On the opposite side of iconic isles like Mykonos and Santorini lies the lesser known, but equally beautiful Zakynthos, nestled in the Ionian Sea between Italy and Athens, with Corfu to its north. A longtime destination for English holiday-goers, Zakynthos, also known as Zante, boasts crystal blue warm water, luscious green mountains, olive tree covered hills, and sandy beaches that seemed to have been made specially for long days and nights spent seaside. Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas have parked their vacation yacht in the town’s main port multiple summers in a row, and with so much natural beauty and rich culture radiating from every angle of the island, it’s not difficult to see why.
Zakynthos Town Port
Where to Stay:
Strada Marina Hotel
Conveniently located in the heart of town, with a glossy sidewalk bar, comfortable rooms, and front row view of the island’s port, this is the place to stay for vacationers looking to be close to the action.
Vasilikos Beach Hotel
For those searching for a quieter getaway (and who have rented a car to get around), get out of town and stay in the sandy paradise known as Vasilikos Beach. The hotel offers a pool, but mere steps away lies the beach, heavy in water sport activities, speckled in sunbeds, and with a beach side bar for your afternoon snack.
Where to Grab a Drink:
In the wee hours, this hilltop lounge may get loud with the sound of nightlife, but head over right after dinner to enjoy a quiet drink…and a spectacular view of Zakynthos town. Afterwards, take a walk around the tiny Bohali neighborhood and see the remnants of a Venetian Castle, a reminder of the island’s Italian roots.
View from Bohali, Zakynthos image via Otel.com
This outdoor bar, with its white seats, minimalistic styling, and beautiful bartenders, is the center point of the locals’ evening out-- the pulse of the town’s early nightlife. Take a seat amidst the DJ’s beats and people watch over a cocktail or two.
Where to Shop:
This small boutique in Zakynthos town is located on the small main road, the only main road, of Alexander Roma. It offers affordable, hand-made jewelry and accessories, with styles changing yearly. Most recently, sea smooth stones were the theme, and the glassy rocks appeared on leather bound bracelets and artsy cocktail rings.
Also located on the main road in Zakynthos town, Alexander Roma, Mara is a small shop with white lace and linen dresses, geometrically patterned silk skirts, and other unique and artistically designed resort style wear. Her one of-a-kind pieces are pricey, but they’ll be the topic of conversation long after your vacation is over.
What to See:
The Blue Caves and Navagio
They’re the island’s most buzzed about attractions, and the hype is well warranted. The magical blue caves located around the on the outer edge of the island, as well as the famous shipwreck on the pebble-covered private Navagio beach, are worth seeing. Catch a chartered boat from St. Nicholas port with a group of friends and experience both up close and personal--you may even spot a Caretta-Caretta turtle.