Do you ever stress out about money and then accidentally book a flight to Zakynthos? No? Just me then?
England has been lacking in sunshine lately (shocker, right?), so after a last-minute change in our schedule, Dom and I decided it was time to embark on an impromptu island getaway.
Lucky for us, cheap flights from London are extremely common - you’ll find a flight to another country costs you less than a day of parking in London, which is total madness in my book!
So when it came to booking our own little vacay, we had a few necessary criteria: cheap tickets, sunshine, and baby blue water.. or just water of any kind really.
After scouring the web for budget deals, we settled on our two favorite options: Mallorca or Zakynthos (otherwise known as Zante). We then did what any normal person does when they need to make a tough decision - we let the Instagram Gods decide. In other words, I put a poll up on on my story, 68% of people chose for us to go to Greece, so that was that. I booked our flight right then and there, and bing bang boom, we were in the air a few days later!
First things first, if you’re thinking of a Greek Island getaway, I can well and truly vouch for Zakynthos being put at the top of your bucket list. It has everything you could possibly want:
Blue water, CHECK
Amazing beaches, CHECK
Drool-worthy food, CHECK
Freaking epic viewpoints, DOUBLE CHECK
And while everyone brags about Zakynthos for its ever-so-famous Navagio “Shipwreck” Beach, it honestly has so much more to offer than that one view. We spent a full week on the island and got to see so many secret spots I never knew existed, so if you love yourself an adventure, get your butt to Zante ASAP!
WHEN TO VISIT ZAKYNTHOS
Zakynthos in June is, in my opinion, the prime time to visit the island. It’s just entering summertime, so the prices aren’t soaring yet, but the weather is still a solid 30 degrees Celsius and sunny most days. Too hot for some, but sweltering is my personal favorite type of weather because, well, i’m a freak. I must have been a desert lizard in a past life.
While July and August are both hot (or uncomfortably hot by some people’s standards), those months are also the peak of summer and extremely busy for tourism in Greece. Prices will be on the rise and there’s a good chance you’ll be sharing viewpoints with quite a few other peeps, which isn’t my cup of tea, but still not a dealbreaker for most people.
Pro Tip: If there’s a specific beach or viewpoint you want to see in absolute serenity, visit between the crack of dawn & 8:30am. It will pretty much guarantee peace and solitude (until the coach buses turn up), so you can still get your insta pics with ease. The sun also rises ridiculously early over the summer, so if you want that golden hour lighting, you’ll need to set your alarm for a fun 5am to give yourself enough driving time.
HOW TO GET TO ZAKYNTHOS
Depending on where you are in the world and what kind of trip you’re on, you have a couple different choices on how to get to Zakynthos.
Since the island has its own airport, it means it can be incredibly easy to get here from big hub airports like London or Rome. A roundtrip direct flight from London - Zakynthos cost us £108 each, or just under $140 USD on a budget airline like TUI. Not too shabby if you ask me! Another awesome option is to check out TUI holidays - we didn’t book in time before the prices rose, but they honestly have some epic deals on flights + hotels if you look at the right time of year. We missed out on a £200 booking for roundtrip flights AND 7 nights of accommodation, which seems like an insane deal for a week in paradise.
If you’re more into island hopping, then the ferry will likely be your best bet. You can catch a 1 hour ferry from the port of Killini, which is about a 3.5 hour bus trip from Athens. You can also easily get between the neighboring island of Kefalonia and Zakynthos via ferry, so it’s a great option for either a big day trip or for continuing your island hopping adventures. I didn’t take the ferry myself though, so I don’t have any experience with prices or the best ferries to go with - Google will have to help you from here!
WHERE TO STAY IN ZAKYNTHOS
Where you stay is fairly crucial, and choosing the wrong accommodation can literally make or break your trip.
For those of you who want to stay in a more lively, party-focused area, Laganas is the place to be. It’s a neighborhood of clubs, cheap eats, tour agencies, a weird amount of emergency rooms, the occasional strip club, and the only McDonalds on the island. And if that doesn’t sound appealing to you (in all honesty, it didn’t sound too great to me), there are still places in Laganas that remain peaceful if you simply look at accommodation in the surrounding area.
Travel Tip: All the pools in Laganas are open to the public if you buy a drink there - yes, even the hotel pools!
