Where to stay
Unless you’re looking for nightlife, it’s probably best to avoid Laganas in favour of something classier. In terms of location, the pick of the major resort areas is Argassi: it’s close to the airport and central to everything, with the turtle beaches of Gerakas and Kalamaki both 20 minutes’ drive away. Family-run Windmill Bay Hotel is Argassi’s standout property.
On the other side of Zakynthos Town, the island’s upmarket evolution is evident around Tsilivi, where you can now find beach clubs and boutique hideaways. Things get much more peaceful in the north of the island, where the vibe is more about sleepy villa stays. There are plenty of decent options near the village of Agios Nikolaos, which is a departure point for boat trips to Navagio and ferries to neighbouring Cephalonia. Try Emerald Villas for their hilltop setting and views across the sea to the mainland, or the tasteful suites of Nobelos Seaside Lodge. Also don’t overlook the west coast for villa and apartment stays in a region that still feels delightfully undiscovered.
Why you’ll love it
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Whether you call it Zakynthos (its Greek name) or Zante (a throwback from the days of Venetian rule), this southerly Ionian island is a holiday heavyweight that comes alive in summer with boat trips, beach days and balmy nights for indulging at traditional tavernas. Don’t be put off by its reputation for mass-market package holidays — away from the built-up resorts of Laganas, Kalamaki and Tsilivi, there’s an abundance of authentic charm. Moreover, recent years have welcomed heaps of upgrades and developments such as luxury villas, fancy restaurants, boutique hotels and beach clubs — all of which have catapulted the island to a more sophisticated state. It’s not as jet-set as Mykonos, but that in itself is its charm, alongside a huge diversity of landscapes, attractions and fun things to do.
From the pine-topped cliffs of the west and north to the central plain’s ancient olive groves, and the east and south coasts’ sandy shores, Zakynthos is blessed with natural beauty and feels greener than your average Greek island. Even in busy Laganas, the waters of the Ionian Sea are sublime, with gently shelving sands that are perfect for family holidays. Between here and Kalamaki, an undeveloped sandy beach forms part of a marine park that protects the nesting grounds of loggerhead sea turtles. These incredible creatures lay their eggs on six of Laganas Bay’s beaches, including Marathonisi — a turtle-shaped isle that’s popular for day trips.
Main photo: Navagio beach, often referred to as Shipwreck beach (Alamy)