1 Week on Zakynthos (How to See The Best Bits in 7 Days or Less)

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Off to Zakynthos this year? Wondering what to see, and how best to fit everything into a week?

You don’t necessarily need a week to see the Greek island of Zakynthos (also known as Zante). However, most people are here for some beach time so I’ve worked that into my suggestions. If you’re really rushed you can see the highlights in 2-3 days.

Note that there is a public bus service on Zakynthos but routes are mainly between Zakynthos Town and various beach resorts, it’s not great for sightseeing. There aren’t that many places to stay in Zakynthos Town, so if you’re not going to hire a car then I recommend staying in Tsilivi so that you can take a few excursions with Nefis Travel (these are the best excursions on the island).

See Where to Stay on Zakynthos: Ultimate Beach Resort Guide for more accommodation options.

turquoise waters near Ammoudi

So 1 week on Zakynthos could look something like this:

  • Day 1 – Shipwreck Cove boat trip
  • Day 2 – Turtle Island boat/kayaking trip
  • Day 3 – Explore the Vasilikos Peninsula
  • Day 4 – Excursion to Kefalonia or Olympia
  • Day 5 – West Coast road trip
  • Day 6 – Zakynthos Town 
  • Day 7 – Beach day on Alykes

SHIPWRECK COVE

Navagio Beach

Shipwreck Bay

Blue Caves

The famous one, and the most popular tour on the island. Do yourself a favour and book this ahead of time because the best tour to Shipwreck Bay (proper name = Navagio Beach, also known as Smuggler’s Cove) is the VIP trip with Nefis Travel. It’s a small boat (25 seats) and it does book up in advance so get in there quick to avoid disappointment.

These guys take you on a small speedboat from the nearest point on land, rather than sailing up the coast. This speed advantage means you can set foot on the beach before the many many tour boats arrive.

The downside is that, depending on the time of year, the beach might still be in shadow at this time of the morning. It’s still spectacular, but worth keeping in mind if visiting mainly for the photos. The earlier in the year, the earlier the sun hits the beach. 

There’s no shortage of boat trips so don’t worry if you haven’t booked ahead, but the standard trips feel a bit cattle-market.

The VIP trip also includes swimming stops at the Blue Caves and the unusual sulphur beach of Xigia (it’s a bit whiffy but apparently very good for your skin).

TURTLE ISLAND

aerial view of Turtle Island

Cameo Island on Zakynthos

This is the other main sight on Zakynthos that’s definitely worth seeing is Marathonisi, otherwise known as Turtle Island. The island itself is even in the shape of a turtle! It’s a small uninhabited islet in the bay of Laganas with an incredible beach on one side which is a popular nesting zone for the endangered Caretta Caretta turtle.

It’s part of the protected National Marine Park of Zakynthos but unfortunately, this also happens to be the most commercial part of the island and its protections are not well enforced. There are many operators and agencies selling various kinds of boat trips which unfortunately stress and harm the turtles.

The best way to see them (and the island) is on a kayaking trip with Sea Kayaking Zakynthos – this causes less stress to the turtles than boats with motors. The team also organise SUP, as well as trips to the Blue Caves and Keri Caves.

If kayaking is not an option for you then happily Nefis also have an eco-friendly turtle spotting boat excursion (I’m not sponsored by them, honest, but their ethos really stands out on an island full of dubious commercial operators). They work alongside ARCHELON – The Sea Turtle Protection Society to ensure the safety of the turtles, and there are two volunteer guides on hand to educate. It’s a half-day trip that includes snorkelling and the Keri Caves. 

As your boat (or kayak) comes into Agios Sostis you might sail past Cameo Island, a small islet which is connected to the harbour by a wooden bridge. This very scenic little island is like something from Mamma Mia! (although it didn’t actually feature in the film). There’s a small pebble beach plus beach bar on Cameo Island for €5 entrance – but due to ongoing legal disputes/weddings/weather it’s not always open for visitors.

EXPLORE THE VASILIKOS PENINSULA

Gerekas beach

Personally, my favourite part of Zakynthos is the Vasilikos Peninsula which is just south of Zakynthos Town. The main reason most people visit Vasilikos is the beaches – it’s home to some of the best on the island. Hourly buses run down here from Zakyknthos Town via Argassi and stop at the most popular beaches.

The big one is Banana Beach – a huge expanse of golden sand perfect for sun worshippers and watersports hounds. Further along the peninsula, another key watersports spot is Agios Nikolaos, a scenic cove with a sandy beach. A special shuttle bus runs here from Laganas and some of the other big resorts.

On the southernmost tip is Gerekas beach (pictured above) – one of the main turtle nesting beaches on the island. Unlike Laganas where legal protections are routinely flouted, here the beach is manned by volunteers who stop tourists from getting too close to the nests (which are marked out by little cages). The beach isn’t built on and closes half an hour before sunset. Turtle fans (and who isn’t?) can also check out the Zakynthos Sea Turtle Rescue & Information Centre.

 The Peninsula is full of sleepy roads winding through fields of olives and vines, with tempting beach bars and roadside tavernas. It’s a popular place to explore by quad, but you can also hire e-bikes in Zakynthos Town from Podilatadiko.

