Sightseeing Guide at Holiday Drive
The best way to get around Zakynthos is by rental car.
Due to the small size of the island, it is perfectly possible to drive a complete lap of the island, stopping at some interesting places on the way.
The visitor has many choices; since the island of Zakynthos offers many beautiful sights that each one has its own special characteristic. Many golden beaches, deep blue or green waters and dreamy caves make any indecisive visitor be in dilemma.
In order to truly experience Zakynthos we recommend you at least a three-day rental period and we suggest you the following routes .
On each one you might follow, there would be something different. Enjoy our beautiful island.
1st route: Argassi,Vassilikos, Gerakas,Porto Roma,Porto Zoro, Daphni
On this tour we invite you to visit picturesque little villages that add their own tone to the enchanting landscape.
The route takes in the peninsula in the south-east of the island and visits many of the most beautiful beaches on Zakynthos, some of them very popular and others remote, ideal for those who are trying to get away from the crowds.
Argassi is a verdant valley, in which rises Mount Skopos, which is covered with orchards and greenery, and has red villas with vines growing over their courtyards and walls. The modern tourist villas nearby and large beach make Argassi one of the most popular summer holiday resorts on the island.
In a short distance from Argassi are the ruins of 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 the Panagia Skopiotissa, dating from the 15th century. In older times, when the people of Zakynthos were threatened by epidemics, or by pirates, they used to take the icon of the Virgin to Chora, to protect them.
All that survives today is the church, which can be seen from all over Zakynthos. There is a breathtaking view from the top of the mountain, and the Venetians quite properly called it Belvedere (fine view).
We continue along the Argasi road, passing through Xirokastello, and come to the road that leads to Porto Zoro.
The steep road leads down to a beautiful little beach. It now runs through a fine pine forest. From here there are many side-roads leading to beaches. Agios Nikolaos is a little settlement with coffeehouses and hotels, and with a large sandy beach, 2Km long. At the end of the main road, we 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 comes right down to the crystal-clear sea.
The road to the right, leads to Gerakas. Its superb beach set in spectacular surroundings that are protected on the south by a rocky peninsula. Gerakas is also a nesting ground for the Caretta-Caretta sea turtles, and that is the reason for which there are restrictions on the development of the area and the tourist activities.
Vasilikos visitors expecting to see a concentrated settlement will be disappointed. The houses of Vasilikos are spread over a wide area, amidst greenery and abundant water, farms and orchards. All these, together with the beautiful beaches, make Vasilikos another impressive sight. A rough track climbs sharply up on the right (signposted Dafni). A fork right onto the top of the hill continues straight for Dafni. This is a beautiful unspoiled 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.
2nd Route: A tour to the South Zakynthos
On this route you take the main road of Zakynthos and continue along the right fork in the road, which leads to Lake Keri. You start out on the coast road in the town and head south. You pass the road to Argassi and turn right, coming to Kalamaki and Ypsolithos, the latter with its superb sandy beach and limpid sea. Rocks glisten in the most unlikely position in the crystal-clear water. Shortly after Ipsolithos to the south, along the waterside (reached only by path) is the huge rock known as the Vrontolithos. At its foot is a large cave, open towards the sea.
Following, the Bay of Laganas with its two islands, one of the island’s most beautiful spots and also most highly developed opens up before us. Laganas is a village, springing up purely to serve the growing tourist trade on the fine beach.
The beach of Laganas is 9km long, making it the largest on the island and one of the largest in Greece.
Off the coast of Laganas lies the island of Aghios Sostis. Once the island was joined to the Zakynthos itself, and there was a chapel to St Sostis on it. In the earthquake of 1633 the tip of the promontory split off and the island was created.
Here there is a picturesque little harbor with fishing boats. The islands, which lie in the bay, are called Pelouzo and Marathonissi, the later being heavily wooded. Olives, 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 Mouzaki area. 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 comes from the fact at once the area was a hideout for Saracen pirates.
