The third largest of the Greek Ionian Islands, Zakynthos – also known as Zante – is well known for its beauty. With white sand beaches lapped by turquoise seas and dramatic rocks plunging into the blue, there is an obvious reason for wanting to visit this island. Even the Venetians – who ruled the island from 1484 to 1797 – called it ‘the Flower of the Levant.’
But it wasn’t just the Venetians who conquered this stunning island; after them, it was awarded to France. It has also been under Russian, Ottoman, and British rule. All the while, the island has remained distinctly Greek. However, in 1953, a devastating earthquake reduced many of the island’s buildings to rubble; Zakynthos Town was rebuilt with its classic Venetian style in mind and is today more than a transport hub.
Map of Zakynthos
Long known for its party atmosphere, Zakynthos is awash with places to eat, drink, and make merry – not least at the infamous party capital of Laganas. But for those who enjoy a more relaxing, cultural, and natural stay on this charming island, there are plenty of places to do that. Beaches and incredible coastlines make up the Vasilikos peninsula, while in the north, there are traditional fishing villages to discover – not to mention the ancient ruins dotted around the island.
Arrive by ferry or by plane – thanks to the international airport – get around by taxi or rental car, and stay at a myriad of accommodation options. Studios and apartments offer private, independent places for families to stay, while simple guesthouses and resorts provide budget-friendly rooms and package deals. Zakynthos has a lot to offer anybody who is toying with the idea of paying a visit.
On the east coast of Zakynthos is the island’s main town of the same name. Like the island itself, it is sometimes known by the name Zante.
This is the central transport hub of the island. Facing the mainland of Greece, there are a few different ferries plying routes back and forth; one even goes all the way to Brindisi in Italy.
But this town is more than just a convenient place for travel. The houses of Zakynthos Town curve around the harbor, overlooked by a ruined castle – a remnant of the island’s time under Venetian rule.
There are a few choices when it comes to accommodation in Zakynthos, with mostly affordable and good quality options being the norm. If you want to stay in the commercial center with cafes and restaurants to enjoy, this town is a good choice. The international airport is close by to the south, too.
Where to Stay in Zakynthos Town
- Strada Marina – Just 100 meters from the port, the 4-star Strada Marina, located within a four-story renovated Byzantine building, guarantees exceptional sea and mountain views. Hang out on the seasonal roof garden and take a dip in the pool on a terrace overlooking the Port of Zakynthos, Solomos Square, and Bohali Hill. Sip on exotic cocktails at the sea-facing cocktail bar or tuck into Mediterranean flavors at the on-site restaurant. Elegantly furnished guest rooms come with air-conditioning, an en-suite bathroom, and a private balcony.
- Palatino Hotel – Set within an earth-colored Byzantine-style building, the Palatino Hotel is located within a quiet neighborhood just steps from the beachfront. Inside, the renovated interior boasts a choice of tastefully decorated guest rooms, junior suites, and family rooms, with balconies overlooking the mountains or the Ionian Sea. Guests staying here will have everything they need at their fingertips, such as a Mediterranean restaurant, a cocktail bar, a library, and a VIP lounge.
When people talk about ‘going to Zante’ this is the place they usually mean. Famous for its parties, it is popular with youngsters and students on holiday who are looking for a good time. With that in mind, the places to stay in Laganas range from self-catering apartments to family-friendly resorts; from affordable to fairly high-end.
There are also several bars and clubs in town, which means the streets can get reasonably rowdy – especially during the summer.
Laganas is situated south of Zakynthos Town, meaning that it is also close to the airport. If the concentration of nightlife gets too much for you, head a few minutes out of town to Agia Sostis, where you can walk across a footbridge to the beautiful Cameo Island. That said, Laganas’ beach is a protected bay where loggerhead sea turtles come to lay their eggs under the careful eye of ecologists.
Where to Stay in Laganas
- Mediterranean Beach Resort – Spread over eight pastel-hued buildings, the 5-star Mediterranean Beach Resort has the feel of a traditional Ionian village. With views of the ocean from just about anywhere, the resort features a sea-facing pool with a separate kids’ section, an a la carte pool bar-restaurant, a full-service spa center with a sauna and hammam, and a sandy beach dotted with sun loungers and umbrellas. Each room comes with air-conditioning, a private marble bathroom, and free parking.
