Zakynthos Greece (also known as Zante Island) is a small, stunning island that bobs in the Ionian Sea of western Greece. With amazing accommodation options, fantastic restaurants, welcoming locals, and some of the best beaches in Greece, it’s no surprise why this island is one of the fastest-growing tourist destinations in the country.
After travelling around Greece for nearly 3 months in total, we still consider Zakynthos one of our favourite islands to visit. Even though the south of the island is dominated by mostly mundane resort beach towns offering the typical inclusive holiday packages, the north and center of Zakynthos is still an exciting place to explore.
The craggy, cliff-strewn coastlines that surround Zakynthos bless it with some breathtaking white sand beaches tucked in secluded coves and sheltered by dramatic skyscraper cliffs. If you’re looking for a beach holiday, this is one of your best options in Greece, but don’t be fooled into thinking that’s all Zante has to offer.
In this guide to Zakynthos Greece, I’m going to break down everything you need to know about travelling to this fascinating Greek island.
Table of Contents
About Zakynthos Greece
Zakynthos Greece is also known as “Zante” and “the Flower of the Levant”. Located in the Ionian sea about 250 kilometres west of the Capital of Athens, it is perhaps most famous for Navagio Beach, a breathtaking cove surrounded by dramatic 200-meter high cliffs.
Today there are around 40,000 people living on the island, but during the high tourist season, as many as 2.9 million tourists descend on Zante and the other Ionian islands.
The capital is Zante town, a charming seaside city with many restaurants, bars and historical sites. When we visited, Zante was a quiet place to be, but I’m sure that in the high season this port city would be bustling.
See Also: The Ultimate Guide To Greek Travel
Where is Zakynthos?
Zakynthos is located in the southernmost part of the main Ionian island chain around 20 kilometres west of the Greek mainland and 249 kilometres from Athens. The island of Kefalonia is 50 kilometres north of Zakynthos. There are also a few small islets around Zakynthos including Marathonisi and Kalonisi to the south.
How Big is Zakynthos?
The island of Zakynthos Greece is around 40 kilometres (25 miles) long and 20 kilometres (12 miles) in width. The total area of the island is just over 400 kilometres² and its highest point is atop Vrachionas Mountain at a total elevation of 758 meters.
Zakynthos boasts about 123 kilometres (76 miles) of stunning coastline, but not all of it is stunning white sand like that found on Shipwreck Beach (Navaggio). Much of the coast is craggy cliffs and dramatic rock formations.
The total population of Zakynthos is 40,759, but as I mentioned earlier, this number is much higher during the peak tourism season when tourists outnumber the locals 10 to 1.
The Best Time to Go To Zakynthos Greece
You can pretty much visit Zante at any time of the year, but our favourite time to visit is in the Spring (March to May) or Fall (September to November) when it’s not too hot and there are fewer tourists. The prices of accommodation are also much lower at this time with savings of up to 50% in our experience.
If you don’t mind being around crowds, then the Summer (June to August) is also a great time to visit. If you get too hot, you can always head to one of the many beaches to cool down.
We last visited Zakynthos in the Spring and it was beautiful. The days were hot, but the evenings tended to cool down enough that we were comfortable while sleeping and the sea was still warm enough for a (chilly) swim.
Easter, Christmas and July & August are the absolute peak visitor times for Zakynthos and during those times the prices can skyrocket.
Winter (November to March) is an okay time to visit as well, but don’t expect to go swimming as the sea temperature can dip to 12°C (54°F) in January and February. You may also find that many restaurants and hotels are closed at this time.
Getting There & Away
Zakynthos Greece is a relatively easy island to get to thanks to its close proximity to mainland Greece. You have a few options for getting to Zante and leaving the island when your vacation is finished.
The ferry from mainland Greece (Kyllini, Peloponnese) has scheduled departures seven times per day starting at 5:30 in the morning and the last sail is at 22:30. The journey takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes and the price varies based on season but it’ll usually cost you around €47 – €56 per person each way.
