Kefalonia or Zakynthos: which Ionian island in Greece should you choose?

Which Greece island is best: Kefalonia or Zakynthos? Both islands are located in the Ionian Sea and are beautiful, unique and above all very different! But which island do you choose? We visited Kefalonia and Zakynthos each for a week. In this blog we tell you all about the differences between Zakynthos and Kefalonia and why you should choose  which island.Myzithres Beach Zakynthos Greece 3


Which island to choose: Zakynthos vs. Kefalonia

To be honest: if you have the time, be sure to visit both islands! Even though they are close to each other, Zakynthos and Kefalonia are completely different. Both special and beautiful in their own way. So if you have enough time, it is nice to visit both to experience the contrasts yourself. But, they are not islands that you have seen in two days, so if you have less than a week, then certainly do not go to great lengths to visit both Kefalonia and Zakynthos. Rather choose the island that suits you best and take the time to enjoy the beautiful surroundings!

In this blog we describe both islands and then indicate which island you can choose based on your own travel needs.

Boat tour Zakynthos Greece

Kefalonia:

Kefalonia (also known as Cephalonia) is the greenest island of the Ionian Islands. It is known for its tranquility, mountains and authentic fishing villages. It is not crowded with tourists here, but there are plenty of facilities. The center and west of Kefalonia are the quietest. Especially the Paliki peninsula is very low key. On the beaches here you will mainly find local Greeks.

The south of Kefalonia is the most touristic. Here you will find several beaches with beach clubs. In the southwest there are many families, in the southeast, around Skala you will find the more partying tourists. The east has pebble beaches, just like the north. In the north lies Fiskardo, a luxurious harbor town with beautiful yachts.

The interior of Kefalonia is characterized by vineyards, mountains and small farms. There is nothing but peace and space here. You hardly see tourists. Along the long coastline, winding roads take you to the most beautiful viewpoints. Here high cliffs go into the turquoise sea. Between the foothills of the mountains you will find beautiful bays, often with pebble beaches.

Myrtos Beach Kefalonia 3 1

Zakynthos:

Zakynthos is the southern brother of Kefalonia. But just as brother and sister can be very different, Zakynthos is also very different from Kefalonia. Less green, flatter and more focused on tourism. 

Zakynthos is also smaller than Kefalonia. You also have less high cliffs here than on Kefalonia, but still plenty of places in the west of the country to enjoy a spectacular view. Zakynthos was hit in 1953 by a major earthquake that completely destroyed most of the villages. As a result, there are not many authentic villages to be found, but fortunately Zakynthos town has largely survived. Here you will find some of the oldest buildings on the island.

Most tourism can be found in the west of the country, around Zakynthos city (the capital) Tsilivi and Argassi. In the south you have Laganas with a bar culture that attracts many young people. The north is known for the beautiful Blue Caves and in the west you have great cliffs and beaches that can only be reached by boat.

Myzithres Beach Zakynthos Greece 1


Choose Kefalonia if:

Choose Kefalonia if you are looking for peace

Kefalonia certainly has a touristic side, but you will find much more tranquility here. Beaches are less crowded, there are not so many beach clubs and commercial opportunities on beaches and in the villages. Some beaches you have all to yourself, other beaches are mainly visited by locals. Read all about the best beaches in Kefalonia here.

Where Zakynthos is best known for the partying, on Kefalonia you will only find the real party tourism in the village of Skala. Furthermore, the island is aimed at the quieter visitors and also very much at its own inhabitants! It attracts a different audience and you feel that in the vibe.

Alaties Beach Kefalonia Alati Restaurant Greece

Choose Kefalonia if you want more authenticity

As you could read above, Kefalonia is much less touristy than Zakynthos. People live on the island all year round and that creates a completely different atmosphere. In addition, this island was less affected by the earthquake of 1953, which wiped out almost all villages on Zakynthos. So you will find many old villages on Kefalonia. We found the most beautiful villages Asos, Fiskardo and Agia Effimia. But the capital Argostolli is also nice to visit.

Because people live in Kefalonia all year round, you will find more coffee shops and restaurants that are not only aimed at tourists. Nice! Read all about the best restaurants and hotspots on Kefalonia here!

Asos Kefalonia

Choose Kefalonia if you like mountains

Zakynthos also has some beautiful hills, but Kefalonia is much more mountainous. Here you will find Mount Ainos Oros, which is over 1600 meters high. You can hike to the top of this mountain from where you have a beautiful view.

Where Zakynthos is rocky and dry, Kefalonia is very green. Beautiful coniferous forests, green countryside and lots of variety in between.

Mount Ainos Oros Kefalonia Greece 4

Choose Kefalonia if you don’t mind driving longer distances

The roads on Kefalonia are good, but that is also necessary because the distances are large. Because of the many mountains, you sometimes have to drive around, but the island itself is certainly not small. And most of the sights and the different beaches on Kefalonia are scattered and not very close to each other. Read all about the best sights on Kefalonia here!

Don’t mind spending a little longer in the car? Or maybe you like to stay at several places on the island and make it a road trip? Then Kefalonia is totally your thing!

Fteri Beach Kefalonia Greece


Choose Zakynthos if:

Choose Zakynthos if you want to drive short distances

Zakynthos is not only smaller, the distances between the highlights are also not that great. Many of the sights are located in the east of the country. You usually reach this within half an hour to an hour from the capital.

Keep in mind that the roads are not always well maintained. Especially in the west, roads are not always great. You also sometimes come across a group of goats on the road. So don’t drive too fast.

