How to spend a sun-drenched holiday in Zante


Zante is renowned for raucous nightlife, but there’s a far more authentic side to the Venetians ‘Fiore di Levante’ (flower of the Levante). For such a small island, scenery is extremely varied: the southern coastline – home to Laganas’ notorious nightlife strip – also encompasses the pristine beaches of Zakynthos Marine Park, where loggerhead sea turtle come to nest, whilst some of the island’s best-known attractions, including Navagio beach on the cliff-lined northerly coast, can only be reached by boat.

Birthplace of the man who penned Greece’s national anthem, Zante was also a magnet for literary greats: Byron lay in state here and philhellene Edgar Allan Poe wrote a sonnet to the island’s ‘verdant slopes’.

Last but not least, food is a powerful lure here: sit in a rustic sea view tavern sipping local Verdea white wine with a plate full of traditional kouneli stifado garlic and tomato-soaked rabbit stew and you’ll be hooked.

For further Zante inspiration, see our guides to the island’s best hotels, restaurantsnightlife and things to do. Plan an extended visit with our ultimate guide to planning a Greek island-hopping holiday.

In this guide

How to spend your weekend

Day one


Zante is famous for sweet treats: start the day with an ice cool café frappe and a creamy, lemon-doused slice of frigania served with spectacular views at Latas Café in Bochali.  Back in town follow (semi-pedestrianized) Roma Street to flower-lined Solomos Square (browsing shops en route). 

Most of the city’s original Italianate architecture was destroyed by a massive earthquake in 1953, but some buildings remain – admire the honeyed 16th century façade of the Agios Nicholas of Molos church and pop into the handsome, arcaded Byzantine museum which is home to icons, frescoes and other pre-quake artefacts. 

Now follow odos Karvela (named for the Zakynthian who inspired Byron to join the Greek Revolution) to Saint Markos Square. Maybe it’s not as grand as the original in Venice, but this paved square surrounded by pollen yellow buildings (where the Popolaroi, rebelling against the hated Cittadini, burnt the Libro D`Oro in 1797) is a great place to sip a glass of local sherry-like Verdea, before ploughing through the fascinating hotchpotch of paintings, sculptures, manuscripts at the Solomos museum dedicated to the poet who penned Greece’s national anthem.

Saint Markos Square zante

The historic paved Saint Markos Square is surrounded by pollen yellow buildings

Credit: Education Images


There are half a dozen wineries on Zante, but icon artist Giannis Giatras’ family estate Art and Wine – reached via a road that ambles through citrus groves and mountain villages slumbering on pine studded slopes – produces some of the best Heptanese varieties, including refreshing golden Robola whites and complex spiced and flowery Avgoustiatis reds.

Giannis’ wines slip down easily with those spicy lado tyri cheese meze, but don’t drink too much: it’s a (nail bitingly) picturesque route to Cape Skinari, homeport for a fleet of glass bottom boats that make the three-hour round trip to the Blue Caves (elephant-legged limestone arches reflected in cyan blue waters) and Navagio, the beach where MV Panayiotis (one of the globe’s most photographed shipwrecks) washed up in fierce storms in the 1980’s.

Back on dry land, intrepid drivers could cut across the island for sunset views and snacks at Stavros, a rustic taverna with half a dozen tables scattered across a rocky outcrop high above the sea. 

Nervous drivers will prefer Diachroniko where hearty dishes, whose ingredients are sourced in the Plessas family’s farm, easily make up for the (sylvan rather than spectacular) views. 


Soak up a big dose of local lifestyle at family-run Varkarola where you should order a jug of vareli krasiou (wine from the barrel) and listen to guitar and mandolin ring out their accompaniment to the island’s traditional folk song kandathes. For more suggestions of the best restaurants on the island, see our guide

Varkarola Zante

Family-run Varkarola serves up local cuisine and live traditional folk music


Day two


Zakynthos’ Marine Park is the Mediterranean’s largest breeding ground for massive, loggerhead turtles (they can weigh as much as 450kgs). Agios Sostis tiny port is the departure point for Nefis Travels eco- friendly VIP boat trips. Tours (leaving at 8.30am and returning around 2pm) are slightly more expensive than most, but worth it: boats are small (9-10 people) and qualified guides dish out plenty of fascinating anecdotes about these endangered marine creatures as you get up close (without disturbing them). 

