When you hear the name Greece, it likely conjures up images of the white sand beaches of Crete, the stone pillars of the Acropolis in Athens, or the whitewashed buildings of Santorini. But, there are over 6,000 islands in this Mediterranean archipelago to choose from, and Zakynthos is a small hidden gem amongst them. I’ve been coming to Zakynthos for 3 years now and is has quickly became one of my favourite Islands in Greece, and I’ve been to quite a few now. Blessed with a jagged coastline, picturesque villages, a hilly interior and a few of the best beaches in Greece (namely Navagio Beach), Zakynthos is a must for those who are yet to visit this beautiful Island. Zakynthos is small enough to easily navigate by car, but large enough to offer a diversity of landscapes, villages and coastlines.
I’m not one of those people who can sit around the pool all day and relax with a book, I have to get out there and explore, especially when my little one is back in the UK. Throw back to our adventures in Zante last September, we were up and out for 5am, bags packed and mopeds to the ready for the day ahead… Below are my top things to do whilst you visit Zayknthos this Summer.
Navagio Beach (Shipwreck Cove)
Okay, let’s start with the main attraction on the island and possibly the most photographed site in the entire country.
In the northeast of Zakynthos is a cove embraced by towering white limestone cliffs. Beneath them on the white beach are the rusting remains of the MV Panagiotis, a container ship than ran aground in 1980. A (false) rumour has it that this was a tobacco smuggler’s ship that crashed into the beach during a storm, when in reality it’s just a cargo boat that ran ashore. Whether you believe the romantic story or not doesn’t matter, the massive ship resting on the sand definitely adds to the charm and allure of this spectacular sight.
There are two ways to experience this awe-inspiring natural sight: From above you can drive or catch a tourist bus to Navagio Beach View and queue up for what must be the island’s most emblematic scene, of the shipwreck and the cove’s glowing blue water far below.
By sea you can charter your own boat if you want to be independent but I must warn you the sea is very choppy here so unless you’re experienced at sailing I’d opt for boarding a tourist cruise from Porto Vromi, Agios Nikolaos Port in Volimes or Zakynthos Town on the east coast. There are always many crowds here, unless you visit very early in the day or late in the afternoon, If you don’t mind crowds you can sunbathe on the beach, swim in the ethereal water, marvel at the cliffs and explore the wreck.
Porto Limnionas is one of the most secluded swimming spots on the island of Zante. You have to pass through the village of Agios Leon to get there, but it is well worth the car journey. Surrounded by steep cliffs and rocks, you can relax on sun loungers along the shady terraces or take a dip in the sea. It is one of the most hidden places and maybe for this reason more beautiful and wild of the entire island. With lots of different areas to relax you'll be spoilt for choice.
Climb further down the cliff and you'll be greeted by the beautiful, deep blue sea. Perfect for scuba diving and swimming, you'll never want to leave. As with most of these locations, take care when climbing down the cliffs as the paths are Greek style and not always the easiest to navigate... but well worth the adventure.
The beach of Agios Nikolaos is located 32 km north west of Zakynthos Town and owns its name to the little chapel that stands on the left side of the beach. It is one of the liveliest and fun-filled beaches, wide with many water sports activities and tourist facilities. Nearby there is a restaurant and a bar. It receives mostly young crowds and families. Sunbeds and umbrellas occupy the most part of the beach while on the right side you will find some quiet spots.
Start from the village statue in the mountain village of Agalas and continue on to the Venetian Andronio wells, do not turn right towards the wells but continue straight on through the beautiful olive groves, pine forests and hills with bushy vegetation. Once the asphalt road comes to an end stop, park here and follow the dirt path on your right by foot. The descent requires very special attention as it begins with very steep stone steps and then it is simply soil and stones. In some places it is slippery but you will see that there are bars for you to hold on to. While descending, to you right you will see two huge rocks rising up from the sea and then to your left a small island with sparse vegetation. All of this has a backdrop of towering cliffs and endless sea, typical to the mountainous areas of Zakynthos.
