Whenever I think about Greece, the first thing that comes to my mind is that amazing deep blue sea and the white little houses on top of the mountain. I remember before traveling there, Greece seemed to me a country far away, like it only existed in the mythological legends. But for our happiness, it’s real, affordable, and it’s there for everyone who loves amazing islands, marvelous food, parties, great drinking and welcoming people. A country that, despite recently economic problems, it’s one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been.
Also known as Hellas since the old days and the cradle of civilization, Greece is famous for having many, many islands (more than 6.000 and according statics 227 islands are inhabited), and although I have LOVED every place I’ve been there, I decided to write about this particular island that today is famous, but back then, it wasn’t. Welcome to Zakynthos, an island that is hard to describe, but I’ll do my best to make sure you will want to go there as soon as you read this article
Zakynthos is not just an island…
The name of the island of Zakynthos appears in myths and legends since prehistory. The famous poet Homer was the first to refer to the island on the epic poem Odyssey. Different from the architecture of other famous islands in Greece, Zakynthos (or Zante from Venetian) is located on the west side of country, in the Ionian Sea. It’s the third largest of the Ionian Islands and one of the most green ones. Its name ending in -nthos, is from Pelasgian origin (it’s said that the Pelasgian people were the first dwellers of Italy and the ancestors of all Indo-European). The island was named after the son of the legendary Arcadian chief Dardanus (in the Greek mythology, Dardanus was the son of Zeus and Electra, daughter of Atlas).
Today Zakynthos is a touristic destination known world wide (back then was more likely know to Italian, Russian and Greek people), with an international airport served by many charter flights from northern Europe. The weather is typical Mediterranean and Zakynthos is known for being one of the sunniest places in Greece in the summer, with very rare rain at this time.
If you wanna go by car, make sure to study the road before you go, preferable daylight, follow the coastal part along the north. The roads are very good and new, and there are some tolls along the stretch (from Athens it’s more or less 7 hours). Roads are real nice, but flights are faster and that was my choice. There are non stop flights from Athens that cost around 60 euros (Olympic Air). If you wanna save time, that’s the best option. The airport Dionysios Solomos (Zakynthos) is 3 kilometers from the city. The duration of the flight is about 55 minutes.
Ferry: from Killini with Ionian Ferries; and from Brindisi (Italy) with European Seaways. By bus: from Athens, with the KTEL company. It’s a big island, and biking is not part of their transportation daily option. The best and cheapest transportation option from one beach to another and drive around the island are the scooters (if you don’t drive scooters there are plenty taxis all over and rental cars).
The outstanding beaches
I stayed at hotel Yrya, cheap one, with a view to the beautiful ocean, close to the historical center town, the port, and also to the beaches (by scooter or car). There are so many beautiful beaches on the island, inclusive the hidden ones, that for you to get to know all of them, you have to stay in the island for quite a while, but I’ve been to a few, and can say that I should have stayed a little more in this peace of paradise…
I think Porto is one of the different beaches there, its main characteristic are the big rocks within the sea that looks like giant mushrooms! With touristic facilities, it’s often visited. A bit of seaweed hits only the end of the beach. It’s a good beach also for kids, but be careful with the surrounding area close to the rocks, not wise to be very close there, specially if you don’t get a day with shallow waters. Sandy beach, and a few areas with some pebbles. It’s located on the northside, at Vassilikos Peninsula.
This was the first beach I stepped in Greece. Shallow and calm water, peace, few tourists, sunny, a few tavernas, fine sand, good for kids, a bit of seaweed. This beach is an important location as a turtle’s nest. Also located in the Vassilikos Peninsula.
I loved this one. I don’t know if it was the vibe, the surrounding area with lots of green, the happy greek atmosphere, the watersports, but surely this was one of my favorites. Many sunbeds, bars (this is important), no turtles, safe for kids, flat space (the sea looks like a mirror), and wow, I miss that! Easy access, also at Vassilikos Peninsula.
THE ONE: Shipwreck beach
When I choose Greece for my trip, I choose for many reasons, but one of them was this ethereal picture that I saw from the The Shipwreck Beach or Navagio as many call it. I thought: I have to meet this place. Where is it? Took me a while to figure it out, the picture was on those wallpaper sites with only Greece written on it. But at the moment I found it, Zakynthos was already on my list to visit.
