The Venetians called it the flower of the east because of its postcard perfect turquoise bays with towering limestone cliffs, olive groves and lemon trees, and a fertile green hinterland with vineyards.
In spring the lush green hills turn into a riot of colors due to thousands of wildflowers and butterflies.
If you enjoy beach hopping, dreamy coastal landscapes and would like to visit what is probably the most impressive bay in Europe, Zakynthos is the place for you!
Zakynthos is also known for another aspect. People like to celebrate a lot on the beaches. The party guests are a colorful mix and nothing stands in the way of a summer party on the beach.
We will tell you more about this in this travel guide to Zakynthos.
Table of Contents
- Overview of Zakynthos
- The best time to travel to Zakynthos
- Getting to Zakynthos
- Best Way to explore the island
- Accommodation on Zakynthos
Zakynthos island Highlights- What to see and do
- Navagio Beach – the beach with the shipwreck
- The Blue Caves of Zakynthos and their Mystical Glow
- Zakynthos town – a bit like Venice
- Bochali – small village with a magnificent view
- Keri village and Lighthouse to view the Mizithres Rocks
- The Endangered Sea Turtles of Zakynthos
- Vineyards and Olive Groves
- The port of Agios Nikolaos
- Xigia Beach
Overview of Zakynthos
Located off the west coast of Greece, opposite Kefalonia, Zakynthos (or Zante as the Italians call it) is the southernmost island in the Ionian Sea.
While the west and north of the island are mountainous with corresponding cliffs, the south and east are flatter and that is where most of the beaches are to be found.
Since Zakynthos gets a comparatively large amount of rain in winter, you will find more greenery here than on other Greek islands.
Currants, wine grapes, tropical fruits and above all olive trees are grown here.
- THE SOUTH: Flat, large beaches, very touristy and the party stronghold (Laganas). Here is also the capital Zakynthos and the turtle island of Marathonsi, where you can see the Caretta Caretta in their natural habitat.
- THE EAST: Paradisiacal small beaches, grottoes and beautiful viewpoints on the turquoise sea. Many private cottages and small ports. From here you can also start day trips to the Blue Caves and Shipwreck Beach.
- THE NORTH: The most pristine and quiet part of the island. Here you will find an incredibly lush landscape with mountains, olive groves and pine forests, windmills and cliffs. There is hardly any tourism here.
- THE WEST: Bizarre cliff landscapes and rough nature. Many picturesque valleys with mountain and fishing villages, old churches and villas, flower meadows and classic agriculture with vineyards, orchards and farm animals.
The best time to travel to Zakynthos
The best time to travel to Zakynthos is spring or autumn, when tourism is still dormant and you have the whole island to yourself. Moreover the sun warms up the days enough to make it very comfortable for light clothes.
In summer, on the other hand, Zakynthos can get quite touristy and the temperatures climb rapidly.
In terms of weather, May to October is the driest, warmest and the sunniest period in Zakynthos.
As early as May, the island reaches maximum temperatures of 24°C, which can sometimes feel a lot warmer in the blazing sun.
Even though it can be a bit chilly in the evening, the almost 9 hours of sunshine per day makes May a great month to visit.
The summer months from June to August are hot with an average of 31°C. In September and October it is pleasantly warm in the mid-twenties.
In winter, on the other hand, there are the most rainy days, which means that the island really blooms in spring. In May the whole island turns and wild flowers bloom colorfully in every corner.
Getting to Zakynthos
In contrast to some other Greek islands, Zakynthos even has its own airport, which can be flown to directly from most of the larger airports in Europe.
If you live in West Germany, you should definitely check the offers from Amsterdam, as the island is sometimes even served several times a day from there.
Tip: The island can also be reached by ferry from the mainland. The boat tour takes about an hour from Kilini, for example. Tickets can be booked in advance and usually cost no more than EUR 10.00.
Best Way to explore the island
Zakynthos is made for solo travelers. It is manageable and easy to explore on your own.
The best way to explore is on a scooter or a rental car, as this is the easiest way to get from A to B and you are also the most flexible in terms of time.