With the sun high in the sky, cross the wonky wooden bridge to Cameo island opposite Agios Sostis port. Buy a keyring and admire the stunning views, before driving through silver-leaved olive groves for a (late) lunch of brine-fresh seafood – sat at a checked cloth covered table with views over to the bottle- green whale-hump of Marathonissi island – at family-run Votsalo tavern.

Turtles Zante

Zakynthos’ Marine Park is a breeding ground for loggerhead turtles

Credit: Moment RF/Paul Biris


Burn off those calories with an eight kilometre climb (ending along a rubble-strewn dirt track) from Kalamaki village, to Panagia Skopiotissa, the island’s oldest monastery – as it’s name suggest it’s position atop of Skopos (watchtower) mountain ensures blindingly beautiful views of Laganas Bay far below. 

There’s not much left of the monastery – ask for the key to the church (in the last café on the way up) to see the marvellously gilded 13th century icon of sad-eyed Panagia Skopiotissa. 

Back in Zante town head for Komis on the limani (port). Once a spit-and-sawdust taverna where fishermen gathered to drink tsipouro and mend their nets, this no frills restaurant is (justly) touted as the city’s best fish restaurant. 

It’s popular so make sure you reserve, then sit out on the bamboo shaded terrace watching the water slopping at your feet (over them when its windy) and enjoy much-travelled owner Giannis’ fusion ‘take’ on Zante’s traditional cuisine: highlights include the fresh cuttlefish in a sticky, (slightly sweet) tomato and Verdea wine sauce, and luscious lobster spaghetti.

Panagia Skopiotissa, Zante

Panagia Skopiotissa is the island’s oldest monastery – and certainly worth the trek


Far from Laganas’ rowdy nightlife scene, but still lively, the popular resort of Argassi a few kilometres from Zante town is where locals come to hang out in sidewalk cafes and discuss the state of the world, before hitting the clubs. 

If you still some energy around midnight, follow them to the palm tree shaded garden of popular local club Cebu and join them as they sip handcrafted cocktails to the sounds of local and international DJs. For more suggestions of the best nightlife on the island, see our guide

Cebu Zante

Cebu is one of Zante’s many lively nightlife venues


Insider tips

Money saver

The island’s little trains (trainaki) priced from €14 (half price for kids) are an surprisingly inexpensive way to see the sights. One of the best value train trips leaves from the coastal resort of Alykes and puffs – via citrus groves and pine forests – to the villages of Pigadakia, famed for its health giving pigi (springs) and onto Kaki Rahi taverna where genial Spiros doles out taster-size portions of local dishes along with lashings of his own (slightly sharp) wine.


Zante’s famed Blue Caves and Navagio beach are a magnet for mass tourism in high season, so make sure to go early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the (largest) crowds. Fears that the shipwreck might be washed away due to climate change have so far proved unfounded, but it’s worth going now just in case it is.

For less frequented alternatives explore the east coast (especially between Agios Nikolaos and Makris Gialos) which is dotted with small limestone grottos (home to the island’s endangered monk seals) and isolated coves lapped by turquoise waters: are perfect for snorkelling fans and sun seekers.

 Navagio beach Zante

Zante is home to many sandy coves including the picturesque Navagio beach

Credit: Artur Debat

Neighbourhood watch

Named for the Greek word ‘agallio’ meaning ‘to rejoice’, the mountain village of Agalas, surrounded by citrus-scented pine groves on Zante’s southwest coast, is a real joy for visitors who bother seeking it out. 

