If you are planning summer holidays, consider Zakynthos, a Greek island popular with its breathtaking beaches. Zakynthos (or Zante), located in the Ionian sea, is a well-known summer resort. The island is really beautiful and makes tourists fall in love with the place.
I was lucky to be invited to the wedding of a Cypriot couple, who once spent their holiday on this island and liked it so much, that they decided to celebrate their wedding there as well. After spending a week in Zante, I am ready to share with you some great beaches, a few places to visit and one hotel you should definitely avoid.
1. The shipwreck (or Navagio) beach is probably the most popular in Zakynthos. You can see it on every postcard. What can I say? The sea color is out of this world, my eyes couldn’t believe that this kind of blue exists. Living in Cyprus for the last 8 years, I have seen many shades of blue, but not that one. The access to the beach is possible by a boat or a yacht.
As you might guess from the name, Navagio beach became home to a ship’s wreck. It was called “Panagiotis” and believed to have been a smuggler’s ship. Being surrounded by cliffs, this beach became a popular destination for base jumpers. Unfortunately, 6 years ago there was one fatality case during a tourist’s base jump.
2. Xigia beach (natural sulfur spa): this beach is located on the eastern coast of the northern part of the island. Since sulfur is being mined in the region, the water contains a high amount of it. Due to that fact, the water has a specific smell. Sulfur is known for many health benefits, so don’t miss your chance to enjoy a free sulfur spa.
There is another small sulfur beach right next to Xigia. After going for a swim, you might want to enjoy a great meal in the nearby taverna located on the cliff with the great view.
3. Makris Gialos beach: this beach doesn’t get crowded in the summer, because it is a bit unorganized. You won’t find any umbrellas or sunbeds (unless something has changed from the last time I visited). However, the crystal clear water and sandy beach are perfect.
Not suitable for small children since the sea here is quite deep. Makris Gialos attracts many snorkelers. Alternatively, you can rent a water bicycle and go for a “sea ride”, there are some nice caves nearby to explore.
4. Gerakas beach: located in the south of the island, Gerakas is protected by Zakynthos Marine park because of turtles. If you go there before the dawn, there is a great chance to see small turtles coming out from the eggs and trying to reach the sea.
I highly recommend renting a bike or a car to explore the island. This way you will be able to reach almost every corner of it.
Askos stone park
in Askos stone park
This park is a must-see place for all nature and animal lovers. We discovered the park by chance after driving back from Xigia beach and I am really happy that we decided to visit it.
I hate seeing animals in the cages, so I really don’t like zoos. This park, on the contrary, had animals walking around free. Rabbits were chilling in a house, cheeky raccoons were constantly trying to steal food, and when I tried to feed one deer, his friends came from nowhere and surrounded me before I realized it. Communication with animals is truly an amazing experience.
Zante’s Venetian castle
Situated above Zakynthos town you will find a Venetian castle built during Venetian rule. It used to be a capital of Zakynthos. However, the island was often affected by earthquakes, and the castle was damaged badly.
Despite everything, even today while visiting the castle you will see ancient stones, canons, prisons. I believe you can access the castle by car, we walked all the way up from the town of Zakynthos. The views opening from the top are breathtaking.
A hotel to avoid in Zakynthos
Since we booked our trip through the agency, the hotel was included in the package. After looking at the hotel’s pictures, we found them quite decent and we didn’t even check the reviews on booking.com.
Upon arriving at Letsos hotel, we were waiting to check-in right after another group of Cypriots, who booked this hotel through the same agency. We could notice some kind of argument between the group of young Cypriots and the staff, finally, they received the keys and before leaving, one of the guys warned us that the staff will try to cheat and we need to be careful.
We were shown our room in the building opposite of the hotel(according to the management, it belongs to the hotel as well), which was horrible and has nothing to do with what we saw in the pictures. The shower (without a curtain) was filled with mold. Obviously, we didn’t want to stay there for a week.
The management “kindly” suggested the option to give us another room for an extra fee, we managed to bargain that fee until 90 EUR simply because we didn’t have time to choose another hotel.
As we found out later, the owner of the hotel played this trick with many customers, trying to get as much as possible from naive tourists. We contacted our agency and after getting back to Cyprus explained everything that happened in details. The agency handled this matter professionally by returning our 90 euro and reported the hotel to Greek and Cyprus tourism board.
Don’t let this happen to you. Stay safe and enjoy summer!