Lying off the west coast of Greece, one of the Islands that bathe in the blue of the Ionian Sea, Zakynthos is a place of sun-kissed sand, dramatic stone cliffs, and dusty green olive groves. It’s the birthplace of the national poet of Greece, Dionysios Solomos, who wrote the poem that was to later become Greece’s national anthem – no doubt inspired by the beauty of his Greek island home. Also known by its Italian name of Zante (the island was part of the Venetian Empire from the 16th to 18th centuries), the island is deservedly popular for its coves and beaches, which dissolve into crystal-clear waters.
Zakynthos town, on the east coast of the island, is its capital. Though many of its grand Neoclassical buildings were lost in a powerful earthquake in 1953, its streets and squares are still a delightful place for a stroll, when you can stop at its pretty boutiques, or maybe at a taverna for a tiropita – a delicious feta, spinach or meat-stuffed puff pastry. Perhaps the best way to see the town, though, is from above. The village of Bohali is perched up on the hills about a mile and a half out of town, and in the cool shade of pine and olive trees, you can take in the view across to the port and the sparkling sea beyond. While you’re there, have a look at the picturesque ruins of the Venetian castle that once guarded Zante against seafaring invaders; you can still see the main gate and some outer walls and battlements, and the views seem all the more impressive from atop a castle turret.
Zakynthos is not short of beautiful beaches, and if you hop in a car and drive around the island you’re sure to find one beckoning to you with a sparkle in its eye. Laganas Bay, in the south, is a wide arc encompassing several gorgeous stretches of sand, and its beauty and ideal beach-bum conditions mean it’s perennially popular. It’s still worth a visit, however, especially if you’re interested in finding out more about one of Zakynthos’ more ancient residents. The loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) is an endangered species that lays its eggs in the sand in summer, and there is a large population of turtles living around the bay. Laganas is now protected as a National Marine Park, so the public is only allowed on the sand between 7 am and sunset, and there are rules about where to set up and where to dig for sandcastles, to protect the turtles that come on to the beach at night to burrow and lay their eggs. If you’d like to learn more about these gentle creatures, you can visit the park's exhibition center in Dafni, at the east end of Laganas Bay.
Xigia Beach, up towards the north of the island, is another spot worth mentioning. A secluded cove nestled between the cliffs, it’s known for its sulfur springs, which mix with the saltwater to make a natural beauty bath for your skin. The turquoise waters beckoning you as you stand on the cliffs above will make you want to strip down to your swimmers, but take care down the steep access path. There’s a parking area up at road level, and the local taverna has a terrace with a view – perfect for a fresh Greek salad, hot crispy fried fish, and a cold beer.
The most famous beach on the island, though, can only be reached by boat. Navagio Beach is probably the most photographed in Greece, and you can follow suit from a spot near the village of Anafonitria up above, but to swim in the gin-clear sea and sit on the sun-kissed stretch you’ll need to charter a boat, take a taxi-boat from the harbor at Agios Nikolaos, or join a round-the-island one-day boat excursion. The beach gets its name (‘navagio‘ means ‘shipwreck’ in Greek) from the wreck of a rusty ship that is believed to have been transporting contraband when it got caught in a storm and washed ashore in the early 1980s. The rusting hulk wedged in the golden sand against the bright-white cliffs is an Instagram magnet.
Whether you want to get the whole gang together or just get away with that special someone, you’ll find the perfect vacation home among our luxury rentals. If you’re planning a honeymoon in Zakynthos , then how about a romantic hideaway in one of the island’s smartest resorts? Our Tragaki villas offer a pool with hydrotherapy device, ocean views from almost every room and your own private slice of beach. You’ll also have access to the resort’s first-class facilities, so why not enjoy a couples’ spa treatment and dinner at one of the resort’s delicious restaurants before retiring to gaze at the stars with a glass of Champagne on your secluded terrace.
The charming harbor of Agios Nikolaos sits at the peaceful northern end of Zakynthos, and our Agios Nikolaos villas make the most of their serene surroundings. Traditional stone-built houses offer a shaded respite from the midday sun – or just take a dip in your private pool with its unobstructed view of the Ionian Sea. In the cool of the morning or late afternoon, you might like to explore the island by bike, or the coast by kayak – both are available at some of our properties. In the evening the relaxed bars and restaurants of Agios Nikolaos are close by for a delicious Greek meal.