Sightseeing Guide at Zante Car
The best way to discover the island of Zakynthos is by rental car.
Due to the small size of the island, it is easy to drive a complete lap around it and stop wherever you like.
The visitor has many choices as Zakynthos offers a plethora of beautiful sights, each with its own special characteristics. There are many golden beaches with deep blue or green waters and dreamy caves to choose from.
In order to truly experience the island we recommend a minimum three-day rental period and the following routes.
Each one is different. Enjoy your stay!
1st route: Zante town
Zante town is ideal for leisurely walks. Explore the historical squares, beautiful churches, pedestrian shopping roads, souvenir shops, museums and coffee shops overlooking the port.
Start at one of the most important squares the Solomos Square, named after the famous poet Dionysios Solomos and admire buildings of architectural significance such as the Public Library (with 55.000 volumes) and the Post-Byzantine Museum of Zante which exhibits treasures such as statues trimmed with gold, icons and art woodcuts.
The bust of D. Solomos, national poet of Greece dominates the centre of the square. Next to it you will see the church of Saint Nicholas of the Mole , one of the oldest churches on the island that still keeps the liturgical ornaments of Saint Dionysios, the island’s patron saint and survived the earthquake of 1953.
As you walk along you reach the Saint Marcos square, a small scenic square built by the Venetian during their occupation of the island. Here, you will find the only Catholic Church on the island, which is a copy of Saint Marco’s basilica in Venice.
You must also visit the nearby Byzantine Museum of Solomos, Kalvos and Eminent Zakynthians which hosts the bust of the Greek national poet and the old home of the Roma family.
From the square begins Alexandrou Roma Street, a long pedestrian traditionally paved road, with many stores where you can find gifts and souvenirs that will satisfy all tastes. This street with the impressive arcades has been the main commercial center of the city for centuries. Walk through the traditional workshops and small shops taking in the arcades of the traditional architecture.
At the end of an adventurous day of exploring the town, drive to the end of it keeping the sea on your right and take the road on your left which goes up through the city taking you to the higher village of Bochali. It is small with few inhabitants, placed just above Zante town.
From here there is a spectacular view of the entire city, Argasi, the coasts of the Peloponnese and far away to the bay of Laganas. It is also known as the balcony of Zakynthos.
Here you can also visit the ruins of the ancient Venetian Castle. After the earthquake of 1953 only a small part of it is left, but the pine forest all around is wonderful and the panorama is well worth the visit.
Close by, you can visit Stranis Hill where the poet Dionysios Solomos was inspired to write the ‘Hymn to Liberty’ (later the Greek national anthem) and the “Free Besieged” attending the siege of the city of Messolonghi.
Make a last stop on the coastal road known as Strata Marina (K. Lomvardou Street), which is one of the most frequented parts of the city, with cafes, bars and restaurants, from the Solomos Square up to the church of the patron-saint Agios Dionysios.
The vast modern church of Agios Dionysios, the patron saint of the island, features delightful murals that cover the whole interior and combines Byzantine and European building styles. Here, the relic of the patron saint of the island is kept in a silver coffin. There is also a collection of ecclesiastical garments and paraphernalia in the museum right next to the church.
2nd Route: A tour to the Central West of Zakynthos
This is the longest of the routes we propose and leads to the region around Mount Vrachion. There are very few beaches and the coast is very steep, rocky and not suitable for swimming but there are many churches and monasteries as well as an impressive variety of architecture to admire.
Beginning from Zante town and driving straight following the signs to Volimes, after approximately 3 kilometers you come to a crossroad: The village of Gaitani to the right and Machairado to the left from which we shall return.
Following the road to Gaitani you will meet the village of Vanato. Here, there is a chapel owned by a local family, one of the oldest on the island. The inside is finely decorated and many of the family ancestors are buried beneath the floor, as was custom for centuries.
Continuing straight, following the road signs, you will reach another village, Saint Dimitrios which is worth the visit for its old churches and high bell towers. Proceeding about one kilometer, a road to the left leads you to the village of Pigadakia.
This is a mountain village dominated by the large church of Aghia Mayra in which the treasures of the old church of Panagia Vlacherena are now housed. You can also visit the private Byzantine Folklore museum which boasts a display of objects representing another traditional way of life in older times.
If you take the opposite direction to the village of Machairado you will reach a pretty village called Skoulikado, a settlement in the plain.
This village has a long tradition in music and popular theatre. At the entrance of the village you will find the proud-whitewashed chapel of Saint Nikolaos. It features a carved gilt screen, a wooden painted ceiling with the Pantokrator and the four apostles together with icons representing miracles by the Saint. Next to the screen there is a large icon of Saint Nikolaos. It is said that the face of The Saint was discovered imprinted on it four hundred years ago.
