I had been dreaming to visit Zakynthos for over two years before I finally managed to do it. That’s no surprise, if you think about which my favorite islands are 😛. The first time we went for a day trip with Haris from Kefalonia, the nearby island where we were spending our vacation, just to see the famous Shipwreck beach. We were so impressed that we (or probably, just I 😛) immediately decided that we would spend our next vacations in Zakynthos. And so did we! Eventually it turned out to be one of the best decisions regarding our vacations. It offered crystal clear turquoise waters, amazing views, great food and the opportunity to meet little turtles 😉
How to get there & around
You should keep in mind that Zakynthos is a very large island with long distances, so you definitely need to either rent a vehicle or bring your own, if traveling from inside Greece. Most distances from one point to another will take you around 40 – 50 minutes!
In order to get to Zante, your first option is to book a flight to Zakynthos International Airport “Dionysios Solomos”. If you are spending time in other places of Greece as well, the best choice is to book a flight from Athens International Airport “Eleftherios Venizelos” for better prices. As I mentioned you’ll need a vehicle to get around, so I recommend that you book your transportation in advance.
The second option – which we went for – is to book ferry tickets to get to the island. First you need to drive to Killini port, which is located on west-north of Peloponnese and is approximately a 3-hour drive from Athens. From Killini, the ferry will take you to the port of Zakynthos in just about 1½ hours with a ticket of 9.5€ per person and up to 15€ for a motor or 40€ for a car. Ferries are leaving from Killini to port of Zakynthos approximately every 3 to 5 hours.
Where to Stay
Zakynthos does not have one main central town; it consists of many towns instead, each of which has different things to offer. After reading many blog posts and forums, we eventually decided to book our accommodation in Tsilivi area. a very central and lively area of the island. It is actually one of the best locations for families, couples and friends as it has to offer so many options regarding dining, dessert, car rentals and much more! Tsilivi is also the best location to explore the whole island, as it has the minimum distances possible from everything. We chose to stay at the luxurious Louis Plagos Beach hotel, a member of the Louis Hotels family and it proved to be the best choice! You can read more about our stay at Louis Plagos Beach here.
Navagio (“Shipwreck”) Beach
What else comes first to your mind when you think of Zakynthos if not Navagio? This beach is definitely the most famous in Zakynthos and one of the most well-known and photographed generally in the world! It’s called Navagio (the greek word for “shipwreck”) because on 2 October 1980 a smuggler ship ran aground in its waters during stormy weather and bad visibility and was abandoned there, still resting on the beach until today. You can easily devote a whole day to Navagio beach, as there are not only one, but two (must) ways to admire it!
The first way is to reach the viewpoint where you can see it from above. Yes, that’s the famous photography point where all Navagio photos you have seen where taken from! Words can’t describe the beauty of this view, and at first I couldn’t believe that this place is even real! In order to get there, write “Navagio Beach View” on your GPS and be prepared with good walking shoes and water, as you will need to walk a quite difficult and rocky 10-minute path from the point where you will leave your car to the viewpoint. Actually it is not only one viewpoint, but a whole cliff side where you can find various points to enjoy the view. Be VERY careful and do not risk your safety for a photo, don’t walk near the edge!!
Also, don’t miss the sunset over Navagio – the golden hour can be magical and the colors are amazing as the sea gets darker! So plan to spend at least one afternoon to watch the sun go down at this view point. Just make sure to start walking back to your car before it is completely dark, as it can get dangerous walking in this rocky place at night.
On the Beach
The second way to enjoy Navagio is to visit the beach itself and enjoy its insanely turquoise waters and white pebbles! It is probably the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen! Keep in mind that you can’t walk down from the viewpoint to the beach, as it is only accessible by boat. You can book an organized cruise tour for around 20€ through agencies operating at various ports. The closest is Porto Vromi Maries, but you can also go to Agios Nikolaos and Skinari.
The first part of the cruise involves a tour to the Blue Caves (the caves along the coastline of the western part of Zakynthos) where you will be able to admire the blue waters. Then, the boat will take you to Navagio and leave you there to swim for one hour before picking you up. The best part? Both times that I was picked up by a boat from Navagio, the driver made some stops in nearby beaches with crystal clear cold blue waters, where you can only get by a private boat, and let us take a dip there. If you are lucky to have such a good driver, don’t miss this experience!
Another amazing viewpoint you shouldn’t miss is Mizithres. Mizithres are two impressive white cone-shaped rocks, located in the area of Keri. They were named after the greek cheese mizithra which is white and is produced in the island. Right after a cliff, these two rocks emerge from the turquoise sea, one next to each other, offering one of the most breathtaking views you’ve ever seen. To my mind, it’s equally beautiful to the Shipwreck view. To get to this viewpoint, simply click here to find the coordinates for your GPS. The road will be quite rocky to get there, as it is ultimately the southest part of the island, but any car can make it! If you want to get closer to Mizithres, you need to get on a boat tour – I am giving more details below.
Boat tour to Marathonisi & Blue Caves
An experience that I highly recommend for your visit to Zakynthos is to rent your own boat for one day and explore the hidden gems. It can be a bit pricey, but if you can afford it it’s totally worth it! We found a rental service named Captain’s Motorboat Rentals in Keri and paid only 90€ including fuel for the whole day. The most usual places everyone explores starting from Keri are the Blue Caves and Marathonissi island, but we only had time for the first.
