Zakynthos (also known as Zante) is one of the major Ionian Islands – a mesmerizing archipelago located along the western coast of mainland Greece. Due to its spectacular white cliffs, hidden coves, as well as the famous Shipwreck Beach, the island became one of the most popular destinations in Greece.

How to Reach Zakynthos from Mainland Greece

From mainland Greece Zakynthos can be reached by ferry or by plane. Ferry crossings to/from the island are available throughout the year and depart daily from the port of Killini, a seaside town on the western side of the Peloponnese. The journey lasts about an hour. During the high season, there is also a local ferry that connects Zakynthos and Kefalonia.

Ferry Crossing to Zakynthos

There are also daily direct flights to Zakynthos from Athens International Airport (ATH). The flight takes roughly 50 minutes. The three main airlines operating this route are SkyExpress, Olympic and Aegean.

During the months of July and August Zakynthos there are also direct ferry connections from Bari and Brindisi, in Italy. This route is currently serviced by Red Star Ferries and European Ferries. However, this journey takes 17 hours, so it’s not a very convenient way to reach Zakynthos.

When to Visit the Island

The peak season in Zakynthos is in the summer (June, July and August) when the weather is perfect for swimming and sunbathing. At this time of year you’ll get almost permanent sunshine and virtually no rainfall, but temperatures can be very high sometimes, reaching 39º-40ºC (100ºF). Summer is also the busiest time of the year when hotels fill up to capacity.

The low season is from late fall to early spring (November to April). Although the weather stays nice for the most part, this is not the best time to take advantage of the beaches in Zakinthos as the water is too cold for swimming (around 60ºF). Another downside of the low season is that most hotels and restaurants shut down from late fall to spring, so you’ll have limited lodging options.

image depicting Zakynthos in the fall
Zakinthos in the fall

Autumn on the other hand offers the best of all worlds. The weather is still warm for swimming and sunbathing with daily highs reaching 26ºC (78ºF) and water temperatures going as high as 28ºC (82ºF). Prices are lower and tourists are fewer. Fall in Greece is generally warm and pleasant, so people who travel regularly to these islands consider September and October the best months for visiting Zakynthos.

Best Way to Explore Zakynthos

Zante is mostly known for its breathtaking coastline and white pebble beaches with turquoise waters, many of which can be reached by land. But many beautiful bays and coves can only be accessed by boat, given the fact that the island is surrounded by colossal tall limestone cliffs.

Quads for rent in Zakynthos
Quads for rent in Zakynthos

For this reason visiting Zakynthos will require hiring both a car and a boat. Although there is a local bus service (called KTEL) that goes to some of the tourist sites, buses do not serve the entire island. So without a car, a scooter, or a quad you won’t be able to get around in Zakynthos.

Renting a Boat in Zakynthos

Experiencing Zakynthos by boat is one of the best ways to experience the island and see its magnificent white cliffs and hidden coves. Boating in Zakynthos was one of our finest memories from this trip. Depending on your goal and budget, you can either rent a boat for the day and drive it yourself (you don’t need a boating license), or you can book a boat with a captain.

We did both. On our first day in Zakynthos we hired a boat tour with a skipper who took us on the north side of the island. On the second day, we rented a boat and drove around the south side by ourselves. So here are the pros and cons for each option:

Boating in Zakynthos
Boating in Zakynthos

Renting a Boat with a Skipper

Renting a boat with a skipper can cost anywhere from €200 to €350+ depending on the kind of watercraft you hire. The tour lasts about 4-5 hours. The advantage of hiring a boat with a captain is that you get to kick back and relax as your captain takes you from spot to spot along the coast. These guys know the coastline like the back of their hand, so thy will show you hidden spots and glide the boat smoothly through hidden obstacles. They will also tell you stories about the island that you may not hear anywhere else.

Boating with a skipper in Zakynthos
Boating with a skipper in Zakynthos

The disadvantage of hiring a boat with a skipper is that you won’t have much privacy and you’ll only get to spend 4-5 hours at sea. But for most people this would be enough.

Renting a Boat without a Skipper

On the other hand, renting a boat without a captain on Zakynthos can be more pleasurable and economical. Depending on the season, you can expect to pay between €120-€180/day for a small boat. The advantage of driving your own boat is that you get to spend an entire day at sea, stop wherever you want, swim in crystal clear water and sunbathe on secret beaches.

Most boats have trackers, so if you get a little lost they soon come out and get you back on track.

