Kefalonia vs. Zakynthos • Which Ionian Island is Better for YOU?

If you’re planning a trip to the Ionian Islands and find yourself contemplating between Zakynthos and Kefalonia, you’re likely facing a bit of a dilemma as each island boasts its own unique charm. Like any travel destination, determining the better option depends completely on your preferences.

While we would encourage people to visit both Kefalonia and Zakynthos, we understand that it takes extra time and thought. We have a soft spot for Kefalonia, an island we adore; however, we can certainly see the allure of Zakynthos, a destination cherished by many. We spent seven days on Zakynthos and 10 days on Kefalonia and have plenty of thoughts about each! Let’s delve into comparing cost, activities, beaches, and accessibility on both Zakynthos and Kefalonia, so you can make the best decision for your trip to Greece!

Kefalonia vs. Zakynthos: Location and Geography

Petani Beach on Kefalonia
Petani Beach on Kefalonia
Porto Limnionas Beach On Zakynthos
Porto Limnionas Beach On Zakynthos

Kefalonia and Zakynthos are beautiful Greek islands in the Ionian Sea; they are pretty close to each other. How close? Well, just a 1.5-hour ferry will connect you to the other. If you are trying to determine one vs the other based on location and geography, it’s going to be a tough call!


Kefalonia, also known as Cephalonia, is the largest of all the Ionian Islands. Diverse mountainous terrain, lush green valleys, and picturesque beaches characterize the island. Mount Ainos, the highest peak on the island, contributes to its varied topography. Kefalonia is known for its stunning beaches, with its most famous being Myrtos Beach, with its white pebbles and turquoise waters. We found that Kefalonia was a bit more mountainous, offering a more rugged and varied landscape than Zakynthos. While both islands are quite large (by Greek island standards), Kefalonia is larger than Zakynthos, and because of this it took much longer to drive around the island than driving on Zakynthos. We spent ten days on Kefalonia and left with plenty of attractions still on our hit list.


Zakynthos, often referred to as Zante, is just south of Kefalonia. Zakynthos is the more well-known island, mainly thanks to Shipwreck Beach. It has the same clear blue waters as Kefalonia, with plenty of beautiful jagged limestone peaks. The landscape is just a bit flatter than Kefalonia, though some pretty mountainous roads are a bit off the beaten path.

Zakynthos is still a very large island, and we would recommend a car to get around. Though not as big as Kefalonia, it still took quite a bit of effort and time to get from point to point.

Kefalonia vs. Zakynthos: Notable Attractions


While Kefalonia has nothing as notable or Instafamous as Shipwreck Beach, the island has its fair share of natural beauty. The most prominent beach attraction on the island is Myrtos Beach, which has been said to be one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Greece. One can easily spend their days lounging around on Myrtos, though you don’t need to spend every day there as there are SO MANY amazing beaches in Kefalonia. We were on the island for nearly two weeks and hit a different beach every day, never getting bored. Antisamos Beach is another popular one that is as stunning as Myrtos.

Beyond beaches, Kefalonia is also home to Melissani Cave, a natural cave in which you can take a short boat tour. They also have a few charming small Greek towns worth mentioning, but we’ll get to those later.


Undoubtedly, the number one thing to see on Zakynthos is Navaijo Beach, “Shipwreck Beach,” which you’ve probably seen in photos before. This famous beach draws many people to the island and may very likely be one of the most photographed beaches in the world.

Beyond the Shipwreck, Zakynthos boasts other beautiful attractions like Porto Limnionas Beach and the Mizithres Rocks.

Kefalonia vs. Zakynthos: Beaches


We spent ten days in Kefalonia and seven days in Zakynthos, and from my perspective, Kefalonia had much better beaches to relax on. Sure, Zakynthos has Shipwreck Beach, but you can no longer actually visit that beach.

Myrtos Beach was one of our favorites, but we loved plenty of others, including Antisamos, Petani Beach, and Paralia Emplisi. However, our absolute favorite day was when we rented a boat to White Rocks Beach. It’s also possible to rent a boat or hire a Fteri Water Taxi to take you to stunning Fteri Beach, which has some of the bluest water I’ve ever seen in Greece.


Zakynthos has Shipwreck Beach; however, visitors can no longer access the beach or swim near it due to safety concerns. You can still take a boat tour by it or check it out from above. Beyond that, Zakynthos has a few other notable beaches, including Banana Beach and Gerakas Beach, home to Loggerhead Sea Turtles. There are plenty of other coves and beaches to enjoy, but I generally found the beaches in Zakynthos to be a bit more underwhelming and much more crowded than Kefalonia.

Kefalonia vs. Zakynthos: Overall Vibe and Atmosphere


With beautiful beaches and charming towns, Kefalonia tends to have a more relaxed and laid-back atmosphere compared to some other popular Greek islands. It is a great destination for those seeking tranquility and a slower pace of life. Kefalonia is for you if you want to spend your time lounging on beaches and enjoying a glass of wine as the sun sets every day.


