Kos vs Zante: Greece’s Western or Eastern Islands

A woman in a long black dress and headband with arms outstretched overlooking the ocean. The beautiful Greek Islands create difficult debates such as Kos vs Zante.
A woman overlooking the ocean via Pexels.
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Kos vs Zante? You have narrowed down Greece’s stunning selection of islands to two incredible contenders. Zante, or Zakinthos, sits offshore of Greece’s West coast. Whereas, Kos is closer to Turkey, far offshore to Greece’s East.

Both Kos and Zante are blessed with a warm, Mediterranean climate. Since they both have airports, the islands also offer visitors similar ease of accessibility. Visitors can expect plenty of beaches, friendly atmospheres, and mouth-watering Greek food. When deciding between Kos or Zante, it can seem hard to spot the differences amongst so many similarities.

To help you choose the best island for you, we have compiled a comparison of Kos and Zante. Short, sweet, and straightforward – these are the factors you should consider when picking between the two.

Kos or Zante: Zante for nightlife

The black silhouettes of people lifting their hands dancing with purple strobe lighting.
Dancing scenes via Pexels.

Zante has amassed quite a reputation for its nightlife. If you are looking for a classic 18-30s party holiday, this island is your best choice.

The Laganas Strip is a 1km stretch of bars and clubs which attracts most partiers in Zante. The bars offer a number of drink deals, challenges, and activities. And, along the strip, the many penalty shootout stands offer a bottle of champagne to any contestant who can score three goals. In terms of clubs, Zeros Club runs an extremely popular foam party, while Rescue Club is likely the most well-attended with a capacity of over 2000 guests.

Aside from the Laganas Strip, Zante’s waters boast a nightlife of their own – with beach clubs and boat parties galore. The VVIP Sunset Super Yacht Party is one of the most popular options, taking 300 partiers from Zante Harbor along the coast to a scenic beach cove. Here, guests party at the private beach under the spray of champagne and music of guest DJs.

While Kos also has wild nightlife, venues are mostly limited to the two central streets that make up the Kos Strip. Zante offers a better nightlife infrastructure, a focus on partying, and caters to the 18-30 age bracket more exclusively.

Winner: Zante wins the nightlife round, as it offers a wider selection of party opportunities.

Kos or Zante: Kos for historical sites

A white statue of a Grecian philosopher
A statue via Pexels.

Ancient Greek history is traceable back to the 8th century BC and is known for philosophy, medicine, architecture, and astronomy. Kos, in particular, is an interesting destination for history lovers and those wanting to learn more about Ancient Greece and its invaders.

Originally home to the Minoans, the island passed hands from multiple groups until the Dorians settled and built a city. After the ancient city of Kos was established, the island was re-conquered – this time by the Persians, then the Athenians. In recent history, In recent history, Kos was held by The Turks, Italians, Germans, British, and present Greek rule.

Modern visitors to Kos will appreciate the eclectic mix of historical attractions and influences on the island. The Roman Odeon of Kos, a Roman theatre from the 2nd century, is one attraction many tourists visit. The Asklipieio Kos is another, offering a glimpse into Kos’ medical history. Once a healing temple and medical school, the ruins are now famed for Hippocrates practicing there. The Plane Tree of Hippocrates also draws a tourist crowd, as legend says that it was under the tree that Hippocrates taught his students.

While Zante offers literary history, having been mentioned by the Greek poet Homer in the Iliad and Odyssey, many historical sites were ruined by the 1953 earthquake. Zante is located on a major faultline, meaning that earthquakes and tremors are frequent. As Kos’ historical sites are better preserved, we recommend choosing Kos over Zante if you are interested in history.

Winner: Kos wins this round of our Kos vs Zante debate.

Kos or Zante: Zante for turtles

A turtle swimming just under the water surface.
A turtle swimming via Pexels.

Turtles are often revered as the animal symbol of a tropical escape, and encountering a turtle is a much-wanted experience for many. While Kos and Zante both house turtles, we recommend Zante if you want to spot a turtle on your trip.

On its southern coast, Zante has a National Marine Park – a designated area to protect native flora and fauna. Visitors can spot a variety of animals such as dolphins, iguanas, kingfishers, and porcupines.

However, the park’s most famed resident is the endangered Caretta Caretta, also known as the Loggerhead Turtle.  Over 1,300 turtles live around the park, so your chance of spotting one is extremely high. Sekania, Kalamaki, and Daphni are good beaches to watch turtles laying and hatching in the summer months.

When visiting the National Marine Park, be mindful of behaving respectfully towards all wildlife. Pay extra attention to where you are stepping, as turtle nests can be easy to overlook, especially when distracted by the natural beauty and other wildlife. While littering is never welcome, it can be particularly hazardous for the resident animals, including turtles. Booking a reputable tour is a good way to maximize your chance of an enjoyable encounter for both parties.

Winner: Zante wins this round, as the National Marine Park protects and sustains wildlife, making it easier to encounter a Loggerhead turtle.

Kos or Zante: Kos for combining day trips to other countries

A market with street sellers selling tourist souvenirs and a Turkish flag overhead. If you are debating between Kos vs Zante, is visiting Turkey as a day trip interesting to you? From Kos, you can easily visit Bodrum in Turkey.
A Turkish market via Pexels.

If you like to explore further afield when visiting new places, Kos may be the island for you. Located approximately 50km offshore from Turkey, tourists can easily catch a 45-minute ferry to the Turkish city of Bodrum for a change of scene.

Visit the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the ancient wonders of the world, or bargain for Turkish souvenirs at Bodrum Bazaar – a quick culture shock and new exploration can be a fun way to spend a day.

