Roll up, roll up: It’s time for the Rhodes vs Corfu showdown. One isle weighs in at a mere 585 square kilometers. The other is nearly triple that. One sits on the far north-west side of Greece, up where the Adriatic Sea meets the Ionian. The other is within eyeshot of Turkey, out in the depths of the eastern Aegean.
Obviously, these two spots will have their differences, and that’s what we’re here to lay out. From the beaches to the hotels to the party scene after dark, this guide should help you uncover whether it’s the lush green valleys of Corfu or the shimmering lengths of golden sand on Rhodes that are the best for you this year.
We’ll also take a look at the general vibe of both islands and be honest about what makes each unique or similar. Oh, and there’s a good mention of the weather (the sun’s gotta’ be shining, right?) and the food (who doesn’t think that’s important in Greece?). Let’s go…
Rhodes vs Corfu: The vibe
These two isles are two of the most popular vacationing isles in Greece. One is the king of the Dodecanese (Rhodes), the other is the gateway to the Ionian region in the northwest. Despite them being almost 440 miles apart on two far sides of the Aegean, they actually have a whole load of similarities. The south and east shores of both places are riddled with resorts and family hotels, which huddle around more traditional villages awash with tavernas and bars. There are also lazy beaches dotted with sunbeds, and even buzzy nightlife towns on both.
There are some clear differences, though. Rhodes, at least in the main town, is very historic. Its old center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and comes topped by crusader castles. There’s also a palpable Turkish influence, perhaps not in the architecture, but certainly in the food. Corfu takes a hint of culture from Italy and the Balkans instead, and it’s considered one of the greenest islands in the country. Generally speaking, Corfu is a touch quieter and it’s easier to find peaceful off-radar spots, but Rhodes offers more in the way of an all-inclusive vacation vibe.
Rhodes vs Corfu: The beaches
Beach lovers will enjoy both islands, we have no doubt about that. Over on Rhodes, the whole east coast is hailed as a swimmer’s, snorkeler’s, beach bum’s mecca. We can hardly remember a more glorious sight than the azure waters and pockets of rock reef that coalesce at Anthony Quinn Bay just south of Faliraki. Then you get the cliff-backed powder of Tsambika Beach and the amazing isthmus beach at Prasonisiou (one for the windsurfers).
Corfu matches that with a whopping 115 separate beaches. That’s particularly impressive when you recall that it’s about a third of the size of Rhodes. The southern shores usually attract the crowds – places like Kavos Beach, Gardeno, and Marathias. However, we don’t think there’s anything that can beat the wilder, untouched, and rugged north. There, inlets like Sidari Canal d’Amour look more like something from the Balearic Islands than Greece, and you get romantic coves like Glyko Beach and lush Agios Iliodoros, where hardly another soul strays in the shoulder seasons.
Rhodes vs Corfu: The food
There are oodles of reasons why the Greek islands are considered a foodie mecca. Thankfully, Rhodes and Corfu deserve a place among them. Corfu is notable for having a cuisine that fuses elements of southern Italian and Balkan cooking. Expect the tavernas there to serve up things like stifado (beef in a rich tomato sauce) and chili-topped bourdeto (a fish stew that’s rich in onions and capsicum). Corfu also boasts a sweet and strong kumquat liquor that’s not found anywhere else in Europe.
Rhodes offers a whole medley of international dining spots. That’s mainly down to the bustling resort areas of Faliraki and Rhodes town, where you can just as easily score an English breakfast as a Greek coffee. But stray from those to mountain villages like Psinthos and Apollona, or down to little Lindos, and you can enjoy a fresh Aegean spread that includes Greek classics – stuffed-pepepr gemista, saganaki cheese. If you like Middle Eastern cooking, then there’s also a touch of that this far east, with bulgur salads and lemon-infused tzatziki dip.
Rhodes vs Corfu: The nightlife
The nightlife on Corfu is very much kept to the single resort of Kavos. From May until September, that 18-30s mega destination goes into overdrive. The main place to go and let loose is The Strip, which hosts legendary bars like Flames, Snobs, JCs, and – the biggest of the lot – Future. There is some nightlife in other areas like Corfu Town, but it tends to be much more local. There, you’ll be hoping tavernas and seeking out smaller cocktail bars by the marina.
Rhodes has its own 18-30s hotspot: Faliraki. It’s bigger and more boisterous than Kavos and has a reputation as one of the most vibrant party places in the Med. Recent years have seen reports of it cooling off a little, but the truth is everything is still pumping down the Bar Street of Ermoi virtually every night in the summer months. Chart-topping bars are Bondi, Q Club, and Bedrock. The thing about Rhodes is that the hedonism doesn’t end at Faliraki city limits, either. Rhodes Town is also pumping most nights in the high season. From the Red Lion to Gazi club, there are venues galore!
Rhodes vs Corfu: Things to do
So, what about when you’re not lazing on the sands or sunning yourself by the swimming pool? Never fear. Rhodes comes laced with fantastic snorkeling spots (check out Anthony Quinn Beach!) and some lovely inland escapes, like the Valley of the Butterflies, with its moss-caked trees and resident fliers. What Rhodes really excels in is history. You can scale the dramatic Acropolis of Lindos or dive into the Game of Thrones-style citadel of the Palace of the Grand Masters. Amazing stuff.