Zakynthos is known for its lush green landscapes, olive groves, and beautiful beaches. Navagio Beach, with its iconic shipwreck, is one of the most photographed spots in Greece. Zakynthos is known for parties with its vibrant nightlife, especially in Laganas. It attracts a younger crowd looking for lively beach parties and entertainment and with that brings a bit of cheap tourism, which you can find all along the island.

Kefalonia vs. Zakynthos: Dining


We dined out most nights in Kefalonia and had delicious seaside meals at Avithos Preview, a nice dinner at Orealios, and even sushi! Yes, sushi on a Greek island can be found at Sepia Sushi Restaurant, and it’s pretty good, too!


From tavernas to wineries, Zakynthos had a bit of everything. We found some fantastic hillside tavernas like Lofos Restaurant and Pizzeria up in the hilltop village of Ano Gerakari for very affordable prices. We also indulged at Grampsas Winery for a delicious and romantic meal. It’s a popular choice for a more dynamic and socially active vacation.

Kefalonia vs. Zakynthos: Nightlife


Compared to Zakynthos, Kefalonia has a much more relaxed and laid-back nightlife. You’ll find tavernas and bars where you can enjoy a leisurely evening with good food, local wine, and live music. However, even on a Saturday night in the island’s capital of Argostoli, we never saw anything too rowdy. It’s a much more relaxing vibe with Greeks that live on the island getting together with friends and family.


Without a doubt, Zakynthos has the better nightlight scene. Zakynthos is known in Greece for its livelier and more energetic nightlife, particularly in areas like Laganas (where we stayed far away). Laganas has beach clubs, themed foam parties, and beach parties. Generally, it’s more a party crowd that visits Zakynthos, and I’m not just talking about twenty-year-old Brits. Young and old, we saw all walks of life doing shots of ouzo.

Kefalonia vs. Zakynthos: Cost

Our car rental on Kefalonia

We visited Zakynthos and Kefalonia in early September, back to back, and found the costs between the islands relatively comparable. However, if I had to say one was more budget-friendly, it would be Kefalonia.

Dining out, accommodation, car rentals is nothing notable compared to Zakynthos, however we found ourselves saving a few euro here and there on Kefalonia.

Kefalonia vs. Zakynthos: Accommodation

We stayed at the Olea All Suite Hotel on Zakynthos and it was dreamy

Both islands offer various accommodation options, from luxurious resorts to charming boutique hotels and traditional villas. You can find something that suits different budgets and preferences. Though Zakynthos has more resorts and hotels that are internationally recognized. So if you like earning Marriott points, you may want to choose a resort like the Olea (Marriott) or AluaSoul (Hyatt).

If you prefer a quieter and more serene atmosphere with diverse landscapes, you will probably find more of what you are looking for on Kefalonia. If you’re looking for livelier nightlife and want to experience the famous Navagio Beach, Zakynthos could be the ideal choice.

Kefalonia vs. Zakynthos: Towns


As far as cute Greek towns go, you won’t find any white and blue buildings on either island – that’s in the Cyclades. However, head to Kefalonia, and you’ll see the most pastel-colored towns on the island. Sami, Fiskardo, and Asos are the three main tourist towns on the island, with Asos being the most frequented by visitors.

My favorite place to visit was Fiskardo. It’s a lovely small coastal town where you can sit with a cocktail and watch the yachts sail in and out of port. If you love exploring charming Greek towns, Kefalonia has more to explore than Zakynthos.

We also spent a few days in Argostoli, the island’s capital. There’s a lovely promenade where you can pop into boutique shops, grab a fredo cappuccino, and dine at the poshest restaurants on Kefalonia.


We didn’t find that Greek town vibe we love on Zakynthos. One of the most popular towns is Laganas, a big party area where you’ll find a strip with bars, clubs, and people partying till the early morning hours. Agios Nikolaos has been named one of the most beautiful towns on the island. You can have a nice lunch at Madrakia Tavern and catch the ferry to Kefalonia.

Zakynthos Town (or Zante Town) is the island’s capital, similar to Argostoli on Kefalonia. This is where you can find a bit of subdued nightlife (compared to Laganas) and some boutique shops and coffee houses. While neither Zante Town or Argostoli were as beautiful as say…Naousa on Paros, they are still worth venturing into.

Kefalonia vs. Zakynthos: Accessibility and Transportation


Kefalonia International Airport, situated near Argostoli and Lassi, embodies the quintessential small island airport experience. The limited space means that when there are two or more planes on the ramp, it can quickly become quite congested. The primary travel rush occurs on Tuesdays and Sundays, creating a bustling scene. Embrace the chaos, considering that “chaos” is a Greek word, and go with the flow – surprisingly, the staff remains cheerful and relaxed.

