Crete or Corfu? How to Choose Your Perfect Greek Island EscapeBy Vic O’Sullivan
Corfu and Crete lie on opposite ends of the Greek coastline. Corfu is located in the Ionian Sea — closer to Italy’s Puglia region than it is to Athens — while Crete is the southernmost island of the Aegean archipelago. Despite the geographical disbursement, travelers often ask, “Is Crete or Corfu the best island to visit?”
Of course, the answer depends on who is asking the question because, just like the Greek gods, each island has its own unique quality.
With that in mind, each of the islands’ strongest attributes is highlighted below. Whether you’re looking for gourmet food, historical sites, health and wellness, local culture, the perfect beach or the great outdoors, you’ll find the perfect island for your Greek vacation.
As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.
Corfu’s lush green island landscape produces a sustainable array of harvests from the land and sea, while its location between the Italian and Greek mainlands has created a culinary legacy unmatched by other islands.
Inland, olives have been cultivated on the slopes of Mount Gamilios for centuries, and grapes are nurtured in vineyards beyond the island’s cypress dotted hills. Visitors can sample the best of both at a wine- and olive-tasting experience at Domes of Corfu, Autograph Collection, tucked along the shores of the Ionian Sea.
For cheese, it’s hard to match Crete for options and flavors. Try graviera, which ranges from sweet and tangy when young to nutty when aged, or staka, a decadent local delicacy produced from creamed sheep’s milk.
Few destinations can match Crete’s historical landscape — it’s almost a living Minoan museum with spectacular palatial centers at Knossos, Malia, Phaistos, Kydonia and Zakros. For something less worldly, weave through Diktaion Andron Cave to discover the mythical birthplace of Zeus.
Chania, the 14th-century harbor town on Crete’s northwesterly coast, offers an architectural patchwork of Ottoman, Venetian and Greek influences — resulting in one of the prettiest towns in all of Greece.
On the northeastern end of Crete, Domes of Elounda, Autograph Collection, which overlooks the famed island fortress of Spinalonga, can arrange a tailored excursion to any of the island’s historical treasures.
Not to be outdone, the UNESCO-designated Old Town of Corfu, flanked by twin hilltop fortresses that have stood guard at the entrance to the Adriatic for centuries, lures history buffs from all over the world.
Health and Wellness
For those in search of a vacation for the mind and body, a Greek island is the natural place for healing and repair. According to legend, even the Greek gods sailed to the islands of Greece for the warm sea air and healthy produce to replenish their waning powers and raise their spirits.
The adults-only resort Domes Noruz Chania, Autograph Collection in Chania, Crete, has a sanctuary for that very purpose — the quiet, 5,400-square-foot Soma Spa offers a variety of treatments for whatever ails you.
Corfu, with its mild year-round climate and healthy cuisine, offers guests every opportunity to indulge the mind and body, from taking long beach walks to attending a yoga festival in the summer months.
Whichever island you chose, the key to discovering local culture is to travel beyond the peak season. If that isn’t possible, be sure to wander away from the main tourist haunts.
Take the Old Town of Corfu, the island’s capital, with architectural influences from the eighth century through the Venetian period of 500 years ago. When the tourists leave after the sweltering summer months, tavernas become filled with locals, and it’s easy to get lost in the cobbled lanes without the sight of a single bachelor or bachelorette party.
In Crete, visitors to the island during Easter can surround themselves in the feast of tradition, color and flavor that engulfs the cultural landscape for a month.
There’s no easy winner when it comes to the most beautiful beaches on these islands. Corfu has sandy or pebbled beaches that lead down to the clear Ionian Sea. On the west coast is the Bay of Palaiokastritsa where, legend has it, Odysseus disembarked on a sandy beach surrounded by pine trees, olive groves and natural coves.
Unwind on the shores of the Blue Flag-awarded Glyfada Beach at Domes of Corfu, Autograph Collection, or alongside the sparkling turqouise waters on the beach at the adults-only Domes Miramare, a Luxury Collection Resort.
In Crete there are endless miles of sandy beaches east of Heraklion, at Alona, Chiona or Kouremenos. Remote Preveli Beach, with turquoise waters and brilliant white sand, is at the foot of a cliff where a river flows into the sea. It demands time and effort to reach, but it is so worth the effort.
Crete is a hiker’s paradise. On the east side of the island is limestone Agioi Pantes Gorge, where visitors can navigate a seven-mile trek for glorious views or hike to a deserted beach.
Alternatively, on the west side of the island, the team at Domes Zeen Chania, a Luxury Collection Resort, Crete can organize a guided tour of the Samaria Gorge to experience “the Gates” — a narrow gap in the trail that rises more than 900 feet.
As it is Greece, the best outdoor experiences are often on the water. In Corfu consider hiring a boat to explore island’s northern bays or the greater Ionian Archipelago.