A Complete Guide to Zakynthos—Everything You Need to Know

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A Complete Guide to Zakynthos—Everything You Need to Know

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AngelaliggsZakynthos-6

This guide to Zakynthos is one of my most requested blog post… and for good reason. I wasn’t intending on visiting Zakynthos this year, but I’m so happy that I ended up on this incredible island. While visiting my sister in London, UK, we were looking for somewhere we could fly to for a couple of days for a little adventure. After searching for direct flights for around $200, we stumbled across Zakynthos. I’ve heard the name before and knew it was in Greece but I didn’t know much else. After a quick Google search, to my delight, I was blown away by the natural beauty and knew I wanted to see it with my own eyes. We booked our tickets moments later.

Zakynthos is the third-largest Greek island and is in the Ionian Sea. It’s different than the more popular islands in Greece, like Santorini, or Mykonos, where all you see are white houses, blue roofs, and windmills. Zakynthos has more green in its landscape, is filled with olive trees, and doesn’t feel as busy as the others. I sat next to a local Zakynthian on the plane when arriving to the island and he said Zakynthos is different because you can easily find places on the island where you can have it all to yourself. I loved that and it got me stoked for the next six days.

Table of contents:

Costs of a trip to Zakynthos

No guide to Zakynthos would be complete with a cost breakdown. I was truly blown away at how affordable our trip to Zakynthos was. In full transparency, I worked with our hotel so I didn’t have to pay for that out of pocket, but I’ve included the price if I had paid for it to give you a better idea of what 6 days on the island looks like. There are also much more affordable options for lodging so don’t fret if the all-inclusive isn’t in your budget!

  • Roundtrip flights to and from London – $250CAD
  • Car hire for 6 days – $120CAD
  • Gas – $90CAD
  • Hotel (one double room) & food – $2,400CAD
  • Boat tours – $430CAD
  • Miscellaneous (one round of drinks and lunch outside the hotel) – $65

Total is about $1,800CAD for 6 days per person. That’s only $300 a day! Apart from the flight, I split everything in half with my sister who was with me on the trip.

When to go

I visited in May of 2022 and thought it was the perfect time to visit. It wasn’t too busy (although, the low number of travellers may have been a bit due to Covid), was hot during the day (around 20-30 degrees Celcius) and a bit cooler at night (about 18-23 degrees Celcius), and most of the shops and restaurants were open for the season. After talking to locals, April, May, September, and October are the best months to visit for these reasons. The summer is packed and really hot and the winter can be cold and rainy.

How to get to Zakynthos

You can get to Zakynthos by flying or taking the ferry from another island. I flew direct from London. If you’re coming from North America, I suggest looking into flights to London and then direct flights to Zakynthos from there. You can also ferry over to Zakynthos if you’re on a different island in Greece or the mainland. Resources like Ferry Hopper can help you find ferries.



Where to stay

When I was planning my trip I was debating between booking two accommodations on opposite ends of the island or staying in one place. I ended up staying in one place and I’m so happy that I did (and would do it again) because I ended up going to all directions of the island on different days of my trip. Plus, I loved where I stayed and didn’t even want to leave after the six days I was there.

I stayed in the Castelli Hotel while in Zakynthos and it truly felt like a home away from home. I felt so loved by the staff, including owner Spiros (who I ended up calling Nonno Castelli because he felt like my Greek grandpa who I loved seeing and talking to every day) and his sweet daughter Maria. When you book here, the price also includes all three meals (they prepare delicious buffets so you can choose what you like), unlimited wine until 11 pm, and more. This helps take care of figuring out where to eat every day so you can figure out which beach to go to instead. I am plant-based and don’t eat/drink much dairy and I had no problems eating or finding veggie options. They also use local goods whenever possible, provide farm-to-table dining, and are sustainable. They have luxurious rooms with private pools or a classic double standard that are affordable.

Guide to Zakynthos: Explore by water (via boat)

Experiencing the island’s coastline by boat is truly one of the best ways to see Zakynthos—and was one of my greatest memories from the trip. Personally, I think booking private boat tours (with captains/drivers) is the way to go. They range from €120-€300+ for 4-5 hours and you get to kick back and relax as your captain takes you from spot to spot along the coast. That said, if you’d like to drive yourself, you can also book boats for the day (no boating license required). I did two boat tours on the north and south side.

Northside:

I booked this boat with LuxurE Travel Zakynthos who are well-loved on the island. We had an amazing experience with our captain and I’d definitely book with them again.

  • Shipwreck/Navagio Beach – Don’t go on Navagio beach itself but instead anchor down in Navagio Bay and go for a swim. Even though there were loads of people on the beach and boats in the water if you find your own slice of the bay to swim in it’s worth it to me. The water was so incredibly blue.
  • Blue caves – The impressive caves and limestone walls here were incredible to see and boat through.
  • Hidden Treasure Cave – Just on the other side of Navagio Beach you’ll find this cave. At low tide, you’re able to go in and swim.
  • Mini 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.
Swimming in a cove in Navagio Bay
Swimming to the right of Navagio Beach in the Bay
Swimming in a cove in Navagio Bay

Southside:

I booked this boat with The Big Blue Boat Rental because they were referred to me by my hotel. Our captain was great and we had an incredible day but the boat was slightly less luxurious than LuxurE.

  • Marathonisi, aka “Turtle Island” – We were able to see turtles near this island so definitely ask your captain to try and find some to watch.
  • 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.
  • Mizithres – After seeing these rocks from above (at the viewpoint which I’ll share further down in this post) I was excited to see them from the water. The water was beautiful and the limestone walls were very impressive, but I definitely prefer the view from above than below.
  • Mini beaches – Just like the north boat tour, be sure to stop at as many white-sand beaches, turquoise coves, and white cliff wall spots as possible.
Swimming spot near Keri Caves
Swimming spot near Marathonisi

If you’re a photographer, and you can only do one tour, I recommend exploring the north side by boat. The limestone cliffs are more dramatic and the color of the water seemed to change hues around every corner. I’m still not sure which shade of blue was my favorite but I guess that’s a good problem to have. That said, the north side is notorious for stronger winds than the south which impacts photography a bit so keep that in mind as well.