Continuing the route, you will reach the village of Agia Mavra. The church named after the place is of outstanding architecture and features wonderful pieces of art. The outside of the church, which was built in 1855, has the shape of a cross externally, while the interior takes the form of a three aisled Basilica. The church features a traditional stone bell as well as a panoramic view and wonderful architecture.
The next stop is Machairado, the second largest village in Zakynthos after Katastari. Its hallmark is the famous church of Agia Mavra with the melodious bells that can be heard from all over the island.
The interior decoration is surprisingly lavish with fine old works of art. The icon of Agia Mavra is said to be miraculous and is well worth admiring the photos from her faithful followers.
After Macherado you will find the village of Lagopodo where one of the best wines in the area is produced. Continuing along the main road you will reach Kiliomenos village with traditional two-storey houses, churches with tower bells placed in small round windows and fine balconies.
The next stop is the village of Aghios Leon where there are state supported textile factories producing carpets and superb fabrics.
Beyond this village, a road to the left descends to the sea. Following, you will find the village of Loucha where you ascend the mountain, expecting to see it in front of you and suddenly it appears in the distance in a small valley, nestling amidst cypress trees.
Next to Agios Leon village you will meet Exo Chora village which consists of many traditional houses, still maintained, dating from before the earthquake of 1953. After Exo Chora comes the village of Schiza. On its highest point there is an enormous concrete cross erected in the memory of those killed during the civil war. Close by there are numerous cafe restaurants where you can enjoy the breathtaking view. Slightly to the south of Schiza is the so-called Seal Cliff, which takes it's name from the seals that come to give birth in the large caves.
Proceeding, you come up to Maries village where you can visit a three-aisled church, dedicated to Mary Magdalene who reputedly stooped here leaving her footprint on a rock and taught Christianity on her way to Rome to protest over the conviction of Christ.
The summit of Mt Vrachionas can be reached in about an hour. The views across the whole island and over to Kephalonia are fantastic. All the villages southwards along the coast have impressive sunsets and cafe restaurants ideally located to fully enjoy them. The village of Maries runs down to Stenitis, a wonderful little cave with greenish-blue crystal clear water. Close to Steniti lies Porto Vromi, a sheltered cove and a tiny beach called Navagio with coarse white sand, where the water is emerald and it is possible to take a boat trip along the coast for a swim and visit the famous Shipwreck. As you leave Maries behind a little road on the left leads to the beautiful mountain village of Anafonitria and the Monastery of the same name, which attracts a large number of pilgrims. At the entrance of the Monastery is a medieval tower with six machicolations, which is now used only as a bell-tower.
After the village Anafonitria you come to a fork in the road. The first road leads to Volimes village and the second to the Monastery of Saint Georgios Krimnon, which stands high above the sea in a lonely but enchanting landscape. Inside this austere church there is a white iconostasis with gold bordures, old icons and the characteristic double-headed eagle in the floor.
3rd Route: Argassi,Vassilikos, Gerakas,Porto Roma,Porto Zoro, Daphni
On this route you can visit scenic villages that add their own tone to the enchanting landscape.
The route follows the peninsula in the south-east of Zakynthos and visits many of the most beautiful beaches on the island, some very busy and others remote, ideal for those who wish to get away from the crowds.
Argassi is a verdant valley, where you will find Mount Skopos, covered with orchards, greenery, and red villas with vines growing over them. The contemporary touristic villas nearby and long beach constitute Argassi one of the most popular summer holiday resorts.
Close to Argassi you will find the ruins of a medieval tower. Beyond the village, the road turns inland and starts to ascend.
A road on the right, after a quarry, leads to the top of Mount Skopos passing by the ruins of the monastery of Panagia Skopiotissa, dating from the 15th century. In older times, when the people of Zakynthos were threatened by epidemics or pirates, they used to take the icon of the Virgin to Chora (the capital of Zakynthos island), to protect them.
All that is left today is the church, which is visible from all over Zakynthos. There is a breathtaking view from the top of the mountain and this is why the Venetians called it Belvedere (fine view).
We continue along the Argasi road, passing through Xirokastello area and reach the road that leads to Porto Zoro.
The steep road leads down to a beautiful little beach and runs through a pine forest. From here there are many side-roads leading to beaches. Agios Nikolaos is a little settlement with cafes, hotels and a large sandy beach, 2 kilometers long. At the end of the main road, you come to a fork in the road. The road to the left leads to Porto Roma, one of the most popular and beautiful beaches on the island, surrounded by green vegetation that reaches the crystal-clear sea.