The Blue Caves are one of the most popular attractions of the island. The name actually refers to the caves along the coastline of the western part of Zakynthos and their crystal clear blue waters. You will find so many hidden beaches where you can stop your boat to swim, and you will have most of them totally in private! Trust me, you will remember these swims forever! The beaches you can discover and their waters will be some of the best you’ve seen in your entire life. The final point we reached before returning was Mizithres, the two rocks that I mentioned earlier as a viewpoint. We had a swim there which I totally recommend!
Apart from the Blue Caves and Mizithres, I would suggest that you also visit Marathonissi island with your boat. It is a small private island located in the bay of Laganas and even though it’s uninhabited by people, it accommodates sea turtles! The nature there is exotic and the waters transparent. So with a little bit of luck, you will be able to see turtles for yourself!
The small island of Cameo in the Bay of Laganas is really picturesque, known for the pines which grow there. It got detached from Zakynthos due to earthquakes, but you can reach it following the wooden bridge that connects them. The best view spot is at the beginning of the wooden bridge, having Cameo right on your opposite!
Fresh Orange Juice Bar
Now this is a spot which you can easily miss if you don’t know it. The bar is actually a mini van located right on a roadside bend and on a cliff with fantastic views to the Ionian Sea. It serves fresh orange juice in glasses and also has some seats where you can sit and enjoy the views. The serving lady seemed a bit  to us but you don’t need to pay much attention to this. I totally recommend stopping by to have a refreshing juice during your drive. Best part? The van is blue with painted oranges on it, so it’s a gorgeous photo opportunity! 😉 Simply tap here to find it on the map.
Skinari Cape, which is found at the northern edge of Zakynthos offers some breathtaking panoramic views, where you can witness both the calm waters of the east and the windy waters of the west. This area is popular for snorkeling due to the wide range of marine life. Keep in mind that this is one of the areas where you can book a boat tour to Blue Caves and Shipwreck beach. At Skinari you will also find a traditional tavern if you want something to eat as well as two beautiful windmills. Perfect for snapping some shots!
Porto Limnionas Beach
Porto Limnionas is one of the most amazing beaches in Zakynthos – or actually more of a lagoon than a beach. Located on the west part of the island, it’s a rocky bay between high cliffs offering a unique wild landscape. You can reach it by walking down some natural stairways after parking your car in the area. As there is no sand, you can either settle down on one of the flat rocks near the water or check if there is an umbrella set available at the tavern-bar which operates on the beach. We opted for the second option, as we planned to stay a few hours and didn’t want to get sunburned. Keep in mind that you may need to wait some time before you are provided with a set.
The bay itself is just magnificent! It is full of smaller and bigger caves and it also has underwater springs. This makes the water quite cold and so turquoise! Seriously, I stood there staring at the crystal-clear waters for hours! The place is ideal for diving and snorkeling and it was one of the most refreshing swims of my life.
Porto Azzuro Vassilikos Beach
This beach offers crystal clear, azure blue waters ideal for swimming. The beach bar under the same name is fully equipped with straw umbrellas, changing rooms, outdoor showers and much more. You can have amazing snacks and drinks there – we even had the most delicious and impressively served cocktail ever! The view on the beach is amazing with a huge rock right in the middle, totally photogenic!
For just spending a relaxed day at the beach, I would definitely suggest visiting Banana beach. It is the largest beach of Zakynthos and a 20 minute drive from Zakynthos Town. Banana is fully organized with umbrellas and sundecks and also few beach bars. The sand is soft and golden and the beach is ideal for watersports!
Some other locations which I loved are:
- Gerakas beach is a long and wide sandy beach which serves as a nesting place for the Caretta Caretta sea turtles. It is a protected area and the access is forbidden from half an hour before the sunset to half an hour after dawn. The landscape is beautiful, with golden sand and turquoise warm waters. The beach is ideal for swimming and sunbathing, and if you’re lucky you may see turtles in your own eyes! Gerakas is totally unspoilt and doesn’t offer any facilities for food or drink, so be well equipped. It’s also not permitted to stick umbrellas in the sand because of turtle nests in certain parts of the beach.
- Xigia beach is a picturesque pebbly beach that is the only one on the island containing sulphur! So don’t be disappointed by the strange smell that fills the area – in fact sulphur has healing properties and helps to treat cellulite! 😉 There is also a canteen just above the beach. Unfortunately we only managed to stay here for about an hour, but I recommend staying at least half a day. Get here early to secure your spot, as it is a quite small beach.
- Of course, you shouldn’t miss to check out Zakynthos Town. It’s the place where you will find the largest shops, restaurants and bars. Also the picturesque port is one of the most beautiful spots to see. Wander around the streets filled with bougainvilleas and don’t forget to drive up to Bochali hill for amazing city views.
Where to eat
- In Alesta restaurant in Zakynthos town, you can enjoy authentic Italian cuisine in reasonable prices and delicious taste. The spot is very central so you will be able to enjoy your food while watching people go around the square.
- If you’re traveling on a budget, try a traditional souvlaki at Thraka in Zakynthos town or at Gyroland in Tsilivi. Simply delicious greek gyros!
- Kolovos Grill House is another perfect choice for gyros, but here it would be better to sit at a table and also have a salad or appetizer. It’s more a tavern than a take-away.
- On our last night on the island we tried Avli, which is a family-run tavern. The food was great and the owner very kind, so I really recommend it!
Have I missed anything about Zakynthos? Do not hesitate to contact me for more information and feedback!