To get to Zakynthos quickly, you’ll likely want to fly, either from Athens with Olympic or Aegean airlines, or sometimes you can find direct flights from major European cities like London, Amsterdam, Prague, Edinburgh and Rome. These direct international flights usually only connect Zante to the rest of Europe during the summer months.
Check Ryan Air, Volotea, British Airways, Jet2, Ellinair and other budget airlines for direct flights to Zante in June through September.
A lot of people choose to rent a car in Athens and drive over to the Ionian Islands. If you want to do this then you’ll have to pay the car fee on the ferry to bring it to Zakynthos.
When we were on Zakynthos Island, we rented a car and it’s a great way to get around, so whether you want to rent it in Athens and drive all the way to Kyllini to catch the ferry, or fly to Zakynthos and rent it there, it’s worth having a car.
Where To Stay
There are many different areas to stay on Zakynthos Island with the most popular beach destinations clustered together on the south and eastern coasts of the island. Here are the best places to stay in Zakynthos.
The capital city of Zakynthos is a great little town right on the sea. This is the largest city on the island, but in our opinion, it’s not the best place to stay. There are plenty of tourist hotels and restaurants here, but it’s not on the nicest beach and it’s more of a bustling port city than a tourist attraction.
Read More: A Complete Travel Guide To Zante Town
Most people who visit Zante will stay in Laganas. This is the main tourist center famous for parties and popular with young tourists and European students on short vacations. There are lots of great accommodation options here including cheap apartments, nice resorts and cool boutique hotels.
Read More: A Complete Travel Guide To Laganas Beach
Just 2 kilometres west of busy Laganas is the more laid back Agios Sostis. This is a walkable distance from Laganas, so it often gets busy with day trippers, particularly those who come for the picturesque Cameo Island which is linked to the mainland by a lovely little bridge (you’ve probably seen the photos), as well as nearby Turtle Island.
Tsilivi & Planos
Tsilivi and Planos are another one of the most popular beach destinations in Zante. The family-friendly, calm, shallow, 2 kilometre long “Blue Flag” beach of Tsilivi is one of the most beautiful and safest to swim in. There are many accommodation options in both towns and great restaurants along the sea here as well.
Read More: A Complete Travel Guide To Tsilivi & Planos
Psarou & Ammoudi
Sandwiched between the more popular towns of Tsilivi to the south and Alykes to the north, Psarou is where we stayed when we last visited Zante Island. I have to say that it’s definitely not one of the main tourist hot spots in Zakynthos, Greece. Nevertheless, we loved it there! We stayed in a lovely little modern apartment and paid only $22 / night (thanks to shoulder season discounts).
If you’re going to stay in Psarou, I’d definitely recommend having a car because it doesn’t have as many restaurants and entertainment options as some of the other, more touristy cities in Zante.
Read More: A Complete Travel Guide To Psarou
Partway down the Vasilikos peninsula before you reach the beaches of Banana Beach and Porto Azzuro you’ll find Argassi. Set conveniently between some of the best beaches on the island and the buzzing capital, this town has great hotel and apartment options, amazing Greek restaurants and decent public transport links thanks to its proximity to Zante Town.
The town on the peninsula of the same name that stretches out of the southeastern part of the island a few kilometres south of the capital, Vasilikos is a relatively untrodden part of Zante Island. This is where you’ll find some spectacular beaches like St.Nicholas, Banana Beach and Porto Azzuro. There’s decent accommodation options down here and some great restaurants.
A little east of busy Laganas and a little west of Zante Town, Kalamaki is the goldilocks beach town of the south in this respect. Thanks to the nesting turtles, there are no hotels right on the sand and there are no watersports, which give the sandy beach here a nice, relaxing atmosphere. Kalamaki is a great place for couples and families.
