Crete or Corfu: Which Island Should Be Your Next Greek Destination?

Crete or Corfu

Where to go between Crete and Corfu? Crete and Corfu are two of the most popular destinations in Europe. However, the only similarity is that they are both large Greek Islands – with Crete being the largest. And the food in Crete and Corfu is fantastic!

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Crete or Corfu: Which is Better? Where To Go Next?

crete or corfu

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📍 Top tours I recommend on the island:
Boat cruise to Balos Lagoon & Gramvousa
Ticket to Knossos Archaeological Site

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Crete and Corfu are situated on opposite sides of the Greek mainland, and while both are mountainous, Corfu is a lush, green island, while Crete is more barren with wide-open spaces and distinctive maquis vegetation.

Both islands are fun to explore, with lovely hotels, beautiful beaches, excellent cuisine, and a warm, friendly welcome waiting for all visitors from the islanders.

Here we give you their main differences so that you can decide which island would suit you best.

Crete vs. Corfu: Location

crete or corfu
Canal d’Amour, Corfu.

Crete is in the Mediterranean and lies south of the Cyclades group of Greek islands. The island has two international airports at Heraklion and Chania and two remarkable seaports, one in Heraklion and one in Chania.

Corfu lies in the Ionian Sea and is one of the most important islands in the region. Its international airport is located less than five kilometers from Corfu Old Town.

Crete or Corfu? How Long to Stay?

View of Mirabello Bay and Pseira Island, Sitia
View of Mirabello Bay and Pseira Island, Sitia, Crete.

Corfu is perfect if you want an island to enjoy in 3 to 5 days.

On the other hand, exploring Crete will take at least one week because of the size of the island and the fact that many of the journeys between towns can take several hours.

If you are an archaeological buff, there are so many exciting places to visit in Crete! Including numerous archaeological sites.

Corfu vs. Crete: Is it Easy to Get Around?

crete or corfu
Mountain roads, Crete.

The easiest way to get around both islands is to hire a car, but don’t limit yourself to four wheels.

Hiring a boat for excursions to smaller nearby islets or sailing along the coast is also fun.

Crete has a good bus network, but because of the size of the island and its many mountain ranges, travel times can be too long to use buses for day trips.  

crete or corfu
Asphalt road, Corfu.

Corfu also has a good bus network, which is ideal for sightseeing.

In fact, in Corfu, distances are shorter — for example, the journey from the northern to the southern coast of the island takes just two hours, less than half of the time it takes for the same journey (east to west) in Crete.

>> Which car rental service is the best to choose? If you want to rent a car for your trip, consider Discover Cars, a worldwide car rental booking engine.

The Beaches and the Coastline on Crete and Corfu

Beach, sea plants, boat
Balos Beach, Crete.

Crete has a very varied coastline with some pretty fishing villages in the east, such as Elounda or Mochlos.

The island also has two of the most beautiful beaches in Greece: Balos and Elafonisi. Balos, just a few miles from Gramvousa Island, features a gorgeous lagoon with the most transparent blue water you have ever seen.

Elafonisi Beach is 90 minutes from Chania and is a stunning beach with fine pink sand.

Many famous beaches are on the island’s southern coast, for instance, Frangokastelo and Glyka Nera (Sweetwater Beach, near Loutro, another stunning fishing village). Still, there are numerous other beaches strung along the coast.

crete or corfu
Paleokastritsa.

Corfu is also an island with a breathtaking coastline featuring beautiful beaches and enchanting islets.

One of the most fantastic beaches in Corfu is Paleokastritsa, an ideal spot for snorkeling. You can also rent a boat to visit other hidden coves with stunning landscapes here. Sidari and Kassiopi are also popular choices.

On the southern coast of Corfu, there are many famous sunbathing spots, for example, Chalikounas and Issos, with long stretches of golden sand.

Towns and Villages to Visit

Chania old Venetian port
Chania Old Town.

Both islands feature dozens of traditional towns and villages where time seems almost to stand still.

Chania and Rethymnon are two of the prettiest towns in Crete regarding big cities. Chania has a beautiful Venetian harbor, an old lighthouse, and numerous alleyways with old Turkish houses.

