Navagio Beach… Even if the name doesn’t ring a bell, you will have seen a picture, or hundreds of pictures of this place in your lifetime. Often used as tourist images, in brochures, by travel agents, computer screen savers, stock images… The image of Navagio Beach is used to inspire and entice those into the tropical holiday escape of their dreams.
Located in the Ionian Sea, on the Italy side of Greece, Navagio Beach can be found on the North-West of the island of Zakynthos. Both Zakynthos and Navagio Beach are known by other names – Zante and Shipwreck Beach respectively and these names are used interchangeably by companies, day-to-day conversation and online.
Despite Navagio Beach’s intense popularity all around the world, getting to this beach can actually be difficult, time consuming, expensive and take a lot of research. Navagio Beach and Zakynthos aren’t common spots on a regular tour across Europe but despite this I was determined to visit it this year come hell or high water. In order to do so, I spent a lot of time working out the most efficient, cost-effective way – but to save you the hassle of going through everything I went through (including but not limited to using Google Maps to check the terrain of the island to see if bicycle hire could be used as possible transport to the beach, FYI it can’t) I’ve written a guide of not only how to get to Navagio Beach but everything you need to know about Navagio Beach.
History: How Navagio Beach got its name.
Navagio Beach is instantly recognisable (in addition to its pristine cliff face and blue water) by the shipwreck lying perfectly down the middle of the beach. This ship was called Panagiotis and as legend has it was a smugglers ship working on behalf of the Italian Mafia. The ship was smuggling cigarettes from Turkey, when it was spotted and subsequently chased by the Greek Navy off the shores of Zakynthos. Unfortunately for the ship, during the pursuit Panagiotis ran shallow ground, the sailors were forced to abandon her and she ‘naturally’ ended up in the centre of Navagio.
While this story does add excitement to the location, any sceptic would be quick to point out how perfectly the ship fits into the beach and now a popular belief is that the shipwreck was planted there instead to promote tourism. Either way it certainly doesn’t detract from the area, making it one of the most beautiful places in Europe.
Getting to Zakynthos: By Air or By Sea?
There are two main ways to get to Zakynthos. Either flying (as the island is equipped with its own airport) or by ferry (which often is by bus then ferry).
Getting to Zakynthos by Air
Despite not being on the usual tourist route in Europe, Zakynthos is a popular summer holiday party island for the Brits and as such there are quite a few direct flights into Zakynthos Airport from other countries in Europe and this would be the most straightforward way to get to the island. British Airways, Ryan Air, and Thomson Airways all offer cheap fares to Zakynthos.
If you are already in Greece you can book a direct flight from Athens via Aegean Air or other Greek Airlines.
As mentioned above, Zakynthos is located on the Italy side of Greece, alongside other islands like Kefalonia and Corfu. However, the popular islands such as Santorini and Ios are located on the other side of the Greek mainland (the Turkey side of Greece). Currently there are no direct flights from these islands to Zakynthos, meaning if air travel is your preferred method of transport and you plan on visiting these other islands you will need to be making a transfer in Athens before continuing on.
I would strongly recommend checking Airline Ratings before booking any flight anywhere in the world as quite often a cheap fare can make people overlook safety.
Getting to Zakynthos by Sea
I travelled to Zakynthos from Athens and the process was quite straight forward, albeit a fairly long day of travel. While Athens is a direct port for the other popular Greek islands like Santorini, to get to Zakynthos you must leave from Port Killini, which isn’t near Athens. However, don’t worry, the Greek ferry transport is honestly the most efficient transport system I have seen (it really does put Australia and UK transport systems to shame) and your journey will run smoothly.
For this journey you need to book a bus ticket AND a ferry ticket (despite the actual ferry journey being inside the time frame of the bus journey). This is super simple by booking through the KTEL Bus Company website. Here you can find the schedule, prices and direct booking. When I went in high season August 2017 the buses were just under 30 euro each way and the ferry was just under 10 euro each way. Prices are subject to fluctuate with the season and popularity.
