Zákynthos (Zante), is located in the Ionian Sea, just 16 kilometers off the west coast of the Peloponnese. While the northwest coast of the island has sheer cliffs that descend to rocky shores with white pebble beaches and crystal clear turquoise seas, the south is flatter with golden sands. The hinterland, in the center of the island, is a fertile plain planted with olive groves and woods. The combination of beautiful scenery and good beaches has made Zákynthos a very popular tourist destination. Historically it was under Venice from 1484 to 1797, and the Venetian influence can still be felt in the architecture, cuisine and dialect. Sadly, few of its ancient buildings remain in 1515 and 1953, due to two devastating earthquakes.
1 Zákynthos Town (Zante Town)
On the east coast of the island, stretching in a wide arc along the gently sloping shores of a bay, Zákynthos Town is the capital of Zákynthos. Many of its neoclassical buildings were demolished by the 1953 earthquake, but its cobbled streets and squares, filled with bakeries, cafes, boutiques and jewelry stores, are still a joy to explore on foot. The city’s main church, Agios Dionysios , which houses the remains of the city’s patron saint, dates from 1708 and was reconstructed in 1954. For spectacular views of the town and harbor, head to the village of Bohali (2.5km) to the ruined Venetian castle, located in a park with pine trees. This attraction was also largely destroyed by the earthquake, but you can still see the main gate (with the lion of St. Mark, the symbol of Venice), the outer walls and battlements.
Read also: tourist attractions in Ocho Rios
2 Byzantine Museum
On the main square in Zakynthos Town , this purpose-built museum displays religious icons, frescoes and sculptures from the island’s churches and monasteries, dating back to the 12th century. There is also a scale model of the city around 1950, which gives you an idea of what it looked like before the devastating earthquake in 1953.
Address: Solomos Square, 29100 Zakynthos-stad
3 Roma Mansion
Built in the 1660s, this proud mansion is one of the few old buildings to survive the 1953 earthquake. It is owned by the Roma family, who decided to renovate it and opened it to the public in 2007. Inside, you can see antique furniture, paintings, and books, giving you an idea of how local aristocrats once lived.
Address: Louka Carrer 19, Ζakynthos Town 29100
4 Shipwreck Beach (Navagio Beach)
Probably the most photographed beach in Greece, and also featured in many advertisements of the Greek National Travel Company, Shipwreck Beach is located in the so-called Smuggler’s Cove on the west coast of Zakynthos. The beach consists of fine white pebbles and is backed by rocks. The beach takes its name from the wreck of a rusty ship carrying contraband cigarettes that washed up here in 1980. The beach is only accessible from the sea – you can take a taxi-boat from the port at Agios Nikolaos (on the northeast coast, 32 kilometers from Zakynthos town) or visit it as part of a one-day boat tour of the whole island of Zakynthos Town, offered by many tour operators. The beach gets very busy in high season, but it is quieter after 3pm when the day trippers leave.
5 Kerry Caves
On the southwest coast, 14 kilometers from Zákynthos Town , close to the village of Kerí , a row of dramatic caves opens directly onto a crystal clear turquoise sea. It is possible to visit the caves as part of an organized excursion, or hire a boat and go independently. You can swim and snorkel or scuba dive in the caves to see the amazing light effects as the sun reflects off the water and cave walls.
6 Blue Caves
On the northern tip of the island, at Cape Skinari, you will find the most spectacular so-called Blue Caves. Inside, the clear blue sea reflects the color of the sky, which is reflected in the walls of the caves, creating a magical azure and sapphire light. You can visit the Blue Caves in a small glass bottom boat, which departs from Agios Nikolaos (on the northeast coast, 32 kilometers from Zakynthos Town), or as part of the longer round-the-island cruise from Zakynthos Town .
7 Zakynthos National Marine Park in Laganás Bay
On the southeast coast, eight kilometers south of Zákynthos town, the wide bay of Laganás is home to several blissful expanses of sandy beaches. It has been the island’s top resort since the 1980s. Budget accommodation attracts young visitors looking for sea, sun and fun. However, locals are now encouraged to develop ecotourism here, as Laganás Bay is the breeding ground for the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta). As an endangered species, this timid creature lays its eggs in the sand in the summer, and an estimated 1,300 hawksbill turtles live around the bay. In 1999, the National Marine Park of Zakynthos was established to protect the animals in Laganá Bay and to restrict access to certain parts of the beach during the breeding season. For more information, visit the park’s fairgrounds in Dafni,
Official site: www.nmp-zak.org
8 Askos Stone Park
A must for animal lovers, Askos Stone Park is located in the north of the island, close to the village of Volimes , 30 kilometers from Zakynthos Town . It is highly recommended for children – animals here include deer, raccoons, peacocks and turtles, as well as a pony, a donkey, goats and chickens. You get a map and a bottle of water with the entrance ticket and there are attendants in the park who can explain where the animals come from and how to feed them.
Official site: www.askos.gr
Where to Stay in Zakynthos for Sightseeing
We recommend these beautiful hotels near the beach in Zakynthos:
- The Lesante Luxury Hotel & Spa: five-star luxury, Tsilivi’s village location steps from the beach, inviting indoor and outdoor pools, and complimentary breakfast buffet.
- Balcony Hotel: mid-range, family-owned, a short walk to the beach, sea views, excellent breakfast.
- Contessa Hotel: value for money in Argassi, breakfast for the whole family, breakfast with a sea view, rooftop restaurant, outdoor pool.
- Athina Apts: budget-friendly resort in Kalamaki, air-conditioned apartments, close to the beach and restaurants, free parking.