On arriving at the Plakaki Cape do not be fooled, it is not just a huge flat white rock that you see before you, if you continue to your left there is a large rocky area that of which you should explore (with the help of some steps that have over the course of time naturally forged their way into the rocks.) Here you will see an iron pole, go towards the pole and then directly below it there are two tables, if you want to descend the rocks here do so very carefully! The sea here is breath taking, it is clear blue while the seabed is ideal for snorkelling, there are some caves nearby too if you want to explore further. I can imagine the sunset from here would be magnificent however I’d be dubious with the climb back up. Be sure to take plenty of water as this is quite a strenuous trek but is well worth it. I didn't take many photos down at Plakaki Cape mainly due to the terrain and the fact i had scaled the side of a cliffs to get down here. Be prepared but you will have memories to last a lifetime if you visit here.
Next up, the Xigia Sulphur And Collagen Spa. Xigia beach is hidden between cliffs and it is not easily accessible as you won’t be able to get there with a car. The only route to get there is to take a long stairway to the beach.
The turquoise waters surrounded by cliffs are simply breath taking. Be prepared to walk down a long stairway and steep hill to reach the beach. The way back up is quite challenging, I’m not going to lie, I struggled a little. The natural spring water that flows into the sea is rich in collagen and sulphur. There are many health benefits attributed to sulphur. It is said to help with a variety of skin conditions like acne, eczema, and dandruff. It also helps with arthritis, softens skin and is anti-ageing.
There is no sand on this beach as Xigia is covered with beautiful white pebbles while the water is clear and astonishingly blue in colour. This beach is not exactly children-friendly because of the not so easy access; there is almost no shallow water and the beach is rocky in some places. There are no bars or restaurants on the beach. The closest one is back on the top of the cliff. Bringing refreshments is a good idea but the kiosk above the beach is good for essentials.
Porto Vromi is a small beach located 13km from Zakynthos town. The place has gotten this name because of the natural tar that oozes from rocks.
This charming little place is certainly worthy of your time. This Zakynthos beach has white sand and clear blue water and is surrounded by limestone cliffs. But be careful! Don’t expect shallow waters; in Porto Vromi, you’ll be waist-deep after just a few steps from the shoreline. From here you can take boats that come and go regularly and go to the Navagio beach or explore the famous Blue Caves. You can also rent a boat and sightsee by yourself. There is a small kiosk here selling limited drinks and light snacks.
Skinaris Cape, which is found at the northernmost tip of Zakynthos has some breathtaking, panoramic views, here you can witness both the calm waters of the east and the windy waters of the west. The blue caves, which were discovered back in 1897 are found here underneath Skinari Cape. These caves really have to be seen to be believed, showing a range of blue hues on the white rocks caused by reflections from the sea. This area is also popular for snorkelling due to the wide range of marine life living there.
Keri Lighthouse and Keri Lighthouse Restaurant
Passing through the village of Keri, you reach the Lighthouse that is built at the edge of an sleep slope of 200 roughly metres depth. The Lighthouse helps for several years now the passing boats to sail. The views from this point are astonishing. The abrupt imposing coasts and light blue of the sea form a wild imposing beauty.
The mountainous landscape is cut in abrupt tops or steep coasts in the waters. Wherever you stand, the wild rocks meet the sea, all surrounded by rich vegetation. From here, you may admire one of the most beautiful sunsets in Greece. A short distance from the Keri Lighthouse is the Keri Lighthouse restaurant, which has one of the best views for dinner in the whole of Zakynthos. Unfortunately since I last visited the restaurant there was an earthquake, which has changed the scenery significantly. Nevertheless, the views will still blows you away and this will be an excuse to visit this restaurant once again in the summer.
There is still so much to see and discover on this Island that I’ll be back in the Summer, this time with the child in tow so watch this space in the coming months for a more child-friendly blog post on things to see and do in Zakynthos.