If anyone asks me where is the most impressive of the places I’ve been visited, I absolutely say without hesitation it is the island of Zakynthos. Personally, I prefer this island than Santorini or other famous destinations. Surrounded by clear blue water, gently stretching white sand beaches, majestic cliffs standing in front of the sea, Zakynthos has long been known by tourists with famous attractions such as Navagio Shipwreck Beach, Cape of Keri, Blue Cave… So, what to do and how to plan a perfect budget trip to Zakynthos island (Zakynthos Greece)for the first-time? Let’s check out our Zakynthos travel blog (Zakynthos blog) with the fullest Zakynthos travel guide (Zakynthos guide) from how to get there, best time to come, where to stay, best places to visit and top things to do to find out the answer!
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Referring Greece tourism, many of you often think of and often choose two popular destinations: Santorini and Athens. But indeed, if you miss this island, you will feel very regret. The wonderful feeling of driving on the pass roads with one side is spectacular cliffs and the other side is stretching white sand beaches. Wow, it can be said this is the paradise island on earth with breathtaking scenes of the sea, forests and mountains. And I also affirm that the sea here is very beautiful. I’m not a fan of swimming (I don’t know how to swim, LOL) but actually came here once and I just want to come back again. Therefore, it is not surprising that the airport on Zakynthos Island has directly connected flights with many other cities in the world and its airport is also much bigger, better than Santorini airport.
If Santorini has only 2 famous tourist places with many hotels and restaurants are Oia and Fira village, Zakynthos Island has at least 4, 5 such places. I have been driving around the island and found that there are many stunning beaches here. You can not swimming in all these beaches, but I will suggest the most prominent beaches you should not miss when traveling to Zakynthos Island.
Zakynthos travel blog: Overview of Zakynthos Greece
The island of Zakynthos or more commonly called Zante also has another name as “Flower of the Orient” – “Il fioro di Levante” was named by the Venetians who once ruled this island. Due to its geographical location near an important sea waterway, so in the past the island was continuously occupied by many armies: Bizantine, Ottoman, Venice, France, England … Currently in the town center of Zakynthos, the island’s capital still exists many structures and architecture which were influenced by Venice style.
In the Bronze Age, Zakynthos was a supplier of raw materials for the metallurgy industry of the neighboring islands. During the early of the Middle Ages, Zakynthos was under the rule of Marco Sanudo, The ruler of Venice along with other islands such as Naxos and Paros. The island’s economy has relied heavily on fishing and livestock throughout the years. Today due to located near Athens, it has a lot of housing and attracts foreign tourists.
Zakynthos travel blog: When is the best time to visit Zakynthos island?
Like some other countries in the Mediterranean, Greece has a characteristic warm sunshine climate and is favored by nature with the advantage of beautiful weather all year round. You can go to the island of Zakynthos or other regions of Greece at any time of the year.
However, it is advisable to go from April to October because from November to March next year is winter and often rainy. You should also consider whether to go in July or August or not because this is the peak tourist season, visitors flock to Greece very crowded and prices are also quite high compared to low season.
Zakynthos travel guide: How to get to Zakynthos Island?
Getting from Athens to Zakynthos
From Athens airport, you can take a flight to the island of Zakynthos for about 45 minutes of flying. There are 3 flights a day during the peak season. Ticket price ranging from EUR45 to EUR90 / one way. You should find tickets in advance on Skyscanner or Google Flights, Kayak to compare prices and make schedule. Usually, the early morning and night flights are always cheaper than usual. I booked ticket before the departure date just 1 day, the ticket price was EUR50.
Bus + Ferry
You must take both of these means of transportation if you want to getting from Athens to Zakynthos. First, you will first take a bus from downtown Athens to Kyllini town, then from Kyllini, you will take a ferry of Levante Ferries company to the island of Zakynthos with traveling time for 1 hour 15 minutes. This option usually takes about 6 hours of traveling because there are only 2 bus trips a day and each trip takes about 4 to 5 hours. And the total fare for one-way to Zakynthos for both vehicles above will cost around 40 euros (in the peak season). Refer bus from Athens to Kyllini port here.
For more information, you can visit this website on how to travel by ferry from Athens to Zakynthos. However, the information on this website is not very clear and viewers are easily misunderstood (like me). When I first looked for information for traveling, I saw I could take a bus or plane. After checking the fare on this website, the bus fare is EUR28,6 / one-way and traveling time about 4, 5 hours. Fortunately, I did not choose to combine bus + ferry option. After coming Zakynthos and talking with many local people, they said we had to take a ferry for 1.5 hours (EUR12) to get to the port town of Kyllini, after that you can take the bus from here to Athens, so the total cost will be EUR40 €.
