What You Need To Know About Visiting Zakynthos Island, Greece
Zakynthos is an exotic island that belongs to the Ionian cluster of Greek islands not far from the island of Corfu. The island, which is also known by the name of Zante, is a popular summer destination in Europe, receiving thousands of visitors from late May well into September.
The island is often counted among the most visited Greek destinations, with its unique turquoise waters and breathtaking beaches. You most certainly have seen a picture of Zakynthos best-known beach. Navagio (or Shipwreck) beach has been portrayed in endless travel books, Greek Islands guides, and travel websites, which often feature it as one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece.
But Zakynthos has many other stunning beaches other than Navagio, many of them with whitish superfine sand, deep blue waters, and exotic vegetation too. The island is also known for its wild nightlife that young tourists, mainly from the UK, but not exclusively, simply love.
The island features fantastic entertainment, great hotels, tasty food, and a unique coastline, all ingredients that often place Zakynthos among the top ten Greek Islands you should see at least once. This travel guide to Zakynthos can be your perfect companion to plan the most unforgettable summer holiday, so get ready and read on!
How To Get To Zakynthos
Since the island is quite popular, it’s not as complex as you might think to get there.
How To Travel To Zakynthos By Plane
The island of Zakynthos has its airport (ZTH – International Airport Dionysios Solomos), which receives domestic flights from the capital of Greece, Athens, and from the nearby island of Kefalonia.
The airport is easy-to-reach, no more than 5 km from Zakynthos Town, but also quite close to other famous villages and coastal areas. Getting from and to the airport with a local taxi is both easy and quite convenient too.
Mainly during summer, the airport receives numerous charter and regular flights from several European countries. If you’re flying from Athens to Zakynthos, consider that your flying time will be from 35 to 45 minutes.
How To Travel To Zakynthos By Ferry
The most comfortable way to get to Zakynthos by ferry is to jump on a Greek ferry boat departing from the port of Killini, located on the western coast of the Peloponnese. The trip does not take more than an hour, and it’s the easiest way to reach Zakynthos from mainland Greece.
If you’re traveling from Kefalonia, another famous Greek Island in the Ionian, the trip lasts one hour and a half, with boats departing from the port of Pessada, with Schinari as your port of arrival.
Both ferry itineraries run daily, at least twice a day, from May to the beginning of October.
What To Do In Zakynthos
Looking at any postcard picture of Zante, you’ll see the famous Shipwreck and impossibly blue waters. It’s not hard to understand why Zante is considered beautiful, but there’s more to it than that.
Called Fiore di Levante (Flower of the East) by the Venetians who focused on Zante and centered their empire around it. From massive cliffs to plunging caves and incredible sunsets to the best food around, Zante is more than parties and hangovers; it’s about having the best of all the worlds.
The landscape on the island of Zakynthos can be divided into the hilly northern and western areas that contrast with the southern and eastern coasts, flat and home to the island’s best beaches.
On the north of Zakynthos, you’ll find imposing limestone cliffs, such as the famous Navagio Beach, which are better reached by boat. Below, we have gathered a few of the best things you can do and see in Zakynthos.
Spend A Day At The Beautiful Navagio (Shipwreck Cove) Beach
Authorities in Zakynthos announced on 15.03.23 that this iconic beach will remain closed to tourists this summer due to landslides. Following a regular safety check at the site on March 8, a team of experts from the Anti-Seismic Planning and Protection Organization (OASP) recommended prohibiting access to the Navagio beach. The beach will be assessed again in a few months to decide if and when it will reopen
Located on the northeastern coast of Zakynthos, the Shipwreck cove features a unique backdrop of white limestone cliffs that plummet into the deep turquoise sea.
On the sand, discover the remains of the MV Panagiotis, the shipwreck of a container ship dating back to the 80s.
You can drive or join a tourist bus to Navagio Beach View to visit the area. Don’t expect to be here alone – to access the viewpoint; you’ll need to wait in line, especially during the high season.
Alternatively, board a cruise from Porto Vromi or Zakynthos Town and experience a half-day at this beach. It’s a good idea to book an excursion from Porto Vromi if you want to save some money.
Take Plenty Of Insta Snaps
It’s easy to assume that Zante is just beaches and hangovers, but it’s blindingly beautiful. There are so many spots where you can take amazing photos, including the village of Bokahli, which is just outside the main town. With cobbled, winding streets, this is the stuff of Insta dreams! Be sure to check out the amazing view of the Bay of Laganas from here too.
If you put on your walking shoes, you can venture further up into the hills, and you’ll be rewarded with nature in a place you thought was all about parties.
