In the summer of 2017 we visited Zakynthos (also called Zante). This Greek island with crystal blue waters and pristine beaches seemed like the perfect destination to start the summer holidays. We had an amazing time there, so in this blog post we will share our tips to help you if you intend to visit Zakynthos as well.
Where to stay when you visit Zakynthos
If you’re anything like us and you like discovering a new place with not too many tourists around, I would definitely recommend Limni Keri to stay. It’s a cute tiny village in the South of Zakynthos which offers a beautiful beach and plenty of cafés and restaurants. If you’re on a low budget and would like to cook your own meals from time to time, you can also find a bakery and some grocery shops there. It’s not far from the main road, so this village is ideal if you want to do some exploring of the island by car. From the beach you also have the most amazing view over Marathonissi island, a little island just off the coast of Zakynthos.
If you visit Zakynthos to mostly relax on the beach, I would recommend staying close to Kalamaki beach. This is also a beautiful beach, but this one has nice white sand instead of pebbles like in Limni Keri. There are many sun chairs for rent at Kalamaki beach and there a lot of watersport facilities. However, even in the high season it was still reasonably quiet.
We usually use booking.com to search for accommodations. Because we wanted to travel a bit low budget, we looked for a studio that had its own kitchen so that we could cook our own meals from time to time. We ended up staying in a lovely hotel called Castello Panorama in Limni Keri. The owners are the friendliest people you’ll meet. They really gave our vacation that little extra. The rooms were a little outdated, but very clean and everything was working well. Our room had a beautiful terrace in the front, were we would sit and have breakfast every day.
Hiring a car during your visit on Zakynthos
If possible, I would highly recommend hiring a car, even if it’s only for a few days. You can do this even if you are travelling to Zakynthos on a tight budget. Renting a car there isn’t very expensive and it saves you the costs of a taxi from the airport and back. Normally we try to use the public transport system as much as possible, but this didn’t seem an option on this island. There are very few buses and their time schedules aren’t very reliable. At the beginning of our trip, we were a little nervous about driving through the mountainous landscape of Zakynthos. We had no experience driving on narrow roads and up steep hills. In the end, we managed very well! As long as you drive carefully and not too fast, driving through Zakynthos shouldn’t be a problem, as there is not all that much traffic around. Just drive with a GPS that tells you what kind of turns are coming your way. Oh, and don’t forget to turn off the air conditioning when driving up a steep hill!
Where you should go on Zakynthos
If you’re like us and want to balance your days between exploring the island and just enjoying the beautiful beaches, here’s how we spent our days at Zakynthos.
Every day we liked to do a little trip. At first, we explored the beach and the village of Limni Keri a little bit more. We drove up the hill and found a beautiful restaurant called Keri Lighthouse, with the most stunning views on the cliffs and the sea.
You can also spend a day renting a little motorboat to explore the coast of Limni Keri and maybe see some turtles. You don’t need a license to drive these boats and it’s really easy to steer and anchor. When we did this, we first visited Marathonissi island. This little island before the coast of Zakynthos is a protected area where the Caretta Caretta turtle lays its eggs. We went early in the morning, so that we would have the sandy beach on this little island to ourselves. It was really worth the effort! White sand, crystal blue water and some turtles around, what else could you wish for? We then drove the boat to Laganas beach, were we were told most of the turtles swim. We were not lucky enough to see more than one turtle, but it was a really big and beautiful one. The locals told us that the turtles on Zakynthos are an endangered species and the still growing tourism doesn’t do the animals well. As a result, their numbers are declining. If you happen to see some turtles, try not to stress them out by attempting to touch them or taking close up pictures!
To read more about the turtles of Zakynthos, you can visit http://www.zakynthos-greece.biz/zakynthos-caretta-caretta.htm.
We continued our boat trip to the other side of Marathonissi Island and discovered one of the coolest swimming spots ever. We anchored the boat and went for a swim through some underwater caves. Very beautiful, and not as scary as you might think! Inside the cave we found a little beach that we had all to ourselves, making this quite the adventure! Our last stop were the Keri Caves. Here you can find beautiful cliffs and rocks where you can anchor and swim around.
For another day trip, you could visit Kalamaki beach,. For us, this was only a half-hour drive from our hotel. Here we hired two sunchairs and an umbrella and enjoyed the lovely beach with soft sand and clear water. You could see the arriving airplanes as they flew quite low over the beach, without making too much noise. And for the more adventurous kind of people, there is also a pretty nice viewpoint.
You cannot leave Zakynthos without paying a visit to its most beautiful beach: Navagio beach (also known as Shipwreck beach). The beach itself can only be reached by boat. You can take a tour from Porto Vromi or from Agios Nikolaos. We skipped these touristy tours though and headed straight to the Shipwreck viewpoint. (If you were wondering, the roads are good, the only tricky thing is to park the car when there are a lot of people, but you should be fine!). Skip the touristy platform and walk straight to the path on the cliffs, which should be at your righthand side when you arrive. This path used to be a little secret, but it’s very touristy nowadays. Nevertheless, it’s still very much worth a visit! The view from the path is literally breathtaking.
Tip: you can also go early in the morning to get this place to your own but remember that the water won’t be as blue as it will be in the afternoon.
When you’re walking the path looking down on Navagio beach, please don’t go near the edges of the cliff! It’s dangerous and you wouldn’t be the first tourist falling off. You can take plenty of beautiful pictures without going too close to the edge.
The next day we explored some more beautiful beaches on the West coast of Zakynthos. Our first stop was Porto Limnionas. It’s a small beach, so it can get crowded, but it’s oh so beautiful. It’s a rocky beach, without sand, but there are many cliffs to jump in the water. This is a good spot for snorkeling and exploring some nearby caves. After a swim, we went to Porto Roxa. I think this beach was my favorite. It was much less touristy and had the same crystal-clear water as Porto Limnionas. There were some nice cafés that rented out beautiful sunbeds.
On our last day of exploring, we went to the Kampi viewpoint. There are a couple of cute cafés where you can drink something while watching these majestic cliffs. Most people come here to enjoy the sunset, but because we didn’t want to drive through the dark (as there are no street lanterns at all), we went in the afternoon.
Later on, we went to the beautiful mountain village Volimes. With its picture-perfect streets, friendly people and barely any tourists, this village has stolen our hearts.
Would we go back to Zakynthos?
Yes, definitely. Although Zakynthos is small, I still feel like a there’s still a lot to discover. When we travel to Zakynthos again, we want to visit Shipwreck beach itself very early in the morning so that we can have the beach to ourselves! The Blue caves also seem very much worth it. Another great tip we got from our hosts at Castello Panorama, is to catch the earliest ferry in Zakynthos town to the mainland, to go explore the ancient city of Olympia. You certainly shouldn’t limit your visit to the places we discussed, as Zakynthos has a lot more to offer as well! To end this post, we’ll leave a list of other places you might want to visit as well. Some were recommended by people that we met in Zakynthos, while we found out about others while doing some research in advance. While we didn’t have the time to check these places out for ourselves, they certainly seem worth a visit!
Gerakas viewpoint: a viewpoint over the Gerakas beach
Korakonissi: a small bay good for snorkeling with little tourists
Skinari lighthouse: a beautiful viewpoint to watch the sunset
Agios sostis: a small island before the coast where you can walk to
Xigia beach: a beach with high concentration of sulphur, which doesn’t have the best smell but which makes the water very blue!
Dafne beach: another beach with beautiful clear water