Summary, there are two ways to getting to from Athens to Zakynthos:
1. Airplane: Flight time 45 minutes and the airfare from EUR45 – EUR90 / one-way (you can choose 1 of 3 flights a day). To getting from the airport to town center you can take Zakynthos airport bus here.
2. Bus + Ferry: Traveling time takes about 6 hours and the fare EUR40 / one-way (bus EUR28,6 and 4 – 5 hours of traveling and ferry for EUR12 with ferry traveling time about 1,5 hours).
So in my opinion, before you go, you should carefully compare the prices of the two options above and decide the way you will go. The day I went, the bus + ferry fare was EUR40 while if take the flight (Skyscanner), it was only EUR50, so I decided to fly for good.
Zakynthos travel guide: Getting around Zakynthos island
Regarding getting around Zakynthos, I recommend you to rent a car or motorbike. The rental prices vary depending on the season. I traveled in August is the peak month when a car rental costs EUR80 – EUR120 per day including gasoline (in low season it costs around EUR40). As regards the price of renting a motorbike, I do not clear. You can book a rental online in advance and then pick up it after arriving or rent a car at some rental shops right at the airport. There are about 6, 7 different shops, only a few tens of meters when you exit the airport gate, you will see a lot of signs.
I also went for a round to checking price and service and chose SIXT, right across from the airport. I was extremely satisfied with this agent because the staff is very cute, polite and affordable compared to the neighboring agents. If you deposit EUR800 in advance, then it costs EUR80 for 1 day rental, if you deposit by credit card, the price is the same, but the money in account will be deducted and usually 2 weeks after the deposit date, it will be returned to your account. If you do not want to deposit too much, only about EUR200 – EUR300, the rental fee will increase to about EUR30 per day. This is optional for each visitor but I think you should bring a lot of euros not only to spend during your trip but also to deposit in these cases.
If you want to rent a motorbike, you should go to the center to rent or rent right near the hotel for convenience. (In fact, there is no rental motorbike shop at the airport). But I am not sure if they will accept a Vietnamese driver’s license. In general, it depends on each shop, some easy, some difficult. But usually, the rental in center is always hot and runs out of motorbikes quickly compared to rent a motorbike in tourist places.
Single bus ticket costs EUR1.3. Tickets can be used only once. Link to see more about bus schedules and bus fares in Zakynthos here.
There is a small note that almost visitor who comes here is easily confused as there is only one bus route from the airport to the center of Zakynthos (Zante). Then there are more buses from the center to the surrounding areas, so if you do not stay in the center of Zante, you still have to take 2 bus trips to get to your hotel. In addition, on the timetable of bus routes, often writes “from Zakynthos to“… It means that it is from the central bus station to other locations.
In addition, the bus in Zakynthos is extremely not punctual, often too late or too early, very erratic. Even if for the trip from the center to the airport, the driver may departs from 10 to 15 minutes early if he want and because this is a small island, the population is not crowded, so you usually wait about 45 minutes to 1 hour to catch a bus trip to other tourist attractions from the center. In my opinion, traveling by bus is very inconvenient.
I recommend you renting a car or motorbike because it is convenient, take the initiative in time and terrain in Zakinthos has a lot of passes. The distance between tourist places is quite far, for example from the Blue Cave to islands to watching turtles is about 45-50km. There is also no bus to those locations.
Conclusion: Take a bus in Zakynthos costs EUR1.3/trip or rent a motorbike or car. In my opinion, the most convenient way to travel and saving money that you should rent a car or motorbike only for 1 day to travel to locations as far away as Shipwreck Beach or turtle island. 1 day you spend for boat tour, so you do not need to rent a car. I think 2 days is enough to explore this beautiful island.
Zakynthos blog: Where to stay in Zakynthos Greece?
On the east and south coasts of the island concentrating many budget hostels, family accommodations with reasonable prices while in the north of the town focuses on many upscale hotels and high-end resorts.
In my opinion, you do not need to stay in the center of Zakynthos town because there is really nothing special here besides its port and you will definitely have to come here without spending money if you book cruise tours to explore Blue Cave and Shipwreck Beach. In every hot tourist place has a lot of hotels and restaurants. However, I highly recommend you choose place to stay from the hilltop village of Ano Gerakari and downward, quite far above (the north of the island) and rare local people, as remote as the remote areas in Vietnam.
