Zakynthos, or Zákynthos, is a beautiful Greek island in the Ionian Sea. The water is beautiful, with infinite shades, from intense blue to turquoise and the beaches, perhaps because we are still at the beginning of the summer season or perhaps because Covid has limited the movements, almost deserted. It is a very green island, with a single large center, the city of Zakynthos, where most of the inhabitants, about 20,000, and services are concentrated. There are hills and mountains rich in vegetation and a car is essential to visit it in every corner and immerse yourself in different scents, colors, landscapes and shows even if the surface of the island is rather small (about 400 km2).
Unfortunately I must also report my negative consideration: there is no recycling and a lot of waste is abandoned here and there, including plastic. I saw the dogs in chains, so many stray and hungry cats and cows, goats and horses tied up in the hot sun. In short, from an ecological point of view which, as you know by now, is very important for me, I perceived a lot of backwardness. But there is a protected species: the Caretta Caretta turtle that has chosen these beaches for its reproduction.
The east coast is rich in sandy or pebble beaches, while the west coast is wilder and overlooking the sea, with ravines, inlets, beaches of rare beauty, which can be reached mainly by sea.
Tsilivi, Vardiola, Amoudi, Alikanas, Alykes, Makris Gialos and Xygia are the beaches on the east coast accessible by land where we were. Each has its own particularity but the common denominator is the beautiful color of the water. I really liked Xygia: its waters have a high concentration of sulfur thanks to a sulfur spring that gives the sea an intense blue color and also curative and therapeutic properties. The sand is made up of very white pebbles that contrast with the bright and tropical shades of the water. It is surrounded by a steep cliff but can be easily reached via a short ladder. There is also a refreshment point near the parking lot along the road.
In front of the southern coast of Zakynthos is the island of Marathonissi, also called the turtle island. Completely uninhabited, it is part of the National Marine Park of Zakynthos and hosts many protected and delimited turtle nests. In fact, the beach can be walked only in the first few meters on the shoreline, the rest is fenced and access is obviously forbidden to protect the eggs. It goes without saying that the sea has Caribbean colors. The stretch of sea between the town of Laganas and the island of Marathonisi is populated by turtles. I've seen a lot of them, even quite close to the shore. It's fantastic because every now and then they re-emerge to breathe and show their beautiful little head. There are many boat trips to spot turtles: actually I believe that polluting their environment with exhaust and engine noise is not healthy for the survival of an almost endangered species. It is enough to swim from Laganas beach or take a pedal boat to meet them. Magical! In the south-east of the island there is a splendid promontory with wild beaches, of a more amber color. You have to go through the village of Vasilikos and get to Gerakas. Here you park your car and reach Cape Gerakas by walking on the beach. The whole area is protected and represents another ideal place chosen by turtles for reproduction.
Boats leave from Laganas to explore the area of the Keri caves: natural arches, stacks, cliffs stand out against a breathtaking sea.
From Makris Gialos beach, on the other hand, you can take a boat trip to the Blue Grotto, in the north of the island. And finally here we are at the most famous beach of Zakynthos, that of the Shipwreck. The Navagio beach, formerly called San Giorgio of the rocks, owes its current name to the Panagiotis wreck, a motor ship of cigarette smugglers from Turkey that ran aground in the bay in 1980. The color of the sea is a very intense blue due to both the sulphurous springs, both at the depth of the waters and can only be reached by sea from Porto Vromi because it is set between high cliffs. On the promontory reachable by land, however, there is a panoramic walkway with a small suspended terrace from which it is possible to admire the beach from above. It is said to be the most photographed beach in the Mediterranean.
On the island of Zakynthos there are some monasteries: the best known are that of Eleftherotria, Madonna Skopiotissa and San Giorgio of the rocks, which we visited. It is located quite close to the viewpoint of the Navagio beach and is built on a promontory from which you can see the sea. The exact year of construction is not known, it is certain that it was destroyed by pirates in 1553 and rebuilt in Venetian style. The complex consists of accommodation for the monks, a defensive tower and a small church with an appreciable iconostasis.
ZANTE CITY: Zakynthos is a land of poets. In fact, Ugo Foscolo was born on this island in 1778 and Dionysios Solomos in 1798. The airport is dedicated to the latter, author among other things of the Greek national anthem. In the center of Zante town there is a museum dedicated to Solomos and an exhibition space dedicated to Foscolo in the place where his birthplace stood. Also in the city you can visit the Byzantine Museum and the churches of Agios Nikolaos, San Marco and Dionissios overlooking the seafront.
In Zakynthos town you will find shops, supermarkets, tourist agencies and many restaurants.
VOLIMES: a small village in the north of the island famous for the production of carpets and the embroidery of fabrics. There are also quaint pottery and souvenir shops.
KERI: an insignificant village from which you can however start a trekking path towards the lighthouse and the stacks. But be careful because today the lighthouse is private and cannot be visited. The panoramic point on the stacks, although splendid, is overlooking the sea without any protection.
LAGANAS: is the most fashionable center of the island, with nightlife and clubs.
BOCHALI: is a small village above the city of Zakynthos, from which you can enjoy a wonderful view as far as the Peloponnese. There are pretty colorful houses and a Venetian castle.
I recommend the Yard of Taste restaurant, in the center of the city of Zakynthos, which combines traditional dishes with many vegan and vegetarian options in a welcoming environment.
We stayed in Villa Anna Maria, just a few minutes from the center of Zakynthos. It is a house overlooking the sea, equipped with all comforts, with a private garden and swimming pool. The owner is helpful, kind, attentive to every detail. A splendid location!
From the port of Zakynthos, ferries leave for the nearby island of Kefalonia, from which you can also reach Ithaca, or for Kyllini in the Peloponnese, from which you can arrive in an hour's drive to the famous archaeological site of Olympia.
Enjoy a full day trip up to the Lassithi Plateau with majestic views and off-roading thrown in. Keep your eyes open for eagles & vultures. Explore Greek mythology and visit the birthplace of the Greek god Zeus. Also visit a 2000 year old plane tree in Krassi.