Porto Limnionas Beach Zakynthos

Choose Zakynthos if you want to party

Zakynthos attracts many partying tourists. Especially around Laganas it is full of bars and clubs. This is not quite what we were looking for on holiday as it was a babymoon to Zakynthos for us. So we stayed in the middle of the island.

If this is your thing, know that you can party well on Zakynthos. Not only in Laganas but also in other places such as Tsilivi or Zakynthos town you will find plenty of bars and clubs.

Banana Casa Playa Beach Zakynthos

Choose Zakynthos if you like restaurants and beach bars

Zakynthos is geared towards tourism. There are nice restaurants everywhere. Incidentally, also less nice restaurants, you know the typical tourist spots where you get a menu in your own language including pictures of the food. Read our blog about restaurants on Zakynthos that are really worth it. Kefalonia also has nice restaurants, but not so many. And in some villages you will find restaurants that are really aimed at the local population.

You will find several beach bars and beach clubs on every beach on Zakynthos. Go to Banana Beach for some very large beach clubs, or visit Tsilivi Beach for beach restaurants aimed at children. For the real Ibiza Vibe you go to Cotton Club. Read our blog with the best beaches of Zakynthos here. On Kefalonia you only have a few beach clubs and certainly not such luxurious places as you have on Zakynthos.

Zakynthos Restaurant 8

Conclusion: which island is best, Zakynthos or Kefalonia?

So there is no clear answer to the question: which island is more fun, Zakynthos or Kefalonia? It all depends on what type of traveler you are. Do you like a party, do you want to go to a luxurious beach club or to a town with a lot of tourism around you? Then Zakynthos is really your thing. Are you looking for peace and tranquility, do you like hiking and do you want more authenticity, then you will enjoy Kefalonia the most!

Hopefully the above information will help you make the right choice.

Shipreck Beach Navagio Zakynthos Greece 2

From Zakynthos to Kefalonia or vice versa

Do you have the time to visit both islands? Lucky you! This way you can enjoy these two different places and have a very varied holiday. Tip: with Transavia you can fly to one island and back from the other island. This way you don’t have to go up and down with the ferry again!Fiskardo Kefalonia Greece 2

Ferry between Kefalonia and Zakynthos

There are several ferries between Kefalonia and Zakynthos. 

1. Daily (and cheapest) Ionian ferry

In the summer there is a daily ferry from Pessada (near the airport on Kefalonia) to Agios Nikolaos (in the north of Zakynthos). And vice versa. This is with the company Ionion Lines and the costs are 10 euros per person. You can also take this ferry by car, but we do not know what the costs are. We bought our tickets at Chionis Tours in Zakynthos town. If you do not take a car with you on the ferry, it is also possible to go to the harbor on spec and buy tickets there.

Advantage of this ferry: cheap and two ferries depart daily. You can bring a car. You are close to the airport of Kefalonia and can be picked up by your car rental company (costs are around 20 euros). The ferry only takes 1.5 hours.

Disadvantage of this ferry: Agios Nikolaos is not centrally located on Zakynthos. From here you have to take a taxi (about 50 euros) to Zakynthos town or the airport to get a rental car.

Kefalonia Greece 9

2. Luxury Azimut Ferry:

In the summer there is also a luxury boat from Sami (in the east of Kefalonia) to Zakynthos town three times a week. And vice versa. This is with the company Azimut. The costs are around 15 euros per person. However, you can’t go here with a car. It is a smaller boat. You can buy tickets at Isala Travel or Marketou Travel.

Advantage of this ferry: you will be dropped off directly in Zakynthos town. That is a nice central location on Zakynthos. If you stay in Sami on Kefalonia, you will be directly at your destination. The boat is a bit more luxurious.

Disadvantage of this ferry: Sami on Kefalonia is not close to the airport or car rental companies. A taxi to the airport is very expensive (100 euros). The boat only goes 3 times a week and the ride takes longer (2.5 hours). It is also not possible to bring a car. Reservations are necessary as space is limited.

Conclusion: the best between Zakynthos and Kefalonia

The choice of which ferry is best for your trip between Zakynthos and Kefalonia depends on your itinerary (Zakynthos to Kefalonia or the other way), where you stay, whether you bring a car and on which day you want to travel.

Kefalonia Greece 1


Car rental on Zakynthos or Kefalonia

For both Zakynthos and Kefalonia we recommend that you rent a car if you want to explore the islands. There is hardly any public transport.

We ourselves always rent cars through Sunny Cars. The advantage is that they act as an intermediary and if something should go wrong, they are available 24/7. You are always well insured and do not have to deal with unexpected costs afterwards.

  • Click here to see if there are still cars available when you visit Kefalonia!
  • And click here for more information about rental cars on Zakynthos.

Myrtos Beach Kefalonia 2


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3 Comments

  1. by Steve on 30 May 2023  13:34 Reply

    Very indepth. I'd add that (aside from maybe Easjet), Zakynthos in the English-speaking community is more known by it's Venetian-name as Zante and that name continued when the British governed the islands in the 19th century.

    Kefalonia not recommended for those who get car sick or driving on mountainous cliff-top roads, but the roads on the west have gorgeous views. If driving from the airport, GPS or SatNAV is a must.

  2. by Ellen Economopoulos on 30 March 2024  17:10 Reply

    Hello, is the Azimut ferry still in operation for summer 2024? Or is that changed to Lefkada Palace?
    Thank you.

    • by Charlotte van de Sande on 31 March 2024  14:32 Reply

      Hi Ellen,
      I don't know about any change but we have not been here this year so perhaps check in with the company themselves.
      Kind regards,
      Charlotte

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