During my visit, I stayed in Airbnb in Argassi village for EUR40/night. I’m not mention its name here because I think it is not a great place to stay to recommend you, although it owns a very good location with many surrounding restaurants. But the room is not good at all. The 3-bed room has the mattress as hard as stone, so I could not sleep at night. Here the sea is not very beautiful but very convenient with many shops, cafes, restaurants, also very bustling and offers all kinds of things you need. The downside is driving up to Navagio Shipwreck Beach and Blue Cave a bit far. Because you have to driving through many steep passes, it will take you 1.5 hours to driving from Argassi to Navagio Shipwreck Beach. In return, it’s quite close the airport (8km), the center (6km) and the tourist attractions in the south such as turtle island of Marathonisi, Kalamaki, Laganas beaches…
Some good hotels I have found which you can refer to. During my travel, all of these accommodations were full:
- Costas Studio: Located right in the heart of Argassi for EUR60 / double room / night. (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Cozy Apartment: Located in the center of Zakynthos town. New, clean and modern studio with a convenient location. Room rate at EUR45 / night. (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Alektor Luxury Apartments: Located in the heart of Zakynthos town for EUR46 / night. This is also a studio with full amenities. (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Diana Palace Hotel, a top rated 4-star hotel with room rates from $116/night (Check rates on Booking.com).
- The Bay, a top rated 4-star hotel with room rates from $126/night (Check rates on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Meandros Boutique & Spa Hotel, a top rated 5-star hotel with room rates from $99/night (Check rates on Booking.com).
- Alykanas Village Hotel, a top rated 4-star hotel with room rates from $53/night (Check rates on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Zante Plaza Hotel & Apartments, a top rated 3-star hotel with room rates from $65/night (Check rates on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
Find more top rated hotels and resorts on Zakynthos island on Booking.com or Agoda.com.
In addition, you can refer to one of the best Airbnb in Zakynthos:
- The dreamy Tree House at $84/night.
- Votsalo Exclusive at $96/night.
- Amaranto at $66/night.
- Pelouzo apartment at $54/night.
- Joya Village House at $54/night.
- Sterre of the sea room 4 at $48/night.
- KATERINA STUDIOS at $36/night.
–> Use this link https://www.airbnb.com/c/anht5185, to register for an Airbnb account and book a room, you will get a discount up to $55 for the first booking.
Zakynthos travel blog: What and where to eat in Zakynthos island?
Like other Greek cities, Zakynthos focuses mainly on Italian or Greek restaurants. Traditional dishes usually include Kebab, Gyros, rabbit meat, cheese, seafood… The food is also delicious. The price of a single serving part at a restaurant will be between EUR7 – EUR12. A large hot plate of pasta is only around EUR8. If you want to eat cheaper, try gyros (it is prepared most often with pork or chicken, whilst beef, chicken, or lamb are wrapped in flatbread, adding some vegetables such as tamato, avocado, onion, mayones sauce and chips). The price is about EUR3 / part.
If you stay in Lagan, there are many cheap dishes to choose from. A quick walk down the street you will find souvlaki (Greek skewers including small pieces of meat and sometimes vegetables grilled on a skewer) and pizza.
For a more authentic Greek culinary experience, you should head to Ionio Restaurant & Beach Bar (Address: Vasilikos 291 00, Greece) in Vasilikos to enjoy a dinner at sunset. From the view to the menu are all extremely attractive. Appetizers, Greek salads, bruschetta (grilled bread rubbed with garlic and topped with olive oil and salt), fried zucchini, and a small bottle of Ouzo (Greek traditional drink which is made from anise-flavored liquor produced from grape must (the remnants of wine-making)). There are also octopus, sardines, anchovies, squid, … that make you tired of eating.
Regarding supermarket, Lidl will be the first choice. There is only one Lidl supermarket on the island. This supermarket is about 2km from the airport but there is no bus to there. Here the prices are reasonable, much cheaper than the shops in tourist destinations. Fruits, drinks, ice cream … even half the price compared to shops at tourist places. Price is around EUR1 – EUR2.
Nightlife in tourist spots is extremely vibrant. The bars open until 3am – 4am. Besides, the grocery stores sell all kinds of items you need for swimming such as slippers, hats, sunscreen, swimsuits, swimming floats. Souvenirs are also very diverse and beautiful. The prices are quite cheap, for example refrigerator stickers cost about EUR1/piece, bracelet, watch from EUR3 – EUR10, large towel from EUR5… One special thing here is that very few Asian tourists compared to other places I’ve been to, but westerners are extremely crowded. I saw there were more westerners than Santorini.
