Zakynthos is Greece’s hidden gem
GlobetrotterKyle.com September 17, 2023
In Zakynthos, Greece you’ll find diving with sea turtles to be as easy as jumping in the hotel swimming pool. In the town of Tsilivi, just 10 minutes outside of Zakynthos, will you find the best homemade Moussaka at the friendliest family-owned restaurant called Avra. Leaving the restaurant, after your three free shots with the staff, is like leaving your grandparents’ house at Christmas; you could almost feel them setting the timers on their clocks in anticipation of your return.
Where do I begin with the clarity and healing powers encapsulated by the surrounding waters? The locals will tell you that Zakynthos has the bluest water in the world, and after experiencing the neon, Gatorade-like phenomenon near Sfogio Beach, I can testify that they are all telling the truth.
Why visit Zakynthos? Simply put: To relax and experience things you never thought possible on the same trip.
Let me be clear, I don’t want you to mistake relaxation at Zakynthos to feel as if you were just another stranger in a foreign place where you won’t be bothered. Instead, I mean relax in the sense of kicking off your shoes at your grandparents’ house prior to that big welcoming hug accompanied by the familiar aroma of a home-cooked meal and a flood of feel-good memories.
That’s the relaxation I’m describing.
Swim with sea turtles
As a nature buff, I’ve always had a supreme appreciation for all of God’s creations. As we slowly departed one of the little inlets along the shoreline, we began approaching what I thought was a rather odd spot for a large rock so far from the shoreline. It didn’t even have a buoy on it to signal that it was there. My spouse was admiring the seascape around us and didn’t even see it as we got closer!
As I took a second glance, I noticed this rock had a distinct turtle-like shape with flippers and all. Turns out, we were encroaching on a sea turtle! I cut the throttle, all but tossing my spouse backward into the back of the small vessel, and killed the engine. Without hesitation, I yelled “man the boat!” to my spouse before throwing myself overboard with my goggles around my neck.
“Five strokes later, I was fulfilling a desire I never even knew I had: to swim with a sea turtle. ”
He was close to the surface, and I could see him as clearly as you can see the words on this screen. I approached him slowly to keep from startling him and as I did so, he turned his body to reveal large, beautiful eyes adorned by a deep green shell on his back.
As I looked below me, rays of light ran past my shadow and created an optical illusion, like what being trapped in a rotating kaleidoscope might feel like. It was at that moment I realized I sure was terrified of whatever might be lurking below me. As I looked ahead though, I saw nothing but grace radiating from this tranquil creature. With a few flips of his fins, he continued on his journey through the vast, blue void: undisturbed and unafraid.
Sunbathing on a private beach
What comes to mind when you picture a “private beach”? Is it something like a secluded, sectioned off part of the beach that belongs to a hotel? Maybe a stretch of paradise that, for the right price, you’re able to lay on without people bothering you? That’s not what I’m talking about here.
“What I’m talking about is a beach where you don’t even see another human being for hours on end, perhaps even the entire day. ”
If that sounds like heaven (and believe me, it is), then you’ll definitely want to follow this guide to seek out a private beach while visiting Zakynthos.
How I visited the turtles and beaches
First, you’ll need a private boat. Every travel vendor on the island is willing to rent you a small speedboat for the day so you can easily find one in the area you’re staying. I rented ours from the Porto Vromi beach area on a total whim!
As we took a break from admiring the hundreds of fish swimming along the ocean floor around Porto Vromi beach, we saw a few speedboats coming into a small dock. The side of the boat had the name of a rental company plastered along the side. Curiosity took over as we slummed over to the counter and casually asked what it would cost to rent a boat for, say, three hours.
““Three hours for $150; gas included you say? Take my money!“”
Next thing we knew, we were on our way to the iconic Zakynthos Shipwreck at Navagio Beach with the throttle of our small speedboat wide open.
As we finished admiring the beautifully decaying cigar smuggler at Shipwreck Cove, we turned our sights south to some of the other recommended beaches.
This beach was perfect to say the least. There wasn’t a soul in sight! We dropped the anchor, popped on our goggles, and dove into deep blue water. 30-40 feet below us lied the ocean floor filled with massive boulders that had rolled off the mainland some thousands of years ago, and before us was Sfogio Beach more desolate than a German town on a Sunday.
As we picked the sand up and covered our legs and feet, we could feel the abrasive material exfoliate not only the dead skin cells, but the last few weeks and months of life’s worries as well.
“The sand was like flour, and the color mimicked ivory white. ”
When you ask a local Greek how blue the water around Zakynthos is, they’ll tell you that it’s the bluest water in the world. Then again, when you ask ten different restaurant owners how their Moussaka is, they’ll tell you it’s the best in the world as well. However, after seeing this water with my very own eyes, I can attest that I have never seen water as blue as the water around Zakynthos.
There’s really no bad place to snorkel on Zakynthos. All you need is a cheap pair of goggles that don’t fog up, and a spot you can comfortably swim or dive in.
Experiencing the island on an ATV or scooter
Zakynthos is a small enough island that you can easily visit most of it in four to five days. Whether you want to do that by car, scooter, motorcycle, or ATV is up to you. When my spouse and I visited, we decided to rent a bright orange ATV for the day. It was capable of going over 60 kilometers per hour, and I do not recommend going that fast, but it is possible.
You might be thinking, “Well, I don’t need a rental because I can just take the bus.” Yep, you could do that, but even the locals will tell you that the public transportation is washy at best. The public transportation only departs from the airport like five or six times on Saturdays and even less during the week.
And you might be thinking “Well I didn’t budget a rental car/scooter/ATV into my vacation, I can’t afford that!” Wrong again! For only $35, you can rent a small 100cc scooter for the entire day; from 9 am to 9 pm! And the best part is, if you have a U.S. or Australian driver’s license, you can rent one no problem! Yep, no international driver’s license is needed for this trip. (The same goes for the boats)
To rent a scooter, ATV, or even a Nissan Juke, all you need to do is seek out one of the hundreds of tourist adventure and excursion stands across the island and inquire. It’s pretty great that you can rent a car and book a snorkeling excursion all from the same family. The Greeks really do just want to take care of you!