WEST COAST

The best reason to rent a car on Zakynthos is to see the mountainous west coast (including that famous view of Shipwreck Bay) you will need to drive or take a bus excursion. The Back to the Roots minibus tour is the only excursion that includes a stop at the viewing platform for Shipwreck Bay however it’s a brief stop and you won’t have time to reach the better viewpoint further along. If you’re dead set on that photo then you’ll have to hire a car. But please be careful – several people have died trying to take the perfect selfie!

If you have wheels, it’s worth turning this into a day trip along the west coast. Make stops a Porto Vromi and Porto Limnionas beaches and the Cliffs of Keri. Some of the most beautiful and unspoilt coves are on the rugged west and north coasts – Porto Vromi and Porto Limnionas have rocky platforms with beach bars and toilets.

There’s a popular sunset viewpoint near Keri lighthouse with a great view of the Mizitres rock stacks. If you stay for sunset just be aware that you’ll be driving back through unlit roads.

BEACH DAY ON ALYKES

Porto Paradiso beach bar

soft sand of Alykes beach

straw parasol on Alkyes beach

For dedicating a whole day to the beach, the best place is the likeable beach resort Alykes. It’s one of the most northerly resorts and is the best sandy beach on Zakynthos. The sand here is powdery soft and a pretty ash-white colour. The beach is lined with laid-back beach bars (I liked Porto Paradiso). It has the feel of somewhere much more tropical.

For those wanting to take a wander, the wider area is home to local villages and scenic beach bars near bathing spots (Shoestring towards Ammoudi was another favourite).

And Alykes is a blissful spot for paddleboarding – sunrise sessions are available, as well as longer tours around the coast to Xigia.

ZAKYNTHOS TOWN

Zakynthos Town promenade

Zakynthos Town harbourfront

Kalamaki beach

It has to be said that Zakynthos Town is not the most charming of Greek towns, its buildings were almost totally destroyed in the earthquake of 1953. Today it’s a working port town with a slightly scrappy feel and terrible traffic. However, it’s lively in the evenings and it’s also worth popping up to Kastro – the remnants of the Venetian Castle on the hills behind.

You don’t need the whole day to see Zakynthos Town though, it has a few small museums but is arguably at its best in the evening. Daytime can be a beach day. Zakynthos does have a small town beach but it’s better to head out of town to Kalamaki (pictured above) is the close to Zakynthos Town (and is much nicer than the Laganas end of the beach), it’s a short drive or accessible on the bus route. It’s another turtle nesting beach so in the central zone of the beach you might come across a cordoned off area with nests.

As the sun starts to go down, head towards Zakynthos and up to Kastro. The castle is surrounded by pines and is in the village of Bochali, where a few buildings survived the earthquake. It’s an atmospheric and spectacular spot to watch the sunset as the lights come on in Zakynthos Town below. Solomos Winery nearby offers tastings of local wines. Nefis also offer a 

Back in Zakynthos Town seems to burst into life, particularly in its two main squares. There are lots of bars and restaurants – Italian, Greek, fast food, and gelaterias. If you need a good coffee the best in town is at Black Bean Espresso Bar.

If you’re interested in hearing the local Italian-influenced folk music tradition (kantades) then there are a few tavernas and restaurants which might interest you – namely Varkarola and Alivizos.

EXTRA EXCURSION

There’s a spare day in the week for any extra excursions you’d like to make (or beaches that you’d like to sit on). The suggestions above cover all of the main highlights on Zakynthos. If there are any other boat trips or watersports that you’re dying to do then it’s best not leave them to the end of the week as they sometimes have to be rescheduled due to the weather conditions.

Other options on the island include: 

But two of the most popular day trips leave the island:

If you haven’t been to Kefalonia (and are not planning to) then I reckon it makes a great day trip from Zakynthos. The Nefis excursion visits the Melissani Blue Caves and Myrtos Beach which are two of the best sights on the island.

If you have a rental car then you can do this yourself using the ferry from Agios Nikolaos/Skinari on the northern tip of the island which sails over to Pessada on Kefalonia. This ferry isn’t suitable for foot passengers as it’s not connected on either end by public transport.

Read more:

Where to Stay on Kefalonia: Ultimate Beach Resort Guide

Where to Stay on Zakynthos: Ultimate Beach Resort Guide 

Vasilikos Peninsula (Shh, It’s The Nicest Part of Zakynthos)

Kefalonia – 1 Week Itinerary

Where to Stay on Lefkada: Ultimate Beach Resort Guide

Where to Stay on Corfu: Ultimate Beach Resort Guide

Where to Stay on Crete: Ultimate Beach Resort Guide

Where to Stay on Skiathos: Ultimate Beach Resort Guide

10 Most Beautiful Beaches in the Ionian Islands

How to Visit Ithaca from Kefalonia

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Image credits: 

Turtle Island aerial view © Samuel B. / Adobe Stock

Cameo Island © Samuel B. / Adobe Stock

All other images © The Mediterranean Traveller