This spectacular beach, also has the title as one of the most beautiful in the world, has the most amazing deep blue sea I’ve ever seen in my life, and I looove beaches and have traveled to quite a few, so this is not nonsense, the sea of this beach has the most amazing blue from all. And by that I literally mean blue, not transparent, not green, but the most beautiful blue as in the pictures (as you can see). I think turquoise fits as a color description ;).
Says the legend (I myself don’t quite believe in that…) that this beach was discovered in 1980 when a Scottish ship that made the Turkey-Italy route, was pursued by the Greek authorities on suspicion of smuggling cigarettes and drinks. During the persecution and because of the bad weather, the ship ended up stranded in this cove of white pebble and crystal clear waters. True or not, we are thankful that this astonishing beach exists and makes us feel part of what Greece may have been long before the modern civilization stepped on it. The place itself seems magical and part of a dream.
From where I was, I took a ferry boat to the beach (the only way to get there), and I still remember that the ferry departed at 8:30am. By the time I got there, the beach was still with no sunlight, and as I stepped on the beach, the sun began to shed its beautiful morning light in this white pebbles and crystal waters… to turn into one of the most glorious images I’ve ever seen in my life. Gladly that I chose to go early morning, because there weren’t still many people at the beach, the ferry I was in was one of the firsts to arrive there. But bare in mind that unfortunately nowadays this spot is one of the most commercial sites within Greece. So my advice is, go on the morning ferries.
If you choose an afternoon one, you may not have a bit of peace before the amount of people that will arrive there. I remember staying around a whole hour at beach, photographing, diving, but as it’s today, 20 min or 30 min is the time you get there. So enjoy this precious little time, I know it’s not enough but it’s really worth it! And if you want to get there by having the view from over the cliff, and before you ask, I didn’t have more time to do it, unfortunately :(, but, all you have to do is to rent a car (if you drive), which is about 1 hour from downtown (just stick to the GPS and you will get there). And if you don’t wanna drive but don’t wanna go on a tour bus, to share a taxi might be a good idea, the prices go from 80-100 Euros, which if you are with friends still worth it, make a good arrangement with the taxi driver and take your time to take pictures on the platform over the cliff.
And of course there are always the bus tours. But this is the last thing I recommend, the tours are always short of time, saying where you can and can’t go, and the worse of all, you never have the proper time for photographing it! But, as I said, if you don’t drive, don’t want to think how to get there and don’t want to spend money on a taxi, this should be probably the best option. And whichever will be your choice, remember go by sea and by land to see this gorgeous beach from 2 different points of view
PLUS: The Blue Caves
One of the best parts of Zakynthos certainly is where remains the beautiful Blue Caves, also known as the Caves of Volimes, (village where they are located). These fascinating blue caves are a part of the island where you will find again that deep blue see that I mentioned before, sometimes turquoise, sometimes green emerald, sometimes pure navy blue, a piece of idyll that can be reached only by sea, and surely it’s one of the main attractions of this beautiful island (you have to pass through it to get to the Shipwreck Beach).
Again I can easily say that the best time to go there is during the morning hours as the reflections hits the sea rocks from the intense sunlight and makes the floor of the ocean turns into a colorful sea, like a rainbow. The day I was there the sea was a bit rough, so we didn’t stop to dive, too bad! Seems I have enough reasons to go back to this beautiful island!
When to go to Zakynthos?
If you love high summer the best thing to do is to travel during June, July and August, but if you prefer less people and more amenable temperatures travel during September and beginning of October, where you can still get pleasant 25 degrees, less people and more quality time. And another thing: whenever you’re in Greece, is a must have to try their marvelous Greek salad (OMG! the amazing olive oil they put on it makes me salivate and feels like eating 3, 4 times); the national beer, Mythos; their fantastic national drink anise flavored Ouzo, drink it icy and cold and tell me how it goes!; and last but not least, the delicious pita gyros sandwich (a mix of pork meat, tomato, onions and tzatziki sauce rolled into a pita bread formed as a cone), cheap option and lifesaver!
Tremendously hospitable people, the scenery and seas hypnotize everyone – especially the hidden places – and the history, undoubtedly, beyond our times. So…are you sufficiently convinced to go to Zakynthos? :-]