A single visit to one of Zakynthos’ most popular regions is enough to make visitors fall in love with it hard. A walk on the waterfront of Zakynthos, a visit to Navagio beach that has been described many times as one of the best beaches in the world, a swim in Laganas beach, and that’s it. In no case, however, this is all there is to this special Ionian island. So if you are in the mood for more, Zakynthos will not stop revealing its beauties to you, both on the impressive beaches and in the lusciously green and interesting hinterland.
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‘Levante's flower’, as the Venetians used to call the island, Zante, as the foreigners know it, or simply Zakynthos, as we know it in Greece is truly a revelation. An island that has so many things to do, so many places to see, so many beaches to dive into, that once you arrive you do not know where to start. Here, we’ll help you get to know the incredible island of Zakynthos.
Reasons to visit stunning Zakynthos
Zakynthos - credits: Patryk_Kosmider/Shutterstock.com
The island of Zakynthos is waiting for you to explore it and marvel at the beauties it offers to every person who decides to spend his summer vacation on the Ionian island. Below are some of the reasons that can contribute to leading you to Zakynthos!
1. First and foremost, the most significant reason why you should visit Zakynthos, is because it is an island for all tastes. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful couple’s getaway, a wild vacation with your friends, or a bit of relaxation and a bit of fun, Zakynthos can offer it to you.
2. To taste its delicious local cuisine. Take a gastronomic walk and immerse yourself in the genuine Zakynthian cuisine that will surprise you, with flavors such as the delicious rabbit stew, the braised chicken, the meat pie, and the traditional ‘ladotyri’ cheese spread. And if you are a lover of sweets you will not be able to resist the famous nougat, found throughout the island -and most parts of Greece- and the traditional sweet that is usually found on the streets and at festivals, the ‘fitoura’, which are very tasty sweets made from semolina.
3. To swim in the stunning waters of the island’s unique beaches. Laganas, Navagio (Shipwreck), Gerakas, Vasilikos, Marathonisi, and the Blue Caves, are some of the most popular choices. Regardless, you are sure to discover many more striking beaches while exploring your way around the island.
4. To visit the first National Marine Park of Greece that is located in Zakynthos. There you will see the favorite Caretta-caretta turtles laying their eggs. If you are lucky and visit the site during the moment baby turtles appear, you are guaranteed to experience a once-in-a-lifetime moment!
Potamitis Windmills - credits: Andrew Mayovskyy/Shutterstock.com
5. To get insight into the rich culture of the island. Zakynthos is an island that apart from numerous natural beauties, has an impressive cultural tradition that is worth paying attention to. The island experienced great spiritual flourishing and gave birth to great personalities, such as our National Poet, Dionysios Solomos, who is also the writer of Greece’s national anthem. Here, among other things, you will marvel at the place where he got his inspiration from.
6. Because the whole island is camera-ready and a treasure for photography-fanatics of the world. You will realize that as soon as you enter the port of Venice. On one side, you will see the bells of the Cathedral of Agios Dionysios, and on the other side, the picturesque town with the road, which goes up to the hill of Bohali and the Venetian Fortress. Snap as many pictures as you can and make your Instagram feed lustworthy.
9. To walk around the picturesque city of Zakynthos. The city of Zakynthos is the cultural center of the island and has many points of interest. The Castle of Zakynthos, with its great historical significance and the view that takes your breath away, is one of the most popular highlights. Also worth your attention are the Byzantine Museum, the Museum of Solomos and Kalvos, the Church of Agios Dionysios, and the Church of Agios Nikolaos.
10. To take a trip with the excursion boats and be enchanted by the stunningly beautiful beaches that you will meet. If you are lucky you might also see the loggerhead sea turtles since this special sea animal is a trademark of Zakynthos!
11. To listen to its musical culture! Zakynthos is the island of chant and operetta and a dream of many visitors is to enjoy a little of the folklore music that brings an irresistible old-time charm to the island. Here, all emotions are clothed with notes. For a more elevated experience, enjoy the traditional music accompanied by local food and wine.
14. To witness the incredible Zakynthos Jazz Festival. Whether you plan to, or you’re lucky and you book your vacations during the famous Zakynthos Jazz Festival on accident, you will learn that it is a high-level artistic event, which attracts many music lovers and is definitely a reason to take a trip to the island.
15. To get introduced to its welcoming locals. A place is loved for its people too What can you say about the people of Zakynthos! Hospitable and willing, always to guide you and make you feel at home. With their explosive temperament and good-natured heart, they are always ready to offer you their help, and if they want to sing you a chant!