I booked ahead; however, when I got to the bus station, and the ferry port, people were booking as they got there. I wouldn’t necessarily rely on this though as our bus was full. The KTEL bus station is also located on the outskirts of the centre, meaning it is unlikely to be in walking distance from your accommodation and, in August 2017, I found the public transport was annoyingly quite difficult to connect to the bus station despite it being a very busy hub! A taxi to the station from Monastiraki (the centre of Athens/where most hostels are located) to the bus station cost about 5 euros but expect to be stung with 10 euros for the identical journey on return as due to being picked up from a bus station the taxis seem to have agreed (from my experience) on a set price to anywhere from there.
The bus journey was about 4 and a half hours and the ferry journey is a quick hour trip where you are able to walk around the deck, relax and buy refreshments and food, as you have to disembark the bus while transferring by ferry. When you dock in Zante you hop back on the bus and the bus drops you in Zakynthos Town about 5 minutes away from the harbour.
Accommodation in Zakynthos
First things first, when I visited in August 2017, I found Zakynthos was not designed for budget travellers, backpackers or solo travellers. There are no hostels on the island (the first person to open up one would make a lot of money just saying…), only hotels and unfortunately for those travelling on budget they are at hotel prices. If you are going solo this may be a pain on your wallet, but had I had one or two friends with me when I went it would have worked out the equivalent of a typical hostel dorm bed in Greece each. It is one of the downsides of solo travelling when the area isn’t really set up for solo travellers.
I stayed in Zakynthos Town, right at the port where the boat comes in. I did this mostly for the convenience of getting on and off the ferry and because a lot of boat tours (see below about how to get to the actual Navagio Beach) leave from this area but I’m not necessarily sure I would recommend it. Laganas Beach on the south east of the island is where almost everyone stays and I think I would have enjoyed my time in Zakynthos, outside of visiting Navagio Beach, a lot more had I stayed there.
If you are going to Zakynthos in the high season (July and August) I would strongly recommend booking accommodation earlier rather than later as things will sell out.
Getting to Navagio Beach Lookout
Zakynthos is surprisingly a very large island. At 405.6km squared it is 5 times the size of Santorini and the third largest Ionian Island. As Navagio Beach is located on the north west of the island don’t assume you will be able to just walk there. However you do have a few options, but TLDR I’ll let you know the best option now is to look at hiring a car.
Getting to Navagio Beach: Public transport
Again, like I mentioned above, this island not being designed well for budget travellers and the public transport when I visited were quite poor. The public buses that do run tend to be between Zakynthos Town and Laganas Beach and some other beaches only.
Getting to Navagio Beach: Bicycle
When I was doing my research I found there were a fair few bicycle hire places in various locations in Zakynthos that made me think bicycle hire would be the money saving solution to the problem. Luckily, however, my accommodation told me ahead of time that bike riding to Navagio Beach lookout wouldn’t work out in my favour as there is a lot of mountain terrain, and it would be hours there and hours back. Unless you’re in training for the Tour de France, forgo the bike.
Getting to Navagio Beach: Tours
You will see on the island and online that there are numerous tours of the Zakynthos, that include stopping at Navagio Beach lookout. After reading online I found multiple sites that said the tours only stop at Navagio Beach lookout for 5-10 minutes, despite it being (what I would consider) the highlight of the tour and there are a lot of filler activities on the way. I saw this myself when I was at the Navagio Beach lookout with tour buses coming and going in fairly quick intervals. More so, as you will see in the photo below, there is an “official” lookout over Navagio Beach but it’s not exactly in a prime spot and just take a look at how many people (from tours) are lining up to get their quick 3 second snap surrounded by a million other tourists. As I’ve written below there are many other prime locations to view the beach than the sub-par lookout.