Boating in Zakynthos
Boating in Zakynthos

The disadvantage is that you’ll get A LOT more stress! The relatively shallow waters along the coast often have unexpected obstacles, so if you don’t keep your eye on the water surface you may hit a huge rock and ruin the boat. Also, you’ll only get a limited amount of gasoline, so you can’t really go quite as far as you’d like.

Where to Rent a Boat in Zakynthos

There are plenty of different companies offering boat rentals all around the island of Zakynthos, but the biggest concentration of rentals is around the northern and the southern part of the island.

Boat rental booths along the shore in Zakynthos
Boat rental booths along the shore in Zakynthos

If you plan to visit Navajo Beach and the Blue Caves (in the north) your best bet would be around Porto Vromi, or Alykes/Alykanas up to Cape Skinari. You’ll see the rentals along the beach. 

Renting a boat in Zakynthos
Renting boat near Keri Beach

For Keri Caves and Marathonisi Island in the south, you should go down to Laganas or Limini Keri.

Boating on the Northside of Zakynthos – Best Attractions

It’s difficult to say which side of the island is more spectacular. Both sides are unbelievably scenic, offering spectacular views of the cliffs, secret coves and crystal clear waters. Here is what you can see on the northern side of the island:

The Shipwreck/Navagio Beach

There is no land access to this beautiful beach which is surrounded by vertical white cliffs. Until recently, you could anchor down in Navajo Bay and swim to the shore to see the shipwreck unclose. But in September 2022 a 5.4 magnitude earthquake between Kefalonia and Zakynthos sparked a big landslide.

Shipwreck Beach seen from above
Shipwreck (Navajo Beach) seen from above

Although no human life was lost, the beach remains closed due to the high risk or landslides in this area.

The Hidden Treasure Cave

Just on the other side of Navagio Beach you’ll find this cave.  At low tide, you’ll see there is a little opening from the water from where you can swim inside the cave. Once you pass through the narrow entrance you’ll find yourself in a 20 meters high cave! Swimming in the turquoise-blue water was a cool and unreal feeling!!

Hidden Treasure Cove
The Hidden Treasure Cove

Blue caves – The Blue Caves are located on the northern coastline of Zakynthos, east of Cape Skinari. They can only be accessed by the sea, so you’ll need to rent a bot to get here. The serenity and beauty of these limestone arches and caves is incredible! Gliding in and out of them with the boat or swimming in the turquoise waters around is an experience you won’t soon forget.

The Blue Caves of Zakynthos

Hidden coves/beaches – On google, you’ll see “mini beach accessible by boat” just on the other side of Navagio Beach. There are so many beaches like this—with white sand, turquoise water, and white cliff wall—along the coast so stop along as many as you can.

Hidden cove on Zakynthos Island
Small beach accessible only by boat

Boating on the Southside of Zakynthos – Best Attractions

The southern side of Zakynthos is equally spectacular and quite easy to navigate. But you should keep your eyes on the water for hidden rocks that may hide right beneath the surface. It also has a lot of small, friendly beaches on which you can stop for a quick swim. Here is what you can see when boating on the southern side:

Marathonisi, aka “Turtle Island”

Marathonisi is a tiny uninhabited island just 3 km off Keri Beach. But this seemingly insignificant isle provides one of the last remaining sanctuaries for the endangered loggerhead turtles in Zante (scientific name: Caretta Caretta). We weren’t able to see turtles near this island, but that’s probably because we didn’t know where to look. But if you rent a boat with a captain, you should so definitely ask him to find some to watch. 

Marathonisi Island
Marathonisi Island

Keri Caves

Keri Caves – These took me by surprise and ended up being my favorite spot of the day. We swam in here a bit and had a great time.

Keri Caves
Keri Caves

Mizithres Cliff Rock

This fabulous limestone cliff is as impressive to see from above as it is to see from the water. Technically the rental boats are supposed to turn around from this point, but we ventured a little past the rock to catch a better view of it in the afternoon sun.

Mizithres Cliff Rock
Mizithres Cliff Rock

Small Beaches

Just like the north shore, the southern part of Zakynhos has a large number of small beaches tucked between the limestone cliffs. The water around them is calm and clear, so be sure to stop at as many of them as you can.

Other Things to Do in Zakynthos Besides Boating

Trust me when I say that Zakynthos is one of Greece’s most unique islands. Yes, all the Greek islands are beautiful and worth visiting, but Zante is truly special! Not only does it have a magnificent coastline dotted with gorgeous beaches, hidden coves and impressive white cliffs, but it also has a great deal of inland attractions.

