There’s no doubt about it, folks, Rhodes and Zante are both absolutely stunning islands that offer vacations brimming with enthralling things to see and do, great food, stunning beaches, and beautiful weather. We’d 100% say that both Greek islands are worth a visit, but which one is actually better? Rhodes or Zante?
Zante is a part of the westerly Ionian Islands. It neighbors Kefalonia to the north and the mainland of Greece to the east. Rhodes, on the other hand, is in the south Aegean, the largest of the Dodecanese islands, with a population of around 115,000 to Zante’s 41,000. However, despite being at different ends of the country, both places do have similarities – both offer hedonistic party towns (Faliraki, Laganas), along with jaw-dropping beaches that are worthy of travel brochure covers (Shipwreck Bay, Lindos Beach).
To help you decide between them, we’ve compiled a handy comparison list of the best things about each. It offers hints on where has the top accommodation, which isle comes fringed by the most blinding beaches, where offers the most bang for your buck, and where you’ll find the hottest nightlife scene. So, here it is, Rhodes vs Zante…
Rhodes or Zante: Accommodation
You will find plenty of places to stay in both Zante and Rhodes, from small vacation lets to self-catering apartments to 5-star hotels. Some popular areas to stay in Zante include Zakynthos Town, Tsilivi, and Psarou, which are the main resorts on the east coast, and the best for families. Younger travelers looking to party might prefer Laganas in the south. Average costs per night range from around $60 to $300, depending on the accommodation you’re looking for. Renting a whole apartment will be more expensive than getting a hotel room or hostel, but could work out cheaper if you’re booking for a family or a group of friends.
In Rhodes, you’ll find 5-star boutique hotels, hostels for those who like a backpacking adventure and want to save money, as well as quaint seaside-view apartments for midrange budgets. Some of the most popular areas to stay in Rhodes include Faliraki (the party town), Theologos, Ixia, and – most of all – Lindos (the prettiest resort on the southeastern shoreline). Average costs per night for a couple staying in Rhodes range from around $65 to $150, but there are some honeymoon hotels that can cost over $300 per night. Generally, though, accommodation is a little more affordable here than on Zante.
Winner: Draw. You won’t be short of hotel options in either of these places.
Rhodes or Zante: Pricing
The good news is that neither of these islands match the soaring prices of places like Mykonos or Santorini, even in the middle of the summer season. You can do both on a budget if you like, or fork out a little extra to get some more luxury. Let’s take it island by island.
First: Zakynthos. We’d actually put this one up there with the more affordable isles in the Ionian chain. It’s not as chic as Kefalonia and the average cost of holidays is brought down a notch because there’s a big 18-30s crowd to cater to in Laganas – think gyros kebab stalls and budget apartment accommodation. That said, Zante does have a swanky side, with some 5-star hotels hitting $400/night. Here’s a general guide to what your outgoings might look like on the Ionian island:
- A meal at an inexpensive restaurant – €12/$13.50 per head
- A day-long tour Shipwreck Beach – €86/$97
- A draught beer in a bar – €3.75/$4.20
Then there’s Rhodes. Again, hotels in these parts can be pricy if you want luxury, but they rarely cost more than Zante’s top options – we’re talking $200-250/night for the chicest of places. The island also has its budget areas, like Faliraki (another 18-30s resort) and Ialyssos (a west-coast resort where things are generally cheaper). We’d say eating out in Rhodes is cheaper than on Zante, and so are excursions like boat trips. Here’s a closer look…
- A meal at an inexpensive restaurant – €11/$12.30 per head
- A day-long tour of the beaches to Lindos from Rhodes Town – €30/$33.50
- A draught beer in a bar – €3.50/$3.90
Winner: Rhodes, but only just – there’s really only a handful of euros per day in it.
Rhodes or Zante: Food
Throughout Greece, each region has its own cooking traditions and gastronomy. These two isles are no different. Rhodes, for example, is known for its heavy use of legumes, olive oil, cereals, wild greens, fish, and fresh fruit and vegetables. What’s noticeable is that the people here very rarely consume red meat, and there’s a significant influence from kitchens in the east, like Turkey and the Levant. Mezze is the main way to eat in Rhodes. It’s sort of like the Greek answer to tapas – you order lots of small dishes, not one big one. Favorites include:
- Pougia – a type of pie made with filo that’s baked on a stone.
- Pittaroudia – Rhodian chickpea fritters that go amazingly with tzatziki.
- Gemista – A Greek fav, these stuffed pepper and tomatoes usually come packed with rice and onion.
- Giaprakia – Stuffed vine leaves or cabbage leaves, sometimes meat, sometimes veggie.
Zante takes more a nod from mainland Greek cooking and even Italy. That means there’s more of a country feel to the dishes, though you can never discount the influence of the Adriatic Sea. Things change a little in the tavernas. You can still order mezze dishes, but Zakynthiots will often go for one main dish with a starter and a dessert. Seafood is always best eaten close to the coast, and there are lots of excellent places near the harbor of Zakynthos Town, Planos, and Pasrou (look for the tavernas that have a changing fish menu every day!) to name just three. Meals you might want to try here include:
- Spetsofai – A hearty dish with a bit of spice, made from sausages and peppers.
