Zakynthos, the southernmost island in the Ionian Sea, is famous for its spectacular beaches, natural gems and endangered loggerhead (carretta carretta) turtles, which nest throughout this impressive island. Zakynthos Island’s surface is around 410 square kilometres (km2; 158 square miles), which makes it an excellent destination for an active vacation.
Getting around on Zakynthos
The best way to get around on Zakynthos, which spares you some time and gives you the opportunity to fully appreciate its beauty, is by car. Although main tourist centres and resorts are connected with the public transport system (occasional transfers might be needed), it tends to be rather inconsistent. Walking to access a beach once you get off the bus might be required too, which isn’t especially enjoyable under the scorching sun. Almost every beach has a parking lot in its vicinity, which simplifies the matters a great deal.
There are two possible ways you can get to Zakynthos – by plane and by ship. The most convenient crossing point from mainland Greece is from the Kyllini port, which links you to Zante Town (also known as Zakynthos Town), the island’s capital.
Choose your ideal base
When choosing your base, you should consider the following four options.
Argassi is the best option for adventurers and people with a vehicle. Although Argassi Beach is not the nicest on Zakynthos Island, this likable town is perfectly positioned in regards to the island’s most engaging beaches on the Vassilikos Peninsula and other tourist centres – Zante Town, Laganas, Tsilivi, etc.
Kalamaki is a tranquil place with a long beach and basic tourist facilities. Kalamaki Beach is probably your best option to see the swimming turtles, but the resort area is frequently flown over by planes due to the presence of a nearby airport.
Laganas is a nightlife hub, featuring a long beach and a myriad of tourist facilities. It’s a paradise for people craving fun regardless of their age.
Tsilivi is, possibly, the best choice for people with small children. It has fine sand beach with shallow waters and water sports. Showers and sunbeds are available, too.
Best beaches of Zakynthos
Navagio or Shipwreck is most probably the most photographed beach ever. It’s accessible only by a boat or parachute! Its name is credited to a smuggling ship, which was forced to strand here to avoid sinking in a violent storm. The beach is larger than it appears and once you enter its turquoise waters you’ll quickly reach deep waters, leaving only your topknot above the water line; you’ll be submerged in less than a few steps. Although Navagio is the most famous, the western side of Zakynthos abounds with similar beaches, accessible only by boats, too.
Gerakas is probably the second best beach on Zakynthos. It’s located at the tip of the Vassilikos Peninsula, featuring a long sandy beach and shallow crystal clear waters. The beach is among the main nesting areas for the turtles, and is dotted with trap-like devices; these mark where turtles’ eggs are nested, keeping them safe from damage. Such devices can be seen throughout the beaches of the Laganas Bay.
Dafni Beach is probably the most secluded beach of the Vassilikos Peninsula. To access it you’ll need to take a short ride on a bumpy road, but the beach is worth the effort. It is encircled by hills and lush vegetation, with Kalonisi Island in the background. Dafni Beach also features a fairly large restaurant.
Porto Roma is another spectacular beach of the Vassilikos. It’s a popular beach featuring picturesque environments, tall pine trees and calm waters.
When heading to the famous Blue Caves on the island’s northern cap, don’t miss two small beaches sharing the same name – Xigia. One is accessible on foot, while for the other you’ll need a boat or you’ll have to take a short swim. Both beaches are secluded and encircled by rocky hillsides, and one of them features a sulphur spring, providing excellent skin treatment.
Other must-see sites and attractions of Zakynthos
Blue Caves at the northern Skinari Cape of the island are a natural phenomenon popular with tourists. They can be visited through an organized excursion, but if you wish to take a bath in their incredible waters, you need to hop on a small boat at the cape. Take your diving masks with you because you don’t want to miss such an experience.
If you wish, however, to lay eyes on a real cave, head to Keri Caves (in the photo) in the southwestern part of Zakynthos. You can take a boat ride or an organized excursion, and swimming in the cave is just spectacular.
Somewhere above Keri Caves, in the vicinity of the small town of Keri, the largest Greek Flag can be seen. The flag towers above neighbouring trees, with the canvas weighing 80 kg (~176 lbs) and the surface of 670 m2 (7211 ft2).
When in Zante Town, allocate some time to climb on Bohali, a neighbourhood that tops the island’s capital. There are a couple of coffee bars at vantage points, offering great panoramic views of Zante Town and its surroundings (refer to the 2nd section’s photo).
The island abounds with inland villages, which should be visited for some great traditional product shopping. Cheeses, especially those flavoured with olives, are just extraordinary, and if you think that you tasted the best wines in France, you might find yourselves having second thoughts.
Useful tips and information
If you travel on a budget, the most convenient place for supplying yourselves with necessary products is Lidl, located at the exit from Zante Town to Laganas. Although most merchants and restaurateurs are honest, always pay attention to how much money you handed to pay and ask for the confirmation of the price on the price list.
It is mostly sunny over Zakynthos during the summertime, with an occasional cloud passing over. The official currency is EUR. Roads should be better signposted, in general, but even if you wander off the specified direction, you cannot really get lost. Maybe it even proves to be a fortunate happenstance because there is much to discover off-the-beaten tourist paths of Zakynthos.
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