Paxos or Corfu? Quiet Island Life Or Traditional Ionia?

Paxos or Corfu
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It’s a tricky one, deciding between Paxos or Corfu. Both are seriously gorgeous places. But then what would expect of two islands lost out in the Ionian Sea, beset by pebble beaches, and crumpled by mountains and pine woods. We’re pretty sure that you’re in for a fantastic vacation no matter which you plump for in the end.

But Paxos and Corfu are also very different places. One’s a quiet, secluded isle that’s mainly for those hunting pure R&R and the slow pace of Greek life. The other is a bit of a jack of all trades, offering throbbing nightlife hubs next to quaint fishing towns next to soaring mountains for hikers and bikers.

This guide to Paxos or Corfu can help you decide on the island that’s right for you this year. It will run through seven of the key aspects of both destinations, all with the aim of revealing where has the wilder nightlife, the better hotels, the top beaches, and which is the easier to travel to. Ready? Let’s go…

Paxos or Corfu for ease of travel

Greek flag in Corfu
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One of the main reasons that Corfu has reigned as one of the top Greek holiday isles since about the 1960s is that it’s one of the easiest islands to reach in the whole country. The fact that it’s sat on the far north-western edge of the nation means you can arrive from both Greece and Italy.

There are ferry connections that usually take all day or all night coming over from ports on The Boot like Ancona and Bari. Other boats leave for Corfu Town from Igoumenitsa, which also has a link to the KTEL bus network that goes to Athens. However, the most important thing is that Corfu has its own airport. It’s the fifth busiest in Greece overall, and boasts a huge array of low-cost arrivals, including links to Amsterdam and Bristol with easyJet, and upwards of 30 seasonal connections with Ryanair. Basically, you shouldn’t find it too hard to get to Corfu.

Paxos is a very different story. One of the great draws of this tiny isle in the Ionian Sea is just how remote it is. Set roughly one third of the way between Corfu itself and Lefkas in the south, it’s not got its own airport and there are no international boat links to Italy.

In fact, the vast majority of travelers who come here do so by going through Corfu first. Ferries link the two islands, with the faster hydrofoil taking 50 minutes and normal boats taking around 1.5 hours. There are roughly four departures every day, starting at 8.15am and finishing at 6pm.

Winner: Corfu. You gotta’ go through Corfu first to get to Paxos!

Paxos or Corfu for things to do

Cape Sidari
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Corfu is one of the largest and most diverse of all the Greek islands. It’s a magnet for a whole range of different sorts of travelers. You can come to laze around and do nothing but sunbathe if you like. Resorts like Benitses and Messonghi are very well primed for that, offering coastal resorts with swimming pools and sunbeds galore. However, there’s adventure in the north, with hiking trails on rugged Cape Drastis and others weaving up to the soaring summit of Mount Pantokrator. Boat trips can help you explore the secluded pebble beaches of the west coast, along with the caves and coves of Palaiokastritsa.

Corfu is also rich in history, offering the island monastery of Vlaherna and the gold-glimmering Byzantine mosaics of the Church of Saints Iasson and Sossipatros. Finally, partiers can always beeline down to Kavos, which is one of the country’s most vibrant 18-30s towns.

Paxos is really about one thing and one thing only: Relaxation. The island is set far away from the maddening crowd and gets nowhere near the same number of tourists as Corfu. It can feel sleepy and chilled even in the height of the main summer rush between June and August.

The top things to do usually include boat trips over to the white-sand bays of Antipaxos, coastal walks to the rugged Tripitos Arch and the Blue Caves, and beach hopping on Paxos itself. The small harbor town of Gaios is also worth a mention. There’s a certain buzz there, between the pastel-painted fishing cottages and the tavernas, and plenty of people watching to be done.

Winner: Corfu.  

Paxos or Corfu for nightlife

Booze cruise ship in Corfu
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Corfu isn’t hailed as one of the most hedonistic Greek islands out there for nothing, you know. The town of Kavos takes care of things after dark by offering one seriously rollicking strip of bars and clubs. Between June and the start of September the whole place basically doesn’t sleep a wink. Patrons are mainly Germans, Brits, and Scandinavian folk, so don’t expect any locals.

Some of the top bars to know about include Scorer’s (a sports bar that goes into overdrive when there’s a tournament on), Maria’s Karaoke (sing your own backing track), and Atlantis (a big EDM club). Of course, Kavos isn’t the only place for nightlife on Corfu. You can tread Kavos Town to seek out local brewpubs and live music venues, or hit marina towns like Kassiopi for taverna evenings on the water’s edge.

We’ll make it simple if you’re thinking of heading to Paxos for the nightlife: Don’t. This island isn’t about all-night parties at all. It’s just not the vibe. You might find a few lively bars in the main port town of Gaios, but they’re rarely open past midnight and it’s never going to be sweaty dance floors packed with bodies.

Lots of people head to Manesko Bar for evening cocktails with views of the moored-up yachts. Others go for drinks and dinner at the tavernas right by where the boats come in.

Winner: Corfu.  

Paxos or Corfu for hotels

Paxos bay
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Corfu’s hotels cover the whole range of stays you get in Greece. There are big resorts with sprawling pools and multiple bars. There are boho hostels for the backpackers. There are charming little B&Bs run by local families. Lots of the bigger hotels cluster around two key areas.

