Amazing Day Trips to Take Around Zakynthos by Boat

The craggy coastline around the islands Blue Caves is littered with stunning sea arches.
The craggy coastline around the island's Blue Caves is littered with stunning sea arches. | © Nick Kontostavlakis / Alamy
Judy Cogan

Sailing around the Greek island of Zakynthos, also known as Zante, is undoubtedly the best way to discover all its wonders. Along the way, you’ll discover hard-to-reach beaches and glittering coves. In the south there’s a nature reserve where endangered loggerhead turtles nest and on the northwest shore you’ll find one of the world’s most photographed shipwrecks. Explore by boat until the hunger pangs set in, then hop ashore and settle in at one of the cosy seafront tavernas, which serve up some of the best seafood in the Ionian region. Here we reveal the ways of tackling Zakynthos by boat.

Explore the Greek coastline with the Culture Trip’s Sailing Trips.

The Blue Caves

You’ll find the Blue Caves on the island’s wild northeast tip. The caves are only accessible by boat and the biggest is called Kianoun. They get their name from their electric-blue waters. Swim or snorkel in the pools and out into the sunshine under arches formed by thousands of years of erosion. They are at their most spectacular at sunrise and just before sunset. This area is also a popular scuba diving spot.

Xigia Beach

This sun-drenched hidey-hole, tucked into the untamed coastline of Zakynthos, is well worth a visit. It’s known for its natural spa, with stream water rich in collagen and sulphur flowing out into the sea. The surrounding sea caves brew bubbly, milky water, which tourists flock to swim in, as it’s said the elements provide relief from various health complaints, including arthritis and skin conditions.

The Peligoni Club

A family-run members beach club on the secluded north coast, the Peligoni is designed for a fun-loving crowd. Open from May until September each year, this spot has nailed laid-back luxury. Carve out a day in your sailing itinerary to spend time here swimming, taking a seafront yoga class or relaxing on a sunbed. If you fancy a bit more activity, there are tennis courts and bikes to use. Other amenities include three open-air restaurants, a deli and live music events on the terrace. Memberships are given out weekly and must be purchased in advance.

Navagio Beach

Navagio Beach, also known as Shipwreck Beach and Smugglers Cove, sits on the northwest coast of the island and is only accessible by boat. The white pristine sands in this sheltered bay are home to a rusting hulk of a boat stranded on its shores in 1983. This smugglers’ shipping vessel was called the MV Panagiotis and it was left grounded on the beach after the authorities went after it. Today it is one of the world’s most photographed shipwrecks, with no snorkelling gear required to explore the carcass.

Porto Limnionas

This untamed beach on the west coast is one of Zakynthos’s hidden gems, and it’s well worth making the effort to pinpoint it on your sailing voyage. The rocky inlet boasts sunbeds and palm-frond umbrellas on raised terraces wedged between crags, with pine trees providing some shelter. After having your fill of sun and taking a dip in the aquamarine waters, venture to the taverna above the bay and refuel with plates piled high with grilled sardines, Greek salad, homemade tzatziki and more. The olive oil and wine served here are produced by the family that runs the restaurant.

Askos Stone Park

For a totally different kind of experience, head inland to visit this wildlife sanctuary, inhabited by deer, chinchillas, peacocks and hundreds of other species, as well as 200,000 indigenous plants, shrubs and trees. It’s close to the village of Volimes, and on arrival you’ll be given half a litre of fresh water per person and a map to find your way around. Just 100m (330ft) away from the park is the Old Windmill restaurant – a favourite dining spot for locals and visitors alike, serving moussaka, stuffed peppers, home-made hummus and other tasty delights.

Venetian Castle

KPEH7Y gate to the venetian castle in zakynthos city

On Bohali Hill, high above Zakynthos harbour, sits the Venetian Castle. Constructed in 1646AD on the site of the ancient acropolis, it suffered damage from wars and earthquakes, and was reconstructed after the British Empire took over the Ionian islands in 1812. The Winged Lion of Saint Mark, a symbol of the Venetian empire, still stands above the main entrance. Following your cultural fix, head to Alesta on St Mark’s Square for an authentic Italian dining experience, complete with delicious thin-crust pizza.

Turtle Island

Turtle spotting is a must on a day-long cruise leaving from Zakynthos town. Most of the tour boats have glass bottoms so you can see the turtles as they glide under them. All of the turtle nesting sites are off-limits to tourists, but you can admire them from afar by sailing through the arches of the Keri Caves in the south and onto ​​the islet of Marathonisi. This tiny outcrop, also known as Turtle Island, is within a marine park that was established in 1999, and is now home to between 900 and 2,000 turtle nests per year.

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