So here are some of the best things you can do on your holiday in Zante:

Visit Cameo Island

This beautiful small island located off shore of Laganas was once part of Zakynthos, but in 1633 a big earthquake separated this piece of land from the main island. Cameo Island got its name from the church on it, which has been there sixteen centuries. Today the small island is easy to reach on foot via a short wooden bridge.

Cameo Island at night
Cameo Islan at night

Because it’s a private island they charge a small entrance fee, but that comes with a souvenir or a free welcome drink at the beach bar. The island is often used for wedding receptions and other parties

Small beach on Cameo Island
Small beach on Cameo Island

Go Swimming at Porto Limnionas

If you were to visit just one spot on the island of Zakynthos, I’d say go to Porto Limnionas. This is one of the beautiful but most hidden places on the entire island. To get there you have to pass through the mountain village of Agios Leon and from there drive down down to the sea, following the signs. The road ends in a small square where you can park. Next to the parking you’ll see a picturesque taverna below which are two terraces with loungers and umbrellas.

view of Porto Limnionas
Porto Limnionas

From there a few steps carved in the rock that lead to the stupefying cove with turquoise, translucent waters. The water is so clear that you can see the bottom from high up, on the cliff. Except for the restaurant and a small improvised dive shop, there are no other facilities here.

view of Porto Limnionas
Small yacht anchored in Porto Limnionas

Even though it’s pretty well hidden, Porto Limniona is packed during the summer months. But if you come off season, or very early morning, you may have this place all to yourself.

Stroll Along the Port Promenade

Right next to Agios Dionisio’s Church starts a lovely walk of roughly a mile along the seafront. There are loads of cafes and pubs along the promenade, a few small fishing boats moored here, fishermen selling their catch to passers by and quite a few benches where you can sit and admire the view.

strolling in the Port of Zante
Strolling in the port area

Walk to the Navagio Beach Viewpoint

Navagio is one of the most beautiful and photographed beaches in the world, so no wonder visitors flock to visit it. While beach itself can be accessed only by boat, the best view of the beach and the shipwreck is actually from the vertical cliffs that surround it. But It takes a little work to get to get to the viewpoint where those iconic Navagio images are captured.

walking to the viewpoint of Shipwreck beach
Walking to the viewpoint of Shipwreck Beach

The viewpoint is about an hour away from Zakynthos Town, on the road to Anafonitria Monastery. The route is marked with signs for Navagio (Shipwreck) Beach. There is a small parking lot next to the signs and right beyond that you’ll see a suspended platform surrounded by railings. However, the best views of the beach are not at this point. If you continue to the right of the platform, you’ll see a narrow trail that goes along the cliffs’ edge. If you continue on it, you’ll get to a small promontory from where you’ll have a much better view.

Gate closing the entrance to Shipwreck vista point

The hike is considered pretty dangerous as in some places it gets pretty close to the edge of the cliff. Since accidents happened here in the past, the local authorities closed the access to the trail with a wire fence. But eager visitors managed to cut an opening into it, so you can proceed at your own risk. If you decide to venture on it, be very cautions and make sure you wear good hiking shoes, NOT flip flops!

Swim at Dafni Beach

This is a beautiful sandy beach with crystal-clear waters is located in the southeastern part of Zakynthos. If you visit the beach off season chances are you’ll find just a few people here, but in summer this place is packed.

images depicting Dafni Beach
Dafni Beach

Access to the beach is on a narrow, dirt road that that is kind of difficult to drive on. At the end of the road there is a free parking lot from where you’ll descend to the beach. Next to the beach entrance there is a beach-bar that serves refreshments.

view of Loggerhead Sea Turtles
Loggerhead Sea Turtles

Daphne is one of the most beautiful beaches on the Vasilikos Peninsula and one of the places where Loggerhead Sea Turtles come for breeding. 

Walk Around Zakynthos Town

Zakynthos Town is the capital of the island and the best place to experience it is to walk around in its center. The most popular part of town is the area between Alexander Roma Street and 21st Maiou Street up to San Marco Square. Here you’ll find a series of shops of various kinds, bars and restaurants. In the evenings, the city center comes alive with tourists looking for places to eat, have a drink or just buy souvenirs.

Pedestrian area in Zakynthos Town
Pedestrian area in Zakynthos Town

Zante Town has a few beautiful squares the largest of which is Dionysios Solomos square. Here you’ll see the statue of the poet Dionysios Solomons, who wrote Grece’s national anthem and also the Byzantine Museum. 

Xigia Beach (“Sulphur Beach”)

At first sight, Xigia Beach may not seem any different from other small beaches you may have seen. But what makes it special is the fact that the waters here contain a large amount of sulphur, which is very noticeable as you approach the beach. Hence the nickname Sulphur Beach.

