GREECE: Zakynthos

By Michael Chapman

The number of times we’ve been to Zakynthos is now somewhere up in the double figures - so we like to think we know what we're talking about when it comes to exploring this stunning Ionian island.

Zakynthos (or Zante) has formerly earned itself a reputation as a party destination for teenage Brits. It's finally starting to be recognised for everything else it offers; jaw-dropping coastline, stunning beaches, and a sea so blue it'll blow your mind. Get yourself a hire car at the airport and head for the north of the island (a 40 minute drive from the airport).

We love Zakynthos so much, we run multiple weeks there each year for Salt Escapes throughout the European Summer. If you’re keen to experience Zakynthos with us on an Escape (think an epic luxury villa, daily workouts & yoga sessions, our own private chef, all of the best local adventures and a whole bunch of like-minded people to experience it all with), take a look here.

Otherwise, if you’re heading to Zakynthos on your own time, keep scrolling for our Top 5 Things To Do, plus some things to think about when planning your itinerary.

 

Boat Day

This is a non-negotiable. Trust us, there is nothing quite like the coastline and the colour of the water in Zakynthos. Due to the towering limestone cliffs along much of the coastline, the very best bits of this island require a boat to be visited. 

We pick up our Salt Escapes (fancy) boat from Porto Vromi, or when exploring just the two of us, have hired a small boat from Agios Nikolaos (they have lots of options, and you can rent your own boat without a license). Both of these small ports are great starting spots to explore the northern tip of the island.  

Ok, our favourite spots to cruise to?

  • San Andreas
  • Kampi
  • Korakonissi
  • The Blue Caves (does get touristy, so go earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon)
  • Trampolino beach

The locals will tell you to go to Shipwreck beach (also known as Navaggio beach), but we prefer to see it from the viewpoint. If you do visit on your boat day, go early as it gets jam-packed with tourists. 

We like to pack a lunch & some beers for our boat days, but if you’re feeling some fresh seafood and a cocktail, you could anchor outside Nobelos and swim up to their private beach to sit amongst the pine trees for lunch with a view.

 

Nobelos

Speaking of Nobelos, this beach-front restaurant is so good, it sits at number 2 on our Top 5 To Do’s in Zakynthos. 

I remember the first time we walked into this place - the piercing blue of the water, the sun sparkling through the pine trees, the friendly service, and Oh My The Food! We love this spot so much, we take our guests here on every Salt week. 

Nobelos is a family-run restaurant and boutique hotel (a family home turned family business) located on the water in Agios Nikolaos. It has it’s own beach club vibe, offering guests the use of their comfy sun-loungers and lovely service for a minimum spend of €50 pp (last time we checked). Easily done after a couple of refreshing aperols and some lunch. 

Perfect spot for a day of sun-baking, long-lunching and soaking up the dreamy views of the Ionian Sea. 

And if you go, say hi to Stamatis for us! And get the grilled prawns. Oh and the lamb orzo. And definitely get the Elder Gin cocktail. Wow. And the Greek salad. Ok I’ll stop.

 

Limnionas Beach

Less of a beach, more of a rock-bathing situation, but this beautiful blue bay is worth a visit to the north western part of Zakynthos. 

There’s no shore here, so locals and tourists flop their towels down on the rocks and  clamber down for a swim in this incredible water lined with hidden caves and white cliffs. There’s a restaurant and some parasols you can use if you’re hungry or in need of some shade. 

We spent a few hours here swimming, taking in the views and flying the drone up to get some epic aerial shots.

 

Cape Skinari

An epic little spot we discovered on our last trip to Zakynthos. We actually ran here early one morning from where we were staying in Agios Nikolaos (a very picturesque, hilly 15km round trip, if you’re up for it), but you can drive and park your car at the top too. 

Skinari is the northern most tip of the island, and the views from here are breathtaking. There’s a cute little windmill and a taverna at the top, a whole lot of stairs, and then some fun cliff jumps at the bottom. When I say cliff jumps, there are actually platforms sticking out the rocks, so you can literally walk the plank and jump into the inviting big blue beneath you. So refreshing mid-run, and such a fun way to start the day.

 

Shipwreck beach viewpoint - The Salt Experience

Our favourite run in Greece! We take our guests on this early morning run every Salt week, and even if running isn’t really your jam (it’s not mine), everything about this morning adventure makes it worth it. 

Throw on your comfiest running gear, set off early, and park your car in the village of Anafonitria (you might spot our Escape villa if you look hard enough). 

From here, run the golden, windy roads towards Shipwreck viewpoint. It’s about 3.5-5km (depending on where exactly you start) and we usually don’t see a single car or person the entire run. We usually set off at 7am when the sun has just popped up. It’s cooler and the sunrise coming through the olive groves is pretty magical. 

Take the clearly marked turning to Shipwreck, and run down the steep hill (try not to think about the way back just yet) towards to the water. When you get to the viewpoint, to the right there’s a path you can take to get a better perspective of the beach. You’ve made it to our favourite spot when you reach the Greek flag. Just be careful... don't go too close the edge! And if you don't like heights, this spot might not be the one for you.

Once you’ve taken in the mind-blowing view of those blues, start the run back to the car. And if you're up for a challenge, see if you can run the whole hill from bottom to top without stopping. Even better, see if you can beat Mike’s time of 5 minutes ?? 

Now on a Salt week, we usually have a pool to jump in and a chef-cooked breakfast waiting for us when we get back, but at the very least you should treat yourself to an iced coffee and a pit-stop at a beach on the drive home.

 

TOP TIPS: Planning your trip to Zakynthos

1. Hire a car - you really need one to visit all the best spots. There are heaps of car rental options near the airport, and rates are usually around £20 per day for a small car. Make sure you book your car early if you’re going in the peak months. 

2. If your time and budget allows - we really recommend doing two Boat Days! The absolute best thing about Zakynthos is the coastline, the hidden beaches you can only reach via boat and the WATER! We'd recommend doing one Boat Day from the North of the island (see above), and one from the South. From the South, we picked up a boat from Laganas beach and cruised round for a quick stop near Marathonisi island, and then further southwest along the coastline towards Keri. 

3. Zakynthos has a couple of really really excellent restaurants we'd recommend (Nobelos and The Windmill), but from our experience, the rest is mostly very average tavernas. On Salt Escapes we have our own Chef, but on our solo travels here, we stay in an Airbnb, and cook some fresh fish on the bbq a few nights. Just something to think about when planning your accommodation. Let us know if there are any other restaurants you'd recommend.

4. We mentioned it briefly above, but the tourist spots like Shipwreck beach and Blue Caves get super busy. Go first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds, if you can.