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Zakynthos island, the captivating ‘flower of the Levant’, entices travellers with its breathtaking natural landscapes, stunning crystal-clear turquoise waters, enchanting sea caves, delectable cuisine, and vibrant cultural experiences.

The famous Blue Caves of Zakynthos

Beyond the renowned Navagio beach and the lively atmosphere of Laganas Bay, Zakynthos has an abundance of experiences waiting to be explored by the discerning traveller. Read on to discover the hidden treasures of this captivating island.

The Sandy Beaches and Mythical Caves of Zakynthos Island

Cameo Island

Zakynthos boasts a stunning coastline adorned with some of the most breathtaking beaches in Greece. Navagio (Shipwreck) Beach, with its iconic shipwreck framed by towering cliffs, is a location of incredible beauty that is famous worldwide. Sadly, it is now closed to the public due to the risk of landslides from the surrounding cliffs.

Navagio “Shipwreck” Beach 2024 Update

Navagio (Shipwreck) Beach closed in September 2022 because a 5.4-magnitude earthquake made large rocks from the cliffs fall into the bay, endangering visitors and swimmers. The MV Panagiotis wreck, which ran aground in October 1980 and the beach formed around it, has been badly damaged by the landslides and might disappear completely.

Navagio, before the earthquake

My experience at Navagio (Shipwreck) Beach

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to swim at the beach before the landslides occurred. However, I must admit that the tall cliffs made me feel somewhat claustrophobic. It wasn’t the most relaxing swim, unlike my experience of swimming at the Keri Caves.

Additionally, I found it quite uncomfortable because there was no shade anywhere, and I am very fair and prone to sunburn. Despite this, being next to the shipwreck was a truly unique experience. I hope the beach is restored soon!

See also: Adventure Awaits: The Best Greek Island Hopping Guide

The Best Places to Go Swimming in Zakynthos

Zakynthos Island offers many pristine beaches and secluded coves, perfect for a refreshing dip, such as Porto Limnionas, Marathonissi and Gerakas Beach, where visitors can relax, swim, and soak up the Mediterranean sun.

Porto Limnionas is a bit more secluded and not as easy to access by land, but it’s worth the effort. Marathonissi is beautiful, but it’s important to remember that it’s also a nesting site for the Caretta-Caretta sea turtles.

While swimming at Marathonissi is allowed and doesn’t harm the turtles’ nests, it’s not permitted to set up a sun umbrella in the sand or bring a dog, as they could potentially damage the nests. Apart from these restrictions, it’s a great spot to take a quick swim and enjoy a snack from the floating beach bars.

Floating beach bars at Marathonnisi beach

Beyond its beautiful beaches, Zakynthos is home to several natural wonders. Among them, are the mesmerizing Blue Caves, located in the island’s northern part, a network of sea caves adorned with stunning blue hues. For a truly unforgettable experience, take a boat tour and witness the magical interplay of light and water.

Swimming at Keri caves

Swimming in the incredibly pristine turquoise waters of the Keri caves is an amazing experience that you can’t miss! The stunningly clear, turquoise waters of the Keri caves make for an unforgettable experience.

Located on the southwest side of the island, you can reach this natural wonder by private boat or on a mini-cruise with Marathonissi and Cameo Island. This has been my favourite swimming experience in Zakynthos, and I highly recommend it.

Go Turtle-Spotting

A Careta-Careta sea turtle swimming in the azure waters of Zakynthos.
A Careta-Careta sea turtle swimming in the azure waters of Zakynthos.

For nature enthusiasts, a visit to the Caretta-Caretta Marine Park is a must. This protected area is vital for preserving the endangered loggerhead sea turtles, allowing visitors to observe these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

As there is a limit to visitor numbers, the best way to get to know these incredible creatures is to go turtle-spotting on a boat tour with professional guides.

Important! Sea turtles, an endangered species, are shy, so it’s important not to scare them. Authorities advise avoiding making noises, shouting, and swimming near the turtles.

Cultural Gems of Zakynthos Hora

The church of Zakynthos’ patron saint, Aghios Dionysios, in Zakynthos Chora.

Zakynthos is steeped in history and culture, with charming villages that reflect its traditional character. The capital city, Zakynthos Hora, welcomes visitors with its charming streets, neoclassical buildings, and vibrant squares.

Explore Solomos Square, dedicated to the island’s national poet, Dionysios Solomos, or wander through the narrow alleys of Bohali, enjoying panoramic views of the city and the sea. Why not try your hand at a traditional pottery class while in Hora?

The golden paintings inside Aghios Dionysios church, Zakynthos Chora.

The church of Aghios Dionysios, the island’s patron saint, is also worth a visit. The impressive golden paintings inside the church are a sight to behold! Just keep in mind to dress modestly and cover your knees and shoulders before entering.

The Solomos monument, Greece’s national poet, on Strani hill

Strani Hill, located on the outskirts of Zakynthos’ capital, features a monument to Greece’s national poet, Dionisios Solomos. This hill is known as the place where the poet could see and hear the cannon fire during the siege of Mesolonghi in 1821, which was part of the Greek War of Independence. Legend has it that this experience inspired him to write the poem “Ode to Liberty,” which later became Greece’s national anthem after the country gained independence.