But its also possible on a horse or a quad. It is also a fantastic place for hiking or cycling.
Google Maps with free EU roaming works very well everywhere, even in remote corners you can easily find your way around.
Even though there is a central bus system in Zakynthos , you will not be able to explore the island enough with it, as buses do not stop at all sights and hidden highlights.
If you don’t want to rent your own car, you can also use tours that hit the sights and are a nice way to explore the island in groups and with guides.
Tip: rent a car that isn’t that big, as the switchbacks can be a bit narrow in places.
Accommodation on Zakynthos
There is a variety of hotels in Zakynthos that cater to different preferences.
From simple hotels to luxury resorts, all standards are present. Many great apartments are also offered via airbnb.
We stayed at the Elegance Executive Luxury Suites *, which I was very satisfied with.
Since hotel stars in Greece do not necessarily have to correspond to the star standards in other European countries, it is worth booking a category higher on Zakynthos.
Listed below are some hand-selected accommodation options, maybe you will find them a good start to explore your options.
- Xigia Beach Residence*
- Drallos Luxury Villa*
- Oresteia Exlusive Villa*
- Zakynthos Xigia Bay *
- Zante Calinica Hotel *
- Neraida Village *
- Hera Zakynthos Hotel *
Zakynthos island Highlights- What to see and do
Just sunbathing and hanging out by the pool? This is of course possible during the island holiday.
But you miss out on the many wonderful corners of the island that are absolutely worth exploring by car.
Navagio Beach – the beach with the shipwreck
Probably the most famous sight of the island is this small bay, which is surrounded with sheer limestone cliffs up to 200m high.
During a storm in 1980, a ship ran aground here. Since then it has been lying on the beach and rusting away.
There are two ways to experience the bay.
First is on a small viewing platform has been built on the cliff above the bay. You can reach this via a winding, partly unpaved road.
From up there you not only see the wreck on the beach, but also have a wonderful view over the whole bay.
A visit to this platform is particularly popular at sunset, when the rocks of the bay are bathed in magical light by the setting sun.
Incidentally, the best place to see the bay in its entirety is not from the viewing platform, which is at the very front near the parking lot, but when you walk over the footpaths to the other end of the cliff.
Note: sturdy shoes are recommended, as you walk over rocky, winding ground and can easily twist your ankle. You should also keep a healthy distance from the edge of the cliff. Many selfie hunters have paid for their 10 seconds of fame with their lives. Just 1 mistake or a gust of wind can push you over the precipice!
Secondly, you can also take a boat tour of the bay. Then you get closer to the wreck, but you only see the rocks from the boat.
If you have a hard time deciding, then enjoy both perspectives. After all it is one of the most breathtaking sea views in all of Europe.
The Blue Caves of Zakynthos and their Mystical Glow
Between the seaside resort of Agios Nikolaios on the east coast and the northernmost point of the island at Cape Skinari, the sea has carved several caves and arches into the rocks.
The best way to explore them is on a boat tour. If you book one of these tours, don’t forget your snorkeling gear, because in some of the caves the boats stop for a swim.
You can also explore the caves under water if you are a passionate diver. You can even reach some from land.
At the Cape Skinari lighthouse, about 100 steps lead you down to the water. In the largest cave, Kianon, you will see impressive stalactites hanging from the ceiling.
Since the caves are on the east coast, the best time to visit them is in the morning. When the sunlight falls into the caves, the water glows in a particularly intense blue. It is really magical!
Zakynthos town – a bit like Venice
This island was under Venetian rule for several centuries. This is particularly evident in the island’s capital, Zakynthos, also called Zante b the Italians.
At the central St. Markos Square you feel a bit like St. Mark’s Square in Venice. The square is dominated by the Church of Agios Dionysos, which houses the tomb of the saint.
A strong earthquake hit the city badly in 1953, but the reconstruction has taken care to preserve the Venetian charm and architecture.
Also worth a visit is the Zante Museum, which looks a bit like the Doge’s Palace from the outside.