Mouzaki is a large village famous for its quality the water. The history of the village dates back to 1521, and it has two interesting old churches: that of Our Lady bears the date 1741 on its carved wooden screen and also has a wooden ceiling, while St Nicholas, the village ‘cathedral’ was built in 1815. Another large village, Pantokratoras, stands next to- and indeed almost part of Mouzaki .High on the hillside above the villages is the old church of the Savior; it 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 we can see Mt Scopos and the blue fringe of sea at Laganas.
The church itself is a plain little basilica; the Byzantine double eagles carved into the floor, the screen is wooden, and there are old icons and the remains of paintings on the walls. According to a local legend, the Empress Pulcheria built the church. Behind the church are an overgrown graveyard, and a little higher up the hill is a pretty well with carved masonry.
Following south direction you see the area of Lithakia which is a village with old mansions. This has always been among the more prosperous villages of the area, thanks to its fertile fields in 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 km leads to Agalas, a semi mountainous village built amidst pine-forest overlooking the west coast. To the southeast of Agalas is the two-level cave of Damianos, with its stalactites and stalagmites. Four kilometers from Lithakia is a deep gorge called Abysses, which has a spring whose water is reputedly good for the 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 drives 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 natural pitch wells, which were used for caulking ships and which gave it its Venetian name of Porto Naphta.
The wells by the beach have been dried out but that 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 drives 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 tower out of the crystal-clear sea to form a cove with a strip of tropically white sand at the end of it.
Keri is a pretty village, built on the north-facing slopes of cape Marathias. There is an interesting church in the village, ‘Our lady of Keri’. According to the traditions, Our Lady hid the whole island of Zakynthos in a mist stopping it from being spotted by marauding pirates. The church is fine decorated. A track (very narrow in Keri itself and poor beyond) leads in 1,5 km to lighthouse on the cape. From here there are spectacular views of the rocky west coast of Zakynthos and the two white and huge rocks “ Myzithres “dominating the scenery.
3rd Route: Zante town
The town is ideal for leisurely strolls.Explore its paved streets and squares and take your time to really explore the local arts and produce generously available from corner to corner. From bakeries to cafes, local markets, sweet shops, clothes and jewellery boutiques to picturesque neighbourhoods, museums and hidden heritage (like the English cemetery), Zakynthos Town has it all. The town’s architecture is reminiscent of the Venetian and Byzantine eras.
Take a tour around the city and visit the Solomos Square whose name derives from a very famous poet of the island, and it’s surrounded by buildings with characteristic traditional architectural features of the island, arch-shaped windows and arcades. Here you can also find 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 in the centre. Next to the square you can see the Saint Nicholas of the Mole church, one of the more ancient churches of the island that still keeps the liturgical ornaments of Saint Dionysios, the island’s patron saint.
Little more ahead you can visit Saint Marcus square, a picturesque small square built by the Venetian during their occupation. Here there is the only catholic church of Zante which is a copy of Saint Mark’s basilica in Venice.
Near Saint Marcus square we suggest you an interesting visit to the Byzantine Museum of Solomos, Kalvos and Eminent Zakynthians which also hosts the bust of the Greek national poet, and the old house of Roma family.
From Saint Marcus square starts Alexandrou Roma Street, a long pedestrian old paved road, full of every kind of stores with gifts for all tastes. This street with the impressive arcades has been the main commercial center of the city for centuries.It will be amusing and relaxing to walk up and down between several traditional workshops and small shops.
After visiting some cultural places of the town and after some shopping, we want to bring you to the small jewel of the city of Zante Town, Bochali.
Go back to your car, then drive to the end of the city holding the sea on your right and take the road that on your left goes up through the city taking you to the higher village of Bòchali.
Bochali is a small village of few inhabitants, placed just above Zante town.
From here there is a stunning view and you can admire in the same time the entire city, Argasi, the coasts of the Peloponnese and far away the bay of Laganas.
In Bochali you can visit also the ruins of the ancient Venetian castle that is the old fortification of the town. After the earthquake of 1953 is remained very little, but the pine forest all around is wonderful and the panorama is worth alone the paltry price of the ticket.