For our week in Zakynthos we stayed at a quiet little homestay called Helen & Theo Studios on a side street in Laganas. It was about a 2 minute walk from the main strip, so close enough for food but far enough away that we didn’t have to hear the clubs. It was PERFECT. The homestay is a gated property full of fruit trees, flowers, and cute kitties in every direction you look, so if you like animals, you’re going to love this place.
The owners are a little Italian couple who speak very basic English, but are honestly the friendliest people on the planet. Every morning Theo would greet me with a giant smile on his face, shake my hand, and pluck a flower from the garden for my hair.
If you want more of a quiet, laid back vibe for your holiday, then i’d suggest looking at hotels around the Vasilikos area. It’s well-suited for couples and families who want beautiful beaches nearby yet prefer peace and quiet over pre-drinks and parties. While I loved staying at Helen & Theo’s, I think next time we’ll look into accommodation in the Vasilikos area for a little extra serenity.
HOW TO GET AROUND ZAKYNTHOS
When it comes to getting around the island, you have a few options depending on your preferences.
One of the most popular transportation options is to rent a quad bike for a couple days, not just because you will undoubtedly look super cool riding a quad, but also because it’s incredibly practical. There are some seriously rocky roads on Zakynthos, so having a quad bike to get you up and down them can be a lifesaver.
Getting a rental car is my personal favourite way to get around the island, which is what we opted for. We wanted to be able to take all of our stuff out with us for the day (like our awesome new pizza floatie, camera equipment, and of course, snacks), so a rental car gave us the ability to make the most of each day without having to leave stuff behind.
The cost is roughly $30/day including insurance, and you should always make sure to take out insurance on it. There would be nothing worse than being slapped with a $500 fee at the end of your trip for a tiny minuscule scratch. We booked our rental car ahead of time through a company called Goldcar, and the pick up/drop off was right across the street from the Airport which made our lives a heck of a lot easier.
There are also tourist coach buses that can take you to the most popular spots around the island, but I personally prefer to have my own mode of transport so I have the freedom to explore at my own pace.
WHAT TO DO IN ZAKYNTHOS
Oh Mizithres, you are a beauty.
If you want to find this spot, your only hope will be trusty old Google Maps, because you’ll find there are approximately zero signs for this viewpoint. The directions took us to the base of a very rocky dirt road, and we figured it would be best not to risk the tires on our rental car. So we parked at the bottom and trekked the rest of the way on foot - approx 0.5 miles, so pretty easy breezy.
Once you reach the viewpoint (located at a bend in the road), there are again no signs, fences, or regular vantage point, so you’ll just have to peer over the edge to see the view. With that said, please don’t be stupid and run around by the cliff edge. It’s an extremely large cliff, and one misplaced step can mean your life. Sorry to take this from 0 to Mom Mode real quick, but a cool photo is not worth your life.
Fun Fact: the beach down below is new, as it was formed last October due to a landslide resulting from an earthquake.
Hire your own boat to cruise around Turtle Island + the southern caves
I was very surprised to learn that you don’t need a boating license to hire your own boat for the day in Zakynthos. While I wouldn’t trust myself to drive a boat for the first time on my own, I luckily had Dom who is talented at anything and everything - including driving a boat.
You can rent a boat from a few different areas on the island, but for this particular day, we drove over to Keri Beach and found a boat rental company that cost us $120 to have the boat from 10am-6pm. Our day started out searching for elusive turtles in the bay, drifting over to Turtle Island for some sunbathing and snorkeling, then floating our way around the coast. If you want the ultimate view, make sure to check out the area near Keri Caves. The steep limestone cliffs tower over you impressively, and the water below is crystal clear and perfect for swimming in. It definitely left me at a loss for words.
I actually found this beach using the Satellite View feature on Google Maps! I love to find “off the beaten path” spots, so I started searching the map looking for hidden bays with blue water.
This beach is just a quick 10 minute drive from Shipwreck Beach Viewpoint, and the drive takes you through a cute little town called Volimes (which I also recommend taking a stroll around at some point), and then down a windy cliff to this rocky bay. I’d recommend visiting either in the early morning around 8am, or in the evening from 5pm onwards, because you’ll likely have the bay completely to yourself!
Boat tour to Navagio Beach and the Blue Caves
Okay okay so I couldn’t complete this list of must-do’s without mentioning Navagio, because it’s one thing to see it in photos, but a whole other experience to see it in real life. For the ultimate day out on the water, we rented another private boat at Porto Vromi Marie through Explore Zakynthos, and set sail with Dom as my trusty captain.