Getting to Navagio Beach: Taxi
Looking at all options I also stumbled across taxis and found the price estimate online was close to 100 euros. If you’re going with friends this could be an option as you could split the costs, but the price is equivalent to car hire where you can spend the day doing a lot more in addition to the lookout.
Getting to Navagio Beach: Quad Bike
As across all of the Greek islands there are numerous quad bikes for hire in Zante. If you choose this method make sure you check your travel insurance, take adequate care on the road and factor in additional driving time.
Getting to Navagio Beach: Car Hire
Car hire looked like the best option for efficiency and cost. Remembering that most accommodations are on the opposite side of the island from Navagio Beach Lookout the journey there will take about an hour. A few things to remember when hiring a car overseas:
- Always check your insurance! Don’t assume you are covered because some insurers can be tricky or require you get an international licence before you drive overseas.
- Look into an international drivers licence just in case – some car hire companies will only accept international drivers licences and some don’t really care as long as you have a licence in your own country.
- Booking a car while in Zakynthos may mean you will get a much cheaper price than anything you find online (I got half price booking on the island vs. what I would have paid online) but you may also miss out on obtaining car hire because it’s high season and everyone wants a car.
I had initially booked car hire online but the company cancelled on me (through telling my accommodation not even me) when I arrived at the island. I had a stressful afternoon running from car hire place to car hire place until I found one that wasn’t sold out. However, again, stick to your guns about price. We agreed on a price, I came back 5 hours later to pick up the car, my car wasn’t available but a bigger car was…, which they tried to tell me I needed to pay more for as it was an upgrade. I told them we had already agreed on the original price and they agreed with me (rather reluctantly).
- Zakynthos roads are full of tourist drivers and from my experience they are not all very good (they could be like me – I had never driven on the right hand side of the road before). Be cautious.
The Navagio Beach lookout is actually very easy to find. You can use the maps function on your phone to get to the lookout. I was reliant on wi-fi without any data on my phone and 15 minutes into setting off I accidentally closed my maps and therefore lost the route. It was still very easy to find the lookout and having no map wasn’t a hindrance. If you roughly study the map before you hop in to drive you’ll know the basic area you need to head to. There are limited roads on the island outside the towns so head in the right direction and you’ll find it quite easily.
Driving to Navagio Beach also means you’ll also come across the Instagram-famous juice stall as well as numerous goats!
Best Time to Visit Navagio Beach
I found the ideal time to be at the Lookout was midday. The famous white walls that surround the beach cast shadows over the water when the sun is not at centre point in the sky. The water is definitely a more pristine blue at midday. The middle of the day does mean that more people will be there, but if you venture further than the “official” lookout you will have ample space to yourself.
Best Place to View Navagio Beach
A car park indicates your arrival at the lookout. Walk in the same direction as everyone else, or towards the drink and food stalls. You will come to the “official” lookout mentioned above and get your first real glimpse of Navagio Beach. However, the better views are definitely further along. Just continue walking along the same way, away from the car park/buses/food stalls and you’ll be walking along the cliffside where you’ll find photo opportunity after photo opportunity.
You will get fairly close to the edge as the path that has been created goes close so be careful. Please use your common sense and don’t put yourself in a position where you can fall. It may seem unlikely, but unfortunately a few tourists have died here this way.
How long to spend at Navagio Beach Lookout?
I spent a good 2 hours at the lookout area, which was much longer than anyone else that was there. However, this was in part due to coming just before midday and wanting to wait until the shadows had cleared the water below and also due to wanting to explore quite a lot. I headed back to the food stall/car park/main lookout area after exploring down the side and headed down a new path that would lead to views directly over the beach rather than the ocean.
One really great thing about the Navagio Beach Lookout is that it costs nothing to view. Unlike Croatia that charges entry fees to view waterfalls, this place, even with the odd food stall and buses, is still a highly un-commercialised beauty.
Getting to Navagio Beach – the Actual Beach
Navagio Beach is locked in by the ocean and there is no way to scale down the cliff face. While I do believe it is possible to hire a helicopter, the most efficient (and normal) transport there is by boat. As you can see in the photos the beach is immensely popular and very busy. However, it was well worth the visit over and I do recommend.