Famous as being the location for the nearby Tsilivi Water Park, this town is located on the east coast of the island just a little further north of Zakynthos Town. This beachside location boasts a whole lot of accommodation, all of which has more or less easy access to the sea. Choose from a selection of lodgings, from luxurious villas to self-catering apartments ideal for family holidays.
Tsilivi Beach is a family-friendly Blue Flag beach, with calm, shallow waters, lifeguards, and plenty of sun loungers and beach umbrellas to go around.
Go jet skiing, parachuting, or even arrange a speedboat tour to the incredibly stunning Navigio Beach – a beautiful cove complete with shipwreck.
You won’t need to worry about getting hungry in this town; Tsilivi boasts a number of cafes, restaurants, and bars – from beachside and upmarket to more central, local tavernas with plenty of Greek music and dancing.
Where to Stay in Tsilivi
- Zante Maris Suites – Lap up the life of luxury at the adults-only Zante Maris Suites. Located in a series of white and wood-styled buildings with rooftop herb gardens, this 5-star all-suite boutique hotel boasts inside-outside architecture, a health and wellness center, and a glamorous outdoor pool surrounded by olive trees and water features. Each contemporary-styled suite has an exquisite ocean view and many, such as the lavish swim-up suites, come with their own private pools.
- Contessina Hotel – Set within three modern buildings surrounding a rectangular freshwater pool dotted with comfy loungers, the Contessina Hotel complex is a place where luxurious relaxation is the order of the day. Located steps from a Blue-Flag beach, this 4-star hotel has something for everyone – a poolside snack and cocktail bar, stylish rooms and suites (including family rooms), a children’s pool, and a fabulous on-site restaurant. Guests can wake up to an excellent breakfast buffet served every day of their stay.
Vasilikos is situated on the very tip of a peninsula of the same name that juts out to the southeast. Comparatively untrodden, this somewhat remote area of the island is home to a few lovely beaches.
One of the best is the beautiful St. Nicholas Beach. With the picturesque whitewashed church of Hagia Nikolaos overlooking this stretch of sand and deep blue water, it makes for a tranquil spot to spend the day and is suitable for snorkeling, too.
A cosmopolitan area, families with older children and couples will enjoy Vasilikos. Other beaches in the area include the compact Mavratzi Beach and the longer Paralia Gerakas, known for its sea turtles; the Zakynthos Sea Turtle Rescue & Information Centre is located nearby.
Polished studios, villas, hotels, and other high-end options leave you to your own devices in style.
Where to Stay in Vasilikos
- The Bay Hotel & Suites – Set within whitewashed Mediterranean-style buildings with red rooftops, the Bay Hotel & Suites guarantee luxury. Located on a private sandy beach surrounded by tranquil gardens, the property has everything you could expect from a 5-star stay, such as a restaurant, bar, two tennis courts, a spa with a hot tub and sauna, and a beautiful outdoor pool on the edge of the ocean. Even the youngest guests are catered to with a kids’ club and kiddies’ pool, leaving everyone happy.
Practically on the doorstep of Zakynthos International Airport, not too far east from the party capital of Laganas, Kalamaki is known for its massive stretch of sandy beach. A resort with a convenient location and all the amenities you need to enjoy your stay, the town of Kalamaki is popular with families and those looking for a romantic getaway.
The proximity to Zakynthos Town is a plus, and so is the laid-back atmosphere, compared to nearby Laganas. You won’t find any villas, hotels, or guesthouses on the beach here; because of the precious sea turtles who come to lay their eggs, this section of beach is protected. Because of that, you won’t find any watersports, either.
Most accommodation is located further inland and comes in all shapes and sizes. Kalamaki is not as quiet as you may think; however; there are plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from in this resort town.
Where to Stay in Kalamaki
- Meandros Boutique & Spa Hotel – With gorgeous tiled archways spilling over with greenery, the glamorous adults-only Meandros Boutique & Spa Hotel offers undeniable luxury tailored for two. Just 500 meters from Crystal Beach, the rooms feature a chic, minimalist design with air-conditioning, flat-screen TVs, and private bathrooms. Some even have their own private pool or Jacuzzi! Spend your days relaxing on the sun terrace, taking a dip in the outdoor pool, or working up a sweat in the fitness center. When you need a break, an on-site restaurant and bar await.