Strolling through the narrow streets of the old town, you will discover the many boutiques and cafés where you can take a break and let the hustle and bustle pass you by.
In the evening the beautiful waterfront offers the ideal place for a stroll and afterwards you will see the town come alive even more as the locals come to eat in the many tavernas and restaurants.
Bochali – small village with a magnificent view
This village nestles against the rocks on a hill above Zante. It is quite small and there is not much to see apart from the Zoodos Pigi church with a collection of Byzantine icons.
Through a fir forest you will come to the ruins of the Venetian castle, which is still very impressive.
But the main attraction of the village is the magnificent view over Zakynthos town and the bay. It is a very romantic experience, especially at sunset or at night when you look at the sparkling city of lights.
Speaking of romance, in Bochali there are a few rustic taverns where you can enjoy the delicacies of Greek cuisine under the starry sky.
Keri village and Lighthouse to view the Mizithres Rocks
In the southwest of Zakynthos, almost at the end of the Marathia or Keri peninsula, lies this picturesque mountain village.
Time seems to stand still here.
In the center of Keri on a small market square there is a grocery store, a bakery and some lovingly decorated gift shops, many of which sell traditional products such as olive oil, wine or sweets made from almonds and honey, in addition to souvenirs and carpets.
During a walk across the square, it is worth visiting the tavern “Allegro” with the wonderful owner Katernia, who serves her guests home cooked Greek food and heavenly orange and chocolate cookies with bouts of spontaneous singing.
If you enter her tavern, you’re like a part of the family and can spend a few fun hours with her and her friends who pass by every now and then. There is no set menu. But no matter what she conjures up on the plate it simply tastes delicious!
There are two things you should look at in Keri.
First is the beautiful Church of the Holy Virgin, which is located in a park, and second is the lighthouse, which is perched high on a cliff above the sea.
From there you have a sensational view of the deep blue sea and the rocks of Mizithres. Instagram worthy photos are guaranteed here.
The village actually consists of two parts. The quaint and quiet mountain village and Limni Keri, the fishing village by the sea.
There you will find a small pebble beach, which is overgrown with shady maritime pines.
So you can spend a relaxing day at the beach in Keri before climbing up to the lighthouse at sunset.
The Endangered Sea Turtles of Zakynthos
The Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta-Caretta), which can grow up to 120 cm long, lays its eggs on the southern beaches of Zakynthos.
The nesting beaches are located in Laganás, Kalamáki, Sekánia, Dáfni and Gérakas, among others. It’s worth planning a day to see these, even if it’s anything but an insider tip.
Be sure to follow the rules there and keep the beaches clean.
We were lucky enough to see a small baby turtle on the way into the water twice while walking along the beach at Kalamáki Beach. It is important not to touch the turtles and not to help them, even if it is difficult.
In the bay in front of Limini Keri lies the small uninhabited and rocky island of Marathonisi. You can explore it on boat trips.
The endangered turtles lay their eggs on the beaches of this island and monk seals are rarely seen here.
It’s worth planning a day at the beach on this island, even if it’s anything but an insider tip.
The excursion boats stop at this island for a short swim and unload the tourists in droves. Luckily, the turtles’ nests on Zakynthos are cordoned off with warning tape.
To protect the animals, a marine national park was created on the bay in the south of the island.
You can find more information and the rules of conduct in the visitor’s guide on the National Marine Park of Zakynthos website.
There is a Sea Turtle Rescue & Information Center is located in Gerakas. There you will not only learn interesting facts about the animals, but you can also see what is being done here to protect them.
Since the center is financed purely by donations, we would recommend you to visit it.
Vineyards and Olive Groves
As already mentioned above, Zakynthos is a very fertile and green island. This becomes particularly clear when you drive through its interior.
A green sea of vineyards and olive groves awaits you here.
If you want to taste the produce, we have a few tips for you.
You can get excellent organic olive oil at the Aristeon Oil Mill in Litahkia. There you can not only buy oil, but also learn in the museum how olive oil is made.
Then you should drive to Lagopodo and visit the Grampsas family’s boutique winery. They make wines of the highest quality from rare grape varieties that used to be widespread on Zakynthos.