The road to the right, leads to Gerakas. The superb beach set in spectacular surroundings, protected on the south by a rocky peninsula is also a nesting ground for the Caretta-Caretta sea turtles and this is the reason for which there are restrictions on the development of the area and tourist activities.
Visitors of Vasilikos should not expect to see a concentrated settlement. The houses are spread over a wide area, among greenery, abundant water, farms and orchards. All these, together with the beautiful beaches, make Vasilikos an impressive sight. A rough track climbs sharply up on the right (signposted as Dafni). A fork right onto the top of the hill continues straight for Dafni. This is a beautiful unspoilt beach facing the island of Pelouzo in Laganas Bay. However, restrictions apply to the beach because the turtles use it for nesting. From the top of the hill a road to the right leads to Sekania beach.
4th Route: A tour to the North East of Zakynthos
This route covers the northeast part of the island along the coast, where you will find many beautiful beaches. Several of these can only be reached by sea. In this part of the island, the small villages and landscapes of outstanding natural beauty will entrance all visitors.
The sea is abruptly interrupted by rocks and geological alterations of unique beauty, while the beaches offer their invitation to those who want to get away and enjoy the wonderful Zakynthian landscape. The north part of the island is wild, singularly beautiful and thus recommended for nature-lovers.
From the coast road head northwards and enter the suburb of Krioneri, where the EOT beach is located.
This is the area the Greek author Grigoris Xenopoulos (1867-1951), descended from a Zakynthian family, describes in his famous novel ‘The Red Rock’.
The area of Akrotiri is a cool area among olive trees, considered as one of the closest rural areas to town. During the pre-earthquake era, the country houses (mansions) of the rich were located here. There is also an excellent view of the sunset.
The rock offshore is known as Vodi (the Ox) because the shape of the trees standing on the rock is reminiscent of the horns of an ox. The road leaves the shore and descends through a series of hairpin bends.
You leave Bohali on the left and the beach of Tsilivi opens out beneath you.
The sea stretches as far as Cape Gidakia. Returning from the beach, you enter the Planos area, a busy tourist resort surrounded by beautiful mountainous landscapes.
The road continues through olive trees and leads to a few small and quiet beaches.
You are now on the main road meeting the villages of Marineika, Tragaki and Kipseli on the left set amidst green hills and dense olive-groves. Tragaki is famous for its natural beauty and the Monastery of Panagia Dermatousa.
If you follow the side roads, you will reach the beaches of Bouka and Amboula, both of which have been awarded with Blue Flags.
Keeping on the main road, you can head towards Alykes, one of the most popular tourist resorts on the island.
As you approach Alykes there is a turning for Alykana beach on the southern end of Alykes Bay where Mycenaean pottery has been found and the area is one of the possible sites for the ancient city of Arkadia. The combination of the mountain and the emerald- green sea a well as the lake Alykes together with the refreshing breeze are highlights of the area. The church of Saints Theodoroi is well worth visiting as there are many ecclesiastical treasures that weren't destroyed by the big earthquake in 1953. Next is Katastari village, the largest village on the Island.
Leaving the coast and continuing west, you will reach the center of the northern part of Zakynthos, the village called Orthonies, surrounded by old traditional houses. The hallmark of the area is the beautiful view of the bare spine of Mt Vrachionas, the highest point on the island. From the village of Alykes until the end of the village of Orthonies you will meet numerous Monasteries and churches alongside the road.
Following, you will see the village of Volimes, an ideal place for a stop for refreshments.
The area is famous for its locally produced cheese, honey and traditional handicrafts.
Volimes is the major producing place of hand-made lace and rugs for which Zakynthos is famous. All around the village there are numerous monasteries and churches worth visiting, surrounded by charming traditional houses with miniature staircases. From the main road of Volimes we reach the nothernmost point of the island called Schinari, set in a picturesque bay.
Taking the main road parallel to the sea you meet the cove of Aghios Nikolaos, with Megalo Nisi lying in its entrance.
Boats from this beach take visitors to the Blue Caves. The Blue Caves are a series of geological formations in the cliffs beneath. They are well known worldwide for the magical colour of the water in the deeper caverns. A few kilometers away towards the sea, you will reach Makris Gialos, a golden beach with crystal clear sea. To the south you come to a series of sulphur springs. The largest of them is the well-known cave of Xygia where the water is believed to have medicinal properties. The place can also be visited by boats departing from Aghios Nikolaos Beach.
