The third biggest island in the Ionian sea has so much to offer to everyone- remote locations with serene nature, beautiful beaches and an excitement of a cool city life. Wrapped in wild flora and fauna, it’s a favourite destination for holiday goers who want to see, taste and explore everything Greece is so famous for. The lush scenery is also the reason why Valentians during their occupation of the island named it ‘Fioro di Levante’ which translates ‘Flower of the Orient’. The size of Zakynthos makes it ideal for every type of holiday. Big enough to try a variety of activities and small enough to get exploring. It’s absolutely essential to hire a car and luxury holiday goers won’t find Zakynthos a perfect spot because the most beautiful beaches and sceneries are located far from the comfort zone of a five-star hotel. It’s time to put your walking shoes on and get on the road.
We hired a super cute tiny car which let us explore the island efficiently and with a chilled bottle of wine carefully strapped in the back seat, we hit the streets of Zante.
BEACHES: Navagio “Shipwreck” beach
Zakynthos is perhaps best known for its beautiful beaches, one of them being Navagio beach also called Shipwreck beach as it has a large old rusted shipwreck “parked” on it. The myth has it that the ship was smuggling contraband such as cigarettes, wine and women and it wrecked in the cove after a huge storm. We decided to visit Navagio twice, once from above with our little car and the second time with a boat so we could snorkel around the cliffs and enjoy the fun in the sun.
The water here is just out of this world. The clear and turquoise colour that shimmers in the light in the contrast with bright beige sand makes a truly picturesque setting. And even though the beach becomes packed during the day, because travel agents load their ships with tourists to take them to this magical place, we still enjoyed our time here.
BEACHES: Spanzia beach, Porto Vromi and Banana Beach
We also visited Spanzia beach– a long strip of beautiful sand with tropical vibe, comfy sun beds and umbrellas to rent. Some of them are made of bamboo and dry palm tree leaves so it looks like you’re somewhere in the Caribbean. It is a very popular place both by locals and tourists and here you can spot turtles as it is one of the favourite nesting beaches for Caretta Caretta. Their nests can be seen in the back of the beach and they are protected by wooden constructions.
Worth visiting is also Porto Vromi and beautiful Banana beach, which is one of the best beach clubs we ever visited. They serve amazing cocktails here and together with sea-food pasta and swinging nets all over the place it became the best hangout spot on the island for me. The beach is long and wide, with shallow water and easy access, as well as many sun beds and showers.
BEACHES: Porto Roxa beach
After driving through endless roads snaking between ragged cliffs, we found a place that became the biggest highlight of my trip, Porto Roxa. This is one of the most beautiful spots I’ve seen in my life, mostly because of the enormous cliffs and beautiful clear water. Here we’ve spent a half of the day, enjoying the sun, having cocktails and taking pictures of the coves, little pools created on the shores and cute boats moored to the rocks. Jumping into the water felt so refreshing and satisfying and it allowed us to cool down every time we felt the sun trying to burn us alive. I don’t think words allow me to perfectly describe this place. It’s just stunningly beautiful and I loved every second of being there! Make sure to put it on your TO DO list while in Zakynthos.
On the other side of Porto Roxa, closer to the road and to the parking lot, there is another swimming spot with natural pools carved in rocks. It’s great for taking pictures, but access to water is quite dangerous. It didn’t stop me from taking a dip though. The nomadic vibe of this place is so visible you could cut it with a knife- beds are giant mattresses swinging in the air or mattress booths with little straw roofs. Buy a bottle of wine in the Sunset Taverna or read a book while soaking up the peaceful atmosphere.
THINGS TO SEE
During our road trip, we stopped at many places, such as the oldest Olive tree on the island, viewing points and little villages where we enjoyed coffee and fresh juices in local coffee shops. Zante people are very kind and helpful and they often offer you some of their homegrown peaches and oranges if you stop to ask for directions. One of my favourite elements of summer are pine trees and cicadas, and here you can hear them “singing” and hiding in trees and bushes everywhere you go.
THINGS TO SEE: Viewing points and little villages
Zakynthos is no doubt a place for foodie lovers, and mostly those who worship Medditearean cuisine like me. Traditional dishes include greek salad, grilled vegetables (zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant) but also locally sourced fish, amazingly tasteful tzatziki with pita bread and of course olives. You can get those in every Tavern around the island and don’t get scared if you won’t see any people eating there. Zakynthos’s atmosphere is so calm and peaceful that it’s best to enjoy it on your own. We had a lunch with a view in an amazing restaurant on the coast called Sunset Michali’s Taverna which does what is says on the tin; serves amazing home-made dishes and offers dazzling views of the coast, best for watching the sun slip behind the horizon. We also found a beautiful all white Tavern at one of the viewing points. It had little lantern lights all around the exterior- such a fabulous place for a romantic dinner! Make sure to try their Greek salad and tzatziki with home-made bread.
Banana beach club restaurant is the best for ice-cold beers, Mojitos, Margaritas and sea-food dishes, but they also do finger-licking good burgers and salads. You can chill in one of their hammocks or eat at the terrace overlooking the sea. It’s a truly amazing experience! Plus, their sea-food linguine is served in a giant sea-shell!
Perched on the hilltop above Porto Roxa is the lovely Porto Limnionas Tavern serving delightful sea-food sharing dishes and cocktails. If you’re tired from all the splashing and climbing up the rocks to jump again, you can chill on their beds which are free to use with any purchase.
THINGS TO DO: TURTLE SPOTTING
Seeing giant turtles when swimming even topped my experience (Zakynthos is well known for its turtle nesting beaches and you can learn a lot about them and why it’s important to protect them in one of the visitors centres on the island or visit Archeolon center)
The best beaches for turtle spotting are:
If you’re looking for an adventurous holiday in one of the most beautiful places in Europe, in a place where dreams turn into reality, Zakynthos is the perfect place for you. This stunning paradise will take your breath away, leaving you speechless and full of memories.
Scroll down for more stunning pictures, most of them taken by my brother or me.
With Love, Domi.