How to get there
Athens International Airport signs - credits: Paul Cowan/Shutterstock.com
Unlike most Greek islands, Zakynthos cannot be reached directly by ferry from the port of Piraeus. Alas, don’t despair! There are more than a couple of ways to get to the Ionian island of your dreams. All you need to do is drive to the port of Kyllini, located on the northwest coast of the Peloponnese, and from there, you take a boat to the island. The distance is 18 nautical miles and the voyage takes about 1 hour. For the itineraries of the ships from Kyllini to Zakynthos, you can make a call to the port of Kyllini at (030)262309221.
Additionally, it is about 45 minutes from Patras. What’s more, from Zakynthos, on the north side of the island, there is a ferry connection with the island of Kefalonia. There is a ferry line that connects the port of Ag. Nikolaou Volimon with port of Pessada in Kefalonia. During the summer there are daily itineraries. The journey takes about 1 hour.
There are regular KTEL buses from Athens, Patras, and Thessaloniki to the port of Kyllini. From the capital of Greece, there is a bus that goes from Kifissos bus station in Athens to Kyllini. Kifissos bus departs at regular intervals, making 4-5 routes per day. It is scheduled to arrive in Kyllini around the time the boat leaves. It makes a stop in Aigio. The distance between Athens and Kyllini is 286 km and the journey takes about 4 hours and 30 minutes. Additionally, there are regular services to and from Thessaloniki three times a week. The journey takes about 9 hours.
Thankfully, Zakynthos, being a very popular tourist destination around the world, also has an n airport. As a result, you can easily and quickly reach the island by airplane. Dionysios Solomos International Airport is 4 km from the city of Zakynthos. The island has a daily air connection to the new Athens airport ‘Eleftherios Venizelos’. Flight duration is about 45 minutes. In addition, a large number of charter flights arrive on the island during the summer. There are no shuttle buses to and from the airport. Passengers are transported by taxi.
Considering the inconvenience you will suffer from the bus and the boat, we highly suggest you taking a plane to reach the island. It may cost a little more, but you will be in Zakynthos in just 45 minutes. From the airport, you can then reach the city within 10 minutes by taxi.
The best towns and villages to explore
The streets of Zakynthos' city - credits: Lana Moon/Shutterstock.com
The city of Zakynthos - Let’s start from the city of the island, to get to know its Venetian temperament. To experience the beauty of it you need to walk around the covered walkways- the ‘loggias’ as they are called, to pass by the square of Dionysios Solomos and the Strata Marina to St. Mark's Square, where the "tree of freedom" was once planted, and Rouga, under the arches of which the commercial life of the city is concentrated.
A little higher, hanging above the country, is the Venetian Castle, a remnant of the period from the 16th to the 19th century, when the island was in Venetian hands. The nickname the Venetians gave to the island, ‘the flower of the East’, can be explained by the 7,000 species of flowers that bloom between the verdant hills and the unexplored hinterland. Two kilometers away, the hill of Stranis will steal your breath. It is the very hill that inspired Dionysios Solomos to write the ‘Hymn to Freedom’, watching from there the exit of Messolonghi, which later became the national anthem of Greece.
Bohali - Just above the city, at the foot of the Venetian Castle, the most beautiful region of the island, Bohali, is offered for relaxed walks among the pines. What’s more, the area of Bohali has the best view. The ideal time to visit it is just before nightfall, to see the sunset, eat the traditional dessert of ‘loukoumades’, or sip a drink in one of the establishments that offer a panoramic view of the island.
Agios Nikolaos - Northeast of the island, you can find the area of Agios Nikolaos. Although it is a small village with about 30 permanent residents, it is the second most important port in Zakynthos, as ferries to Kefalonia depart from there. The bay is protected by high mountains. There are several traditional taverns by the sea along with the local coast guard station. From there, boats often depart for the Blue Caves. Although it is a rather quiet place, it can keep you happily busy all day.
Alykes and Alykanas - These are nearby resorts on the east coast of Zakynthos, north of Tsilivi. Their quiet nature and absence of trendy destination, make it especially suitable for family vacations. They are also great for those looking to experience a more authentic and significantly less-touristy side of Zakynthos.
Argassi - A few kilometers south of the city of Zakynthos on the peninsula of Vasilikos, lies Argassi. There is no organized beach in the region, and the place consists of a few streets and hotels. It has some bars and clubs but not enough to make it a cosmopolitan destination, or the ideal location for your stay during your Greek island vacations.
