Zakynthos Greece is the crown jewel of the Ionian Islands. Known for one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, Navagio or Shipwreck Beach, is a popular European destination for those seeking spectacular scenery and relaxation at an affordable price. Here you will find sunny weather, warm people, and great food. If nightlife is your thing, you will find it too. But if you desire to escape it all, just drive around to a secluded beach, a little cafe on the cliff, or beautiful vistas framed with flowers. Read on to learn how to visit Zakynthos and how to discover its beauty and spirit.
ZAKYNTHOS GREECE – HOW TO VISIT
When my sister and her friend decided to take their young grandsons for a week trip from Poland to Zakynthos Greece, I knew I had to join them. For me it was a jump over the ocean from the USA, but that was an opportunity I was waiting for. I was drawn by stunning images of Navagio Beach, also called the Shipwreck Beach, recognized as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. The trip turned out to be more than I expected and boys also loved it!
Planning a Visit to Zakynthos Greece
When to Visit Zakynthos
In my opinion, the best time to visit is at the end of June. It is already warm, comfortable for swimming, and spring flowers are blooming. July and August are hot and crowded, but there are plenty of opportunities to escape the heat and crowds. Just take a cooling dip at one of many secluded beaches. With pleasant temperatures, September and October are also good times to visit. Learn more about Zakynthos weather and seasons.
How to get to Zakynthos
Flying is the best way to get to Zakynthos, but there are no direct flights from the USA. I flew with my American Airlines miles. That was a really good deal since it Included a stopover in Barcelona on my way there (learn how to visit Barcelona in 12 hours) and Vienna on my way back. Look for good deals to get to Athens and from there you can fly with Aegean Airlines or Olympic Air for around $140 round trip. In summer, Zakynthos receives charters and low cost flights from many European airports.
If you are interested in traveling with points and miles learn Basics of Travel Hacking.
You can also get to Zakynthos from Athens by bus with KTEL bus company. The trip takes about 5 hours. I used this service to visit Athens and found it inexpensive and comfortable. Definitely the way to meet the locals. Make sure to buy a ferry ticket Killini-Zakynthos, which is not included in a bus ticket. I did not know that I needed one and almost missed the ferry when frantically looking for a place to buy it. The whole trip at that time could only be purchased in person and with cash, so be prepared.
Getting around in Zakynthos Greece
The best way to get around Zakynthos is by car, but it is not to say that driving is easy there. Roads are narrow and winding and road signs are mostly in Greek. Even with GPS, you will get lost, but it is not a bad thing. Anyway you go, you will find something to admire, and eventually you will find your way back. No reason to rush in Zakynthos. It is place to relax and enjoy every turn.
Renting a car in Zakynthos
Many major international rental agencies are represented at the airport. Cars with an automatic transmission are not widely available so reserve well in advance. Be prepared for gas prices if you are coming from the USA. The first time I bought gas, I thought I was robbed.
What to See and Do in Zakynthos Greece
Navagio, or Shipwreck Beach, is Zakynthos’ most famous attraction and should not be missed. Start with the view from the top, accessible from a small overhanging platform. Expect to wait your turn to access it. To see more, you can venture out along the cliffs. If you are traveling with children, do not let them run in front of you. There are not barriers to stop them! The walk is spectacular, but taking pictures of the beach is challenging if you are afraid of heights. I was flat on my belly doing it.
The only way to visit the beach is from the water. Many tours are available. You can book some online, but most are available on walk-in bases, paid in cash and sometimes negotiable. Your time on the beach will be limited, but you will have time for swimming. Navagio is not a sandy beach, even though it looks like one from the top. It actually consists of a tiny yellowish rocks. (The Story of the Shipwreck)
Keri Caves and Blue Caves
Kari Caves and Blue Caves are also great boat destinations. When taking these excursion, do not expect the boat owners to entertain you. Many of them do not speak English. The price is right, the scenery is gorgeous – you will love it anyway. If you want a better service, you can pay more for a bigger boat, but the bigger ones will not be able to access smaller caves.
Zakynthos by car
Do not forget to explore the land! Just drive around with no destination. With its 76 miles of diverse coastline, Zakynthos has a beach for everyone. You will discover beautiful mountain views, charming villages, shops and restaurants. Every turn delivers – a charming little house, a craft stand, an old church, or a goat crossing the road. Stop at the local tavern, talk to strangers, have a shot of ouzo. This is what you will bring home with you, a mosaic of views, sounds, smells, and tastes of the island – your memories of Zakynthos.
Hotels in Zakynthos
There are many inexpensive hotels to choose from. My first night on the island, I spent at Varres Hotel. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good value. It is located in a peaceful setting surrounded by olive gardens, close to the town of Zakynthos. It is a modern hotel with a large pool and nice views. Good breakfast is included.
My second lodging was Armonia Studios. Away from it all, it offers views of the sea, a short walk to the beach, nice garden-like restaurant, and a fenced-in playground. You can rent a studio or a two-bedroom apartment for under $100 per night. The owner spoke very good English, but the whole experience was as Greek as it could be. I loved it!
My final accommodation would appeal to families with small children and travelers looking for peaceful unique places. At Logothetis Organic Farm, you will be introduced to a farm vacation at its best. A charming two-bedroom house costs under $100 night. As a welcome gift, we received a basket full of organic produce! The boys loved the place.
Restaurants in Zakynthos
This is what I love about Zakynthos, you can find places to eat almost everywhere. You may think you are lost, but soon you will stumble upon some great restaurant in the middle of nowhere but with the views to die for. Of course many restaurants are right on the water and specialize with “catch of the day”.
What kind of food can you expect in Zakynthos? Greek! I like that. When visiting another country, I am looking for its traditional cuisine. Along with local food, you might find a Greek version of pizza or hamburgers, but that is about it. I spotted one McDonald’s on the island and I felt it did not belong.
Many restaurants provide live music at night. In less touristy areas, those performances seem to be truly Greek aiming mostly to please local people, not the tourists.
Nightlife in Zakynthos
For visitors looking for entertainment, the suitable areas are in the southern part of the island Argasi, Tsilivi, Laganas, Alykes and Kalamaki. These are tourist centers and during the summer they are full of crowds. The entertainment is ongoing; the party begins early in the evening and continues till sunrise.
Using Credit Cards in Zakynthos
In the USA, I use credit cards extensively to collect points and miles for free travel, but it was not the case in Zakynthos. They are accepted in most of the hotels, but when dining out I had to look for places that take them. Boat tours required cash too. Remember, when visiting Zakynthos, have a decent amount of Euros!