Navagio Beach is one of the most famous and beautiful beaches in Greece. Images of Navagio Beach are regularly used in brochures, by travel agents, computer screensavers and stock images. Photos of this place are widely used to inspire and entice people into taking the tropical holiday escape of their dreams. In fact, Busabout used a picture of Navagio Beach on the front cover of their brochure and on the side of their tour buses, despite the fact the tour company doesn’t actually go there! It’s that enticing.
NAVAGIO BEACH OVERVIEW
Located in the Ionian Sea, on the Italian side of Greece, Navagio Beach can be found on the North-West coast 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, in 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 Zante aren’t common spots on regular tours across Europe, but despite this I was determined to visit 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, it can’t) I’ve written a guide to Navagio Beach here to get you scaling the ultimate cliff face.
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 is called Panagiotis and 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 it’s a common belief that the shipwreck was planted there instead to promote tourism. Either way it certainly doesn’t detract from the area.
GETTING TO ZAKYNTHOS – BY AIR OR BY SEA
There are two main ways to get to Zakynthos, either by air or by ferry (which often is by bus then ferry).
Zakynthos is a popular tourist 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.
Like I said earlier, Zakynthos is located on the Italy side of Greece, alongside other islands like Kefalonia and Corfu. However, the popular islands such as Santorini and Mykonos 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, especially in smaller planes as quite often a cheap fare can make people overlook safety.
I travelled to Zakynthos from Athens and the process was quite straightforward, 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 Kyllini Port which is nowhere near Athens. However, don’t worry, the Greek ferry transport is honestly the most efficient transport system I have seen (it puts 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 the public transport is 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 and hotels are located) to the bus station costs around 5 Euros, but expect to be stung with 10 Euros for the identical journey on return as taxis have set prices from the bus station.
The bus journey was about 4.5 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: Zakynthos is not designed for budget travellers, backpackers or round-the-worlders. 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, especially during summer, 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 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 getting to 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.
Some well reviewed luxury accommodation options near Zakynthos include:
MID RANGE ACCOMMODATION
Mid range accommodation options with good reviews include:
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 I’ll let you know now the best option is to look at hiring a car.
Again, backing up what I said earlier about this island not being designed well for budget travellers, the public transport is actually quite shocking. The public buses that do run tend to be between Zakynthos Town and Laganas Beach and some other beaches. There are no public buses that take you to Navagio Beach lookout (the first person to start this would also make a lot of money, again, just saying…).
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.
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 the highlight of the tour and there are a lot of filler activities on the way. I saw this for myself when I was at the Navagio Beach lookout with buses coming and going in fairly quick intervals.
More so, as you will see in the photo below, there is an “official” lookout over the beach, but it’s not exactly in a prime spot and 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.
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.
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 you a good hour. A few things I learnt about car hire very quickly in my experience:
- Always check your insurance! I assumed that I was covered for rental car insurance given when I purchased travel insurance. However, looking back at my insurance after I saw that had something happened I would have been stung with additional heavy excess fees. Some travel insurance companies like World Nomads often include car rental insurance, but it depends on what country and state you are from. Always double-check the specific wording and coverage of your policy!
- Look into an international drivers license just in case – some car hire companies will only accept international drivers licenses and some don’t really care as long as you have a license in your own country. If you are in the USA you can easily get an international drivers license by visiting your local AAA.
- Booking a car while in Zakynthos means 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 miss out on obtaining car hire because it’s high season and everyone wants a car. I had initially booked online with Ionian Rentals but the company cancelled (through telling my accommodation not even directly to me) when I arrived at the island so I would NOT recommend them. I had a stressful afternoon running from car hire place to car hire place until I found one that wasn’t sold out.
- When booking a car in person, be aware they don’t try and change the price on you. We agreed on a price, I came back 5 hours later to pick up the car, my car wasn’t available and a bigger car was, which they tried to tell me I needed to pay more for as it was an upgrade. I told them it wasn’t my mistake that the agreed car wasn’t available and they then agreed to pay the original price somewhat reluctantly.
- Zakynthos roads are FULL of tourist drivers and from my experience they are not very good (they could be like me, never having driven on the right hand side of the road before). But I saw countless drivers overtake on blind corners and double lines and loved a good tailgate and horn beep.
As across all of the Greek islands there are numerous quad bikes for hire in Zante. This is almost the same as the car hire advice above, check your insurance, remember to take adequate care and obviously factor in the additional driving time!
FINDING THE NAVAGIO BEACH LOOKOUT
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 maps wasn’t a hindrance.
Roughly study the map before you hop in to drive and 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 relatively easily. Driving to Navagio means you’ll also come across the Instagram-famous Juice Stall as well as numerous mountain goats!
THE BEST TIME OF DAY TO VISIT NAVAGIO BEACH
I found the ideal time to be at the Navagio Beach 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.
Also do remember that Zakynthos, like almost all of Greece, is only really ‘open’ in the European Summer (May-October really) and like the rest of Greece will shut down in winter for tourism hibernation.
THE BEST VIEWPOINTS OF 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 cliff where you’ll find photo opportunity after photo opportunity.
MIND THE CLIFF
You will get fairly close to the edge as the path that has been created goes close so be careful. I would stick to the path you can definitely get every photo you want and soak in the amazing view without straying into a dangerous territory. I would strongly recommend against taking any photos where you lean or ‘dangle’ over the cliff – I’ve seen them on Instagram and after being there myself it actually makes me a little angry because these shots are very dangerous and have resulted in deaths.
The photos all shown in this post are all taken while on the path often with framing that is misleading to how close I was to the cliff. I can assure you, you can get photos like this without being close to dangling off the edges.
HOW LONG TO STAY
I spent a good 2 something 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.
This was surprisingly very, very difficult. It wasn’t steep but returning back to the main area I was exhausted. I ordered a bottle of water and cookies because I needed something to get some energy back into my system as I sat on the ground for a good 20 minutes recovering. If you are interested in a different view of the beach it was good, but be careful, take water and food because I was surprised by how tired it left me.
One really great thing about the Navagio Beach Lookout is that it costs nothing to enter (yet). Unlike Croatia that due to its recent fame will charge money 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. However 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 are only allowed to drop people at the beach for one hour, in order to avoid extreme congestion.
BOOKING A BOAT
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 will have more luck finding a deal (boat companies are everywhere) than you will have finding last minute car hire!
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.
Randomly when researching this beach I kept coming across complaints that the beach was not a beach rather pebbles with absolutely no sand. So I was quite surprised when I arrived at Navagio and found there definitely was sand. Not that it made any difference to me but given how often it had sprung up online I was surprised to find the opposite true – perhaps something to do with the tide? I don’t know.
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 about 70m 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 ON THE ISLAND
Parties! Zante is known as party island central (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 site-see.
DAY TRIP TO KEFALONIA ISLAND
Kefalonia Island is right next door to Zakynthos and you can actually see it, especially when heading by boat to Navagio Beach. It’s the island that contains the famous Melissini Cave. 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 here 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. I suppose it’s just another reason to go back!
I loved the gyros made by Pita Pita. It was a store I was initially avoiding because it looked like a chain store rather than anything, but I ending up having one and 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!
Children are 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 alight in flames. Due to it’s incredibly 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!
I mentioned it before but be very careful driving. Many of the tourists on the roads are inexperienced and drive dangerously so take it slow. Also make sure you are properly insured to avoid any surprises!
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.
We hope that this article has inspired you to visit Navagio Beach. If you have any questions about the destination or have your own travel tips to share please leave these in the comments below.
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