Zakynthos travel guide: What to do and where to go in Zakynthos Greece?
Navagio Beach (Shipwreck Beach)
The most famous and also the most popular tourist attraction of the island is Navagio Beach (Shipwreck Beach), a beautiful cove surrounded by spectacular vertical cliffs. Originally, this beach was known as Agios Georgios. Later, it was renamed Navagio, which in Greek means “shipwreck”. The reason Navagio was given this strange name is because in 1983, on a stormy night, the cargo ship MV Panagiotis was washed up and stranded on this beach. It is rumored that this is a smuggling vessel carrying prohibited items such as cigarettes, smuggled alcohol and even women. The ship was left to rust on the beach, since then the bay has been known as the Smugglers Cove.
Zakynthos: Shipwreck Beach Boat Tour from Porto Vromi
Navagio Beach is located between steep cliffs so it feels like isolated. Sea water at Navagio Beach is turquoise and clear to see the bottom. For many visitors, Navagio is not only the most beautiful beach in Greece, but also one of the top most beautiful beaches in the world.
Navagio Shipwreck Beach and Blue Caves Full-Day Tour
From St.Nikolaos: Boat Cruise to Navagio Beach & Blue Caves
To capture the panoramic view of Navagio Shipwreck Beach, you have to go to the high view point (Shipwreck View Point), then go to the Porto Vromi harbor and buy a boat ticket to reach the Navagio beach, it takes about 20 minutes. Here, you can immerse yourself in turquoise water, sunbathe on the sand or participate in adventure activities such as rock climbing, windsurfing…
Navagio Beach: Day Tour of Shipwreck Beach & the Blue Caves
Some notes when exploring this beach:
- Bring your water as it is very hot and there is no shadow on the top of the cliffs.
- Wear sports shoes for easy hiking.
- Always ensure safety when swimming and sightseeing, do not go inside the shipwreck.
After visit Navagio, it takes another 30 minutes to reach the Blue Caves (Blue Grottos) located in the North-West coast of the island of Zakynthos. A series of geological activities has created natural arches right above the sea, mixed with the colors of the blue sea to creating a wonderful natural beauty that cannot be described, the rising sun is higher, the cave is more beautiful. The cave reach ist most beautiful when the sun is at its highest. The blue color of water reflects itself on the ceiling of the cave. That is why locals call them are blue caves. In which, Kianoun is the largest cave. To get there you can rent a boat or book a boat tour.
This place is pristine and quite difficult to find, you can look up on Google Maps. Crossing the dirt and rocky road, park your car at the bottom and trekking up the rest of the walking path, the road is pretty easy to walk and cool. When you reach the Mizithres viewpoint, there will be no signs, it is also atop of cliff, so be careful while watching the scenery. Below there is a beach formed by a landslide during an earthquake.
You can rent a private boat to sailing around the turtle island of Marathonisi and southern caves in a day in Zakynthos. You can rent a boat from some different spots on the island, like at the Keri beach. Start looking for unseen turtles in the bay, sunbathe and snorkel, then continue floating on the sea. If you want the best view, go to the area near the Keri Caves with impressively steep limestone cliffs, the water below is crystal clear and perfect for swimming.
Marathonisi (Turtle Island)
This is an islet in Laganas Bay, about 1 mile from the center of Zakynthos Island and is in the marine ecosystem of the country that needs to be protected because there are many turtles and they often lay eggs here. To get here, you go to Laganas Beach and book a boat tour (costing EUR10 – EUR20 for 3-4 hours).
The tour will take you to the sea to watching turtles and then visit some prominent caves like Blue Caves above (but not as beautiful as blue caves) and then getting to the island to bathe. The sea here is also nice and clear. You can stay here for as long as you want because there are often boats that carry visitors come and go, so you can return at any time.
Boat Trip to Keri Caves and Loggerhead Turtle Watching
On the island of Zakynthos, there are countless beaches such as Argassi, Tsiviili, Kalamaki, Laganas, Xigia… Because it is also the first-time I come here, I saw almost beaches have good reviews, so I visited almost them, but perhaps the beach I like the most is Gerakas Beach (18km from the center of Zakynthos). This beach defeats out all the beaches I’ve been to in Vietnam or other countries. It must be said that it is extremely beautiful with gentle waves, crystal water, smooth sand and also a place to be protected in the national oceanographic ecosystem.