There is a Keri Village on the west of the island and Keri Beach town on the southeast, which are about a 10-minute drive apart and both offer great accommodation options. Keri beach has a few nice resorts and hotels near the sand, while Keri Village has dramatic views over the cliffs out towards the Ionian Sea as well as the picturesque lighthouse.
Read More: A Travel Guide To Keri Beach & Keri Town
If the smell of sulphur on the beach doesn’t bother you too much, Alykes is a beautiful beach in a secluded cove complete with a free natural spa treatment. Geothermically heated mud pours into the beach in between a couple of rocks giving the water a cloudy glow and your skin a nice treatment. This is a traditional Ionian seaside village and is much quieter than some of the more developed beach towns in Zante.
Read More: Travel Guide To Alykes Beach
As you pass Alykes and continue north, you start to see less and less development and more mountains and craggy cliffs, that is until you reach the tiny port town of Agios Nikolaos (not to be mistaken for the beach of the same name on the south end of the island). This once scruffy fishing village is quickly being reinvented as a charming little tourist town. If you plan to go to Kefalonia by ferry, you’ll come here to catch it, but it wouldn’t be a mistake to linger here for a while.
Things To Do
There are so many things to do in Zakynthos that we actually have a post dedicated to it. But for the sake of this travel guide, I’ll list a few of our favourite things to do there.
Of course, you can’t go to Zakynthos without experiencing the astonishingly beautiful Navagio Beach (Shipwreck Cove). There are two ways to see the beach, one is from the cliffs above the beach looking down for that iconic photo, and the other is to take a boat to see it (the only way to actually get to the sand).
This is without a doubt one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Greece and is worth a visit for sure. If you’re checking it out from the cliffs, be sure to stay within the blocked off area as many tourists have fallen to their deaths from these dangerous heights.
Rent a Boat
This was one of our favourite things that we did in all of Greece and maybe in all of our travels. Renting a boat in Zante is relatively affordable and easy to do. You can either rent by yourself, or hire a boat with a captain.
For a luxurious guided experience you can contact Luxury Island Events, or to save some money you can just pick one of the many companies that line the beaches and hire a boat for the day that you drive yourself. Click here to learn about some of the companies.
The cost will be around €100 for the day plus gas. Well worth being able to explore the hidden coves of Zante island.
The reefs around Zakynthos are healthy and are home to the peculiar Loggerhead Sea Turtle. These beautiful sea creatures can be found in the Zakynthos Marine Park where they often come ashore to lay their eggs in the evenings.
If you want to better your chances of spotting a Loggerhead, then I recommend joining a tour into the marine park, and in particular, visiting Turtle Island. Trips start at around $30 per person and can be booked at the nearby ports or on GetYourGuide. Just be sure to choose a company with good reviews, and is eco-minded.
Check out our post all about how you can sustainably and responsibly swim with Loggerhead turtles in Zakynthos.
See Also: 61 Things To Do In Greece
The beaches in Zante are so breathtaking that you may actually find it difficult to peel yourself away from the sand and explore the rest of the island. Not all beaches here are created equal! Here are a few of the best beaches on Zakynthos.
Make sure you also check out our post that lists the Top 15 Beaches in Zakynthos You Won’t Want To Miss.
Shipwreck Cove (Navagio Beach)
I know we’ve already included this in this post as a thing to do, but it is easily the most picturesque beaches in Greece and probably one of the most stunning stretches of sand in the world.
The water sparkles with impossible azure colour and the sand is perfectly white. You may have to plan two days on your itinerary for Navagio Beach so that you can see it from the cliffs and actually go for a swim in the water as well as part of a day trip by boat.
This chilled-out little beach was definitely one of our favourites on the island of Zakynthos. The stretch of powdery golden sand was also home to our favourite beach bar in Zakynthos, Porto Paradiso. The view from the restaurant out to the perfectly blue water of the Ionian Sea is breathtaking (and the food and cocktails are excellent as well).