While Zante does offer good connections to explore mainland Greece, the possibility for international day trips is not as good as when staying on Kos. Occasional ferries travel between Zante and Bari in Italy, but the sailing duration one-way is over 19 hours and 30 minutes – making it unfeasible as a day trip. For this reason, if you want to explore other countries by ferry, we recommend choosing Kos over Zante.

Winner: Kos is our winner here, as visitors can easily visit the Turkish coast as a day trip.

Kos or Zante: Zante for weather

Ripples on the sea with an out-of-focus sunrise in the background. If you want slightly warmer weather, you should choose Zante in your Kos vs Zante debate.
Sunrise over the sea via Pexels.

The Greek Islands are hardly renowned for cold summers. However, if you really prioritize warm weather, you may wish to narrow your choice down further.

According to Climates To Travel, Kos has a mean temperature of 25°C in August, while Zante is 26°C. Some may see this mean difference as indiscriminate, while others may factor the slight difference into consideration. However, it is also important to note that the range of temperatures shows a bigger difference between the islands. Zante experiences a greater range of temperatures, with 21 to 31°C in August. On the other hand, Kos’ temperature range is much smaller, at 21 to 29°C.

Mean temperature in August (°C)Range of temperature in August (°C)
Kos2521 to 29
Zante2621 to 31

In Zante, you have a higher likelihood of experiencing temperatures over 29°C – meaning visitors can expect a hotter August than in Kos. Zante’s average monthly temperatures also top Kos for the majority of the year, meaning Zante is slightly warmer year-round.

Winner: While the difference is slight, Zante wins this round of our Kos vs Zante debate. Zante weather is warmer than Kos, which is preferable for a summer holiday.

Kos or Zante: Kos for a quieter atmosphere

A wooden country-style window with a flowered bush to the left. If you prefer quiet atmospheres, you should choose Kos in your Kos vs Zante debate.
An aesthetic country window via Pexels.

While Kos Town, the island’s capital, offers an area of lively nightlife and evening entertainment, Kos mainly offers a gentler immersion for visitors. Even in busier Kos Town, daytime exploration can be relaxing, especially when visiting off-season.

However, the traditional villages such as Kefalos and Zia are where Kos provides a quiet environment. In Kefalos, visitors should opt to stay in the hilly district, away from the resort area of Kamari by the seafront. The village retains a cultural authenticity, and many residents still live distanced from modern conveniences such as Wi-Fi and even running water. While still well-connected to nearby towns, Kefalos is a good option for those wishing to unwind and disconnect from life’s rushed pace.

A little less connected to the outside world, Zia is a mountainous village on the slopes of Dikeos. While the village is a popular day trip for tourists and locals from the towns below, basing yourself in Zia will provide a different experience again – guaranteeing a quiet atmosphere, especially when the day visitors return back downhill.

Zante does have some quieter patches, such as the village of Limni Keri. However, most of Zante is more commercialized than Kos, and its popularity as a party island means visitors can find it harder to find quieter areas. For this reason, we recommend Kos for a quiet atmosphere in our Kos vs Zante debate.

Winner: Kos is the winner for this round, as it offers more village environments for visitors seeking a quiet island experience.

Kos or Zante: Zante for beaches

Navagio beach is a tiny patch of sand beach featuring a rusted shipwreck. Enclosed by a curved limestone cliff, the rocks give the surrounding sea a striking light blue color. The beauty of Navagio beach may sway you towards Zante in your Kos vs Zante debate.
Navagio beach via Pexels.

The Kos vs Zante debate becomes difficult concerning beaches, as both are well-known for their gorgeous Mediterranean coastlines. However, we recommend Zante for its scenic beaches – made famous by travel influencers and social media.

Zante’s photogenic Navagio Beach, also known as Shipwreck Beach, is particularly famous. Identifiable by its curved limestone cliffs, the sea around Navagio is known for its bright blue color due to the sulfurous caves nearby. While the story behind how the rusted ship Panagiotis ran aground varies, you can expect an impressive contrast between its rust color and pale sand grave. Only accessible by boat, you can arrange a water taxi or purchase a boat tour to explore the beach and wreck on the ground. Otherwise, you can reach the cliff viewpoint by car to snap an aerial shot of the beach below.

The opportunities to see turtles at beaches in Zante’s National Marine Park also give the island an edge over Kos. As we mentioned earlier, the likelihood of encountering turtles is much higher in Zante than in Kos due to the dense population of the park.

Overall, Zante offers more unique experiences at its beaches – such as gazing over the distinctive cliffs of Navagio or watching as a baby turtle hatches and begins its journey to the water. For this reason, we recommend Zante over Kos for beaches.

Winner: Zante wins this round of our Kos vs Zante debate -its iconic Navagio beach and turtle encounter opportunities offer incredible beach days.

To Conclude

Overall, Zante is a good choice for those planning a party holiday and who are more interested in beach days than day trips or historical attractions. Visitors can easily incorporate Navagio Beach or the turtles into a beach day, so even Zante’s major attractions have a relaxing element.

On the other hand, if you love lots of day trips and excursions, Kos is ideally situated to provide access to Turkey and has many well-preserved historical sites to explore. Kos is also great for those who wish to escape nightlife hotspots and tourist crowds, as there are plenty of remote villages to base yourself.

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Eibhlis Gale – Coleman is a freelance writer from the UK who is driven by a fierce love of adventure, unique cultural experiences, native animals, and good coffee. She is a passionate traveller and has explored Europe, Southeast Asia, North Africa, and Australia.