Zakynthos, or Zante as it is also known, is a lush green island. It is also a part of the Eptanese island complex in the Ionian sea. With a coastline of 123 km, it makes an ideal destination for summer lovers.
Zakynthos is a really green island due to the winter rainfalls. This is why the Venetians used to call it “Fioro di Levante” (meaning flower of the Levant), admiring its luxuriant plantation. It is really a blessed place, with a wonderful natural environment, home to some of the Mediterranean’s endangered species, like the loggerhead sea turtle caretta-caretta and the seal monachus-monachus.
Zakynthos, like the neighboring Kefalonia, was affected by the big earthquake of 1953. The result was a lot of heavy damage to the island’s Venetian architecture. Nevertheless, the town was completely rebuilt and many believe that it resembles the Venetian San Marco square.
The tourist development of the last few decades has endowed the island with many amenities and facilities, all of them respecting the natural environment and the history of the island.
How to get to Zakynthos
There are plenty of different ways to reach Zakynthos: by airplane, by ferry, even by bus! (You will eventually need to get on a ferry though…)
Zakynthos has one airport (code ZTH), catering for both domestic and international (mainly chartered) flights. Domestic flights are available from Athens and Thessaloniki.
If you decide to visit Zakynthos by ferry, you need first to reach Killini. Starting from Athens, you can travel by car or by bus to Killini (around 3.5 hours) and then catch the ferry to Zakynthos town (1 hour).
A third option, if you are low on budget or don’t like to drive, is to use the bus from Athens to Zakynthos. The ferry fare is included in the ticket, and there are around 5 different routes daily.
Alykes – A touristic resort on the western coast. As the name in Greek suggests, it is full of salt mines, supplying the entire island. It is well developed, with hotels, rooms to let, restaurants and pubs. Alykes also has a small river, diving in the sea. The beach there is shallow and sandy, ideal for families with small children.
Alykanas – It is actually the extension of Alykes, to the east side of the river crossing Alykes. The two resorts are united by the sandy beach. Alykanas is also well developed, perhaps a bit less crowded than Alykes.
Amoudi – It is located next to Alykanas and is an ideal place for relaxing holidays. Most of the resorts there are located next to the beach, making it a perfect place for peace and quiet during summer.
Argassi – It is a village quite popular among tourists, mainly due to its proximity with Zakynthos town. At the main strip you can find many hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops. A wide sandy beach is also nearby, providing various water sports to guests.
Kalamaki – Less crowded than Laganas, but still bustling with life, Kalamaki caters well for families. Most of the resorts are laid on the main strip. In Kalamaki you can find plenty of tourist activities and a great sandy beach, stretching for many kilometers.
Laganas – A little party never hurt nobody, especially in Laganas. The main street consists entirely of bars and nightclubs, addressing to youngsters. The Laganas beach has also plenty of bars and restaurants. The whole Laganas area is famous for “partying till the next day, and then party again”. Ideal for young people; for families not so much.
Tragaki – A mountainous village, offering mesmerizing landscapes and seascapes towards the Ionian sea. A few accommodation options are available, mainly smaller serviced apartments. When there, visit the Spilia monastery, on top of the hill.
Tsilivi – Ideal resort for families. The recent years it has expanded, having several bars and restaurants. It has a 2 km sandy beach with watersports available.
Vassilikos – It is a quiet village with a handful of accommodation options, mainly apartments and villas. Restaurants and taverns are also available, but do not expect to find big hotel complexes here. Vassilikos gives a more laid back atmosphere & a small village feeling.
Zakynthos Town – The capital city of Zakynthos, laid on the eastern part of the island. Most of the island’s museums can be found there, along with some quite interesting churches. All the commercial activities and cultural life of the locals are in Zakynthos town. The city also offers several hotels for the guests.
Top Attractions in Zakynthos
Navagio – This is the most famous beach in Zakynthos and the island’s landmark. Isolated by high cliffs, it is accessible only by boat. There are plenty of boat tours to this famous destination. Navagio (meaning shipwreck in English) is what the name suggests: The MV Panagiotis sunk on its shore in 1981, and since then it has been a major attraction for tourists. The white pebbles and the crystal clear turquoise water add to this spectacular beach. Personally, I don’t think I’ve seen this color anywhere else in the world – the ultimate must visit when in Zakynthos (but prefer non-peak times). If you are into extreme sports, base jumping from the Navagio cliffs is also available.
Blue Caves – A truly unique seascape of some peculiar geological formations. The rock has been carved out by erosion, forming natural arches. As the name suggests, these caves are famous for the colour of the water in the deepest hollows, a bright azure, not found easily in nature. There are blue caves at three places around the island: At Porto Vromi, at Keri and the most famous ones at Cape Skinari. All the blue caves can be visited by a tour boat.
Venetian Castle – Above Zakynthos town, on the hill of Bohali, is the Venetian castle of the city. The castle was constructed over the ancient acropolis of the island and was completed in 1646 A.D. The Winged Lion of Saint Mark stands above the main entrance. When the British Empire took over the island in 1812, the castle was reconstructed with new additions like barracks. Many churches were also found inside the castle walls. All in all, one of the most important historical sites of the island.
Meet the Caretta–Caretta: This endangered species uses the beach for nesting and a marine reserve has been established in Laganas for its protection. If you want to see them, DO NOT hire a boat as the turtles are easily distressed. Prefer snorkeling or canoeing, which are considered not only friendlier towards the turtles, but a good exercise for yourselves as well!
When to Visit
Same as most of the Eptanese islands, Zakynthos is a really lush island due to the big winter rainfalls. Consequently, winter is not suggested for a visit there. A good season is summer, where you can enjoy all the beaches. But be prepared for large crowds, especially in July and August. Keep in the visit equation spring, from March until May. This can quite a rewarding time: the tourism is still low, the Easter festivities give a great atmosphere and the spring blossoms and green hills turn the whole island to nature’s celebration.