- Venus Hotel – Set within an elegant low-rise building with traditional architecture and a red-tiled rooftop, the Venus Hotel is dotted with pretty palm trees, landscaped gardens, and a pool. There’s something for everyone at this 4-star hotel. For adults, there’s an alluring poolside bar and a lobby bar, and for younger guests, there’s a kiddies’ pool, a playground, and table tennis. With a classic and subtle design, each room comes with air-conditioning, a private bathroom with jet shower, and a balcony or terrace with a view of the garden or pool.
On the southern tip of Zakynthos, with Laganas town to the northeast, Keri combines crystal clear waters with mountainside villages for a rustic retreat on this island. There is a lot on offer in this town in terms of the natural world, including walking the coast and scuba diving.
The village of Keri is a charming place to wander around, with traditional streets and sights like the 18th century Church of the Virgin Mary of Keriotissas to discover.
With accommodation consisting mostly of well-maintained self-catering apartments and studios – most of them with beautiful views – Keri is an excellent option for independent travelers.
This village, though set away from the main road, is still easily reachable via taxi from many other towns; for instance, Zakynthos Town is around 13 kilometers away.
Where to Stay in Keri
- Keri Village & Spa by Zante Plaza – From its peaceful hillside location, the 4-star Keri Village and Spa by Zante Plaza offers exquisite garden and village views. Spread across eight Mediterranean-style buildings, this adults-only hotel has a romantic feel with an outdoor pool, a hot tub, a Greek restaurant, and two bars with regular nightly entertainment. Each beautifully appointed guest room includes a private bathroom and a living area that opens onto a personal balcony or patio. Guests can take advantage of a free shuttle to the beach around Keri Lake.
Alykes is set on the northeastern side of Zakynthos and is a good place to come for families. The golden sands of the beach here feature a gently sloping shelf, meaning shallow waters that are ideal for little ones to splash around in.
Simple hotels and more stylish aparthotels can be booked in Alykes for affordable prices. Neighboring Alykanas is set just around the bay from Alykes; the two areas almost merge together.
Alykanas is more like a traditional seaside village, however. A relatively undeveloped location compared to many other towns on Zakynthos, there are local tavernas for evening meals here and a charming seafront to stroll along before returning to your studio or apartment.
There’s also Rasa Beach with a handful of bars and restaurants. Historically, Alykanas is also important; there is an archaeological site here which has uncovered Mycenaean remains – a civilization which predates the ancient Hellenic Greeks.
Where to Stay in Alykes & Alykanas
- Hotel Koukounaria – Set within three cream-colored buildings surrounded by lush gardens, the 4-star family-style Hotel Koukounaria is just 300 meters away from the closest beach. Stay here, and you’ll have access to an Olympic-sized swimming pool dotted with free sunbeds. There’s something for all ages with a kiddies’ pool and a playground as well as a hot tub, an a la carte restaurant, and two bars. Each room and suite comes with a spacious furnished balcony with stunning views of the garden, mountains, or sea.
Head east along the coast from the central hub of Zakynthos Town to find a host of things to make your trip to this Ionian island a memorable one.
Alongside a varied selection of eateries – from the vintage feel of Portokali to the beautiful views you can soak up as you dine at Agnanti – the location of Argassi means many beautiful beaches are within striking distance – including the sprawling Banana Beach, the longest on the island.
Cafes, bars, and upmarket beach clubs like Barrage Club make up the eclectic nightlife of Argassi.
When it comes to choosing where to lay your head for the night in Argassi, this town boasts lovely apartments and laid-back hotels, informal lodgings and 3-star, seafront hotels.
For something a little closer to nature, head up to Skopos mountain inland and discover the ruins of Panagia Skopiotissa, a centuries-old monastery (said to be the oldest church on the island), and admire the fantastic views.
Where to Stay in Argassi
- Ionian Hill Hotel – Nestled on a lush green hilltop above the ocean, the three-story Ionian Hill Hotel offers affordable luxury just a five-minute walk from the beach. With an experienced bar manager and an excellent chef, the hotel serves up a hearty daily breakfast, exotic cocktails, and local cuisine, while a snack bar replenishes you throughout the day beside the sea-facing pool. The stylish and modern boutique-style rooms all come with air-conditioning, an en-suite bathroom with complimentary toiletries, and a private balcony or terrace offering pool, garden or partial sea views.