After having enjoyed a full week on the beautiful Zakynthos island, let me share with you some tips and ideas for your next trip to the island.
As Wikipedia says, Zakynthos is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the third largest of the Ionian Islands. Zakynthos is a separate regional unit of the Ionian Islands region and its only municipality.
We wanted a place to stay for a week in total relaxation, enjoying some beach and some snorkeling and after the usual "island browse" in the Ionian sea, we settled for Zakynthos. Honestly, part of the reason we chose Zakynthos was also the fact that Lufthansa was offering a quite cheap flight there and the car rental (Europecar in our case) was also not very expensive.
Here comes the usual list:
- We stayed in the North-East part of the island, some kilometers below the Skinari lighthouse and it was a great choice. The South of the island is all about cheap tourist attractions, cheap bars and noisy restaurants, half-naked people running on noisy quads and supposedly lots of parties. You get the idea. The North has a much less accessible sea but it is quieter and a bit more authentic
- Another good choice we made was to rent a place with a kitchen so that we saved money and enjoyed our time eating great salads and cheese in our patio after a long day at the beach
- There are several places where to spend a day at the beach: our favorite ended up to be the big beach of Alykes where for 15€ a day you could rent two sunbeds with a thick mattress at Fishαλίδα (and the food there is also very good). The island and the access to the sea are predominantly rocky, and the few accesses are always at risk of being overwhelmed by tourists but there are still quite a few beaches where it may be easier to find a nice spot all for yourself
- I didn't find snorkeling particularly interesting there; despite the water being so clean, transparent and of amazing colors, the underwater experience is quite boring. Few, small fishes and almost no plants; don't expect much, or maybe you'll be luckier than me
- The main attractions of the island are the Nagios beach (only accessible with a boat), the blue caves and the sea turtles (Carreta Carreta). They are not going to disappoint you and you just have to do them. For the Nagios beach and blue caves, everyone and their cousin will try to sell you the boat trip to get there, but my advice is to just get to the Skinari lighthouse and rent the boat from there; the people there are trusted and nice, and you'll pay 25€ for a 3-hour trip
- Eating well at good prices is not difficult, but do not expect mind-blowing experiences. In general, the feeling is that the food in restaurants is just average quality whereas they could deliver a much better meal if only they wanted; but they probably do not need much effort to put a smile on the average tourist from the North of Europe, probably by serving an unlikely pasta dish made with frozen shrimps and tomato. Very close to the airport you have access to big supermarkets (like LIDL or AB), so my suggestion is to head there as soon as you land and to fill your stocks of food and water. Another suggestion is to skip the Google Reviews altogether and just ask a trusted local person. The reviews are generally coming from tourists without a clue about what they are eating
- You can rent a small boat you can drive yourself. These small boats have 30hp engine (the biggest you can drive without a license) and they cost around 80€ for a 3-hour trip. You can get to shipwreck beach (Nagios) with one of those and I bet it'd be an awesome experience
- Locals are really nice but you are probably going to talk and interact mostly with people who want to sell you a service or an item; there is never a strong push to sell and the talks are never uncomfortable but there is always that implicit assumption that you are having a transactional conversation that fails too often to feel sincere as it seems to be
- Tipping is not mandatory and nobody will ever push you for that, but it is pretty customary (e.g. for the boat drivers, or the people taking care of your apartment)
- Give yourself a favor and rent an automatic car; as usual, the roads on an island like that are tortuous and go continuously up and down, so you rather want look at the panorama instead of focusing on the stupid stick, trust me
- I have heard from a local that some of the gas stations are used to "inflate" the gasoline with air so that you are not paying for what you get. I cannot confirm, but keep an eye on that
- The road and streets in Zakynthos have no name