Visiting Shipwreck Beach in Greece’s Ionian Islands

| © Culture Trip
James Smart

With huge cliffs and blue waters framing a white-sand beach and a shipwreck, Navagio Beach is one of the world’s most photogenic sights. Its romance is increased by the fact that there’s no land access, so to get here you’ll be coming on a boat or – if you’re very bold – by air.

On several occasions in recent years, the viewpoint above the beach has been taken over by rope jumpers and base jumpers, who leap the 200m from the limestone clifftop to the glorious sands below. Temporary diving boards were erected, and the footage shows tumbling daredevils spinning, flipping and selfie-sticking on the way down to the beach – base jumpers have a fall of two to five seconds here before opening their chutes.

Navagio Beach is also known as “Shipwreck Beach”

So Where’s the Cliff?

Navagio Beach is on the west coast of Zakynthos, in Greece’s Ionian Islands. You can access the viewpoint platform by car – it’s off the road between Anafonitria and Volimes, about an hour’s drive from Zakynthos Town. Most people here are soaking in the views and filling their Instagram feed, and it’s a perfect spot for a snap. The cliffs drop sheer to the beach, hardy vegetation clings to the arid clifftops around and, behind the sparkling aquamarine cove itself, darker, deeper water and more of the island’s rugged coastline can be seen.

Organised rope or bungee jumps (the former stops you more slowly) and base jumps have taken place a few times over the years, typically set up by organisations working with the local authorities. The Dream Walker project saw rope and base jumps synchronised, with up to five athletes leaping together. Base Boogie and Go Fast Games events have also been held.

Getting There by Boat

The most common way to reach Navagio Beach is by water, and in high season a succession of tour boats pull up in the cove. Boats pick up from nearby resorts including Porto Vromi Maries, Agios Nikolaos, Zakynthos Town and Skinari. Some just stop at the beach, while others take in peaceful St Nicholas Beach and the Blue Caves, a succession of caves and arches that offer clear water and atmospheric reflections. Many stop off at a restaurant too, and you’ll generally have around an hour at Navagio Beach.

One attraction you’ll see on the beach is man-made: the shipwreck at the cove’s centre. This rusting vessel, which landed on the beach during a storm in 1980, has attracted a few stories: some claim it was abandoned while smuggling contraband, but no action was ever taken against the captain.

The Dangers of Navagio Beach

Quite apart from the obvious dangers of cliff jumping, Navagio Beach has risks associated with it. The viewpoint is perilously high, and people have died after slipping – be cautious, especially if you follow the paths around the top of the cliff. Rock falls have also occurred in recent years, and in 2018 the beach was closed off to boats and swimmers after eight people were injured during a cliff collapse.

Visiting Zakynthos

Zakynthos is a popular tourist destination, and the south, in particular, has plenty of big package resorts. The wilder west coast and forested interior offer a break from the crowds, and there are lots to do right across the island. There are beaches for snorkelling, seaside walks and watersports, plus some great local restaurants. Day trips can take in turtle-nesting sites, mountain villages and the home of the ancient Olympic games. While parts of the island throb with visitors in summer, the weather can be lovely in shoulder season – try coming in April, May, October or even November. In these quieter times, you can have some of Zakynthos’s famous beaches practically to yourself.

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