View of Xigia Beach on Zakynthos
Xigia Beach (also known as Sulphur Beach)

The sulphur comes from the neighboring caves and has healing properties. Sulphuros waters have antifungal and antibacterial properties that can soothe and even help heal the skin. They are also good for arthritis pain. But Xigia Beach is nice to visit even if you don’t suffer from any of these conditions.

Step Inside Agios Dionysios Church

Located in Old town, just a few steps from the port, you’ll see the imposing building of Agios Dionysios – the largest church in Zante. Agios Dionysos is considered the patron saint and the protector of the island.

Agios Dionysios church in Zante
Agios Dionysios Church

The first chapel to honor the saint was built on this site in the 18th century, but it was completely destroyed in an earthquake in 1893 and then rebuilt in the 20th century. The building survived the devastating earthquake of 1953, which is why the locals consider it a miracle.

Visit the Old Venetian Fortress

Above Zakynthos Town, on the hill of Bohali, stand the remains of an old Venetian Castle. During the Venetian rule, the Castle was the capital of Zakynthos island. The fortress was built on the ruins of an ancient acropolis, named Psofida. The date of the construction is uncertain, but it probably goes back to the 1480s, when the Venetians occupied the island.

view of the old Venetian castle in Zante
Ruins of the Old Venetian Castle in Zakynthos

Sadly, not much is left of the Venetian Castle that once stood guard over the city below. The strong earthquakes that have frequently struck the island destroyed the fortification almost completely. But whatever traces remain, will still give you an idea of how beautiful this castle once was.

Go Wine Tasting

Wine tasting may not be your first priority when you visit Zante, but don’t miss the opportunity to taste the island’s famous wines if you are here. There are over 19,000 acres dedicated to growing vines on Zakynthos and dozens of different grape varieties.

grapes growing in Zakynthos

The island is famous for its red Avgoustiatis (which has been grown here since the 14th century) and yellow-gold Robola, so be sure to taste them.

Enjoy Dinner at the Windmill Taverna

Zakynthos has plenty of restaurants, cafés and tavernas serving fresh, local specialties. We eat in quite a few places but were particularly impressed with the dinner we had at the Windmill Taverna, located on the southern part of the island, in the Vasilikos Peninsula. The restaurant has a beautiful terrace that overlooks the sea and Marathonisi Island.

View of food plate at Windmill Taverna
Windmill Taverna

On the menu you will find many choices and we suggest you to try the bruschetta with aromatic oil, cherry tomatoes and parmesan, the mixed salad of young salad leaves with Greek prosciutto, gruyere cheese and balsamic dressing and the fresh fish. They serve delicious Greek dishes cooked with the purest ingredients. The service was also very prompt, so I can highly recommend this place

Where to Stay When Visiting Zakynthos

You’ll find plenty of hotels all over the island of Zakynthos. Whether you choose to stay in the northern or southern part of the island, you’ll find excellent lodging everywhere. Most first time visitors however choose to stay in Zakynthos Town, which is known for its boutique hotels nestled in the hills overlooking the Ionian Sea.

$$ Avalon Palace Hotel. This is a mid-range hotel located above the port of Zakynthos. We stayed here in October and because it was off-season they upgraded us to a suite with a private pool overlooking the sea. However, all the rooms are comfortable and modern, and breakfast is served up on the highest room, on a beautiful terrace overlooking the sea.

room with private pool at Avalon Palace Hotel
Room with private pool at Avalon Private Hotel

$$ Palatino Hotel. This is a nice hotel located near the beach in Zakynthos, just a few minutes walk to Solomos Square. The hotels offers sea view rooms, free breakfast, free parking and has a good restaurant on the premises.

$$$ Lesante Classic – Preferred Hotels & Resorts. This is a luxury hotel located at Tsilivi Beach. The hotel offers complimentary breakfast and parking and features a nice swimming pool. Rooms are spacious and elegant. The hotel is kids friendly and has a playground and a playroom.

How Many Days to Spend in Zakynthos

Most people visit Zakynthos as part of an island hopping itinerary and therefore wonder how much time to allocate to each island. If that’s your plan, you should take into consideration the time you will use for your transfers between the islands.

Between checking in/out of hotels, going to and from the ports and the actual time used for the journey, you’ll spend the best part of one full day on the road. My suggestion is to plan 3-4 days in Zakynthos to properly enjoy all its beautiful sites. You’ll need two full days just for boating around the Northside and Southside of the island. Conservatively, I’d say you should plan on spending at least 3 full days here.


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