Zakynthos Island, or "Zante," as the locals call it, is the idyllic confluence of Mediterranean beaches, jaw-dropping ocean cliffs, and an Ibiza-like party scene. Located in the Ionian Sea, Zakynthos is only a short flight from Athens, and will keep you entertained and impressed at all hours of the day and night.
When I first arrived on Zakynthos, it was only 7:30 in the morning. Staying at a hotel called Marabou Beach in the town of Laganas, on the island's south side, I was surprised to find that nearly everything was closed in the morning, including our hotel. In fact, the only people out were straggling partygoers, and the only establishments open were a few disco clubs. In this first hour on the island, I discovered what my few days on Zakynthos would be like.
The view from our hotel patio was exquisite, and well worth the $76 per night.
Zakynthos is full of attractions, but none bigger than the endless Mediterranean beaches. Nearly all of Laganas follows this sandy coastline, dotted with beach bars and lounge chairs. Wearing from traveling and from having spent the past several days in blazing hot Athens, my friends and I spent the entire first day relaxing by the Sea and drinking locally brewed Levante beer.
While Zakynthos features incredible sandy beaches, perhaps even more stunning are the island's limestone cliffs, formed by ongoing volcanic activity. Zakynthos covers only 150 square miles of territory, and can be easily circumnavigated in an afternoon by car. For a more leisurely pace, consider renting an ATV, participating in an island tour by boat, or even renting your own watercraft.
On our second day on the island, we rented a small boat from a beach vendor. The 8-hour rental cost only $100, including gas. The boat was fairly new and spacious, and was more than adequate for the three of us. With the newfound mobility, we were able to spend the day exploring various sea caves and hidden beaches, none of which would have been accessible from the main island. A few local companies offer group tours to these caves and beaches, but the excursions are only a few hours and generally cost at least $50 per person. If you feel comfortable captaining a small boat on the Mediterranean, boat rental can be a much better option.
Wanting to get out and explore the island, the three of us rented a car on the third day. We considered the ATV option, but wanted to be able to more readily explore the island. ATVs were much cheaper, but only seat two people, meaning we'd have to rent two. The car was easier, and conveniently included air conditioning, phone chargers and a bluetooth stereo.
The entire island is gorgeous, but its biggest highlight is Shipwreck Cove, pictured above. This Instagram-ready clifftop looks down on Navagio Beach, where in 1980 the smuggling ship MV Panagiotis ran aground.
From above, the crystal clear Mediterranean shines in a gorgeous electric blue color. Numerous boat tours take visitors to the beach below, leading to a crowded beach and harbor. Though most people would prefer to get a photo with fewer tourists below, the lighting is best in the middle of the day, reflecting off the bright limestone and blue water. Tours to the island cost about $40 per person, and can make for a nice day trip. But I sincerely believe the best way to experience the beauty of Shipwreck Cove is to see it from the cliffs above. Plus, the photos you get will be the envy of your Instagram followers.
When most tourists think of a Greek Island vacation, they think of Mykonos, Santorini, or any other island in the Aegean Sea. Less well-known, but equally impressive, Zakynthos dazzles with its natural beauty. For anyone looking for a Mediterranean retreat, Zakynthos Island must be seriously considered.