Rethymnon, on the other hand, is the third-largest town on the island. It features charming cobbled streets and homes with colorful facades.

In Corfu, the Venetian influence can also be seen in the architecture of Corfu Old Town, with its two impressive fortresses facing the sea. Another attractive mountain settlement is Pelekas, which offers stunning coast views.

crete or corfu
Corfu Old Town.

Around the island’s coast, numerous coastal villages with traditional tavernas are ideal spots for enjoying a drink as the sun sets over the sea.

Kassiopi is a delightful fishing village with a pretty harbor and views across neighboring Albania.

Top Places to Visit in Crete

Samaria Gorge - Gorges in Crete
Samaria Gorge.

Knossos: This is one of Greece’s most famous archaeological sites, considered an important city during the Minoan times. Read more.

Phaistos: The second-largest Minoan palace on the island that stands dramatically on a hill overlooking the Messara plain in central Crete. 

Heraklion Archaeological Museum: One of the most important museums in Europe, housing the most extensive known collection of Minoan artifacts.

Samaria Gorge: This is a stunning 13-kilometer-long canyon (often listed as the longest in Europe) with a spectacular path through rocks that soar into the sky. You can join a trekking group to visit while you make new friends in Crete.

Along the hike, you might spot unique trees, such as the ambelitsa, and a famous local animal, the agrimi (also known as kri-kri, although this is not its real name). The agrimi is an endemic wild goat that mostly lives in this gorge and on the uninhabited island of Theodorou, just off the coast of Chania.

Lake Voulismeni: Located in the Lasithi region, this beautiful lake, once considered bottomless, is situated in the eastern town of Agios Nikolaos and is connected to the sea. 

Spinalonga: One of the most fascinating places to check out in Crete, this island is just off the coast near Plaka Beach. It is an important archaeological site that once worked as a leper colony. You can read more about the history of Spinalonga here.

Top Places to Visit in Corfu

crete or corfu
Sidari.

Mount Pantokrator: This is Corfu’s highest peak (906 meters a.s.l.). From the top, you can relax and enjoy the most amazing views of the Greek mainland, other Ionian Islands, Albania, and Salento -the so-called heel of Italy.

Canal d’Amour: Located near Sidari, this is a long, rectangular creek with white walls made of sandstone of breathtaking beauty. There is a tunnel carved through the rock by the waves, and according to a local legend, any couple who swims through the tunnel and the length of the creek will marry.

Vlacherna Monastery: Featured on many postcards and famous images of Corfu, this religious building sits on an islet at the end of a narrow jetty at the Kanoni Peninsula. 

Spianada Square: This is the largest square in Greece and is an entertaining place to visit as you will find local teams enjoying a cricket match (the game was introduced to the island by the British). The Liston is its elegant arched promenade with endless coffee shops for sitting, unwinding, and people-watching. 

You should also read Best Things to Do in Corfu for a Great Adventure in Greece.

Sports for Everyone

GREECE - CRETE - WATERSPORTS

Should you choose Crete or Corfu for sports? Both islands offer an array of water sports, including snorkeling, windsurfing, water skiing, and paragliding.

There are internationally recognized diving courses available in some resorts, too. 

You can read The Best Scuba Diving Spots in Greece.

There is the opportunity to rent your boat to learn how to sail, and there are mountain bikes and pony treks to get off the beaten track.

Greek Food: Which is Better, Crete or Corfu?

Cretan food

Great food is always high on any vacation wishlist. Whether you choose Crete or Corfu, you will be delighted with the massive variety of traditional Greek dishes you can enjoy on both islands!

Delicious pastries and cups of Greek coffee can be enjoyed throughout the day. At the same time, the main dishes include village-style salads (horiatiki), different meat cuts cooked over charcoal, and baked comfort food, such as moussaka or gemista, which are all widely available.

The best way to enjoy different dishes is to order a mezé platter, which is like a tasting menu to share and consists of several traditional bites.

Cretan Food

crete or corfu
Kalistsounia.

If you are holidaying in Crete, you must sample the local food. One of the best dishes you can try is dakos, a large barley rusk softened with olive oil and topped with chopped tomatoes, capers, and crumbled feta or local myzithra cheese.