Before exploring the beach, staff will give you a guide with regard to the terms of should and not to do, for example not throw out garbage, no swimming after sunset… There is also a rental service for umbrellas and sunloungers, price about 8-10 euros for 2 sunloungers and 1 umbrella. This beach is not too noisy and does not have too many restaurants and hotels like other beaches.
This beach is about 9km from the center of the island of Zakynthos. Following the coastal road from the center, you will see it. It is surrounded by a lot of cliffs. The short coastline with a bend part like Shipwreck beach, clear water. However, it smells a bit because this is where there are a lot of sulfur used as raw materials for cosmetics. There also is a vinyard with sweet and juicy fruits, they grow naturally without any care, but its fruit is as sweet as sugar. You notice when going down from the path where the stairs, it is right there.
The laganas sea is also quite clean and clear, from here you can take a boat to turtle island. Here, there is a strange thing than the other beaches is that there is a bridge like in the picture above spanning to a small rock. You just take pictures here, no need to swimming. After stop by, you will getting to the turtle island to take a bath there.
There are also some other beaches on the island of Zakynthos such as Tsilivi, Argassi, Kalamaki… but I saw these are rocky beaches, the water is not very clean, many restaurants and resorts surround them, so they quite crowded, hustle and bustle.
This beach is just a 10-minute drive from Shipwreck Beach, on the way you will passing through a cute little town called Volimes, then down a windswept cliff to reach this rocky bay. You should come early in the morning around 8am or from 5pm onwards because it’s completely deserted, freely to explore, swim and take pictures with nature.
Porto Limnionas Beach
Another must-see place in Zante is the Porto Limnionas Beach. It is located on the west coast of the island and takes about 30 minutes by car from Laganas. It looks quite like a miniature lake surrounded by cliffs, but the water is exceptionally clear and not too deep. A private place to relax, immerse yourself in cool water without crowd and noise.
Korakonissi is one of the Greek beaches that possesses mysterious beauty. Surrounded by two cliffs leading to the sea, you can jump into the bay and perform beautiful acrobatics, sunbathing on the rocks. The turquoise water glowed in the sunlight, so once discovered it quickly became one of the most popular photography spots.
Water sports in St. Nicholas Beach
If you’re traveling with kids or just simply want a fun day in the sun, then you definitely won’t be able to miss water sports on your itinerary. St. Nicholas Beach located in Vasilikos village offers many watersports such as: Surfing, canoeing, diving, banana boat ride, parasailing, jet skiing, water skiing… The beach also has a few restaurants, bars and sun loungers for rent, so if you don’t want participate in water activities, grab a drink and relax on the smooth sand.
Cape of Keri
In the south of the island of Zakynthos there is a place called Keri Cape, visitors coming here will admire the beauty inside the two caves Damianos and Marithi. In addition, Keri also owns many rocky outcrops and coasts with fascinating “virtual living” corners.
In addition to the attractive attractions, the Zante grapes and roses here are also reasons to attract visitors from afar to set foot in the island. The island’s specialty includes olives and Zante currant you can buy as gifts. Besides, you also can buy a few ceramic items as souvenirs.
In short, if you plan a trip to Zakynthos Island, you will need at least 2 days. One day to explore Navagio beach from above or go to the beaches far from your hotel. Another day you can take a boat tour to bathe at Navagio beach and then walk around the center of Zakynthos town. If you stay longer, you can buy tours to the nearby small islands, also wonderful.
Zakynthos travel blog: Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Zakynthos Greece you can refer to
- Zakynthos: Shipwreck Beach Boat Tour from Porto Vromi
- Navagio Beach: Day Tour of Shipwreck Beach & the Blue Caves
- From St.Nikolaos: Boat Cruise to Navagio Beach & Blue Caves
- Navagio Shipwreck Beach and Blue Caves Full-Day Tour
- Private Tour of Navagio Shipwreck Beach and the Blue Caves
- Navagio Shipwreck: Private Tour with Sunset Viewing Point
- From Zakynthos: Kefalonia Island Full Day Tour by Bus & Boat
- Zakynthos: Dinner with Greek Dancing & Wine
- Boat Trip to Keri Caves and Loggerhead Turtle Watching
- Zakynthos: Evening Southern-Island Road Trip
Are you looking for more top things to do in Zakynthos: Tours, activities, attractions and other things? Let’s check it out here.