Zakynthos Greece (also known as Zante Island) is a small, stunning island that bobs in the Ionian Sea of western Greece. With outstanding accommodation options, wonderful restaurants, welcoming locals, and some of the best beaches in Greece, it’s no surprise why this island is one of the fastest-growing tourist destinations in the country.
After travelling around Greece for nearly 3 months in total, we still consider Zakynthos one of our favourite islands to visit. even though the south of the island is dominated by mostly mundane resort beach towns offering the typical inclusive holiday packages, the north and center of Zakynthos is still an exciting place to explore.
The craggy, cliff-strewn coastlines that surround Zakynthos bless it with some breathtaking white sand beaches tucked in secluded coves and sheltered by dramatic skyscraper cliffs. If you’re looking for a beach holiday, this is one of your best options in Greece, but don’t be fooled into thinking that’s all Zante has to offer.
In this guide to Zakynthos Greece, I’m going to break down everything you need to know about travelling to this fascinating Greek island.
About Zakynthos Greece
Where is Zakynthos?
How big is Zakynthos?
The best Time to go to Zakynthos Greece
Getting There & Away
The Nightlife in Zakynthos Greece
Our Experience travelling in Zakynthos Greece
About Zakynthos Greece
Zakynthos Greece is also known as “Zante” and “the flower of the Levant”. located in the Ionian sea about 250 kilometres west of the capital of Athens, it is perhaps most famous for Navagio Beach, a breathtaking cove surrounded by dramatic 200-meter high cliffs.
Today there are around 40,000 people living on the island, but during the high tourist season, as many as 2.9 million tourists descend on Zante and the other Ionian islands.
The capital is Zante town, a charming seaside city with many restaurants, bars and historical sites. When we visited, Zante was a quiet place to be, but I’m sure that in the high season this port city would be bustling.
See Also: The ultimate guide To Greek Travel
Where is Zakynthos?
Zakynthos is located in the southernmost part of the main Ionian island chain around 20 kilometres west of the Greek mainland and 249 kilometres from Athens. The island of Kefalonia is 50 kilometres north of Zakynthos. There are also a few small islets around Zakynthos including Marathonisi and Kalonisi to the south.
How big is Zakynthos?
The island of Zakynthos Greece is around 40 kilometres (25 miles) long and 20 kilometres (12 miles) in width. The total area of the island is just over 400 kilometres² and its highest point is atop Vrachionas mountain at a total elevation of 758 meters.
Zakynthos boasts about 123 kilometres (76 miles) of stunning coastline, but not all of it is stunning white sand like that found on Shipwreck beach (Navaggio). much of the coast is craggy cliffs and dramatic rock formations.
The total population of Zakynthos is 40,759, but as I mentioned earlier, this number is much higher during the peak tourism season when tourists outnumber the locals 10 to 1.
The best Time to go to Zakynthos Greece
You can pretty much check out Zante at any time of the year, but our favourite time to check out is in the spring (March to May) or fall (September to November) when it’s not too hot and there are fewer tourists. The prices of accommodation are also much lower at this time with savings of up to 50% in our experience.
If you don’t mind being around crowds, then the summer (June to August) is also a terrific time to visit. If you get too hot, you can always head to one of the many beaches to amazing down.
We last visited Zakynthos in the spring and it was beautiful. The days were hot, but the evenings tended to amazing down enough that we were comfortable while sleeping and the sea was still warm enough for a (chilly) swim.
Easter, Christmas and July & August are the absolute peak visitor times for Zakynthos and during those times the prices can skyrocket.
Winter (November to March) is an okay time to check out as well, but don’t expect to go swimming as the sea temperature can dip to 12°C (54°F) in January and February. You may also find that many restaurants and hotels are closed at this time.
Getting There & Away
Zakynthos Greece is a relatively easy island to get to thanks to its close proximity to mainland Greece. You have a few options for getting to Zante and leaving the island when your vacation is finished.
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The ferry from mainland Greece (Kyllini, Peloponnese) has scheduled departures seven times per day starting at 5:30 in the morning and the last sail is at 22:30. The journey takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes and the price varies based on season but it’ll usually cost you around €47 – €56 per person each way.
To get to Zakynthos quickly, you’ll likely want to fly, either from Athens with Olympic or Aegean airlines, or sometimes you can find direct flights from major European cities like London, Amsterdam, Prague, Edinburgh and Rome. These direct international flights usually only connect Zante to the rest of Europe during the summer months.
Check Ryan Air, Volotea, British Airways, Jet2, Ellinair and other budget airlines for direct flights to Zante in June through September.
A lot of people choose to rent a automobile in Athens and drive over to the Ionian Islands. If you want to do this then you’ll have to pay the automobile fee on the ferry to bring it to Zakynthos.
When we were on Zakynthos Island, we rented a automobile and it’s a terrific way to get around, so whether you want to rent it in Athens and drive all the way to Kyllini to catch the ferry, or fly to Zakynthos and rent it there, it’s worth having a car.
There are many different areas to stay on Zakynthos Island with the most popular beach destinations clustered together on the south and eastern coasts of the island. here are the best places to stay in Zakynthos.
Zakynthos at a Glance:
The South: busy resort towns like Laganas and the popular Turtle Island make this the most visited part of the island. While other places have better beaches, this is where you’ll find the most restaurants, hotels, bars and nightlife.