Guide to Zakynthos: Explore by land (via car)

In my opinion, renting a car is essential for exploring the island. I rented a small car for $120CAD for 6 days. We did a lot of driving and went through about 3/4 of the tank and it was $90CAD to fill up. When renting a car, book a small one. Some roads on the island are quite tight!

Map courtesy of Wanderlog, a trip planner on iOS and Android
  1. Filippoi Beach

You’ll drive away from the hustle and bustle of the quaint cities to get to this beach. My sister and I went on a Sunday and there were a few groups there throughout the four hours we stayed. There’s no sandy beach but we swam, took photos, and laid down on a big rock down by the water. It was pretty windy though (which is not entirely surprising for the north side of Zakynthos) so check the weather before you go.

2. Navagio Beach/Shipwreck Viewpoint

If you search Zakynthos in Google you’ll see photos of this viewpoint scattered across your screen. The island is known for this viewpoint, and for good reason—it’s stunning! I visited both mid-day and at sunset and I enjoyed my time at sunset much more. There was only a handful of people and was a better overall experience than mid-day. Be careful when visiting here as the cliff is no joke and if you trip, it will result in death.

3. Porto Limnionas Beach

I didn’t have the time to make it to this beach but I heard great things and was recommended to me by locals. The water is a beautiful blue and there are caves you can explore. This is a great spot for sunset as well.

Photo cred: Pinterest

4. Korakonissi

It’s a steep drive down the road to get to this spot and about a 10-minute hike down to the pools. I made it down in sandals with no problems but if you’re worried, bring closed-toed shoes. This spot is known for a beautiful arch in the rocks (not pictured), snorkeling, and swimming. I was told that this spot can get very windy, so check the weather before going. When I was there I guess I lucked out because there wasn’t too much wind at all. My sister and I had this spot all to ourselves and it felt like paradise.

5. Plakaki Beach

This was hands down my favorite spot on the island. To get to the parking for this beach, you’ll have to drive down another steep road (which by this point I was finally used to). If you start to walk down the trail and veer right you’ll see an incredible view (first photo below). I didn’t even know this view existed until we got there! It was stunning.

Then, you’ll need to head back on the trail to get down to Plakaki Beach. It took my sister and me about 10-15 minutes to get down to the beach. The trail is a steep rocky staircase that takes a bit of focus so definitely wear close-toed shoes and be prepared for a short hike. Once we got down to the “beach” (and I say beach in quotations because it’s all rocky and there’s no sand), I was blown away by the view. You can access the water by following the poles in the rocks. It’s a little tricky getting in and out of the water so I recommend bringing water shoes of some kind to help.

6. Ionian Sunset Cafe

There are a few places in the southwest of the island that are great to catch the sunset.  Keri Lighthouse (which was closed when I visited), Keri Lighthouse Restuarant, and Ionian Sunset Cafe are great options. We went to Ionian Sunset Cafe and grabbed a fresh orange juice and watched the sunset. You can also see Mizithres from here. Make sure to bring a sweater as it got a bit chilly as the sun went down with the wind (as a reminder it was mid-May when I went).

7. Myzithres Viewpoint

You’ll have to drive up a dirt road for a couple of kms to get here, but my oh my is it worth it! This viewpoint is incredible and is my favorite way to see Mizithres—which are two rocks in the Southwest of the island. Just like the Navagio Beach Viewpoint, this is an incredibly dangerous cliff edge so be careful. I only feel comfortable laying down on cliffs like this, which makes cute photos so it’s a win-win.

Learnings

  • There are several streets/areas on the island that are built for tourists (mostly British tourists) like Laganas Road in Zante. You’ll see seemingly endless signs for cocktails, partying, and nightlife. If you’re not into this (like me), stay away from these areas when finding restaurants or just when you’re walking around.
  • If you’re into photography, make sure to bring a circular polarizer so you can cut the glare off of the water when shooting. It is a game-changer.
  • It gets a little chilly at night so make sure to bring a light jacket to wear when you’re watching the sunset.
  • Don’t drink the tap water on the island. It’s safe to shower in but it doesn’t taste too good and could dehydrate you.
  • Bring loads of water, snacks, and sunscreen when you’re out adventuring—especially if you’re heading to a remote beach for the day—because there are not many shops (if any) to buy food or water at in those areas.
  • Some of the remote beaches are rocky and require a short hike down so it’s recommended to bring closed-toed and/or water shoes.
  • When you’re visiting any of the viewpoints, be careful! Zakynthos has some wild cliffs. I like to lay down and peer over the edge instead of sitting or standing.
  • If you’re looking for a good sunset spot, check out Porto Limnionas, L’ete Sunset Bar, Ionian Sunset Cafe (or the nearby Keri Lighthouse), and Navagio Beach.

6 things I couldn’t travel to Zakynthos without

It wouldn’t be a guide to Zakynthos without a few recommendations of gear that were necessary.

Please follow the Leave No Trace principles when exploring Zakynthos (and anywhere else you may explore). If you’re unfamiliar, they are a set of guidelines that will help minimize our impact on the outdoors. It’s important to pack out what you pack in and never leave any garbage behind, stay on the trails, follow campfire rules, respect wildlife, and more. Let’s be stewards of the land so that it can stay pristine for generations to come. Hope you enjoyed this guide to Zakynthos. Have fun out there!

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