Corfu or Lefkada is a choice between two gorgeous members of the Ionian archipelago. They both speckle the seas at the western end of Greece, with the Adriatic to the north and Italy beckoning over the saltwater. They are also both pretty darn fantastic places to plan a vacation this year…
Yep, Corfu is replete with fishing towns fronted by clearwater snorkeling inlets, it has iconic beaches that often make it onto the postcards, and one of the biggest arrays of hotels in the region. Then there’s Lefkada (or just Lefkas, as some people say), where you can escape the crowds, charter yachts, or venture to rustic hill villages to meet the locals.
This guide to Corfu or Lefkada will weigh up several aspects of both isles to help you decide which one is better for you this year. It’s got the lowdown on the option with the finest beaches and bays, the place that’s better for nature lovers, and where to go if you want to party. Let’s begin…
Corfu or Lefkada for getting there?
Corfu enjoys the presence of its very own airport. That hosts nearly a million passengers throughout the high season months, on flights that come in from right across Europe – think origins in Frankfurt, London, Vienna, Madrid, and loads more. Virtually all of the connections going there only run between May and September, but they can be cheap thanks to the likes of Ryanair and easyJet. Ferries also connect Corfu to the Greek mainland and even Italy across the Adriatic.
Lefkada might not have its own runways but there’s a trump card here: A direct road link to the mainland. Mhmm, a causeway goes straight from Lefkas Town in the north to the area south of Preveza, where you can find another airport with lots of seasonal flight arrivals and charter planes. The presence of a road link means that very few boats go to and from Lefkas, although you can hop over from next-door Kefalonia in the midsummer.
Winner: Corfu because it’s got its own airport.
Corfu or Lefkada for beaches?
Corfu has no shortage of beaches. The west coast is where the focus often falls, to the quintet of eye-watering inlets that makes up Palaiokastritsa – think turquoise waters and white pebbles under lush hills. But we actually think the hard-to-reach bay of Porto Timoni (an incredible isthmus beach) is better than that, as are the secret coves around Cape Sidari. The south of the island has more traditional beaches that are great for families, at Benitses and Kavos.
Lefkada is a tale of two sides when it comes to beaches. The west coast is, again, the most dramatic of the lot. There, a run of incredible bays unfolds from Egremni to Porto Katsiki. A lot of the places are only really accessible by boat, which helps to cut crowds down. The east side of the island is much more protected, so you get calm snorkeling coves and narrow pebble beaches in between the villages.
Winner: Corfu, but the west coast of Lefkada is something else!
Corfu or Lefkada for things to do?
Most people come to Corfu for the beaches. We’ve already waxed lyrical a little too much about them above, so what else is there to do on the island? Lots, actually. You can unravel Orthodox religious rites at the enthralling Vlacherna Monastery. There are snorkeling coves galore on the northeast shore, especially Nisaki and Kalami. Villages like Nymfes have rustic tavernas and hikes to waterfalls. Then there are the party strips of iconic Kavos. You’re not going to get bored.
Lefkada is a great place to rent a boat for the day. It costs around $40-60 for a whole afternoon but means you’ll be able to explore the coves of nearby Meganisi and hidden inlets like Kamari Beach. We’d also recommend taking a trip inland to the long-lost village of Karya, where weaving workshops sell old-school goods and the taverna under the plane tree is wonderful. Oh, and this island is great for day-tripping to other isles and beaches. A ferry trip can take you to Kefalonia and jaw-dropping bays like Porto Katsiki in the same session.
Corfu or Lefkada for nature?
Corfu has been eulogized by poets and travelers for millennia. It’s considered one of the most stunning islands in Greece, what with a coastline that includes white-trimmed capes and isthmus beaches you’ll never forget running under an interior of dusty mountain peaks that cast their gaze north to the Balkans. There’s no denying it’s beautiful, and nature lovers have plenty to get stuck into. That could mean hikes to the summit of Pantokratoras mount or walks to gushing Nymfes Waterfall – there’s loads.