- Skordostoumbi melitzana – A roasted eggplant dip infused with garlic and lemon juice, a little like the eastern babaganoush.
- Beef sofrito – A casserole-style stew that’s popular all across the Ionian Islands, originally from Corfu.
- Kataifi – A sweet roll of fragile dough that’s rolled and topped with syrup.
Winner: Rhodes, but only because we’re big fans of Greek mezze.
Rhodes or Zante: Beaches
There are plenty of beaches across Rhodes and Zante, attracting thousands upon thousands of visitors every year. In fact, we’d go as far as to say that the sands on both these islands are probably the main attractions, and among some of the finest in all of Greece. Big words, but just wait to see what’s on offer…
Zante really hits the headlines for one beach in particular. Known as Navagio Beach, it features its very own shipwreck. The ship ran aground in the 1980s and the details surrounding it were never fully known, but the accepted story is that the ship was carrying 2,000 boxes of smuggled cigarettes and around 30 million drachma. Whatever happened, it’s a stunning sight, especially from the soaring lookout points on the chalk-white cliffs above. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though, as Zante also boasts family beaches like Gerakas, handsome Marathonisi (also known as Turtle Island), and romantic Porto Zoro.
Rhodes has two coastlines that are worthy of remark. The southeast is the place where most sunbathers go, for fine, golden sands. The northwest is more rugged and windy, with cliff walks and hidden coves galore. The answer to Shipwreck Beach – AKA the standout – is Lindos Bay, a gorgeous sweep of perfect sand that runs in an arc below a whitewashed Cycladic-style village. However, Anthony Quinn Beach gets plaudits for its amazing snorkeling, while Paralia Prasonisiou at the tip of the island is a windsurfer’s mecca.
Winner: Zante, simply because it has Shipwreck Beach – a spot you’ll never forget.
Rhodes or Zante: Nightlife
Laganas is well-known for being the party center of Zakynthos. Located just 20 minutes outside of Zante Town, it offers plenty of bars, clubs, cocktail bars, and pool venues. Standard entry fees to most of the clubs in Zante are between 5 and 20 euros. Clubs such as Rescue and Zero are especially popular, with foam and rain parties throughout the main season. You’ll also be able to hear some of the top Radio 1 DJs play in these parts, along with other, well-known artists, mostly down the pumping Zante Strip.
Rhodes also has plenty of nightclubs, bars, restaurants, and cocktail bars, all tailored to tourists looking for an unforgettable night out. Entry fees for clubs in Rhodes are around 10 euros, but could be more depending on the venue and whether they have a themed party night or not. Faliraki, in particular, is the place to be in Rhodes. It attracts thousands of 18-30s folks year on year. The most famous club is probably Paradiso Beach Club. It features many renowned DJs including David Guetta, Bob Sinclair, and Aban and Axwell.
Winner: Rhodes. Faliraki is bigger and wilder. But you can still get great parties on Zante!
Rhodes or Zante: Things to do
Itineraries can be filled with exploration on Zante. Must-dos include a visit to the aforementioned Shipwreck Beach (also called Navagio Beach). There are two choices – drive to the clifftop lookouts or hop on a boat tour of the west coast. The latter usually cost about $50-100 per person, but will also involve visits to the famous Blue Caves and other secret coves. You can also visit the Anafonitria Monastery, which was consecrated in the 15th Century and left unharmed during an earthquake in 1953. Then there’s the Panagia Skopiotissa Monastery, which perches atop Mount Skopos and is well worth the grueling climb.
Rhodes really comes up trumps for historical POIs. You can visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of The Medieval City of Rhodes and be lost in one of the most striking medieval castle complexes in the whole world, let alone Greece. For those more interested in the ancient history of Rhodes, head to the dig site of Kamiros. Just 35km southwest of Rhodes Town, it’s a 2,500 settlement from the 5th Century BC. We can also recommend the sunset views from Filerimos Hill, a beauty spot that offers breathtaking panoramas of the town and the airport. You’ll also notice an impressive, 17.8-meter concrete cross there, commemorating lives lost during the Greek Civil War and WWII.
Winner: Probably Rhodes for its history lovers, but beach lovers and adventurers might prefer Zante.
Rhodes or Zante: Weather
Look, you’re probably going to get great weather no matter if you choose Rhodes or Zante. Both islands get blessed with oodles of sun per year and soaring highs in July and August that sit in the 90s and even the 100s. However, Rhodes has one of the longest seasons of any island in the Aegean Sea. It’s considered to be one of the warmest places in Greece, with record peaks of 106 F (42 C) and more than 300 days of sunshine per year. Being so far south and east also keeps things warmer later into the fall. The upshot? Rhodes is a fantastic choice for early- or late-season trips, in, say, May or October.
That’s especially true since Zante can feel the brunt of western storm systems known as medicanes. They are powerful, semi-tropical cyclones that often sweep through Ionia from September to December bringing high winds and rainfall. There’s a high chance that you won’t get one at all, but if they do come you can forget the sunbathing or boat trips! On the flip side, Zante’s ever-so-slightly cooler climate makes it a better choice for those who don’t like it too hot, with the average yearly temperature coming in at about a degree less than in Rhodes.
Winner: Rhodes. The weather is some of the best in Greece, at least if you like soaring thermometers and endless sun!