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Secret Zante: How to escape the tourist trail

Photo of Anna HardyPhoto of Anna Hardy
By Anna Hardy

19 May 20236 min read

A view of a rural landscape in Tsilivi on the Greek island of Zante with green olive groves and mountains in the background.

If you’ve heard of Zante, you probably know of its reputation for wild nightlife and rowdy resorts.

But this fun-loving Greek island is more than hedonistic all-nighters – and its quiet side is a delight to discover. From quaint rural villages to secluded cove beaches and untouched mountains, we reveal how to escape the tourist trail on your next holiday to Zante.

Skip the strip

A sure-fire way to discover a more peaceful side to Zante? Leave Laganas’ famous strip and zip past Zakynthos (Zante Town) to head further up the north-eastern coast.

Tsilivi and Alykes are great family-friendly options and have a range of hotels and holiday apartments. Sheltered sweeps of sandy beaches and calm waters are perfect for chilled-out beach days and low-key watersports such as kayaking and pedalo rides. There are still some late-night options if you’re a night owl, with laidback cocktail bars and pubs in both towns – but don’t expect rowdy crowds.

To escape the tourist hubs altogether, look to little Agios Nikolaos in the north for locally run B&Bs and small, friendly tavernas. Or, stay in Skinari for secluded getaways and panoramic sea views from Zante’s northernmost point.

Anatoli Labreon Guesthouse - Apartments

  • Agia Marina, Zante, Greece
  • 14 August 2024
  • Bed & Breakfast
  • From Gatwick

Prices and availability shown can change. Always check pricing with partner before booking.

Prices from

£502

pp
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Go beyond the tourist-filled beaches

One of the most recognisable spots in Greece is in Zante. Shipwreck Beach (Navagio) is no stranger to postcards, magazine covers and yes, even the TravelSupermarket blog. But those pristine pictures don’t always tell the full story. Navagio Beach gets busy. Really busy.

Visit it early in the day to stand the best chance of having fewer crowds then move on – Zante is an island, after all, and there are plenty of sheltered coves and sweeping bays along every crook and curve of its stunning coastline.

In the south, laidback Porto Zoro or Gerakas – on the Vasilikos peninsula – are quieter alternatives to popular Banana Beach. The latter is a turtle nesting location, so remains blissfully undeveloped under the protection of the National Marine Park.

On the northeast coast, the crystal-clear waters of Makris Gialos beach are a haven for snorkellers and divers, while the rocky inlets of Climati and Xygia are serene spots for swimming and sunbathing. Pebbly Porto Vromi is a jumping off point for boat trips to Navagio Beach but is much calmer once the day trippers depart.

Spot turtles safely

Zante is home to of one of the Mediterranean’s most important breeding grounds for loggerhead sea turtles – and going out in search of the cute creatures is one of the island’s top activities.

Unfortunately, not all tours were created equal and, as with many wildlife-spotting opportunities, some are more harmful to the animals they’re seeking out than others. If you’re seeking a tour, do your research. There are a handful of companies that organise sustainable and animal-friendly excursions.

Alternatively, scout out Zante’s legendary loggerheads by your own devices. Rent a boat from Agios Sostis or go swimming, snorkelling or kayaking around Cameo Island and Kalamaki Beach for a chance to see the gentle reptiles in a more natural environment – just remember to keep your distance.

Breeding season is typically May to September, so if turtles are top of your holiday itinerary, plan your trip for the summer months.

Seek out inland villages

Zante’s coastline is undeniably stunning but turn inward to the island’s rugged interior and you’ll find beauty of another kind.

Anafonitria is a wonderfully traditional village on the north-western side of the island – think whitewashed walls, age-old architecture and vendors selling honey and handicrafts. Its 15th-century monastery is a must see, complete with a three-aisled basilica and belfry tower.

Exo Chora lies just south and is similarly quaint, being one of the only villages to have survived the earthquakes of 1953. Or for picturesque houses and churches nestled within rolling olive groves and vineyards, make your way to Tragaki or Katastari in the north east.

It's worth noting that local bus routes don’t cover the whole island, so rent a car and you can explore Zante’s interior at your own pace.

Try traditional olive oil making

Your trip to Zante wouldn’t be complete without getting a taste of the island’s most important agricultural product: olive oil. Olive groves thrive here thanks to excellent weather and soil conditions and olive oil production is a huge part of rural life on the island. You’ll find the stuff on the shelves in shops, on the tables in restaurants and even within local products such as soaps.

Go beyond simply buying a bottle in the supermarket by delving into the olive oil traditions at the Aristeon Olive Press. The family-run press and museum are located in Lithakia and tours cover everything from how olive oil production has developed since the 18th century to learning the difference between extra virgin and virgin olive oils. You’ll get to sample them, too.

Head into the mountains

You’ll want to swap your party shoes for hiking boots when you discover the lush undulating mountains in Zante’s west. The unspoilt landscape ranges from rocky hills to towering coastal cliffs, with Mount Vrachionas the highest peak at 756m (2,480ft). Kakia Rahi, Mount Atheras and Mount Skopos are other notable peaks – and they’re ripe for exploration.

The route from Gyri village to Vrachionas’ summit is popular among hikers and takes around two hours and forty-five minutes to complete. Your climbing efforts will be well rewarded by postcard-perfect sea views.

Feeling adventurous? Take to the trails by mountain bike instead.

Check out the caves

The Keri Caves on Zante’s south-western coast are just the start of the island’s extensive network of sea caves – in fact, there are more than 400 of them!

Just as breathtaking as the popular Keri Caves are the Blue Caves in the north. A series of striking arches and sizable caves running south from Cape Skinari, their exceptionally blue colour leaves no doubt as to where their name comes from.

Only accessible via the sea, you’ll need to take to the water. Rather than hop aboard a boat tour, rent your own boat and navigate the caves yourself. Not only will you avoid tourist-brimmed decks, but chances are you’ll get to see more by exploring in your own time. Alternatively, get even closer with a diving tour.

Eat like a local

Venture beyond any all-inclusive buffet in Zante and you’ll be treated with delicious local eats offering a far more authentic taste of this Greek island.

Look out for staples such as the aubergine melitzanosalata dip and dolmadakia (rice-stuffed vine leaves) to start, followed by kuneli (rabbit), beef stifado stew or youvetsi (lamb with orzo pasta).

Cheese lovers will want to try the local speciality, ladotyri – a spicy hard cheese made from goat’s and sheep’s milk, while anyone with a sweet tooth should save room for traditional sweets such as pasteli (a dessert made from almonds, sesame seeds and honey), mandolato (nougat) and fytoura (fried semolina coated in sugar).

Anatoli Labreon Guesthouse - Apartments

  • Agia Marina, Zante, Greece
  • 14 August 2024
  • Bed & Breakfast
  • From Gatwick

Prices and availability shown can change. Always check pricing with partner before booking.

Prices from

£502

pp
View deal

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