Lefkada carries on the theme. It’s a triangular island that has a few different sides. The west has pebble beaches galore, but the south hosts those fantabulous Ionian white bays with cliffs overhead. Inland, things change dramatically as the mountains cool the air. There, you get swathes of chestnut forest and pine woods, dotted with the occasional highland village. That’s a great place to go off radar and hike the valleys in search of solitude.
Winner: It’s got to be Corfu, but Lefkas has a truly wonderful highland area.
Corfu or Lefkada for nightlife?
Corfu’s going to win this one for a very good reason: Kavos. The town at the southern tip of the island is among the most hedonistic towns in the whole of Greece. It can match Malia for energy and Mykonos for variety of bars. The atmosphere is very much 18-30s stuff, with reps fronting the whole strip that runs alongside the beach from May to September. Some of the top venues there include Atlantic Beach Club, John and Georgina Karaoke, and the Splash Bar. Just don’t expect to get much sleep!
Lefkada does have a nightlife scene but it’s a whole load more chilled than Corfu’s. The main places to hit the bars at sunset are on the east coast, and the port town of Nydri stands out for its yacht clubs and tavernas. Lefkada Town on the northern end of the island also has some late-night bars and even a club or two, but that’s the extent of it. It’s not really the island for partiers. Simple as that.
Corfu or Lefkada for hotels?
There’s a much wider array of hotels and stays on offer on Corfu than on Lefkada. Booking.com offers up over 3,900 options to Lefkas’s relatively meagre 1,000 or so. And that’s on islands that are roughly similar in size. The upshot? You can find something to suit all budgets and tastes, whether you’re after a five-star honeymoon palace or a hostel dorm in the town center. Here are some examples:
- The Pink Palace Hostel ($) – A budget option on Corfu that’s perfect for 18-25 folk who want to party.
- Domes of Corfu, Autograph Collection ($$$) – At the other end of the spectrum, this sprawling resort is known for its massive pool and grandiose appearance. Honeymoon stuff this.
- Aroggia Farm ($$) – Escape to the country in Aroggia Farm, which is nestled in the woods and green valleys of the Corfiot hinterland.
Where Lefkada probably wins out is when it comes to villas. It’s got loads of self-catering, self-contained homes with pools on its steep eastern shoreline. They are fine options for families. However, down in the towns along the coast, there’s simply not the same choice, although there are some truly enticing hotels, nonetheless. Check them out:
- Apanema Lefkada by Omikron Selections ($$) – A complex of two villas with a shared pool and leafy gardens up in the Lefkas interior.
- Ionian Villas ($$) – A duo of family-sized homes with a rare view of the Lefkas western coast.
- Poros Beach studios ($$) – Escape to the coves of the south coast by choosing these simple stays with stunning sea views.
Corfu or Lefkada for general vibe?
It might seem strange considering Lefkada has a rare road link direct to the mainland, but Corfu is generally a busier island. It attracts a far more international crowd of sunbathers and holidaymakers, mainly because it’s got an airport and hosts the bumping resort town of Kavos. The upshot? The vibe in these parts is much more vacation-like. Much of the coastline, especially in the south to Messonghi and north around Sidari, is packed with hotels, and you’re rarely totally alone on the main beaches.
Lefkada is one of the Ionian isles that’s actually managed to remain largely off the beaten path. There are some areas that are touristy, like the east coast marina towns of Nikiana and Nydri, which mainly boom with yachters in the spring and summer months. However, it’s a cinch to leave all that behind. Simply hop in the rental car and go inland, up to villages like Egklouvi and Karya, which are time-stood-still places with avocado trees and handicraft workshops.
Corfu or Lefkada – our conclusion
Corfu and Lefkada might be a part of the same island chain (Ionian) in the far western part of Greece, but they are actually pretty different places. Corfu is often billed as an island for everyone. It’s got resorts for jet setters next to family towns with affordable beach hotels, and all manner of sand stretches, along with high mountains for the hikers. Lefkada, on the other hand, is mainly known for its yachting scene and white-colored beaches. It’s more rustic, less visited, and generally quieter overall.