Zakynthos Island, or Zante, is one of the more diverse islands I’ve visited in Greece. The southern tip near Vasilikos features sandy stretches of beach and local restaurants amidst groves of trees. The main port (‘Port of Zakynthos’), where most everyone arrives by boat or plane, is busy and dense with shops and restaurants packed in along the coast. Inland around Volimes you’ll find sprawling olive groves and winding roads, with the occasional sleepy, traditional Greek town. And in the north around Agios Nikolaos, a slower pace and the sense of being ‘off the beaten path’, with quiet coves and tavernas a short detour off the main road. We opted to stay in the north.
While most know Zakynthos, Greece for the famous Navagio Beach (also known as ‘Shipwreck Beach’), I was more drawn to the quiet swimming coves and small beaches that dot the coastline. Most beaches here are best seen by boat, unlike other Greek Islands. My biggest recommendation for this beautiful island is to spend at least one day on the water. The beaches only reachable by boat are what make for memorable swims with no one around, with your own private views of limestone cliffs and crystal clear water. So pack a Greek lunch, grab your hat, and let’s dive in!
BEST TIME TO VISIT – MAY THROUGH OCTOBER, LESS WIND & WARMER WATER LATER IN THE SUMMER
WEATHER – MILD, RAINY WINTERS & WARM, SUNNY SUMMERS
GETTING AROUND – MOTORCYCLE, ATV OR RENTAL CAR
CURRENCY – EUROS, MOST PLACES TAKE CREDIT CARDS
LANGUAGES – GREEK, MOST PEOPLE SPEAK ENGLISH
NEARBY AIRPORT – ZAKYNTHOS AIRPORT ‘DIONYSIOS SOLOMOS’ (ZTH)
Where to Stay in Zakynthos
As the north shore is centered around the quieter fishing village of Agios Nikolaos and not far from some of the island’s most notable spots, we opted to stay at Nobelos Seaside Lodge.
Hotels in Zakynthos
Lithies Farm Houses – $ – for a charming stay that’s affordable and unique, consider this family-run farm stay on the southern tip near Vasilikos.
The Bay Hotel & Suites – $$ – for direct beachfront access and umbrellas, this modern hotel on the southern shore is nearby plenty of food options and activities.
Nobelos Seaside Lodge – $$$ – with a private beach, views overlooking the water and arguably the best homemade Greek food on the island, Nobelos is a clear winner. They’re limited to only four rooms, so book early. Where I stayed & where I’d stay next time.
Aliv Stone Suites & Spa – $$$ – a collection of stone suites with private hot tubs and pools makes up this retreat in the northern hills of Zakynthos. The views are incredible.
Akron Luxury Suites – $$$ – traditional meets modern in these immaculate suites perched in the northern shore of the island. Each has a private pool and views of the ocean.
The Peligoni Club – $$$$ – nearby Nobelos, this gorgeous series of family-run villas is perched on the water and caters to couples and families alike. Where I’d splurge.
Houses in Zakynthos
Fexulis Studios – $$ – simple yet beautiful studios with a kitchenette and terrace located steps from the beach in one of the most desirable spots on Zakynthos.
Oceanis Suites – $$ – beachfront apartments with a private pool and uninterrupted views of the Ionian sea.
Villa Verde – $$$ – a modern three-bedroom villa situated amongst olive trees, with a private pool and bbq set up.
Orfos Villa – $$$ – a choice of a two or three-bedroom traditional stone villa on the north shore of Zakynthos, complete with a private pool and bbq. This location is ideal.
Tramonto Villa – $$$ – a traditional stone house with a pool in a small town near Shipwreck Beach. Sleeps 8 people.
Villa Harmonia – $$$$ – a luxurious waterfront property with a pool, complete with traditional stone walls and in the middle of Agios Nikolaos in the north.
Vais Luxury Villas – $$$$ – these four immaculate villas are perfectly situated before Agios Nikolaos in the north, with private pools and accommodation for two or four people.
Where to Eat in Zakynthos
Nobelos Bio Restaurant – hands down our favorite spot on the island for dinner by the sea. The shrimp saganaki is to die for!
Cave Damianos – a great dinner spot with picturesque nooks and views of the mountains.
To Diafokereiko – this traditional family-run restaurant has delicious homemade food and has been in business since the 1600’s.