Nearby you can also visit Stranis hill, offering a great view. Here, the poet Dionysios Solomos inspired the ‘Hymn to Liberty’ (later the Greek national anthem) and the “Free Besieged” attending the siege of the city of Messolonghi.
End your day by driving down 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 abuts a sizeable park towards the southern end. The delightful murals that cover the whole interior are well worth a peek, although you might find the collection of ecclesiastical garments and paraphernalia in the attached museum a little too, well, Orthodox, for the casual visitor. This lovely building combines Byzantine and European building styles. Here the relic of the patron-saint of the island is kept in a silver coffin.
4th Route: A tour to the Central West Zakynthos
This is the longest route and leads the region around Mount Vrachion. There are very few beaches and the coast is very steep, rocky and not suitable for swimming whatsoever.
On this route you will discover a large number of churches and monasteries and an impressive variety of architecture.
Starting from Zante town and going straight following the signs to Volimes, after approximately three kilometers we come to a crossroad: Gaitani to the right and Machairado to the left from which we shall return.
Taking the road to Gaitani you will meet the village of Vanato. In this village there is a chapel belonging to a local family, one of the oldest clans on the family. The interior of the church is finely decorated and many of the family ancestors are buried beneath the floor, as it was for centuries a local custom.
Going straight, by following the road signs, you will reach to another village Saint Dimitrios that is worth to visit for its old churches and high bell towers. Proceeding about one Km a road to the left leads you to 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 has a display of objects representing another traditional way of life at the old times.
Taking now the opposite direction to Macherado you come to a pretty village called Skoulikado, a settlement in the plain.
This village has a tradition in music and popular theatre. At the entrance of the village it is the proud-whitewashed chapel of Saint Nikolaos. It has a carved gilt screen, a wooden painted ceiling with the Pantokrator and the four apostles together with icons representing miracles done 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.
Following, you will come to the village of Agia Mavra. The church named after the place is of outstanding architecture and wonderful pieces of art. The present of the church, which was built in 1855, has the shape of a cross externally, while in the interior takes the form of a three – aisled Basilica. The church occupies a traditional stone-bell as well as a panoramic view and a wonderful architecture.
The next stop is Machairado, which is the second largest village in Zakynthos after Katastari. Its hallmark is the famous church of Agia Mavra with its melodious bells that can be heard from all over the island.
In the interior the decoration is surprisingly lavish with fine old works of art. The icon of Agia Mavra it is said to be miraculous and is worth to see the photos on it by her followers.
After Macherado is the village of Lagopodo where excellent wine is produced reputed one of the best in the area. Proceeding along the main road you reach to Kiliomenos village with traditional two-storey Houses, churches with tower bells placed in small round windows and fine balconies.
The next stop is Aghios Leon where there are state supported textile factory making carpets and superb fabrics.
Beyond this village, a road to the left descends the barren hillside down to the sea. Following you come to the village of Loucha where you ascent the mountain, expecting to see it in front of you and suddenly appears in the distance in a small valley, nestling amidst cypress trees, perhaps out of ‘fear of pirates’
Next to Agios Leon village you meet Exo Chora village consisting of numerous traditional houses that are still been kept maintained dating from before the earthquake. Following comes the village of Schiza where on its highest point there is an enormous concrete cross erected in the memory of those killed during the civil war. Adjacent there are numerous café restaurants where you can have a relaxing stop enjoining the breathtaking view. Slightly to the south of Schiza is the so-called Seal Cliff. Named after the seals coming to have their pups into the large caves.
Low pine trees run to the edge of the drop and the rocks plunge vertically down to the blue waters of Seal Bay.