Corfu is great for hikers and adventurers who want to seek out time-stood-still villages in the peaks. The north of the island holds most of that. Head to Skripero or Liapades to see sleepy plazas and single-taverna squares where the locals still chatter under plane trees. The coast is also a doozy for photographers – just take Cape Drastis and the adjoining coves of Sidari! The walking is special too, especially that 93-mile Corfu Trail along the west shore.
Rhodes vs Corfu: Hotels
Rhodes has a whopping 2,100 places to stay listed on Booking.com. You can find virtually all sorts of accommodation, from the shoestring dorm rooms of Rhodes Backpackers Boutique Hostel in main Rhodes Town to the charming villa stays of Bouganville Bed & Breakfast Stegna. Families wanting all-inclusive types of holidays are better off sticking to the east coast, but steer clear of party-mad Faliraki. Those wanting to escape the crowds can go west and north.
Corfu also has designated resort areas. They’re largely focused on the far south of the island. There, places like Sun ‘n Chill, Boutique Apartments & Beach Villa can offer access to the strips of hedonistic Kavos, while family homes like the Villa Spartera Sea view by CorfuEscapes can steer you away from the shoreline to a pad with your very own pool. More charming, eco, and honeymoon-worthy escapes await in the north. Check out cute Lavender Cottage if that’s what you’re searching for.
Rhodes vs Corfu: Ease of travel
Getting to Rhodes or Corfu is now as easy as hopping on a plane. Both islands have their own airport. What’s more, both are served by a whole range of low-cost and premium carriers. The routes in are mainly from regional European hubs like London, Frankfurt, and Rome, but you can also get domestic links to Athens to connect to longer-haul connections.
Ferries are also an easy option for both islands. Connections go to Corfu from the mainland ports of Igoumenitsa and Patras, but they also come in from the Adriatic coast of Italy (ports like Bari and Ancona). You can hop on a boat to Rhodes from Turkey if you’d like, though the more popular choice are island-hopping links via the Cyclades islands (Santorini among them) or Athens (that takes overnight).
Once you’re on the ground, travel is likely to be slightly easier on Corfu. Maybe. That’s not because Rhodes doesn’t have good roads (no pun intended!). It’s just because Corfu about a third of the size. You can drive the whole place, from Kavos in the south to Sidari in the north, in under two hours. That said, Rhodes has a single motorway linking the popular south-east coast resorts, which helps to cut journey times to the major destinations.
Winner: Draw – there’s nothing in it!
Rhodes vs Corfu: Weather
Corfu is a stunner of an island, but it’s one of the farthest north of all the Greek islands. That means summer never lasts quite as long here as on, say, Crete. Even September can be a bit cool and we’ve been caught wearing jumpers in the evenings – shock, horror! Jokes aside, autumn in Corfu can bring in some strong storm systems from the western Med. They’re known as Medicanes and can be pretty darn rough (more like a tropical typhoon than a classic European downpour). These are all things to think about.
Rhodes enjoys a location very far south and east in Greece. In the midst of the Dodecanese chain and close to the coast of Turkey, the weather tends to be far more settled than over between Ionia and the Adriatic. The upshot? Average temperature high in May are in the 70s F (20+ C), while October can regularly hit 75 F or 76 F. The middle of the summer is hotter again, with 100+ a possibility.
Rhodes vs Corfu: History
To be honest, the histories and cultures of these two islands could hardly be more different, at least for a duo of spots in the very same country. A lot of that’s down to geography – we’ve mentioned that they sit at opposing ends of the Aegean Sea, right?
Corfu’s past has been a tumultuous one. The isle is credited with being one of the flashpoints that started the brutal 27-year Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. Later it was taken under the wing of Venice and was besieged by the Ottomans in the 1400s. During WWII, it was occupied by Axis forces and eventually bombed by the Luftwaffe towards the end of the conflict.
That flux of history can be witnessed and felt at a variety of locations across the island. Most notably, there are the Venetian castles of Corfu Old Town, and the various Orthodox monasteries that pepper the hills, though there’s not so much left from the ancient era in these parts.
For that, you’ll have to head to Rhodes. This island is perhaps best known as the erstwhile home of the mighty Colossus of Rhodes. It’s one of the Wonders of the Ancient World, but it’s, sadly, now totally lost. You can see where it once would have stood, over the opening to the main marina in Rhodes Town. The Acropolis of Rhodes also looms over the northwest side of the town. It’s got ancient temples and theatres and more.
Then there’s the medieval relics of Rhodes. These are the most striking historical monuments left on the island and now bear a UNESCO World Heritage tag, no less. You’ll also find them in Rhodes Town, in the form of 14th-century city walls and the muscular Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, a leftover of the Crusades that looks like something plucked from a fantasy novel.
Here’s the thing – you probably won’t be disappointed with either of these amazing islands. Both are jaw-droppingly beautiful and fantastic for all sorts of vacations. And that’s not us avoiding the question. Remember that these spots are up there with the likes of Santorini and Mykonos, among the most popular places in the whole of southern Europe, let alone Greece!
Generally, we’d say Rhodes is a more all-inclusive place. It has a whole eastern coastline that’s dedicated to package holidaying. That means it’s probably the more family friendly option. It’s also better for the 18-30s crowd who are after non-stop parties (check out Faliraki and Rhodes Town).
On the flip side, Corfu promises a little more in the way of adventure. That western shoreline is something downright wonderful if you like to hike from cove to cove. On top of that, the package holiday stuff tends to be limited to the south part of the island, leaving the whole, olive-clad, mountain-scarred north to the adventurers.