Zakynthos is both lush and tranquil. Sun lovers visit for its incredible coastline and beautiful bays.
Navagio Beach © Heather Cowper
The island's main town is reminiscent of Venice, with its reconstructed neoclassical buildings. Architectural highlights include the historic St Mark's Square and Solomos Square, as well as a Venetian Fortress and the St Dennis Cathedral.
Zakynthos town will definitely delight history buffs, whose first stop should be the Solomos Mausoleum. The museum is dedicated to the island's aristocracy of bygone days. The Byzantine Museum is another gem, given that it sports splendid icons and frescoes salvaged from the island's beautiful medieval churches, which didn't survive the massive earthquake in 1953.
Lagana and Geraka may be the island's best-loved beaches. Their white sands are the nesting grounds of Caretta-Caretta sea turtles. Further inland, mountain villages share local hospitality, good food and wine. They're also home to monasteries tucked away within the greenery.
Zakynthos isn't exactly a party island, though its nightlife does offer variety. Visitors can choose from pubs, bars and nightclubs. The trendiest spots are on the south end of the island, mostly in Laganas, Argassi, Kalamaki, Tsilivi and Alykes.
See our separate guides to the following Zakynthos holiday resorts: Laganas
Blue Caves © Ghost of Kuji
Blue CavesLocated near a picturesque village called Volimes, the Blue Caves are one of Zakynthos Island's best-loved attractions. Only accessible by boat, these striking rock formations put on an unforgettable show. Essentially, the caves capture and reflect light in a marvellous variety of blues. Visitors will enjoy the best displays at sunrise, sunset, or from under water while scuba diving. Oftentimes, visitors can enjoy round-island boat trips that include the caves and Navagio Beach, with its famous shipwreck. Small, 25-passenger boats are generally more pleasant than 300-seaters. As a selling point, they can sail into the caves, which is a magical experience.
Loggerhead © Mike Gonzalez
Marathonisi IslandMarathonisi is a small island in Laganas Bay, completely unspoilt by human inhabitants. There are two main beaches on this island: the white sands of the larger beach are the nesting area of the endangered Caretta Caretta (Loggerhead) sea turtle; and the smaller pebble beach is home to a couple of interesting sea caves. You can swim into these caves, or paddle a boat around them, and they create a snorkeller's paradise. The Monachus sea seal, also an endangered species, also visits the island to reproduce and visitors may even be lucky enough to see some of these rare animals. The natural pine, olive and green oak forests on the island are another beautiful attraction. There is no development on the island, which is part of the National Marine Park, and visitors are advised to take water and supplies for the day. There is a little picnic snack boat which circles the island and provides refreshments to visitors but it is best to assume you'll be fending for yourself so long as you are on the deserted island. The National Park ensures that the beach is empty of people by sunset so that the turtles, who come ashore at night, are not disturbed.
Zante Coastline © slifex
Zante BeachesZante is renowned for unspoilt beaches and rich marine life and it is a great island for nature-lovers. The beaches on the island are also known for their beautiful emerald green water. The region of Vassilikos has some of the best beaches on the island and a favourite is St Nicholas, which has great watersports facilities. Gerakas is also very popular, voted one of Greece's best beaches. Gerakas is a long, sandy beach with lovely and unusual rock formations. Many of the holiday resorts have their own beaches for visitors to enjoy, and these are the Zante beaches with the best amenities; generally the beaches do not have restaurants and bars because their lack of development is their greatest attraction. The Kalamaki, Porto Zoro and Laganas beaches are all beautiful. Loggerhead sea turtles can be seen at Laganas Bay, home to the National Marine Park. Navagio beach is also a great favourite, famous for its shipwreck: the 'Panagiotis' was wrecked in 1982 while smuggling a large cargo of cigarettes and trying to evade a customs patrol in stormy weather. There is a view point (of somewhat dubious stability) from which the wreck can be seen, and there are also boat trips available to the beach where the ship lies.