With over 6,000 islands in this Mediterranean archipelago to choose from, it’s no wonder that Zakynthos (also known as Zante) is often forgotten when people choose a Greek holiday.
Lying west of mainland Greece, with views of Kefalonia, the island has a rugged coastline, picturesque villages, and some of the best golden beaches in Greece.
Here are Kindred Traveller’s Top 5 things to do and see in Zakynthos.
1. Navagio Beach (Shipwreck Cove)
An iconic spot, that you’ll see time and again in images of Greece. Contrary to what you may have been told, this beautiful spot is best seen from above, rather than visiting the beach itself, which can be crowded and offers little respite from the sun. The view of it from the clifftops, however, is simply stunning.
This natural harbour, with its clear blue waters and white sand, is surrounded by 200m cliffs. The beach hit the news in 2018 due to a sudden and unexpected rockfall onto the beach, hence the need for caution in the area; from above and below!
The main focal point of the beach is the wrecked ship that lays there. It may just be a grounded cargo boat, but it certainly takes a good picture.
The beach is only accessible by boat, and you can book boat tours from all over the island. Instead, we’d recommend hiring a car, and heading to the viewing area above it for the best views.
Please take care when viewing from the cliffs. You’ll inevitably see tourists taking an ill-considered route along the edge in an attempt to get the ideal selfie. The area is unstable, and people have died falling from the rocks.
2. Xigia Beach
If you’re looking to bathe in sulphur and collagen-laden waters, (and don’t mind smelling of eggs for the trip home), this beach is definitely worth leaving the resort for. Rumoured to have healing properties, the locals claim this helps with arthritis and cellulite . . .
There’s free (but very limited) parking above, and a small canteen for drinks and snacks. Spend the day, or make it a relaxing stop on your drive around the island.
At Kindred Traveller, we offer a visit to Xigia beach amongst our optional excursions.
3. Relaxation & Cocktails at Tsilivi Beach
Tsilivi isn’t just home to a long, golden stretch of beach, but it’s also an excellent place for a cocktail. Tsilivi has managed to avoid the rowdier 18-30 crowds that frequent resorts like Laganas, but still has plenty of atmosphere for a great night out.
This is the place to spend the day relaxing on the beach, where food and drinks can be brought to your sun lounger. Then, come the evening, enjoy a meal and late drinks or a dance.
4. Zakynthos (Zante) Town
Following the earthquake of 1953, much of the island’s oldest buildings, with its Neoclassical architecture, were entirely destroyed. The capital, Zakynthos (Zante) Town, was no exception. Consequently, much of what stands there is relatively new.
There are pedestrianised areas with open squares surrounded by stylish bars here. As the town is also the home to the main harbour, filled with large and expensive yachts, this is also where some of the wealthiest patrons drink.
The town’s main church, Agios Dionysios, is home to the relics of the town’s patron saint, and the original 1708 building was reconstructed in 1954.
For incredible views over the town and out to sea, head just under a mile from town to the village of Bochali. Here you’ll also find the ruins of a Venetian castle, destroyed by invading Turks in 1480 before being restored in 1515, set in a pine tree-lined park.
5. Boat Trips galore
There are a variety of boat trips you can take around various parts of the island. With full and half day tours taking in Turtle Island and turtle spotting, trips to Navagio Beach, and more.
Our favourite is to the Blue Caves at Cape Skinari on the northern coast, where the sea reflects the deepest blues of the sky, and the surrounding caves are marked purple in colour. It’s a magical trip, which is complemented by a dive off the end of the boat to cool off.
Alternatively, you can hire a boat yourself from various locations, and head to a variety of coves and beaches. Take some snacks and cool drinks, and head out to explore.