet fun trip.

Corfu, on the other hand, has a wider range of scenes, with many similar to those of Kefalonia but with the added energetic, vibrant nightlife that Kefalonia lacks, making Corfu a better option for young travelers or those looking for a party.

Furthermore, your mode of transportation while you’re away is an important factor, creating a solid difference between the two islands. If you’re traveling with a car, both Kefalonia and Corfu are great options, with the flexibility to go wherever you’d like on the island without the stress of public transportation.

On the contrary, if you’re relying on public transportation during your trip, Corfu is the better option between the two islands. While Kefalonia does have efficient transportation, it is quite limited, with many of the ideal destinations on the island difficult and complicated to reach without a car.

Conversely, Corfu has a wide and active public transportation system throughout the island, making it a convenient destination if you’re relying on public transportation and hope to venture outside the immediate area where you’re staying.

Whether you choose to visit Corfu or Kefalonia, you’re sure to fall in love with these gorgeous, dynamic islands in the Ionian Sea!

Are you planning a visit to the Ionian islands? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!

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Olivia is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Michigan, USA, she is currently living in Athens, Greece exploring Europe and filmmaking. When she’s not travelling or writing, Olivia can be found cooking delicious new recipes from around the world, reading, and spending time outdoors.

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