5th Route: A tour to the South of Zakynthos
On this route you follow the main road of Zakynthos and continue along the right fork in the road, which leads to Lake Keri. Start out on the coastal road in the town and head south. Pass the road to Argassi and turn right, coming to Kalamaki and Ypsolithos area, the latter with its superb sandy beach and limpid sea. Rocks glisten in the most unlikely position in the crystal-clear water. A little after Ipsolithos towards the south, along the waterside (reached only by a foot path) is the huge rock known as Vrontolithos. At its foot you will see a large cave, open towards the sea.
As you continue, you reach the Bay of Laganas with its two islands, one of the island’s most beautiful spots and highly developed. Laganas is a village, springing up purely to serve the growing tourist trade on the fine beach.
The beach of Laganas is 9 kilometers long, the longest on the island and one of the longest in Greece.
Off the coast of Laganas you will see the island of Aghios Sostis. Once the island was joined to the island of Zakynthos and there was a chapel of St Sostis on it. In the earthquake of 1633 the tip of the promontory split off and the small island was created.
Here there is a picturesque little harbor with fishing boats. The islands, which lie in the bay, are named Pelouzo and Marathonissi, the later being heavily wooded. Olive trees, carobs, fig trees and bushes lie behind a beach of yellowish sand running down to emerald water. The road continues across the plain.
The main road, still running at some distance from the sea, enters the village of Mouzaki. On the left you can see the impressive bulk of Sarakina. Here, very few Venetian country mansions have survived from the earthquake, though severely damaged by subsequent abandonment. The name of the house derives from the fact it was used as a hideout for Saracen pirates.
Mouzaki is a large village well known for the quality of its water. The village's history reaches back to 1521 and there are two old churches: Our Lady which bears the date 1741 on its carved wooden screen and also has a wooden ceiling and St Nicholas, the village ‘cathedral’ which was built in 1815. Another large village, Pantokratoras, stands next to and is almost part of Mouzaki. High on the hillside above the villages is the old church of the Savior which seems to hang above the houses. The climb up to the church is worth the effort for the view and also to see the treasures inside. On the side, the green plain stretches across to Chora with its castle, while on the other side we can see Mount Scopos and the blue fringe of sea in Laganas.
The church itself is a plain little basilica; the Byzantine double eagles carved into the floor and the wooden screen. There are old icons and the remains of paintings on the walls. According to a local legend, the Empress Pulcheria built the church. Behind it are an overgrown graveyard and a little higher up the hill you will find a pretty well with a carved masonry.
Towards the south you can see the area of Lithakia, a village with old mansions which has always been among the more prosperous villages of the area, thanks to its fertile fields in the Laganas area.
Just outside this village there are scattered remains of Paleokastro, one of the few archaeological sites on the island. Here, you can visit the old Venetian tower, part of which is still preserved.
From Lithakia, a diversion to the right of about 5 kilometers leads to Agalas, a semi mountainous village built amidst a pine-forest overlooking the west coast. To the southeast of Agalas you can see the two-level cave of Damianos, with its stalactites and stalagmites. Four kilometers from Lithakia is a deep gorge called Abyss, which has a spring whose water is reputedly good for digestion. A clay path leads to a cliff-top from which the gorge can be seen twisting down as far as the sea. After Lithakia, a turning left drives you to Porto Koukla, a narrow but attractive pebbly beach.
The road continues along the flanks of Mt Skopos or Megalo Vouno (meaning “big mountain”, 423m).
A turning left leads you to Limni Keriou. This pretty hamlet lies at the head of the last cove before the rocky Cape Marathia facing Marathonissi. In ancient times and until very recently, it was known for its natural pitch wells, which were used for caulking ships. This is how it got its Venetian name of Porto Naphta.
The wells by the beach have been dried out but the one described by the ancient author Herodotus may still be seen on the way down to the beach. At first sight, it looks like a pond of clean drinking water. But at the bottom a more careful look will reveal the black pitch lying among the green weeds.
After the turning for Limni Keriou the road climbs towards the neck of the cape. One kilometer away, a left turn leads to Marathias. Marathias is an excellent pebble beach with deep, clear water. It has a fine view of Marathonissi.
On cape Marathias there are two famous Kamares or arches, two huge rocks towering out of the crystal-clear sea which form a cove with a strip of tropically white sand at the end of it.
Keri is a beautiful village, built on the north-facing slopes of cape Marathias. There is an interesting church in the village, ‘Our lady of Keri’. According to tradition, Our Lady hid the whole island of Zakynthos in a mist stopping it from being spotted by marauding pirates. The church is finely decorated. A track (very narrow in Keri itself and poor beyond) leads to the lighthouse on the cape in 1,5 kilometers distance. From here there are spectacular views of the rocky west coast of Zakynthos and the two white and huge rocks “ Myzithres “dominate the scenery.