Witness The Fabulous Undersea World Of Zakynthos
Suppose you’re a fan of snorkeling, diving, and marine life in general. In that case, it’s a great idea to explore the southwest, which hosts the Greek National Marine Park, one of Greece’s nesting areas for the loggerhead sea turtle, commonly known as Caretta caretta.
In fact, among the things you can do in the area, why not check out a turtle spotting tour? There are plenty to choose from! Among the most popular ones, go for a glass-bottom tour or take a fishing tour of Zakynthos. With any of these tours, you’ll be able to experience the incredible richness of Zakynthos’ seabed.
Explore The Blue Caves Of Zakynthos
On the island’s northern coast, there’s a little port known as Skinari, from where you can board one of the boats that take you to the Blue Caves, a magnificent landmark that can only be accessed by sea.
The Blue Caves of Zakynthos are limestone sea coves and natural arches surrounded by deep blue waters that reflect their endless shades of blue in the white walls of the caves. The best part of visiting the caves is jumping off the boats to swim in the unique waters!
A tour will take you to explore the caves and the Shipwreck beach; therefore, it’s excellent value for money.
Visit Zakynthos Marine Park To See The Turtles
Zante is home to the first marine park in Greece, and you’ll find Caretta caretta sea turtles laying their eggs here. A protected species, the turtles lay their eggs here, and the local authorities go a long way to ensure they’re not disturbed in the process.
So, if you see one of these beauties, observe for a distance and count yourself amongst the lucky ones.
Visit The Strofades
You can quickly jump on a boat trip to the Strofades, a group of small islands around 37 miles away from Zante. Here you’ll find old architecture and even a monastery from the 15th century with a tremendous amount of mystery and many ancient artifacts.
Best Beaches In Zakynthos
Discover The Beach Of Kalamaki
Located on the beautiful Laganas Bay, Kalamaki Beach is considered among Zakynthos’s loveliest shores and is also inside the marine national park.
Since the coastline is protected and not really developed, the place is not very crowded, and it’s ideal for a day of relaxation and quietness surrounded by pristine seas and golden sand. This beach is perfect for small kids learning to swim since it’s very calm and shallow.
Visit Marathonisi Island
The tiny islet of Marathonisi is also in the Bay of Laganas, on the island’s southern side. Known for being a hatching ground for the loggerhead sea turtle, people often call Marathonisi Turtle Island.
To visit Marathonisi and board a turtle-spotting cruise, you can depart from Laganas or Limni Keriou. It can be a fantastic day trip! After some time spent sailing and spotting turtles, you will also have some free time to spend on the clean beaches of Marathonisi. Since this is a protected area, the island is uninhabited.
Spend Some Time At Gerakas Beach
Another great beach you can visit in Zakynthos is Gerakas, the southernmost beach on Zakynthos, with amazing golden sand and pure turquoise waters. The most impressive part of the landscape is the huge sandy dunes behind the beach.
The shore, secluded and often disregarded by mass tourism, is known for being a favorite of naturists. But also loggerhead sea turtles have a weakness for this place where they come to mate and where their eggs hatch during summer.
Check Porto Liminonas
Probably one of the lesser-known places on the island, really wild and beautiful, is the cove of Porto Limnionas, which you can reach by driving through the mountain village of Agios Leon and, from there, going down to the sea.
You can park at the square and then follow the steps carved in the rock to discover the breathtaking beauty of a fiord with great waters. The area also has a tiny taverna and a small platform where you can sunbathe and spend a fantastic day admiring the stunning landscape.
Explore Keri Caves
Keri Caves can be explored on the same day you visit Marathonisi since the trip often includes a visit to both spots. Most tours depart from the villages of Laganas, Limni Keriou, or Agios Sostis. In this impressive area, the white cliffs can reach up to 300 meters and at their base are small sea caves and natural arches.
Most tours allow you to swim in the crystal clear sea and explore the caves. Don’t forget your snorkeling equipment; the underwater views are unforgettable!
Spend A Day At Banana Beach
Banana Beach is a huge and popular beach on Zakynthos that features soft golden sand and shallow transparent waters, making it a favorite among families.
The beach is in the Greek National Marine Park, but it’s still organized. Visitors can hire sun loungers or head to the water sports center to experience waterskiing or parasailing, among other sports!
Best Historical & Cultural Sites In Zakynthos
Visit Anafonitria Monastery
It’s a good idea to visit Anafonitria on the same day you explore Navagio Beach since they’re very close to each other.
This Byzantine building dates back to the 15th century, and the place is famous for being the residence of Saint Dionysios, Zakynthos’ patron saint.
The building features a gorgeous and well-kept flower and fruit garden and a stone defensive tower that was recently turned into a bell tower.
