Is Zakynthos worth visiting? If you’re not one for stunning beaches, azure Mediterranean waters, and gorgeous vistas of olive tree-speckled mountains, then we’d say count this one out. If you are the sort of traveler that likes those things – and, let’s face it, who doesn’t? – then you might just have found that next vacation paradise…
Yep, Zakynthos is unquestionably one of the most stunning Ionian Islands. Covering just over 400 square kilometers on the far eastern side of Greece, it’s famed for the jaw-dropping panoramas of Shipwreck Beach and the bumping nightlife resort of Laganas. On top of that, you can look forward to rustic hill villages and a west coast that’s positively brimming with secluded coves and cliff walks.
Tempted? Of course you are. Cue this guide to why this sun-kissed isle is 100% worth considering for your 2023 holiday. It reveals some of the most photogenic corners of the landscape, along with some of the top hotels and most happening resort towns. Let’s get started…
Is Zakynthos worth visiting for Shipwreck Beach alone? You bet! This eye-catching bay on the west coast of the island is just so downright awesome, so eye-wateringly dramatic, that we’d say it warrants a trip to Zante before we even consider the other pointers on this list.
People will flock in from all over to witness it, with some even coming across from the Greek mainland and the neighboring island of Kefalonia. For that reason, you shouldn’t find it too hard to find an organized tour to take you there. And you might need help from an organized tour because Shipwreck Beach is famously tricky to get to…
There are two choices: The lookout point on the cliffs above or the beach itself. If you have time, do both. The first is just under an hour’s drive from Zakynthos Town, on a suspended platform with views that open over the white-sand bay and the rusting old ship. It often looks more Bali than Greece from up there!
The second option has to be done by boat. There are full-day trips if you like, but also water taxis. The longest ones usually leave from Zakynthos Town but casual cruises up the west coast also go from Agios Nikolaos and pretty little Porto Vromi just down the shoreline from Shipwreck. Most packages involve about an hour for relaxing and exploring the beach before departure.
Zakynthos has other beaches, too…
While Shipwreck Beach is unquestionably the headline act on Zakynthos, don’t forget that there are oodles of other beaches to get through here. In fact, the island boats a whopping 28 individually designated beaches, which equals almost one per day if you stay a whole month!
They differ a lot in character from north to south, east to west. For example, the most popular by far are on the south and south-east coastlines, within easy reach of the airport and the buzzy strip of Laganas town. They include Marathia Beach, Spanzia, and Porto Roma, which are all usually awash with snorkelers and sunbeds and tanning bodies when the summer months get a-rolling.
Go west and the island turns into a rocky, lunar scape of white-tinged limestone rock and uber-clear inlets. That’s the place for real coastal adventures. Beaches like Limnionas and Stenitis are the ones to check out, though you’ll either need a hardy pair of hiking boots to get to them, or to hire a boat taxi for the day.
We still say that some of the best beaches of all on Zakynthos await up the top end of the east coast, though. The island gets lusher there and groves of cypresses and pines converge on the shores. Look for Ksigia Bay and Makris Gialos to see the crème-de-la-crème in those parts.
There are some truly wonderful hotels on the island of Zakynthos. No matter if you’re coming with the kids in tow and want somewhere fun by the beach or are seeking a romantic honeymoon after the big day, you can rest assured that this sun-splashed island has something up its sleeve. Yep, Booking.com returns a whopping 1,750 individual properties, ranging from the deluxe to the budget conscious.
Those looking to live like a jet setter might want to consider something like the Lesante Blu. An official member of The Leading Hotels of the World league, it’s an adult-only resort perched on the cliffs midway up the eastern shoreline. Inside, guests find retro-cool suites with coastal views, all congregating around an infinity pool that’s hard to discern from the azure Ionian Sea below. The five-star Contessina Suites & Spa is also a fine option for luxury seekers. It’s got a touch of Balinese cool about it, and an indoor spa with hidden cave pools.
Families, on the other hand, are sure to love the on-site waterpark that comes with a stay at the Caretta Paradise Hotel. It’s complete with loop-de-looping slides and splash pools, while there’s also an evening entertainment program throughout the summer months. Finally, there are also more off-beat hotels like the Ecoresort Hotel Zefyros, which sits closer to the Zante mountains and offers access to rural pursuits like trekking and horseback riding.
Is Zakynthos worth visiting for the nightlife? Well…this island plays host to one of the most off-the-hook resorts in all of Greece. It’s certainly the wildest destination in eastern Greece and the Ionian Islands, with the next closest thing being over in Ios, with Malia on Crete, or in Kos Town much further west.
