Zakynthos Shipwreck Beach (Navagio): All You Need To Know

shipwreck beach
Photo by Andrey Shevard on Unsplash
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In a sheltered cove flanked by porcelain, cliffs are where you’ll find the alluring Zakynthos Shipwreck Beach. Located in the northwest of the popular Greek island of Zante, this unique stretch of sand has been tempting travelers for decades.

Also known as Navagio Beach or Smuggler’s Cove, Zakynthos Shipwreck Beach is home to the rusty remains of MV Panayiotis; a vessel shrouded in mystery. The incredible wreck is half-buried in the pearly white sand just meters from the shore. It draws adventurers in their droves to marvel at its magnificent bulkhead and is thought to be the most photographed shipwreck in the world.

Fifty shades of blue Ionian Sea serve as the picturesque backdrop to this towering skeleton. Sounds tempting? Read on to discover everything you need to know about visiting Zakynthos Shipwreck Beach.

Why is Navagio beach famous?

A view of Navagio shipwreck from the water.
Photo by Pho Da via Unsplash

Navagio Beach is famous for the rusty wreck that rests upon its shores, but also for being one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The cove’s insta-worthy appeal comes from the striking contrast between white and blue, with the deep turquoise waters juxtaposed perfectly by fine white sand and sun-bleached cliffs. Meanwhile, the ideally placed wreck adds an element of intrigue and adventure which can’t be found or replicated anywhere else.

So picturesque is this unique bay, that it has featured in countless travel brochures and magazines as the poster image for the island of Zante and Greece as a whole. There are even claims that the wreck was planted there deliberately to entice tourists to the region – read on to find out how the ship really ended up at Navagio.

How do I get to Shipwreck Beach Zakynthos?

Boats by Shipwreck Beach Zakynthos
Photo by Barna Bartis via Unsplash

The only way to get to the secluded Shipwreck Beach Zakynthos is to travel there by boat. There are multiple tour agencies that offer low-cost day trips to the beach, with departure points all over the island. Daily trips depart from Porto Vromi in the west, Skinari in the north, and Agios Nikolaos in the northeast, with additional departure points in the Gulf of Lagana, Alikes, and Zakynthos town.

Tickets can easily be bought at kiosks in the various departure towns and do not usually need to be reversed in advance. Having said this, it might be worth purchasing them as soon as you arrive in Zante to ensure your spot is secured.

Agios Nikolaos is the closest departure point to the beach itself, meaning less time spent onboard a boat before you arrive. You will usually have the choice of a half or full-day tour that also incorporates other sights around the island.

If you are hoping to capture that iconic shot of the wreck from above, be aware that you cannot reach the viewpoint from the beach itself. To get to the viewpoint, you will need to rent a car or taxi to take you there, following signs and directions to Agios Georgios Kremnao monastery. Once you arrive at the monastery, take a road on your right to get to the viewing platform.

Is the shipwreck in Zante real?

A close up shot of the shipwreck with a woman standing near.
Photo by Max van den Oetelaar

With its oddly perfect positioning, you may be wondering, ‘Is the shipwreck in Zante real?’ Well, the answer is yes! While there is no doubt that the wreck is the result of a ship run aground, the history of the MV Panayiotis is hotly debated. Many speculate that the ship was smuggling contraband such as cigarettes, wine, and even humans, hence the cove’s nickname. Rumour has it that the ship was then cornered into the cove by the Greek Navy, or simply lost engine power and was washed ashore.

Recently, the ship’s captain has revealed all in a recollection on his website, where he explains the real (much less exciting) story behind the wreck. Captain Charalambos Kompothekras–Kotsoros, explained the ship was traveling back from Albania to his hometown in Kefalonia when tragedy struck. A combination of bad weather and mechanical fault led to the unexpected landing on the beach, where the great MV Panayiotis has remained ever since.

How long has the shipwreck been in Zante?

Photo by Lloyd Dirks via Unsplash

Another point of contention surrounding Zante’s famous shipwreck is the date at which it ran aground. However, Captain Charalambos Kompothekras–Kotsoros has confirmed that the fate of the MV Panayiotis was sealed on the evening of October 2, 1980, meaning it has been a feature of Navagio Beach for over 40 years.

Since the beach cannot be accessed on foot or by land, the captain and his crew were unable to protect the vessel from thieves. This meant a section of the shipment was consequently stolen, along with some other equipment. An investigation was launched, and 29 thieves were apprehended in nearby villages having been caught with the stolen items in their possession.