After wandering the narrow paved alleys admiring the mediaeval stone houses and ancient windmills, hike out into vine-studded countryside to see the Andronios Wells. According to legend these 11 dolmen-like 15th century stone built cisterns (and a 12th below ground) were built by an evil dragon as punishment for his sins. 

Did you know?

Zakynthians are justly proud of their role in saving the lives of the islands entire Jewish community during the Second World War. All 275 Jewish residents survived thanks to Mayor Loukas Karrer and Bishop Chrysostomos who refused to give a list containing their names to the Nazis. The Jewish cemetery on the island has hundreds of graves dating from the 1500’s right up to 1955.

When to go

Temperatures are balmy all year round along Zante’s extensive coastline – although it will often rain from January to March and there can be several weeks of (sometimes heavy) snow. Weather up in the mountains is colder: expect chilly weather from late December to early May.

Conversely, in summer when temperatures along the coast climb to 30-35C, the mountain villages – which are often five degrees cooler – are ideal for escaping the heat. Sea temperatures start to rise in late May – you can often still swim in October. In late spring and early autumn beaches and attractions are generally far less crowded. 

Where to stay

Budget Beauty

Logothetis organic farm is located within hiking distance of the island’s best beaches. Angela and Dionysos are the third generation to work this sprawling organic farm. Seven homely stone-built houses surrounded by silver-leaved olive groves have exposed beams, flagstone floors and views over the meadows where horses graze and chickens lay the eggs that you’ll eat for breakfast. 

Luxury Living

Overlooking a waterfall-fed infinity pool and a small shingle beach, Lesante Blu is buried in mature gardens near the low key resort of Tragaki is a haven of peace. The adults-only resort is home to 92 spacious open-plan suites – some with whirlpool baths or private pools – which have sheer white walls and wood parquet flooring. One Royal Grand suite on two levels also has a good-sized pool.

Lesante Blu, Zante

Adults-only hotel Lesante Blu is a haven of peace on the Zante coast

Credit: Christos Drazos Photography. All rights reserved.

Designer Digs

Lesante Cape stands on the wild and wooded slopes of Akrotiri peninsula an easy four-kilometre drive from Zante town. This stylish spa resort’s highlights include a three-tiered infinity pool and spectacular views to the Peloponnese coastline opposite, whilst light-filled villas and suites clustered around a village-style main square (complete with traditional kafeneion) have whirlpool baths or private pools.

What to bring home

Buy local mantolato honey and almond nougat, and crunchy hand crafted honey and almond pastelli sticks sprinkled with sesame seeds at traditional pastry shop Zante Pleasure (12 Lombardou st). They also organise workshop visits.

For authentic local crafts, head for Adamieion Ceramic Art Studio. Surrounded by ancient olive groves, this charming little boutique showcases ceramics and art works of local creators. They also organise pottery workshops on demand. 

Know before you go

Essential information

  • British Consulate: Zante: 00 30 26950 22906;
  • Tourist police: 171
  • Ambulance: 166
  • Fire: 199
  • Tourism Office: 00 30 26950 22222; Mousourgou Spirou Kapsaski 13, Zante

The basics

  • Currency: Euro
  • Telephone code: Dial 00 30 if calling Zante from the UK. From inside Zante just dial the number.
  • Time difference: +2 hour
  • Languages: Modern Greek
  • Flight time: London to Zante is 3hrs 50min

Local laws and etiquette

  • Zakynthians are relaxed about sartorial style, but they appreciate modest clothing (no shorts or crop tops) when visiting churches and other religious places – and you are expected to remove headgear when entering. 
  • Nude sunbathing near local families is considered extremely rude – and is only acceptable on designated beaches. 

About the author

Based in Grece for more than a decade, Heidi Fuller-love is Telegraph Travel’s Zante expert. A fan of traditional music, she has spent many summers listening to kanthades in Zante´s kafeneions and hiking the island’s remotest goat trails.

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