Zakynthos in winter

Lizet Wesselman - 28/01/2024

Zakynthos in winter

Lizet Wesselman - 28/01/2024

The Greek island of Zakynthos is known for its turquoise waters, sun-kissed beaches, and vibrant summer nights. As far as summer destinations go, Zakynthos is on top of that list. It’s not known as one of the party islands, but it’s hustling and bustling during the summer months. Nice if that’s what you’re looking for, but I prefer my travel destinations to be quieter and more authentic. So, I decided to visit Zakynthos in the winter. These are my experiences with Zakynthos in winter.

About Zante island

Zakynthos, or Zante, is the most Southern of the Ionian islands in the West of Greece. It’s known for its stunning blue water, created by the sulphate rocks of the island. It attracts millions of visitors a year, but pretty much only during the summer months, when the weather is best to enjoy the ocean. It’s a perfect summer destination, and the island thrives on summer tourism. Even many locals leave the island for the winter, to find work on the mainland. Still, this is no reason to overlook Zakynthos as a winter destination. The beaches aren’t less pretty, the water not less blue and the food not less amazing. you will even get a peak into daily life, instead of the facade they put up for tourists. Pretty much the only thing missing are the crowds of people and the places that serve them. If you like quiet, you should consider Zakynthos in winter.

Pros of Zakynthos in winter

Quiet retreat:
Winter on Zakynthos brings a serene calm to the island. The bustling crowds and vibrant energy of the summer months are replaced by a peaceful ambiance, making it an ideal setting for focused work and undisturbed productivity. I got more work done during my time here, than the 6 months before that combined.

Empty beaches and hotspots:
The beaches that draw crowds in the summer become deserted hidden gems in winter. You’ll get to enjoy all the pretty spots and have them completely to yourself. In the shoulder season months, you’ll still be able to swim and enjoy the beach weather. During the full winter months, you’ll get to enjoy the views and the stunning blue water sights. Even when it’s stormy, the water is as blue as ever.

Mild weather:
With Zakynthos being in the South of Europe, it’s one of the best places to escape the cold winter. Temperatures are mild, lots of sun hours and not that many rainy days. The coldest months are January and February, where it could drop to only a few degrees at night. During the day, it hardly drops below 12C. You won’t get any beach weather in the winter, but plenty of sun and days with around 16/17C sunny weather. This is perfect for exploring, while summers can get very hot, around 35-40C.

Cafés and restaurants in the city:
While many establishments close for the season, Zante town maintains a selection of cafés and restaurants that remain open. If you stay around town, you’ll have plenty of options to enjoy the local cuisine. The few restaurants around the island that are still open, are clearly some of the best and highly popular among locals. You might want to make a reservation, because they’re usually full. This means you get the full local experience.

Cons of Zakynthos in winter

Closed restaurants around the island:
One drawback of visiting Zakynthos in the winter is the limited availability of restaurants outside Zakynthos town. Many establishments close their doors during the off-season, making it essential to plan your dining options accordingly. Grabbing a quick bite after a hike isn’t really an option, for example.

Tourist places shut down:
Attractions and tourist hotspots, which define Zakynthos in the summer, close down for the winter. While this contributes to the island’s peaceful atmosphere, it does mean that some of the iconic sites may be off-limits. For example, we couldn’t get to the famous side viewpoint of Myzithres and Turtle Island turns out to be a private island that’s closed during the winter. On the other hand, we could hike down to the famous Shipwreck beach viewpoint that’s often closed during the day in the summer, as a safely measure for forest fires. 

Limited boat tour options:
Most of Zakynthos highlights are beaches and caves, that are only accessible from the ocean. Locals won’t take tours to these places, so they shut down during the winter. On my last few days in February, one office seemed to be open again. But I’m not sure if they’d actually do the tours at that point, or just sell tickets for later. 

Internet disruptions during storms:
Zakynthos, like many islands, is susceptible to storms during the winter. These storms can occasionally disrupt internet connectivity. If you’re staying in due to bad weather and either work or want to watch a movie, this can be a bit annoying. But usually these outages don’t last very long. But for digital nomads who are dependant on steady internet it’s a problem. 

Best travel time Zakynthos Greece

So do I recommend Zakynthos in winter as the best travel time? Yes and no.

I do love the fact that the island is empty. And as I’m not a beach person, I don’t mind not being able to go to the beach. However, at this point, it’s really deserted. Like I said, even locals leave. 

So I would recommend shoulder season for Zakynthos. Locals start to come back in March, slowly opening a few more local pubs and restaurants. And they leave in October or even November. In April and September, you’re absolutely sure that everything is up and running, without the big summer crowds. But if you like the quiet, local vibes, I recommend trying March or October. October if you want the beach days, as the ocean has warmed up and the weather is still very good with temperatures up to 28C. 

Best places to visit in Zakynthos

You can find endless articles on the highlights of Zakynthos, so I’m not going to dedicate a full article on this. But I would recommend these places:

  • Shipwreck beach/Navagio beach. There’s a viewpoint on Google maps, but you can go lower than that. Leave the viewpoint on the left and keep walking, you’ll find a pathway down to the famous Instagram spot. Remember: during the summer it’s most likely closed during the day because of fire risks. 
  • Myzithres beach and the viewpoint. A local told me a legend about the rocks. A typical forbidden lovestory, which resulted in the couple being turned into rocks. The big one is the women and the small one is the man. You can do a boat tour, where you’ll float between the 2 rocks. Legend says that will bring you true love, like the couple. (Hopefully without turning into a rock yourself) Rather not risk it? Then go up to the viewpoints. Please be careful with sitting in the ledge!! The beach was created by an earthquake that crumbled the cliffs. They’re not steady and it’s a hard fall down. 
  • Kampi beach, another impressively blue beach with a nice viewpoint. There’s a restaurant at the viewpoint that’s open in the summer. 
  • Damianos caves. Not the most impressive part of the island but the caves sort of look like a skull in the mountain and the view is pretty. I recommend any time in the mountains really, as people generally only visit the beaches. The mountains and the view over the island are worth a visit!