Proceeding, you come up with Maries village where you can visit a three- aisled church, rare on the island dedicated to Mary Magdalene who reputedly stooped here showing 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 one hour. The views across the whole of Zakynthos and over to Kephalonia are superb. All the villages southwards along the coast have superb sunsets and café restaurants are ideally located to make the most of them. Maries village runs down to Stenitis which is a wonderful little cave with greenish- blue crystal clear water. Close to Steniti lies Porto Vromi where a sheltered cove with swimming off the rocks and from a tiny beach 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 Shipwreck. As we leave Maries behind a little road on the left leads to the beautiful mountain village of Anafonitria, where it leads to the Monastery of Anafonitria, 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 and the second to 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.
5th Route: A tour to the North West Zakynthos:
This route covers the northeast part of the island, along the coast, which has a large number of beautiful beaches. Several of these can be reached only from the sea. In this part of the island, the small villages and landscapes of outstanding natural beauty will entrance visitors.
The tranquil sea is abruptly interrupted by sheer 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 and singularly beautiful and is recommended for nature-lover.
From the coast road we head northwards and enter he suburb of Krioneri, where the EOT beach is located.
This is the area where the Greek author Grigoris Xenopoulos (1867-1951), who was descended from a Zakynthian family, describes in his famous novel ‘The Red Rock’.
The area Akrotiri is a cool and healthy place among olive trees that is considered to be one of the closest rural areas to the town. During the pre-earthquake era, the country mansions of the rich were here. There is an excellent sunset view.
The rock offshore is known as Vodi the Ox. Where the shape of the trees stood on the rock was reminiscent of the horns of an ox. The road leaves the shore and descends through a series of hairpin bends.
We leave Bohali on the left, we emerge from the woods and the beach of Tsilivi opens out beneath us.
The blue sea stretches as far as Cape Gidakia, which ends the curve of the day. Returning from the beach, we enter the Planos area, once a quiet village currently turning into a busy resort area surrounded by beautiful mountainous landscapes.
The road continues through olive trees and leads to some small and quiet beaches.
We 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 both for its natural beauty and for the Monastery of Panagia Dermatousa.
If we take the side roads leading from the main road, we meet the beaches of Bouka and Ampoula, both of which have been awarded with blue flags.
Remaining to the main road away from the town of Zakynthos we are in the middle of the most attractive landscape of rolling hills, which bound the plain of Zakynthos, to the northeast. It is a fine place for walkers as the olive groves provide plenty of shade. Still following the main road, we head towards Alykes, which is one of the most popular centers in the island, and a marina is currently under construction at the end of the beach near Zakynthos town.
As we approach Alykes there is a turning for Alykana beach at the southern end of Alykes Bay where Mycenaean pottery has been found here, 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, the lake Alykes together with the refreshing breeze, afford relaxation from on the heat of the day and restore your spirits. The church of Saints Theodoroi is worth to visit with accommodating all the ecclesiastical treasures that were destroyed from the big earthquake. Next is Katastari village, which is the largest village on Zakynthos Island.
Leaving the coast and going to the west, it leads into the center of the northern part of Zakynthos where we meet a picturesque village called Orthonies, surrounded by old traditional houses. The hallmark of the area is the fantastic view of the bare spine of Mt Vrachionas, which is the highest point on the island. From the village of Alykes going until the end to the village of Orthonies you meet numerous Monasteries and churches along side the roads.
Following, you meet the village of Volimes, which is the ideal place to have a stop for refreshments.
The place is famous for its cheese, honey and what is more, the local 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 to visit, surrounded by charming traditional houses and miniature staircases. Leading the main road of Volimes we reach to the nethermost point of the island, Schinary set in a picturesque bay.
Taking the main road parallel to the sea we meet the cove of Aghios Nikolaos, with Megalo Nisi lying in its entrance.
Boats from its beach visit the Blue Caves and the tour takes about an hour. The Blue Caves are a series of geological formations in the cliffs beneath. The caves are remarkable for the colour of the water in the deeper caverns, the reflection of the light makes the water colored magic the rocks and the boat appear an unearthly shade of blue. A few kilometers away towards the sea, we reach to 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 medical possessions. The place can be also visited by boats departing from Aghios Nikolaos Beach.