Experience traditional Village Life in Volimes

Volimes village

If you want to immerse yourself in the traditional life of olden times, visit the island’s northern side. Most of the villages there are still untouched by mass tourism. Volimes, the biggest, is known for its traditional arts and crafts, as well as local products such as cheese, honey, olive oil, carpets, and textiles.

Don’t miss also the opportunity to visit the Monastery of St. George Kremnon. Perched on a hilltop, it offers spectacular vistas and a glimpse into Zakynthos’ religious heritage.

Watch the Best Sunset Spots of Zakynthos in Cape Kampi

Kampi or Schiza is a cape on the northwestern side of the island with an impressive view of the Ionian Sea, as is also the Faros (lighthouse) in Keri. As you approach the cape and the café there, you will also see a huge, concrete cross on the hill. It is a memorial to the fallen of the Greek Civil War.

The best time to visit is of course at sunset, when the sun dips into the blue waters of the Ionian Sea, offering a unique spectacle. Taverna “Stavros” (cross) has the best views of the cape and the sea and offers great food and service. You must try the loukoumades (fried dough balls) with honey!

The Delicious Cuisine of Zakynthos Island

Indulge in the island’s delectable cuisine, where traditional Greek flavours blend with Mediterranean influences. Perhaps the most iconic dish of Zakynthos is the rabbit stew with wine. You should also try the beef stew with pasta and lamb with orzo.

“Melitzanes skordostoumpi”, aubergines fried with garlic and tomato

Typical Greek dishes such as moussaka, souvlaki, stuffed aubergines “papoutsakia,” and the Greek version of a burger, called “mpifteki,” are also popular on the island. Vegetarian options include aubergines “imam”, Greek ratatouille or “mpriam”, and “gemista” – rice-stuffed tomatoes and peppers. Joining a cooking class with a local cook is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the local culture and traditions.

Zakynthos is also a major producer of cheese, with the most typical varieties being “tyrokafteri,” a spreadable, spicy, cream cheese often enjoyed as an appetizer, and “ladotyri,” a peppery hard cheese eaten on its own or used in various dishes.

Nothing embodies the essence of a Greek summer quite like savouring a delightful lunch at a seaside tavern.

For dessert, the iconic mantolato is popular in all the Ionian islands, or Eptanisa, as the Greeks call them, but Zakynthians claim to have the best. It’s made of meringue, almonds and candied fruit, served sliced.

Take a coffee break and enjoy some ‘Frygania’ at Bohali Hill.

Bochali is a village just off Zakynthos Hora, on a hill overlooking the port of the island. Although it’s worth going just for the view, Bohali also has a Venetian castle worth visiting. The castle itself was badly damaged in the great earthquake of 1953, but it’s perfect for unobstructed views of both sides of the island.

If you find yourself craving something sweet while in Bohali Hill near Zakynthos Chora, ask for a “frygania” with your coffee: it’s a delicious retro pastry, made of stale bread in syrup, vanilla custard, whipped cream and maraschino cherries.

Where to Go to Experience the Nightlife in Zakynthos

“Portokali”, an art & food multi-space in Argassi, is popular with locals.

Zakynthos is famous for its nightlife, from the parties in Laganas to the traditional Zakynthian serenades in Chora.

Laganas and Argassi are well-known for their vibrant nightlife, attracting a younger crowd and tourists. Argassi is particularly popular among locals, while Laganas is favoured by foreign visitors.

On the other hand, couples and families will go out for drinks and food in the quieter Tsilivi. The Hora attracts couples, families, and groups with many bars, cafes, and restaurants. Here, you can even listen to traditional serenades at the Varkarola restaurant.

Finally, a unique experience is to enjoy a drink at the Cameo bar on the island with the same name.

Best Hotels in Zakynthos, Greece

As an island popular with visitors from Greece and abroad alike, Zakynthos boasts a wide variety of hotels for all budgets. From high-end luxury resorts to cosy family-run bed & breakfasts.

Some of the best areas to stay in Zakynthos are the capital city, Zakynthos Chora, as well as Tsilivi Bay, Alikanas, Vassilikos, Akrotiri, Tragaki and Keri.

See also: Olea All Suite Zakynthos: Stunning Design And A Unique Pool

 

Experience the Magic of Zakynthos Island

Whether you seek relaxation on sun-drenched beaches, a dive into crystal-clear waters, a cultural exploration of charming villages, or an adventure in nature, Zakynthos has something for every traveller. Immerse yourself in the island’s captivating allure and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Featured image by Patrick Keller on Unsplash

Author

Eleanna is the founder of A Curious Compass and has been blogging since 2013. Her mixed ethnic background has made her curious about the world from a young age. Since her first solo trip at 18, she has visited and lived in many places, like London, Sao Paulo, Paris, and Toronto. Her mission is to inspire people to travel the world in style and get to know the soul of each destination.

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