It took us about 20 minutes to reach Navagio, and while we didn’t end up going onto the beach itself (we were totally freaked out at the thought of our boat drifting away!), you still get such an epic view by anchoring in the bay. I swear i’ve never seen more impressive water in my whole 26 years of life.
We arrived around 1pm, but I think the prime time is either early morning around 9am, or in the evening around 6pm, as you’ll be one of the only boats there. Do yourself a favor and don’t look up though! You’ll see tourists up above standing frighteningly close to the cliff edge, which tied my own stomach into knots.
After Navagio, we decided to cruise all the way to the Blue Caves which took us another 30 minutes or so to reach, but boy was it worth it. These caves are utterly stunning. The water surrounding the caves literally sparkles in the sunlight, making for some gorgeous photos!
Navagio “Shipwreck” Beach Viewpoint
If you search for Zakynthos on Google or Instagram, 9/10 photos will likely be of this viewpoint. It’s beautiful, it’s impressive, but holy heck is it dangerous!
A few mentions:
Bring water - it gets so hot, and there is no shade on the top of that cliff, so you will 100% want water with you.
Wear sneakers (or trainers if you’re British) - seriously, wear fckn shoes. I saw people in flip flops. I saw people barefoot. I saw people in freaking high heels. But in all honestly, not wearing sneakers/trainers is just plain idiotic.
Be careful. I watched tourist after tourist messing about near the edge, tripping over rocks or their own flip flops, accidentally bumping into another person while taking a selfie.. it’s scary how careless people can be when they’re a foot away from imminent death. I wish I was exaggerating, but I had messages in my inbox from people who have had friends die at this viewpoint, so it’s no joke. BE SMART!!!
walk around the town of volimes
If you want to experience a quaint little Greek town, I recommend taking a stroll through Volimes. Unlike some of the other towns it didn’t feel touristy, yet there was beauty hidden around every corner. You’ll see cute ivy-covered houses, cats basking in the sun, and alleyways lined with flowers, so bring the camera for some photo ops!
Another must-visit spot in Zante is Porto Limnionas. Located on the west coast of the island, it takes roughly 30 minutes to reach by car from Laganas. I think it’s pretty self-explanatory why this place is such a popular spot, so i’m going to simply let the photos do the talking!
I was genuinely shocked that more people haven’t discovered the beauty of Korakonissi. We were a few of the only ones there that day, so we spent the whole morning jumping into the bay, snapping photos doing less-than-graceful said jumps, and sunbathing on the rocks. The turquoise-green water is a nice contrast to the vibrant blues in other spots, so it quickly became one of my favorite places to photograph.
water sports at st. nicholas beach
Last but not least, if you’re traveling with kids or simply want a day of fun in the sun, then you’ll definitely want to add water sports to your itinerary. St. Nicholas Beach is located in Vasilikos, and offers paddle-boarding, jet-skiing, pedalos, canoes, diving, banana boat rides, parasailing - you name it, they have it. The beach also has a few restaurants, bars and sun beds for hire, so if you’re not out on the water you can always grab a drink and lounge by the waves.
other places worth a visit if you have time
Hidden Treasure Cave
Porto Vromi Maries
WHERE TO EAT IN ZAKYNTHOS
You can’t go to Greece without trying the traditional food. From traditional kebabs, to Saganaki cheese, to fresh seafood, you’ll be sure to find a food you don’t want to live without ever again.
If you’re staying in Laganas, there are cheap eats in every direction you look. Just a quick stroll down the street will take you past countless €2 souvlaki stands and €1 pizza slice signs, so if you’re not afraid to scarf down the carbs, then you’ll be all set for cheap meals.
For a more authentic Greek dining experience, I highly recommend heading over to Ionio Restaurant & Beach Bar in Vasilikos for a sunset dinner. If the ocean view doesn’t convince you, then their menu sure will.
We went a bit overboard on appetizers and ordered oysters, Greek salad, bruschetta, fried zucchini, and a small bottle of ouzo to get us started, and I think I died and went to food heaven. For our main course we shared a massive seafood platter topped with octopus, sardines, anchovies, calamari, and way more, and by the time we headed home for the night we were well and truly stuffed!
If you have any other questions about Zakynthos that I haven’t answered above, please leave a comment below so I can help!