Don’t expect to spend the day at Navagio Beach as due to its popularity boats were only allowed to drop people at the beach for one hour, in order to avoid congestion.
Booking a boat tour after you have arrived on the island, rather than online beforehand, is likely to save you a lot of money. Most of the boat companies do not have online presences so the ones that do are charging at a premium. Just walk down the street and you’ll find a deal (boat companies are everywhere)
I chose an afternoon visit to the beach on the belief that it would be less crowded, and while it probably was it was still busy but it’s just something that comes with the territory of this beach. There was still room to spread out, relax and enjoy the beauty.
Most boat cruises to Navagio Beach offer a stop at Blue Caves on the way to or from the beach and this I definitely recommend. The Blue Caves are very pretty and most boats allow a swimming stop here, which was an added bonus! Some companies say their boats are small enough to enter the caves so if you find one that says this I would recommend going with them – mine unfortunately was too large so it just showed us the caves from the outside and allowed us a swim spot a little bit away. Jumping off the boat into the clear dark blue water near the Blue Caves is a very happy memory of mine, so would definitely recommend anyone wanting to do the same.
I would also recommend sitting on the edge of the boat – the left heading to the beach, the right leaving the beach – as you will get an awesome view of the Zakynthos coastline, cliff faces and many beautiful smaller beaches and coves along the way.
Other Things to do in Zakynthos / Zante
Zante is known as party central island (especially to the Brits) and Laganas Beach is the area to stay to be right in the thick of it. Parties range from clubs to boats and everything in between and often visitors to Zante are there purely to drink, relax and party rather than sight-see.
To get here you can take your rental car over by the island ferry (though always check you are allowed to take the rental car off the island) or there are day tours. If you are interested in a day tour make sure you do pre-book one as the tour companies to Kefalonia Island are surprisingly limited and only run on certain days. Unfortunately I was naïve here, waited until I got to the island and found everywhere was sold out. Suppose it’s just another reason to go back!
If you have a car make sure you use it to the full capacity and take in the gorgeous Zante coastline. Don’t forget to treat yourself to some picturesque sunrises and sunsets
Food in Zakynthos
I loved the ones made by Pita Pita Grill Room in Zakynthos Harbour. They had me going back the entire time I was there.
Frozen Greek Yoghurt
It’s heaven on earth. Forget any fro-yo you’ve had back home, frozen Greek yoghurt is the making of dreams and there is plenty of it in Greece and Zakynthos.
Remember to be wary of
Especially children. Children have been known to steal belongings so keep a close eye on your stuff. These children are acting for their parents as they are much more trustworthy and therefore can be a lot sneakier. Don’t get angry with them as they are still children and following what their parents want, just be cautious.
This is probably just down to my experience but the week before I was due to arrive Zakynthos was on fire. Due to its dry climate fires are common but the services are well equipped for them. On my last night another fire started on the hill just near where I was staying that alarmed me greatly. I went to the police to ask what was happening, and (through the aid of Google Translate), they said evacuation was unnecessary as the fire services were already there with helicopters to put the blaze out. I would hardly consider fire to be a legitimate daily threat to your trip, but given it was in my experience, I thought there was no harm in adding it here.
Also do remember that Zakynthos, like almost all of Greece, is only really ‘open’ between April to October and like the rest of Greece will shut down in winter for tourism hibernation.
Despite the additional expenses involved in coming to this island standing at Navagio Beach was the highlight of my trip and my year. I also spent a lot less money than I originally had thought I would be shelling out due to pre-planning and keeping a more watchful eye on my spending when I arrived on the island.
I really hope this guide spares you a LOT of time and hassle in trying to find all this information across other pages, blogs and trip advisor question and answer forums! Navagio Beach will always be etched in my memory as one of the most surreal and beautiful days of my life.