While many who visit Greece tour the islands in the Aegean sea, the gorgeous Greek island beauty also lies on the other side in the Ionian sea. Zakynthos is one of my favourite Greek islands in the Ionian.
The Venetians called it Zante, but the name, like all similar names ending in -nthos, is pre-Mycenaean or Pelasgian in origin. In Greek mythology the island was said to be named after Zakynthos, the son of a legendary Arcadian chief Dardanus.
Zakynthos is very easily reachable from Athens with Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines. During the summer, many European cities offer direct flights to the island.
But getting to Zante within mainland Greece means taking the ferry. Since we drove – and that alone was a memorable experience! – we took the ferry from Kyllini, Peloponnese. We opted to take our rental car with us to the island, so that we could tour it leisurely.
No matter how you arrive, as you approach Zante, you’ll be impressed by the beautiful coastline.
Arriving by ferry boat was breathtaking. The views of the island’s coastline, and of the downtown, are simply beautiful.
Rent a car
If you’re able, I would highly recommend renting a car so that you can tour the island on your own schedule. We drove from Tsilivi beach, where we stayed, all around the island. It’s an hour drive to get from one side of the island, to the other.
The lovely Mediterranean climate and the plentiful rainfall means the island is full of dense vegetation. As you drive through the island, you’ll notice all of the olive trees. So many olive trees! You’ll find olive oil, currants, grapes and citrus fruit on the island.
At the Bay of Laganas you’ll find the prime nesting area for loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) in the Mediterranean. Every year at the beginning of June, the female turtles come to the southern beaches in order to bury their eggs in the sand.
Marathonissi islet (also known as “Turtle Island”) near Limni Keriou contains tropical vegetation, turquoise waters, beaches, and sea caves.
The most famous landmark of the island is the Navagio beach. It is a cove on the northwest shore, isolated by high cliffs and accessible only by boat.