Kalamaki - Located east of Laganas, you will find Kalamaki. Although it is a popular and busy place, it lacks a bit in terms of nightlife, especially compared to Laganas. For that reason, it is overlooked most visitors of the island that want to party, and it is more suitable for family vacations. Most of the buildings and shops are located on the main road that crosses the area and leads to Laganas Airport. Kalamaki shares with Laganas a sandy beach that stretches for many kilometers on the south side of the island.
Keri - The village of Keri consists of three parts. The pebbled beach on the coast, the village of Keri, which is located in the mountains, and mainly of the famous lighthouse of Keri. The lighthouse hosts every night many tourists who want to enjoy a dreamy sunset.
Laganas - Without a doubt, Laganas is by far the most famous region on the island. This is the main resort of Zakynthos. The main street of Laganas consists almost entirely of nightclubs, bars, and restaurants. It is a very popular destination for young tourists from 18 to 30. Not to add that its famous beach has some of the best bars and restaurants along its length.
Tsilivi - The region of Tsilivi in the north of the city of Zakynthos combines the vibrancy of a cosmopolitan place with a homey vibe, perfect for families and those looking to relax. Tsilivi has some bars to visit late at night and some nightclubs but as a whole, it is laid-back and a haven for tranquility. It has several luxury hotels, supermarkets, and restaurants. It boasts a very long sandy beach, which in combination with the water sports available, will make you not want to leave.
Vasilikos - Vasilikos is a quiet village in the southeastern part of the peninsula. There are no big hotels here, but simple apartments and villas along with delicious restaurants and taverns. It has kept its folk element untouched, as it has no nightclubs and offers a much more traditional character to your stay. those who choose a relaxing, quiet vacation.
The best beaches in Zakynthos
Gerakas beach - credits: Aerial-motion/Shutterstock.com
Gerakas has been placed multiple times among the 20 best beaches in the world by international media. It has golden sand, crystal clear waters, and belongs to the marine park of Zakynthos since it is the place where the Caretta Caretta turtles lay their eggs. Overlooking the vast southern Ionian, it is a very good choice for your swimming endeavors. However, if you want to visit it, there are some prerequisites: you cannot carry radios with you, so as not to cause noise, and you are not allowed to install umbrellas, as there is a risk of hurting egg nests! The maximum stay on the beach is 3 hours so that the beach does not get overcrowded. The after however can also be considered an asset, as, during the high season summer months, a beach that is not overcrowded is as rare a sight as a UFO
Navagio - Shipwreck
Navagio beach - credits: gorillaimages/all/Shutterstock.com
You’ve probably already seen hundreds of photos of Navagio -or Shiprwreck- beach, as it is among the 20 most famous beaches in the world and the most famous beach in Greece. You can only reach the beach by boat, and we suggest you do that as early in the morning as possible, in order to appreciate its true beauty without massive crowds getting in the way. Keep in mind that there is a second beach next to the one with the boat, which goes unnoticed but is just as beautiful and easily accessible by boat.
Marathonisi beach - credits: Netfalls Remy Musser/Shutterstock.com
Marathonisi is located in the bay of Laganas and looks like an exotic place, lost in an unexplored ocean. You can reach it by boat from the beautiful village of Keri, but also from Laganas. Also, unlike the Shipwreck, the boats do not stay there but return after an hour to pick up the visitors. It has two shores, a large sandy one, and a hidden one at the back. There is a high chance you will stumble upon some turtle swimming in the calm waters, so keep your eyes peeled!
Porto Zorro Beach
Porto Zorro beach - credits: Samuel Borges Photography/Shutterstock.com
On the street of Vasilikos, you will find Porto Zorro beach, probably the most beautiful you will encounter on this route. It offers incredibly clear waters, a somewhat limited parking space, and clay on the east coast, where you can indulge in mud baths for free. It also has two affordable and delicious taverns on the beach, where you can enjoy drinks and food throughout your stay.
Dafni beach - credits: e-zakynthos.com
The least advertised beach of Zakynthos and undoubtedly among the 5 most beautiful on the island, is Dafni beach. This is a coast in the main spawning zone of the turtle, next to Sekania, where the arrival of non-researchers is prohibited. There, you will come across blue-green exotic waters, and enjoy the view opposite Pelouzo, which is the second island in the bay of Laganas, and the green hills that end at the sea.
Alykanas - Alykes
Alykanas beach - credits: zakynthostravelguide.com
The beach of Alykanas is located in the northeast of the island and is a sandy beach, where water sports gather younger crowds and lovers of adventure. It is never too crowded and it is an excellent choice for a more calming swimming experience. Alykes beach is the natural continuation of Alikanas to the north.
