Explore Zakynthos, one of the most popular destinations in Greece. The Venetians called Zakynthos “the Flower of the East” and rightly so. The gem of the Ionian Sea is famous for its natural beauty and rich culture. Undoubtedly, the island’s showstopper is the well-known Shipwreck beach. Additionally, the National Marine Park of Laganas bay consists of numerous beaches, habitats of the loggerhead Mediterranean turtle. Would Caretta-Caretta prefer this island to lay her eggs if it wasn’t for the crystal clear waters and long sandy beaches?
Rent a car to explore Zakynthos and make the most of what the island has to offer, without the restriction of public transport or the costs of hiring a taxi. Allow yourself to spend as much time as you want at a remote beach and enjoy the sunset of western Greece. Although most beaches are organised, make sure you pack an umbrella in your car, just in case you want to lay your towel a bit further away.
Zakynthos is an island with endless sightseeing options you can visit by car or boat. Here are our 5 favourite places you can drive to:
1. Explore Zakynthos town, 5 km north of the airport
After a devastating earthquake in 1953, the town (Chora) was rebuilt in the traditional Venetian style. Here you will find anything you need, from accommodation and cafes to shops and tourist information. Go for an evening walk around the historical Square of Agios Markos. There, in 1797 people rebelled against the island’s nobles and burnt the “Libro d’ Oro” (the formal directory of nobles in the Republic of Venice). Nearby you will find the town’s central square with the Venetian style public buildings and museums. In the centre of the square looms the statue of Dionysios Solomos. He was the Zakynthian poet who wrote the “Hymn to Liberty”, a poem written to honour the struggle of Greeks for independence after centuries of Ottoman rule. The first two verses of the poem became the National Anthem of Greece.
2. Tsilivi resort, 6 km west of Zakynthos town
Tsilivi resort and its long sandy beach attract many visitors. During the day enjoy the fully organized beach with water sports facilities. Later on, you can choose from a variety of restaurants, cafes, bars and night clubs that stay open until late at night.
3. Gerakas, the loggerhead turtle nesting beach, 18 km south of Zakynthos town
Known as a loggerhead turtle nesting beach, Gerakas also attracts a lot of people who want to enjoy the clear waters and the fine sand. In Gerakas bay you will find umbrellas and sunbeds which are stacked during the night to leave room for the nesting turtles. In the morning volunteers look for fresh tracks and new nests and place protective signs to ensure the hatchlings are safe.
4. Makris Gialos, 33 km northwest of Zakynthos town
Makris Gialos is a non-organised pebble beach with turquoise waters, sunbaked cliffs and caves. The setting and the wild beauty of this place makes it perfect for snorkelling. From here, you can take a boat tour to the nearby caves and the famous Shipwreck beach Make sure you bring an umbrella and some water with you!
5. Porto Limnionas, 16 km southeast of Zakynthos town
Zakynthos is famous for the sandy beaches, however, if you decide to explore the island the fiord of Porto Limnionas is a place you shouldn’t miss visiting. It is worth a day trip to experience a different view of the island. You will need a car to get there as public transport doesn’t go that far away. Although Porto Limnionas is completely isolated, there is a restaurant on the top of the bay serving some delicious local specialities. To be on the safe side, try to book a table before your visit.
Shipwreck Beach, only accessible by boat
Last but not least is the famous shipwreck beach (Navagio in Greek). This impressive cove with the dreamy turquoise waters took its name in the early 1980s after a cargo ship hit the rocks and ended up on the shore. Although you can drive there and see the shipwreck from above, you can access the beach only by boat. Take a boat from Porto Vromi or Saint Nikolas harbour in Volimes. By choosing a boat for your transport, you also get to see the majestic blue caves along the rocky coast.
Be aware that during the busy summer season, you can find yourself in the shipwreck beach under the hot summer sun with no shade and surrounded by people and boats that leave a smell of engine oil. We advise you to go early in the morning and take your umbrella with you!
The loggerhead turtle nesting beach of Grerakas. Photo by ivabalk, pixabay.com.
Post featured photo by Greg Montani, licensed.