At a wine tasting you will definitely find the right souvenir to take home.
In the northwest of the island, in Trilakada, lies the Art & Wine winery of the Goumas Estate. Giannis Giatras-Goumas produces real rarities of supreme quality here.
If you are now wondering what the “Art” in the name of the winery means, take a look at the winemaker’s studio in Maries.
There Giannis paints his beautiful icon paintings according to the Cretan Renaissance school. You can admire his works in churches in Athens, but also in the church of Agios Nikolaos in Zakynthos town or in the Agioi Taksiarches in Orthonies on Zakynthos.
The port of Agios Nikolaos
The dreamy port of Agios Nikolaos is small but good.
Here you will find many restaurants with beautiful views, tour operators, a super pretty beach with crystal clear water and a wonderful view of the island of Agios Nikolaos.
Fishing and glass-bottom boats anchor off the coast, and the ferry to Kefalonia also departs from here in the summer months.
Numerous tours to the Navagio shipwreck and the Blue Caves also start here. Although there is a lot of hustle and bustle at this port, it is a wonderful ambience and an idyllic place for a break on the tour north.
On the Internet you can always find reports about Xigia Beach in the east. This is a small natural sulphur beach between massive cliffs that is known for its healing properties among the locals.
Xigia Beach can already be seen from the coastal road in milky light turquoise colors.
There is a small kiosk at the parking lot and a steep stairway leads to the small section of the beach. You can smell the sulfur from above.
Much more intimate, hidden and a magical place is Little Xigia, a few kilometers before the official sulfur beach.
Little Xigia consists of 2 beaches separated by large rocks that cannot be seen from the road.
Only the glowing turquoise between the trees, an unpaved road and a small parking lot reveal this dream place.
Little Xigia is still pristine and unspoilt. The beach right of the rocks is accessible by stairs, the left one is a bit of a climb down.
But both are pretty much the most intimate spots imaginable.
Here, too, an indescribable play of sea colors from turquoise nuances awaits you, which you simply cannot get enough of on the entire island.
If you want to spend time in Zakynthos is not only useful, but also fun, then you definitely need to visit the water park. There are three of them on the island, but the most famous and largest is Water Village. It is located in the village of Sarakinado, 6 km from the capital of Zakynthos. There are slides of different levels for children and adults, a huge number of pools and various water activities. In several cafes and bars located directly on the territory of the water park, you can refresh yourself or refresh yourself with a cocktail.
- Ticket price: 20 EUR for adults and 15 EUR – for children, for half a day (after 14:30) 15 and 10 EUR, respectively.
- Opening hours: in May-June and September-October – from 10:00 to 17:00, in July – from 10:00 to 17:30, in August from 10:00 to 18:00.
- Park official website: https://zantewatervillage.gr
In 1999, a reserve was founded on the island. It is located on several beaches and 2 small islands. This is a miniature example of the Mediterranean ecosystem. It will be very interesting for both children and adults. Everyone can see iguanas, porcupines, dolphins, rare turtles, unique seals and many other inhabitants of the sea.
In addition to the sea, there is also the Askos stone reserve. On the limited territory of the park, many rare species of animals and plants have been collected. Among the hundreds of inhabitants of the animal world, it is worth noting peacocks, raccoons, deer, donkeys and ponies, as well as wild boars.
Children will definitely be delighted with a walk around Askos. Employees of the park are allowed to feed some animals with food that they themselves give. Admission is € 9.50.
The Stone Park is located 30 km from the city of Zakynthos and only 3 km from the Blue Caves.
The monastery was built in 1241 on one of the islands near Zakynthos. In the XV century, the monastery building was rebuilt, and it became like a castle or a medieval fortress. Such a structure served as an excellent shelter for monks from pirates. The central temple is made in the shape of a tower. It was here that for some time Saint Dionysius served as a simple monk. As a result of the earthquake, the monastery was badly damaged, but they tried to restore it, restoring the original appearance. Nowadays, the monastery operates, 60 monks live in it.