The North: mostly deserted mountains, olive groves, pine forests and dramatic cliffs along the coast, you won’t find as much going on up north aside from the most famous sight on the island, Navagio Beach. While there are a few luxury resorts and villas up here, most don’t stay long in the north.
The East: Aside from the small but bustling port of Zante Town, the east is a series of developed beach towns that stretch on either side of the capital.
The West: Empty and mountainous, most people only come to the west on a trip around the island with a stop at the famous sunset spot of the Cliffs of Keri.
The capital city of Zakynthos is a terrific little town right on the sea. This is the largest city on the island, but in our opinion, it’s not the best place to stay. There are plenty of tourist hotels and restaurants here, but it’s not on the nicest beach and it’s more of a bustling port city than a tourist attraction.
Read More: A complete travel guide To Zante Town
Most people who check out Zante will stay in Laganas. This is the main tourist center famous for parties and popular with young tourists and European students on short vacations. There are lots of terrific accommodation options here including low-cost apartments, nice resorts and amazing boutique hotels.
Read More: A complete travel guide To Laganas Beach
Just 2 kilometres west of busy Laganas is the more laid back Agios Sostis. This is a walkable distance from Laganas, so it typically gets busy with day trippers, particularly those who come for the picturesque Cameo Island which is linked to the mainland by a lovely little bridge (you’ve probably seen the photos), as well as nearby Turtle Island.
Tsilivi & Planos
Tsilivi and Planos are another one of the most popular beach destinations in Zante. The family-friendly, calm, shallow, 2 kilometre long “Blue Flag” beach of Tsilivi is one of the most stunning and safest to swim in. There are many accommodation options in both towns and terrific restaurants along the sea here as well.
Read More: A complete travel guide To Tsilivi & Planos
Psarou & Ammoudi
Sandwiched between the more popular towns of Tsilivi to the south and Alykes to the north, Psarou is where we stayed when we last visited Zante Island. I have to say that it’s definitely not one of the main tourist hot spots in Zakynthos, Greece. Nevertheless, we loved it there! We stayed in a lovely little modern apartment and paid only $22 / night (thanks to shoulder season discounts).
If you’re going to stay in Psarou, I’d definitely recommend having a automobile because it doesn’t have as many restaurants and entertainment options as some of the other, more touristy citiesin Zante.
Read More: A complete travel guide To Psarou
Partway down the Vasilikos peninsula before you reach the beaches of Banana beach and Porto Azzuro you’ll find Argassi. set conveniently between some of the best beaches on the island and the buzzing capital, this town has terrific hotel and apartment options, outstanding Greek restaurants and decent public carry links thanks to its proximity to Zante Town.
The town on the peninsula of the same name that stretches out of the southeastern part of the island a few kilometres south of the capital, Vasilikos is a relatively untrodden part of Zante Island. This is where you’ll find some spectacular beaches like St.Nicholas, Banana beach and Porto Azzuro. There’s decent accommodation options down here and some terrific restaurants.
A little east of busy Laganas and a little west of Zante Town, Kalamaki is the goldilocks beach town of the south in this respect. thanks to the nesting turtles, there are no hotels right on the sand and there are no watersports, which give the sandy beach here a nice, relaxing atmosphere. Kalamaki is a terrific place for couples and families.
There is a Keri village on the west of the island and Keri beach town on the southeast, which are about a 10-minute drive apart and both offer terrific accommodation options. Keri beach has a few nice resorts and hotels near the sand, while Keri village has dramatic views over the cliffs out towards the Ionian Sea as well as the picturesque lighthouse.
Read More: A travel guide To Keri beach & Keri Town
If the smell of sulphur on the beach doesn’t bother you too much, Alykes is a stunning beach in a secluded cove complete with a free natural spa treatment. Geothermically heated mud pours into the beach in between a couple of rocks giving the water a cloudy glow and your skin a nice treatment. This is a traditional Ionian seaside village and is much quieter than some of the more developed beach towns in Zante.
Read More: travel guide To Alykes Beach
As you pass Alykes and continue north, you start to see less and less development and more mountains and craggy cliffs, that is until you reach the tiny port town of Agios Nikolaos (not to be mistaken for the beach of the same name on the south end of the island). This once scruffy fishing village is quickly being reinvented as a charming little tourist town. If you plan to go to Kefalonia by ferry, you’ll come here to catch it, but it wouldn’t be a mistake to linger here for a while.
There are so many things to do in Zakynthos that we actually have a post dedicated to it. but for the sake of this travel guide, I’ll list a few of our favourite things to do there.
Of course, you can’t go to Zakynthos without experiencing the astonishingly stunning Navagio beach (Shipwreck Cove). There are two ways to see the beach, one is from the cliffs above the beach looking down for that iconic photo, and the other is to take a boat to see it (the only way to actually get to the sand).
This is without a doubt one of the most stunning beaches in all of Greece and is worth a check out for sure. If you’re checking it out from the cliffs, be sure to stay within the blocked off area as many tourists have fallen to their deaths from these dangerous heights.
Learn more about visiting Navagio beach (Shipwreck Cove) in our detailed guide, here. also don’t miss our post which lists the top 15 best beaches in Zakynthos.
Rent a Boat
This was one of our favourite things that we did in all of Greece and maybe in all of our travels. Renting a boat in Zante is relatively cost effective and easy to do. You can either rent by yourself, or hire a