For those venturing to the Greek mainland, Sky Express and Olympic Air offer flight options to Athens. During the summer, Kefalonia International Airport facilitates international non-stop flights on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to many European destinations, including many Italian cities, London, Amsterdam, many locations in Germany, and plenty of other European destinations.

Via ferry, Kefalonia links up well to Zakynthos. Still, passengers can also connect to the Ionian islands like Ithaca, Corfu, Meganisi, and Lefkada on a more limited schedule.


Zakynthos is easily accessible through its main airport, identified by the code ZTH, situated at the southern tip of the island near the Laganas and Kalamaki resorts. This airport accommodates both international and domestic flights. The majority of international flights come through other European cities like London during the holiday season, spanning from May to October. There are daily domestic flights connecting Zakynthos airport to Athens.

Via ferry, Zakynthos has links well to Kyllini on the Greek mainland from Zakynthos Town. Lefkada Palace also operates ferries to other Ionian islands like Corfu and Lefkada, which are limited. There are a few ferries a day running to nearby Kefalonia as well.

The Best Things to Do in Kefalonia and Zakynthos

My Favorite Things to Do in Kefalonia
  • Antisamos Beach
  • Melissani Cave
  • Petani Beach
  • Walk Around Asos and Fiskardo
  • Enjoy a night out in Argostoli
  • Rent a Boat and Explore the White Rocks
My Favorite Things to Do in Zakynthos
  • Visit Navagio Beach
  • Take A Trip To The Blue Caves  
  • Relax On Porto Limnionas Beach  
  • Go Kayaking At The Keri Caves  
  • Xigia Beach
  • Watch The Sun Go Down At Keri Lighthouse

The Final Verdict – Our Opinion

In love with Kefalonia
In love with Kefalonia

We visited Zakynthos right before Kefalonia and found Zakynthos incredibly crowded (even for September, so I can’t imagine peak summer) and there was definitely a cheap tourist Disneyland feeling in the air. When we took the ferry to Kefalonia and spent just one hour there, it was like a breath of fresh air. The difference between Zakynthos and Kefalonia was like night and day. So much quieter, less party vibes, no ugly neon signs, and few bus tours – are you catching my drift?

Although I tried hard to love Zakynthos, it will remain among my least favorite Greek Islands. Not because the island isn’t pretty, like all the other Ionian Islands, Zakynthos is STUNNING. However, Zakynthos was incredibly busy with people seemingly just wanting to party away and not immerse themselves in Greece. Again, we visited in early/mid-September, when many other islands like TinosSerifos, and Milos are winding down for the summer. Zakynthos was still going strong.

That said, Zakynthos is still worth visiting; we have just been to many Greek islands and spent nearly six months traveling around Greece, so we get pretty particular with what kind of vibes we are looking for nowadays. Despite its growing popularity, Zakynthos remains one of the prettiest Mediterranean Islands.

Kefalonia and Zakynthos are tied for natural beauty, like nearby Corfu, Ithaca, and Lefkada. It’s truly hard to get sick of the cliffside views, baby blue water, and delicious Greek food. Beyond the crowds and vibes, I generally found Kefalonia beaches nicer for relaxation and the restaurants better, a bit cheaper, and more authentically Greek. If you want a vacation in GREECE, choose Kefalonia.

Greek Travel Planning Resources

  • ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank You’ in Greek: “Yasou” and “Efharisto”
  • Currency: Euro – (EUR) – €
  • Visa: Schengen visa. Which is 90 days in the European Union out of 180. Many nationalities are granted this on arrival for free. Check with your embassy to see if that is you.
  • Weather: The weather in Greece is a Mediterranean climate. This means winters are mild and rainy, while summers are warm and dry with plenty of sunshine throughout the year.
  • What to Pack: Warm weather clothes and a swimsuit, don’t forget a good pair of clothes to go and a jacket for cool nights. Read about what to wear in Greece.
  • Budget: If you’re in the initial stages of planning, check out our awesome post that breaks down how much a trip to Greece costs.
  • Rent a Car: We suggest most visitors consider renting a car for the best trip possible. Try Discover Cars to compare quotes from different rental agencies. Check Price Here!
  • Protect Your Trip: Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance! We always carry travel insurance to protect us from injury, theft, or a canceled trip. We use HeyMondo for our insurance needs.
  • Tours in Greece: Check out our list of the best tours you can enjoy in Greece!
  • Travel Adapter: Make sure you find a good adapter to keep your personal electronics charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land. Purchase one here.
About Natasha Alden

Natasha is the co-founder of The World Pursuit. She is an expert in travel, budgeting, and finding unique experiences. She loves to be outside, hiking in the mountains, playing in the snow on her snowboard, and biking. She has been traveling for over 10 years, across 7 continents, experiencing unique cultures, new food, and meeting fantastic people. She strives to make travel planning and traveling easier for all. Her advice about international travel, outdoor sports, and African safari has been featured on Lonely Planet, Business Insider, and Reader’s Digest.

Learn more about Natasha Alden on The World Pursuit About Us Page.