Agios Dionysios Church
An interesting church you can visit is Agios Dionysios. The building dates back to the early 1700s and can be found at the port of Zakynthos Town. The church houses the relics of the saint. If you visit the island on August 24, saint day, you can explore his reliquary carried around the town.
Although an earthquake destroyed the church in 1893, the building was reconstructed in 1948. The church hosts impressive frescoes as well.
Panagia Skopiotissa Monastery
Another religious building worth the visit is Panagia Skopiotissa, a monastery located on top of Mount Skopos in the southeast of Zakynthos.
You will need to climb a somewhat tortuous path to explore the monastery, but the scenery is worth the effort.
When visiting the church, don’t forget to look at the fantastic frescoes and the Virgin Mary icon from Constantinople.
However, if you’re into religious art, pay a visit to our next stop… the Byzantine Museum.
Located on a beautiful mansion on Solomos Square, the Byzantine Museum exhibits Byzantine and post-Byzantine religious art from around the island. Among the things you can admire, there are frescoes, icons, carvings, paintings, vestments, crucifixes, and other liturgical objects dating from the 15th to the 17th centuries.
Also known as Keri Lighthouse, this unique landmark on the island is on the southern tip of Zakynthos, on top of a 300-meter cliff. When you visit, take some time to check out the restaurant nearby from which you can enjoy the fantastic sea views. The place is a very romantic spot, perfect at sunset too.
Zakynthos With Kids
Enjoy A Visit To Askos Stone Park
Besides the spectacular visit to the marine reserve and turtle spotting, kids love to spend time at this original park. The attraction is in the northern area of the island, and it offers many things for guests: a zoo, a farm, an archaeological site, and a forest reserve too.
It gets its name from the stone structures that are found all over the area, including drystone walls, stone-built stables, and impressive cisterns cut from the cliffs.
Here, kids can feed deer, ponies, turtles, goats, pigs, and rabbits, while parents can chill at the orchards and olive groves.
Best Zakynthos Hotels
Downtown Zakynthos Hotels
Lofos Strani is a comfortable hotel set amidst lush gardens. It’s a family-run property with a swimming pool, a bar, and a sun terrace with sun loungers. Facilities also include a children’s pool and a children’s playground.Find The Best Rate On This Hotel Here
Lodge Luxury Apartments are in Zakynthos Town near Kalamaki Beach. All units here are air-conditioned and feature a flat-screen TV, a living room with a sofa, a well-equipped kitchen, and a private bathroom.Find The Best Rate On This Hotel Here
Sirocco Hotel is only 800 m from Kalamaki Beach. It offers accommodation with a restaurant, free private parking, a seasonal outdoor swimming pool, and a bar featuring a shared lounge.Find The Best Rate On This Hotel Here
Timos Hotel is only 400 m from Pure Beach Club. The hotel provides accommodation with free WiFi and an outdoor swimming pool and is only 200 m from Laganas Beach. All rooms have a desk, a flat-screen TV, and a private bathroom.Find The Best Rate On This Hotel Here
Zante Atlantis Hotel offers an outdoor pool, restaurant, free WiFi access, and a balcony.Find The Best Rate On This Hotel Here
Mon Repo Suites is just 450 m from Laganas Beach, surrounded by lush greenery and connected by stone paths. It boasts an outdoor pool and an all-day snack bar. A Continental and English breakfast is provided each morning, while refreshments and light meals are available at the snack bar until late.Find The Best Rate On This Hotel Here
Where To Eat In Zakynthos
Photo Credit: Sizzlebang House
Suppose you’ve ever visited Greece before, you’ll know that the food is something else and that everyone loves to feed you! Zante is no different, and the amount of fresh produce on the island will be mouth-watering.
Olive oil is made locally, and you’ll see olives and fruit growing on all the trees. It’s no surprise that this all makes it to your plate when you dine in a local restaurant – which you must do! While there are plenty of tourist options, the best food always comes from the authentic local tavernas, away from the main streets.
Of course, you should head to a tourist taverna at some point because you will get to enjoy the entertainment of smashing plates and dancing!
This restaurant is located in Zakynthos Town, and it’s one of the best-rated places to eat in the area. It features Mediterranean and Greek cuisine and vegan and gluten-free dishes prepared daily with fresh products from the island.
The place is located on Kalamaki Beach, and it’s a fantastic place both for a light lunch and an authentic dinner. The place is run by a family, and flavors remain authentic and homemade. Prices are also really convenient.
Head to Laganas to discover the unique dishes served in this original restaurant. They have a great variety of fresh seafood and a vegan menu with plenty of options for the whole family.
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