Keri - Marathias
Keri beach - credits: zakynthostravelguide.com
Keri is a picturesque fishing village at the southwestern tip of Zakynthos and has a gorgeous sandy beach with water sports and several boats moored side by side. From there, you will find boats that go to Marathonisi. Marathias, one of the most unexplored beaches of the island, is southwest of Keri and a real sight to behold. Also in Keri, there are the caves of the area that can be reached by boat. At the cape, are the famous Myzithres rocks, which are a bit reminiscent of Capri. Next to it, there is a hidden beach with pebbles and clear blue waters that can also be reached by boat.
Limnionas beach - credits: zanteisland.com
In Limnionas beach you will not find a sandy shore, but you will find crystal clear icy waters in a beautiful picturesque cove. Don’t hesitate to grab a bite at the traditional tavern nearby; you won’t regret it.
Xygia beach - credits: inlovewiththemed.com
In northeastern Zakynthos, there is a small beach where the waters contain sulfur. The smell of Porto Xygia may surprise the visitor for the first five minutes, but both the beneficial effects of the sea and the beautiful sandy beach, make everyone fall in love with it eventually.
Makris Gialos beach - credits: Lana Moon/Shuttestock.com
Makris Gialos is a small northeastern beach with pebbles and deep blue waters. It would be best if someone visits it early in the morning -before noon- as it is full of people and boats that go to the famous Blue Caves. The morning swim there is absolutely wonderful.
Blue Caves - credits: Krivosheev Vitaly/Shutterstock.com
The third most famous spot on the island. The Blue Caves are, as their names suggest, successive caves that look like they have been uniquely carved by the hands of an aspiring craftsman. The fantastic shades of the water in the reflection of the white rocks are reminiscent of the lunar landscapes of Milos. They can be reached by boat, which you can find from the surrounding areas. There, you can enjoy diving and underwater explorations for as long as you wish.
Korakonisi beach - credits: ecozante.com
Korakonisi beach is a special place, known mainly by the locals. It is a giant rock in the sea, which looks like an ancient vase. Below is a small recess, which is considered a beach and you can enjoy swimming between land and rock. It is an amazing experience, especially for those who like to explore the seabed.
Laganas beach - credits: sangiorgiosmezonettes.com
Last but not least, Laganas is the busiest beach resort of Zakynthos, with many water sports facilities and beach bars along the coast, while there is a large number of large hotel complexes and rentals. Although it is famous worldwide, it is avoided by most locals due to the massive tourist crowds it gathers. If you want to party and experience the wild side of the island, Laganas is the place to go.
Getting around the island
Driving a car on a Greek island - credits: Krivosheev Vitaly/Shutterstock.com
Zakynthos is a rather large island. As a result, you will need a means of transport in order to thoroughly explore it and go from one place to the other. If you do not have a car, renting one would be your best. There are plenty of rental places and the prices are reasonable. The roads are paved and good, however, beware of the fact that the Greeks have a very...special and unique way of driving that is not always predictable.
If you’re not keen on driving or don’t have a driver’s license, you can rely on public transport. There are local buses with frequent itineraries that can take you around the island. There are also boats that go around the island and can take you to most of the beaches.
If both of these alternatives don’t sound appealing and your budget allows you to, we would highly suggest you book private transfers. This way, you will travel around the island comfortably, easily, and stress-free, making your Zakynthos vacations the ultimate relaxing experience.
Things to do in Zakynthos
Visit the Museum of Solomos and Kalvos
The museum of Solomos and Kalvos - credits: zakynthostravelguide.com
It is located in the square of Agios Markos in the city of Zakynthos, among the cafes. There, is the Museum of famous Greek writers, Solomos and Kalvos, and contains important documents, heirlooms, and findings from the rich and unknown history of the place. For book lovers, it is also worth taking a look at the library of the museum, which boasts rare books that will steal your heart.
Explore the Post-Byzantine Museum of Zakynthos
The Post-Byzantine Museum of Zakynthos - credits: ecozante.com
The Post-Byzantine Museum of Zakynthos contains important Byzantine and valuable hagiographies, as well as works by great artists such as Mrs. Koutouzis. Its exhibits include rare icons that were saved from the medieval monasteries, among others, after the catastrophic earthquake of 1953.
Marvel at the Roma Mansion
Romas Mansion - credits: wondergreece.gr
Next to Solomou Square, is the renovated mansion of the Roma family, which offers the visitor a journey back in time to the era of Venetian rule. That is because it has been preserved in its entirety, both its architecture and the traditional furniture and relics. As in most museums on the island, the entrance fee is very affordable and comes up to the amount of 3 euros.
