About Zante beaches
The hilly, green island of Zante (Zakynthos), on the Ionian Sea in western Greece is renowned for its unspoilt natural beauty. Hillsides are covered with pine forests, the fertile valleys support olive groves, vineyards and orchards of citrus fruits, and the southeast coast boasts several idyllic beaches. Like neighbouring Kefalonia, Zante was struck by the 1953 earthquake that destroyed many of its finest buildings, though the capital, Zante Town, was rebuilt as best it could be. Today the island’s busiest and best-known resort is Laganas, (11km/7 miles south of Zante Town) on the south coast, which has now established itself as one of Greece’s top 24-hour party resorts for the 18-30 age group. Strangely, Laganas lies within Zakinthos National Marine Park, where protected wildlife includes some 1,300 sea turtles and Mediterranean monk seals. The other top holiday resorts are Argassi (4km/2.5 miles south of Zante Town) and Tsilivi (5km/3 miles north of Zante Town). Other attractions here are the sea caves, notably the Blue Caves and Keri Caves, accessible only by boat from the sea, and the stunning Shipwreck Beach in Smuggler’s Cove, which features on countless postcards.
Zante’s best sand beaches lie along the east and south coasts. The island’s longest beach is Laganas, with a stunning 9km (5.5 miles) of golden sands. There are sunbeds and umbrellas, but watersports are prohibited as this is a protected site where rare loggerhead turtles nest. For the island’s best watersports facilities, visit Argassi, a long, narrow shingle beach just 4km (2.5 miles) south of Zante Town. North of Zante Town, Tsilivi is a 1.5km (1-mile) stretch of golden sand, while a little further north still lies Alikes (Alykes), another pleasant sandy beach. Argassi, Tsilivi and Alikes have each been awarded the Blue Flag for cleanliness. Last but not least, on the northwest tip of the island lies Zante’s most photographed beach, Shipwreck Beach in Smuggler’s Cove. A dramatic cove with an idyllic beach backed by plummeting cliffs, it can only be accessed by boat from the sea.
Beyond the beach:
The island’s capital, Zante Town, was badly damaged by the 1953 earthquake, though efforts were made to rebuild it in its original style. Worth a look in here is the Byzantine Museum, displaying frescoes and religious icons from between the 12th and 19th centuries. On a hill 3km (2 miles) above Zante Town, in Bohali, the 17th-century Venetian Castle offers fantastic views back to town and out to sea. Zante’s sea caves, which can be visited by boat, are also a major attraction with the best being the Blue Caves (on the island’s northeast tip) and Keri Caves (near Keri, on the island’s southwest tip). It is also possible to join an organised jeep safari, which involves a convoy of Land Rovers touring the island’s sites of historic interest, rural areas and inland villages, with a break for lunch and a swim.
Zante’s unspoilt sandy beaches are perfect for kids, though some might consider Laganas rather too chaotic. Children and adults alike will be amused by Zante Water Village at Sarakinada (10km/6 miles from Laganas on the road to Zante Town), complete with pools, slides and a lazy river, and Luna Fun Park in Tsilivi, offering a bouncy castle, bumper boats, inflatable slides, a rodeo bull, paintball and laser shooting. For something more sophisticated, the Peligoni Club (www.peligoni.com) near Agios Nikolaos on the northeast coast is an upmarket family beach club aimed at teenagers, with excellent water sports facilities.
It is possible to make a day trip to the neighbouring island of Kefalonia: ferries depart from Agios Nikolaos on the northeast coast of Zante and arrive in Pessada on the south coast of Kefalonia. Travel agencies on Zante offer all-inclusive day trips to Kefalonia with a guide. Another interesting excursion takes visitors to the mainland to visit Ancient Olympia, the site of the first Olympic Games. Ferries depart from Zante Town to arrive in Kyllini and there is then a bus transfer.