A couple of years ago we bought a one way to Zakynthos, Greece. Without points hotels, we decided to “couchsurf” in order to keep our costs low. But also didn’t want to be a burden to someone so we planned on 4 nights (before booking the IC Athens on PointBreaks).
Biggest mistake ever.
On a sidenote, we decided to get a really old/cheap gopro from someone off ebay and record some video of our travels for once. This not only kicked off an amazing Euro trip, but a love for video. As you can tell by the video that intros our site, we later got a newer used gopro and started taking things more seriously.
This is exciting for us because it’s the first video of 6 Terabytes of video (yea, a lot of editing). This is our first video of stage 1 of videos.
Our trip expenses in Zakynthos for 2 people:
- Flight = $30.30 & 30,000 AA miles each (from AA card)
- 4 days of lodging = $0 with Couchsurfing.org
- Boat to Navagio = $31.85
- Scooter rental = $66.36 ($16.59 x 4 days)
The island, if not obvious, is magical. It’s actually how I would have imagined southern Italy. The dry terrain, vineyards, the mountains and water. Turns out it was an Italian island (despite it being just off the coast of Greece) for centuries.
Things to do in Zakynthos:
Our host (Niko) being born and raised on the island, wrote us a list of the must see places on the island. The first half of the video is basically us finding all those places. We decided to rent a scooter to get around because it’s a big island with things to see at every corner. We rented from Niko’s friend who has a rental business just outside of town.
Navagio Beach – (seen in the video at 1:22)
Zakynthos is most famous for the cliffs that seem to be all over the internet now. In fact, pictures of this area have become so popular as images on so many travel sites (even TripAdvisor) that I have an irrational fear that this place will go from a lesser known spot to a beach destination, a Cancun for Russians (or Santorini). It’s the perfect travel destination. Cheap, untouched, rich culture, and incredible natural beauty.
Oh yeah… back to the beach/cliffs. The verified boom of travelers on the island is Navagio beach (pronounced nuh-VY-o). It’s a good time to have a boat that takes people there. Every day that tiny trapped-in beach (with an old wrecked ship) is covered with tourists. I mean, there isn’t any room to swim there because of all the people, and the water in swimming distance isn’t clear at all because of the boats coming in and out.
Despite that, it was well worth it. Even for the boat ride itself.
Navagio cliffs – (seen in the video at 1:09)
This is the crazy part. For all the million of people (or so it felt) that were on the tiny hidden beach, there were like 4 other people at the top of the cliffs. The spot to get the views and yet no one was there. It’s way easier to get to considering you don’t have to wind down the edge of cliffs that have no railing. Although… the cliffs themselves, despite having a number of look out points, only have one look out spot with hand rails. But I suppose the tour groups don’t go there.
Kampi cliffs – (briefly seen in the video at 2:01 and)
Most of our time was spent roadtripping down the westcoast peaking over giant cliffs, and once there, throwing a giant rock to see how long it would take to hit water. (Answer is, it never landed! O_o)
Limnionas – (seen in the video at 2:29)
This is where Carrie jumps into the water in the beginning of the section with music, and in the end at 2:29+. But nothing does justice to how clear and blue it is. Things look like they are 3 feet deep, but diving down with goggles you can tell that what looked like 3 feet is actually 50 feet. Although it’s like this all over Zakynthos, this is a particular swim hole. There’s a restaurant, chairs, and stairs to the water. We ended up spending the better part of a day here.
Sunset at Keri lighthouse – (seen in the video at 2:29)
Go to Milanos
When we got out of the taxi we waited for our host in his restaurant and I couldn’t help but notice a plaque stating “best restaurant in Greece”. You would think that I would have said to myself “we are lucky”, but instead I was probably cynical about how easy it is to get an award. But I am telling you, one bite of the food and you know that award/plaque is legit.
It is seriously the best food I’ve ever had. And it’s unique. It seems to be rooted in the old Italian/Greek mixed history. Continually the owner and people around describe the food as traditional.
In the morning Niko walks across the street to pick tomatoes. Then he starts cooking his select traditional meals of the day. And it is hidden away from the touristy downtown. All the people packing that place in the video were locals. Seriously packed inside and out ’til 1 am sometimes… and it’s a tiny town! I’m pretty sure Niko knew all of them by name, and he’d run out of the kitchen for small breaks to greet old friends. Even hours away on the other side of the island we met a local and we told him that we were staying with the owner of Milanos and he told us that he knew that restaurant well as it’s known as the best restaurant on the island.
The octopus, I’m telling you! Go and stay until there’s a day where he’s serving that.
This post might seem too full of exaggerations, but I assure you it’s not. I’ve never ever said another place is my favorite restaurant… because this is and certainly has been my favorite restaurant for some time now.
Yes, I have said that Amed, Bali is a favorite spot… and it’s true. It’s a tough decision on my favorite island. Both beautiful and traditional islands. But the touristy areas in the south of Bali are like torture to me- trash everywhere, drunks passed out, the water is cloudy, there is zero snorkeling or coral, and there are often fewer locals than australians. So while Amed, Bali is a favorite village of ours, in terms of islands as a whole, I’d rather go to Zakynthos than Bali, or even Fiji islands. Totally different, obviously, but it’s amazing.
I promise to go back, spend more time and try to see as much as we can again. There are so many things that we couldn’t pack into our 4 days. But we gave a good effort seeing as our host had no internet. Might as well play hard for four days straight and work hard in Athens (no offense to Athens lovers). So many things to do and see in Zaknythos, that I won’t bother going anywhere else in Greece next time. A vacation just there.