Admire the Bohalis Castle
The Venetian Castle in Bohali - credits: arrivalguide.com
Yes, as we have already mentioned, Zakynthos also has a castle. It may not be obvious, like the ones found on the rest of the Greek islands, but it is located a little above the scenic region of Bohali with the cafes and the church of Chrysopigi. It operates mainly in the morning and there, you have the opportunity to see the ruins of the former fortress of the island, where the capital of Zakynthos was located a long time ago.
Enter the monastery of Panagia Anafonitria
The Monastery of Panagia Anafonitria - credits: gozakynthos.gr
This is a medieval monastery near Volimes, where you will find, along with medieval ruins, the ruins of an ancient temple. Please keep in mind that the ancient history of Zakynthos is not very well known up to this day.
Make a trip to Strofades
Strofades - credits: zanteisland.com
Strofades or the ‘Islands of holiness’ are two small islands south of Zakynthos. It is the place where Saint Dionysios, the patron saint of the island, practiced asceticism and where his relics were found intact many years after his death. Those relics are now kept in the church of Agios Dionysios in Zakynthos. On Strofades one will encounter medieval ruins, an old monastery, and a lighthouse. The few monks who live there will explain the story to you and will fascinate you. These islands are close to the deepest point of the Mediterranean, the Well of Oinousses.
What to Eat & Drink
Baked lamb - credits: coffeeflavour/Shutterstock.com
Food in Zakynthos is an adventure. Trying the local traditional dishes during your holidays on the island is an experience you cannot exclude from your visit. The people of Zakynthos are proud of their cuisine. Their diet is the typical Mediterranean one, based on fresh, homemade ingredients, where meat, olive oil, and vegetables are essential.
A meal in Zakynthos, as in all of Greece, is accompanied by a variety of hot and cold appetizers, which are served in small dishes placed in the middle of the table. The choices are so many that there is a risk of feeling full before your main meal arrives at your table. The most famous appetizers are the tzatziki dip, the eggplant salad, the taramosalata -fish egg salad-, the cheese pies, the grilled octopus, and the fried squid.
Meat is the favorite ingredient of the locals, so you will find many recipes on the island with meat as the main ingredient. The strong point of Zakynthian cuisine is the homemade food. Throughout the island, you can enjoy dishes such as rooster with macaroni, rabbit stew that is now famous as Zakynthos stew, ‘butridia’, that is the local variant of ratatouille, ‘sofifadoura’, which is braised mutton or goat meat, and the aromatic ‘sgatzeto’, which consists of the intestines of lambs or goats, wrapped in a special way.
There are plenty of restaurants and taverns that will offer you the opportunity to try delicious local dishes, and here are some of our favorites. In Amboula, shortly after Tsilivi, there is the Taverna "to Kyma" with very nice dishes, fresh fish, and affordable prices. Another traditional tavern in mountainous Zakynthos is "Alitzourini", with traditional dishes and local wine, in the village of Agios Leontas.
On the way to Vasilikos, stop at the restaurant "Brother of Kostas" which has a wonderful garden, delicious dishes, and traditional music. In the port of Zakynthos, "Thymalos" has traditional recipes that are popular with the locals. Also in the port, in front of the church of Agios Dionysios, is the tavern "Komis" which is famous for its fresh fish. In the port of Keri, "Anestis" tavern is excellent.
Of course, there are countless other nice places to grab a bite or have a gourmet culinary experience. By asking the locals, you will undoubtedly discover a bunch of eateries that only a few know about. Don’t be shy; hospitality runs in the Greeks’ blood.
Our trips to Zakynthos
Agios Sostis, Zakynthos - credits: Ververidis Vasilis/Shutterstock.com
Deciding to explore Zakynthos on your own is nothing short of daunting. The size of the island and the multitude of things to do, see and visit, are enough to make organizing an itinerary a stressful job. But being stress-free is what vacations are all about, aren’t they?
Therefore, if you want to get to know the island through the eyes of a local and even combine your trip to Zakynthos with a general exploration of the Ionian complex of islands, then joining our Ionian Escape: 12-day Athens, Zakynthos & Kefalonia Trip is the way to go!
Impressive greenery, with countless beaches, electric blue waters, the Caretta-Caretta sea turtle as the protagonist, the Venetian nobility as decor, and the Navagio beach as a trademark, Zakynthos is an island with many facets. Apart from the tourist resorts, such as the bay of Laganas, which attracts - among others - foreign tourists looking for day-long parties, it is worth discovering the other side Zakynthos, the one that justifies its former characterization as ‘the flower of the East’. In any case, visiting Zakynthos will be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made!