L’ete Sunset Bar – a newly-opened, trendy restaurant with stunning 360 degree views of the water and tasty cocktails.
To Petrino – for a casual night out, this unassuming and affordable Greek taverna hits the spot.
Bassia Restaurant – this beautiful and highly-rated restaurant was recommended to us for a date night, but we unfortunately didn’t make it this time.
Keri Lighthouse Restaurant – go for the incredible view of Mizithres, not the food.
What to Do in Zakynthos
Rent a boat – if there’s only one activity you do on Zakynthos, make it going on a boat. The island shines most for its undiscovered coves and beaches, and off-the-beaten path swimming spots. We hired from Keri Beach to see the south shore and from Agios Nikolaos to explore the north shore (no boat license required). I much preferred the south shore departing from Keri Beach. The limestone cliffs and Keri Caves made for jaw-dropping backdrops. Plus, we spotted turtles and dolphins on the way to Mizithres, and it was less crowded and windy compared to the north side.
Stop for local products – a favorite stop was the ‘Fresh Orange Juice Bar’, a tiny stand for orange juice on the cliffside. We also pulled over to buy local honey, olive oil, and sundried tomatoes from farm stands around the island.
Explore little towns – the small towns of Keri and Volimes come to mind first. Keri is en route to Mizithres and worth a stop for lunch and exploring. Volimes shows up in a few recommended guides and is located near Shipwreck beach, but it’s not exactly lively. An earthquake in 1953 has rendered many buildings unusable and collapsed, which makes for interesting photos but a somewhat depressed feel.
Visit Navagio ‘Shipwreck’ Beach – both from the viewpoint above and by boat. Expect crowds here unless you’re willing to plan an early morning (think 8am or before) or late evening visit. As of 2020 the path to more uninterrupted views is closed due to it being a dangerous spot, as a few have fallen over the side. Venturing off on your own isn’t worth it; you’re likely to be yelled at by the local guards, who also track your license plate and will ticket you.
Watch the sunset – a few great spots to catch the sunset are Porto Limnionas, L’ete Sunset Bar, Keri Lighthouse, and Navagio Beach. You will get the best view of the sun over the water from the west side of Zakynthos island.
Beaches to visit in Zakynthos
Xigia Sulfur Beach
The natural sulfur at this small beach makes for beautiful photos as the water takes on a milky turquoise hue. Go early, it fills up.
Food options nearby: yes, there’s one a short walk up from the beach and within a short drive away.
Easily the most famous beach on Zakynthos is Navagio. The best viewpoint is from above. As of 2021, there’s now a railed off platform for viewing. It’s crowded throughout the day and due to the sun’s path, you may not see it in full sun until after 11am. By boat your best chance of avoiding people is extra early (think 8am). You’re better off seeking out nearby beaches if you want a spot to yourself.
Food options nearby: no, but there are drinks for sale at the viewpoint.
This stunning beach evolved from a landslide a couple years back that connected it to a large nearby rock. Perhaps one of my favorite spots on the island as it’s so unique. Note it’s only accessible by boat.
Food options nearby: no, but if you only want a view of the beach then head to Keri Lighthouse Restaurant.
Not so much a beach as a swimming hole, this spot is best visited earlier in the day when the water is calm. There are cliff diving spots, but use caution as they are not marked.
Food options nearby: one restaurant next to the beach (closed during our visit).
A local’s favorite, this beach has it all: crystal clear blue water, places to sun, cliff diving, a lively restaurant with views, and parking. Great to combine when visiting Korakonissi (above).
Food options nearby: Porto Limnionas tavern overlooks this beach.
Towering cliffs surround this turquoise cove, with plenty of rocks to sun on. However, t’s not for the faint of heart! The drive down is steep, with one winding road that barely fits two cars. Best visited by boat if you’re not up for the task.
Food options nearby: no.
St. Nicholas Beach
A sandy beach at the very southern part of the island with sunbeds. Family-friendly, and there’s an option for water sports nearby.
Food options nearby: yes, there’s a bar on the beach.
Not marked as this is the stone beach in front of Nobelos Restaurant. If you’re visiting for lunch or dinner, you can grab a sunbed here and easily spend the afternoon with a drink.
Food options nearby: Nobelos Restaurant.
My top 3 favorite Zakynthos photo spots