Read More: Alykes Beach Travel Guide
Another incredibly scenic beach on Zakynthos Island, this quiet and secluded cove is sheltered on three sides by enormous cliffs. The water is stunning and there’s even a sulphur hot spring here (which explains the strange smell).
Don’t miss our complete guide to visiting Xigia Beach
Pronounced (Yer-ak-as), this long, beautiful stretch of sand in the far southeastern end of the island is the perfect place to relax for the afternoon. The sand here is a reddish colour and so are the surrounding cliffs, but the water is crystal clear and it’s relatively quiet here.
Read More: A Guide To Visiting Gerakas Beach
Greece is one of the best countries in the world for cuisine, so it’s no surprise that pretty much every island in this archipelagic nation has some amazing restaurants, and Zante is no different. Here are a few of our favourites.
Porto Paradiso (Alykes Beach)
This little place is set right on the sand and just has a funky vibe to it. Alykes Beach is one of our favourite beaches anyway, but having this beautiful little beach bar there really kept us coming back.
The service is excellent and the appetizers are particularly delicious. Don’t miss the dolmades and the fish fillet. Also, if you order food here, you get use of the beach lounge chairs for free.
The food here is absolutely delicious, but what makes this restaurant one of our favourites is the spectacular view of Zakynthos’ rugged interior. Most of the tables line the railing on the deck so you have a full panoramic view of the island.
Beers are around €2.50 and appetizers are just €4 each so this is a place that’s good for any budget. Usually, at a place with a location like this, you’d have to pay extra for food, but Lofos keeps their prices very fair. Plus, the owners are very friendly.
Check out our full review of Lofos and don’t miss this restaurant.
This little restaurant is set on the cliffs over Limnionas Bay and is well worth a visit, if not just for the spectacular view. The sunbeds aren’t free here (€4 even if you buy food), but the restaurant is surprisingly reasonably priced given its location.
The food isn’t fantastic here, but its the only place to eat around Limnionas so give it a try if you’re here around mealtime.
Read More: A Guide To Visiting Porto Limnionas
Located in Tsilivi, this Greek restaurant serves up tasty, homely food such as chicken souvlaki with roasted potatoes, pita bread and salad, or piping hot stew. Wash it all down with a carafe of the house wine and you’re all set.
The Nightlife in Zakynthos Greece
If you want to enjoy the best of the nightlife in Zakynthos then you’re going to want to stay in Laganas. This is where most of the late-night bars and clubs are located. Don’t expect as crazy parties as those found in Rhodes or Crete, but the nightlife in Laganas isn’t bad.
Check out bars like Rescue Club, Zeros Club and Pure Zante for some late night parties and also check for advertisements around town that list upcoming events.
Our Experience Travelling in Zakynthos Greece
When we visited Zakynthos we were actually really surprised by how much we loved it. Before we started planning the trip we hadn’t even heard of this tiny island in the Ionian Sea, but after leaving it, it is now one of our favourites in all of Greece.
The one issue we had with Zante was the garbage problem. It may be getting better now, but when we were there the island had piles of garbage on every corner and when we asked locals what was going on, they told us that it’s a relatively new problem but the government was working on fixing it.
But the garbage didn’t deter us from exploring the island and really falling in love with it. We felt safe, welcomed and secure and getting around by car was easy.
We will definitely be returning to Zakynthos one day soon. Read more about our last experience travelling Zakynthos Greece here.
Zakynthos is a stunning island to visit with fantastic beaches, a dramatic coastline and plenty of things to do. You can get cheap apartments on Booking.com and Airbnb, particularly in the shoulder and off-season and getting around is easy when you have a rental car (highly recommended).
Getting to and from the island is easy as well thanks to decent international direct flight connections and plenty of public transport options from Athens and other places on the mainland.
In short, Zakynthos is one of the best islands in Greece and we can’t wait to go back and explore it some more.
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