The first is the east coast south of Corfu Town, especially in Messonghi. Then there’s the resort area of Sidari around the northern shore. For more rustic options you can head inland into the mountains, where there are some unique farm stays among the goats. The west coast is better for those looking to get away from it all. Our top hotel picks on Corfu would include:

There’s a noticeable uptick in both prices and style when you hop over to Paxos. There’s no overload of accommodation options, and certainly nowhere near the selection on Corfu. But it’s quality over quantity, with especially lovely harbor stays in Gaios and little Lakka on the menu. Paxos is also way better for villa goers. There are some seriously lovely places with private pools and gardens studding the hillsides. Overall, we’d say check out:

  • Villa Anastasia ($$) – Hidden in the pine-scented hills above Giaos, this lovely villa has its own private pool.
  • Loggos Panoramic Views Electra by Konnect ($$) – A homey Greek apartment stay that overlooks the turquoise harbor of Loggos.
  • Villa Agnanti ($$$) – Clutching the wooded hills in the middle of Paxos, this is one of the crème-de-la-crème of the island’s villa stays.

Winner: Corfu. 

Paxos or Corfu for relaxation

Corfu sailing
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Here’s where Paxos excels. Hidden out in the middle of the Ionian Sea, the island has been left largely untouched by the coming of mass tourism. It’s nowhere near as built up as Corfu, has nowhere near the same number of hotels or big resorts (if any), and attracts just a fraction of the crowds.

You can literally walk from end to end, though that will require some decent shoes as it’s a hike of about two hours on country roads and mountain terrain. Either way, it’s a small, pint-sized place that likes to slow down the pace of life. Even the liveliest part of the island is positively chilled. That’s the port town of Gaios where you arrive. It’s got around 10 tavernas and eateries, along with a couple of small bars. True relaxation seekers should look to the hills of the north and center of the island, though. That’s where the charming fishing village of Lakka awaits, along with lots of deluxe Greek villas with swimming pools.

Of course, all that’s not to say that Corfu can’t be relaxing. It most certainly can. There are some very chilled beach towns and beaches here. We’d probably recommend swapping the built-up east coast and the area around Corfu Airport, in particular, for the remoter west. Steer clear of Palaiokastritsa though, because there’s always a crowd there. Much better are the clifftop villas of Stelari Beach, easy-going Glyfada, and the many small mountain villages that lurk up in the Corfiot highlands.

Winner: Paxos

Paxos or Corfu for price

Paxos cave
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Corfu isn’t the cheapest island in Greece. However, it’s also not going to set you back as much as, say, Santorini or Mykonos. You can fork out loads for a trip if you’d like, by booking into the lux hotels of Messonghi and chartering your own yacht when it comes to exploring the west coast. You can also do it cheap, especially thanks to the campsites and hostels that exist near Palaiokastritsa and in Corfu Town. On the whole, we’d estimate a weeklong holiday to be around the $1,060 mark for a couple, though that could easily go up to over $2,600 in the peak of the high season.

Paxos is, perhaps, a smidgen cheaper overall. That’s mainly down to the fact that it doesn’t attract huge crowds like Corfu. However, the lack of demand is tempered by a lack of supply, as there’s not so many hotels on the island. You also have to factor in the extra cost of cross-island ferries to get you into Paxos in the first place, along with transfers from airports on the mainland or nearby islands. Generally speaking, that puts the average price of a holiday here at about $2,800 for a couple, so just a touch pricier than Corfu.

Winner: Corfu, but only just!

Paxos or Corfu for beaches

Paxos beaches
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Beaches come thick and fast on Corfu. The highlights of the island are probably the hidden coves of Cape Sidari near the Sidari resorts, the remote isthmus beach of Porto Timoni, and the five-for-the-price-of-one beach in Palaiokastritsa. All of those are stunning, ringing around the edges of the north and western shoreline. The east is more vacation-ready, with long, flat stretches of sand at Benitses, Kavos, and Agios Ioannis to name just a few. The far northeast of Corfu is more hilly and rugged, with multicolored fishing hamlets tucked into pebbly bays.

What really sets Paxos apart from the crowd when it comes to beaches is the presence of the neighboring isle of Antipaxos. That bijou spot has some of the most glorious pebble coves and bays this side of the Caribbean. Seriously, no exaggeration. Just wait until you drop anchor in the turquoise waters of Paralia Voutoumi and Mesovrika. You’ll never want to lift it again! Paxos itself has some great primers for those stunning beaches. They come in the form of pebbly Pounda Beach and its halo of pine trees, and lazy Monodendri just north of the main port.

Winner: Paxos.

The verdict

The truth is that these are two quite different islands. They both channel the charms of the Ionian region of Greece and are actually only a 1.5-hour ferry apart (so, do both, perhaps?). Corfu, though, is very much an every traveler’s hotspot, offering mountains next to hedonistic party towns next to idyllic beaches. Paxos is for slowing down the pace, sailing stunning bays, snorkeling, and dodging the crowds.

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Joe has been a freelance travel writer for over nine years. His writing and roaming have taken him from the colonial towns of Mexico to the chowks of Mumbai to the Southern Alps of New Zealand. When he's not putting together the next epic blog on the best Greek islands or ski fields in France, you can usually find him surfing or hiking – his two top hobbies.