Kaltsounia are the local cheese pies, and there are also many different kinds of cheese to sample, often made in mountain villages.

There are meat specialties, too. These include smoked pork (apaki) and fried snails, also known as chochlioi boubouristi.

The island also produces excellent wine, and tsikoudia is the local spirit made from grapes but not aniseed.

Corfiot Food

crete or corfu
Delicious Sofrito.

Interestingly, foods found in Corfu have an Italian twist due to the Venetian rule of Corfu, which lasted hundreds of years.

Corfiot cuisine is also distinctive as wine, garlic, and spices, like cloves, allspice, and cinnamon, are regularly used.

Pastitsada is a popular dish made of beef cooked in a thick tomato sauce with red wine and served on a bed of pasta.

Sofrito Sofrito is another delicious island specialty often made of veal in white wine with plenty of garlic. Another traditional delicacy is fish Bianco, a fish simmered in white wine and served on a bed of potatoes.

Are you looking for a more popular bite? Then check out nouboulo, which tastes like Italian prosciutto and is made with pork loin.

Wine production is more developed in Crete than in Corfu. However, Greek wines are plentiful. Finally, there is also kumquat!

crete or corfu
Corfu’s kumquat.

This bizarre fruit was brought to Corfu from China, and now it grows abundantly in many Corfu regions. Today, this orange treat makes jam, spoon sweets, and Corfu’s famous kumquat liqueur

Crete or Corfu for Family Holidays

Family - Rethymnon with kids
With the kids in Rethymnon, Crete.

If you have small children, Corfu is the recommended choice, as there are plenty of things to do in Corfu with kids! Corfu is smaller, allowing embarking on many different day trips that kids can enjoy within just one hour from your hotel, no matter where you’re staying.

Crete, on the other hand, is much larger, and day trips take longer. But if you choose a specific region, there are plenty of things to do with small kids in Crete for an unforgettable family holiday! Crete is also a fantastic destination for families with teenage children, especially those interested in archaeology, water sports, and mountain biking.

crete or corfu
Kids in Paleokastritsa, Corfu.

Most families with small children prefer to stay within their hotel and enjoy its facilities and environment. In this case, both islands have great family resorts with water parks and much more. This guide to the best hotels in Crete with water parks can be helpful when picking a place to stay for your family.

You can read MommaLovesGreece’s advice on the Best Hotels in Corfu for Families.

Corfu or Crete: Which is Best for Island Hopping?

crete or corfu

Island hopping by boat is a popular way to explore several islands in one holiday. Crete is the perfect location for island hopping to Santorini (two hours by boat), Paros, and Naxos (3.5 hours by boat).

Instead, in Corfu, you can cruise to nearby Antipaxos and Paxos or sail to Sivota Island.

There is also an excellent ferry service to Sarandë in Albania, and travel to Italy is possible.

Crete and Corfu have so much to offer as holiday destinations! Some options include more unusual activities, olive oil tasting, and cookery courses.

In fact, it can be not easy to decide – even after research – which is the best destination for you!
Are you ready to pick a destination? Are you visiting Crete or Corfu this year?

Read more about Greece

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More resources to enhance your Crete adventure

Start by checking out my guide to planning your trip to Crete, packed with helpful essential information. Explore the articles on prices in Crete, common mistakes to avoid, and insider secrets. You can also get one of the digital travel guides I’ve written about Crete. They are affordable and practical to check from your mobile.

When it’s time to plan, explore the best places to visit on Crete Island, discover my tours and activities, and be amazed at Crete’s incredible beaches. If you are exploring specific areas like Heraklion, Rethymnon, Lasithi, and Chania, I’ve got detailed guides to help you make the most of your time.

Suggested accommodation in Crete

No time to read all my accommodation guides? Check out these places to stay:

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Choosing between Corfu or Crete for your Greek Vacation

crete or corfu


About me:

Gabi Ancarola | The Tiny Book

Gabi Ancarola

I have lived in Chania, Crete, since 2016. As a local, I have an intimate knowledge of the island. I host culinary and concierge tours and experiences in Crete and write about the island for several travel media. During the last five years, I have helped many travelers plan the perfect holiday in Crete. I co-authored DK Eyewitness Top 10 Crete and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person could ever handle.

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