The place to be to party on Zakynthos is Laganas. It’s the main town on the south shoreline, sat just a short, 10-minute transfer from the airport. There, the action starts in the early evening on the so-called Laganas Strip. It won’t wind up again until the sun starts to show. There’s a real hodgepodge of bars and venues, too, with the megaclubs of Rescue and Zeros leading the charge into the small hours.
You don’t have to be in Laganas to get your fix of nightlife on Zante though. Places like Zakynthos Town offer something a little lower key and more family friendly. They come brimming with tavernas and cozy cocktail bars, where you can meet and mingle with locals after big Greek mezze platters.
If you’re wondering if Zakynthos is worth visiting as a foodie, we’re here to say that it most certainly is! Yep, there’s a culinary adventure on this island that lovers of Mediterranean fare will simply adore. Taking elements of traditional Greek cooking, some influences from North Africa and Turkey, along with a touch of Italian tradition, the local cuisine manages a whole load of very special dishes.
Some of the most famous menu options include the rustic mountain stew with rabbit, feta, and red wine. It’s a rich and hearty bounty of flavors that draws on the produce from the Zante inland farms. Zakynthos is also known for its traditional mezze starters, so be sure to order pitas with tzatziki and fava bean paste at least once. Fish is usually sold simply at tavernas close to the ports, fresh off the boat and typically with just a dousing of olive oil and lemon.
There’s an overload of fantastic restaurants on Zakynthos. However, some of the stand-out places to eat include the Avra Taverna near Planos, where the menu includes seafood pastas, gyros skewers, and BBQ fish. For something more rustic, head to the Pirounaki traditional restaurant in the hills. You’ll sit in the shade of painted plane trees there and enjoy a real smorgasbord of Greek sharing dishes.
Because it’s easy to get to
One of the great things about Zakynthos is that it’s nowhere near as tricky to get to as some other Greek islands. First off, this one has its own international airport. It’s up there with Santorini and Kos Island Airport as one of the 10 busiest in the country, too, so there should be no shortage of arrival options. In fact, there are loads of charter routes landing here, including links from major European capitals like Vienna, Warsaw, London, and Amsterdam. You’ll also be able to link up with internal travels across Greece, as there are regular domestic hops from Athens’s main international hub to boot.
But you don’t have to take to the skies to reach Zakynthos either. In fact, one of the more romantic ways to arrive is by sea. That’s how people have been doing it for millennia, and there are several ferry links that can bring you to Zakynthos Town from islands like Kefalonia or destinations on the Greek mainland. Given the location, it’s also usually easy to get to Zakynthos after riding overnight ferries in from Italy via the port city of Patras.
The backcountry promises adventure
Yep, you can come to Zakynthos for a full-on R&R trip of lazing on the beaches and guzzling cocktails in the hotel bars. Don’t worry – no one’s going to judge you for making the most of the balmy bays and relaxed vibe of this place. However, if you did happen to want to crank up the adrenaline factor just a little, the island will oblige…
For one, there’s a long backbone of mountains crashing through the very middle of Zakynthos. They’re a haven for walkers. Soaring to over 700 meters above sea level, they offer oodles of untrodden donkey paths that shoot through olive groves and time-stood-still villages. You could also hike the trail to Skopos Hill on the south coast, where a mystical Byzantine monastery awaits at the top. Oh, and there’s the Cape Skinari Coastal Trail, which lets you traverse long sections of goat-spotted hills with Kefalonia rising in the distance.
And there’s more, because there’s adventure on the seas of Zakynthos by the bucket load. Boat trips to hidden grottoes and scuba expeditions to submerged rock reefs are all there for the water babies, as are jet ski hires and banana boat rides in the main resort towns of the south and east.
So, is Zakynthos worth visiting?
We simply love Zakynthos. This island manages to pull together a number of the great things about Greek destinations. It’s got the family resorts – Alykes, Kalamaki – but also vibrant 18-30s party towns (Laganas is up there with Malia and Ios when it comes to true Greek hedonism hotspots, you know?).
Then comes the untrodden hinterland, where adventure junkies can hike and hop rustic tavernas tasting traditional Greek food. Oh, and the coastline is simply wonderful. This is the home of the much-photographed Shipwreck Beach, after all. On top of that, you get sandy resort beaches on the south coast and hard-to-reach coves and capes in the west and north, so there’s something for everyone.
So, is Zakynthos worth visiting in 2023? It’s a yes from us!