The ship’s captain was then asked by the authorities to remove the wreck from the cove. However, on arrival back at the beach, he realized the unusual new landmark had only enhanced the natural beauty of the bay. He therefore decided to leave the ship where it lay for future travelers to enjoy and went on to live a peaceful life as an apartment complex owner in Kefalonia.

Where to stay near Navagio Beach

Smuggler's cove from far away.
Photo by Jesper Brouwers via Unsplash

Navagio Beach is located in the island’s northwest, far from the more populated eastern coast where most hotels are located. Due to the cove’s inaccessibility by land, you will want to base yourself in Agios Nikolaos for the shortest boat ride to the beach itself. The final property on this list is located closer to the cove by land in case you prefer to visit the viewing platform.

Nobelos Seaside Lodge

  • A lovely boutique hotel with air-conditioned rooms.
  • 24-hour reception providing car and boat rentals.
  • Sea-facing restaurant and terrace.

La Grotta

  • Family-run studios with a traditional Greek restaurant on-site.
  • A complimentary excursion to the Blue Caves and Shipwreck beach is included in the price.
  • Bright, air-conditioned rooms with sea-view balconies.

Thelxis Suites

  • Brand new sea-view suites each with their own private pool.
  • A short 8-minute drive from the Navagio Beach viewing platform.
  • Fully equipped with air conditioning, along with access to an on-site kitchen and terrace.

How much does it cost to go to Navagio Beach?

Drone shot of Shipwreck beach from above.
Photo by Patrick Keller via Unsplash

Group boat tours from Agios Nikolaos to Shipwreck Beach cost between €25 to €40, and often include other stops along the way. The majority of tours include a swim stop at the Blue Caves en route, which features unique geologic formations and vibrant cobalt waters.

The shortest three-hour trip from Agios Nikolaos incorporating the two stops costs €25, while you can expect to pay more for longer trips with more destinations. Many tour operators use glass bottom boats so you can check out the local marine life on your journey. Some full-day tours combine water and land-based travel to explore the island fully. As is often the case with costs in Zante, prices are usually negotiable if you are willing to flex your haggling skills.

If you plan to visit the viewing platform, you will need to factor in the cost of hiring a car, as public transport is extremely limited. As surprising as it may seem, there are no public buses to the shipwreck beach lookout, despite its popularity with tourists. Hiring a car in Zante for the day typically costs between €50 to €100, depending on the type of vehicle and hire company used.

If you don’t want to hire a car, you could hire a taxi to take you from Zakynthos town to the viewing platform and back. This should cost around €100 with about an hour to explore the viewpoint itself. Otherwise, you can look for overland island tours that include a stop at the lookout. Be aware that these tours usually only include a very limited amount of time there and there is often a long queue for those that wish to take pictures.

How long should I stay at Navagio Beach?

Navagio Beach at sunset.
Photo by Yannis Papanastasopoulos via Unsplash

Most people on an organized boat tour to Navagio Beach spend between two to three hours there. It all depends on your tour operator and itinerary. Be aware that there are no facilities on Zakynthos Shipwreck Beach, so you should bring along any water, towels, sunscreen, and snacks that you think you might need. If you rented a private boat and plan to stay longer than the usual trips allow, you may also want to consider bringing an umbrella to protect yourself from the harsh sun during the heat of the day.

Land-based tours to the viewpoint usually only allocate around 10 minutes there, so if you want to spend more you should certainly consider organizing your own transport such as a hire car or taxi. If you are a photographer and want to spend some time getting that iconic shot of shipwreck beach from above, you should plan to spend at least an hour or two at the lookout. You could even hire a car and stay nearby (at Thelxis Suites listed above), and go there several times throughout the day to treat yourself to the astonishing vista in a variety of different lights. Going early in the morning is likely to get you the most unobstructed view with soft light ideal for photography.

Despite slightly complex logistics, a trip to Zakynthos Shipwreck Beach is not to be missed on a visit to the island of Zante. This world-famous spot is even more impressive in person and is sure to leave you with some show-stopping photographs and fantastic memories. We hope this guide has given you all the information you need to plan your trip to Navagio Beach and wish you all the best on your travels!

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Amabel is a freelance travel writer with by-lines in multiple leading publications. Having written for the likes of Wired for Adventure and Luxury Travel Guide, she knows how to spin a tale of exotic intrigue, along with informative guides and how-tos for travelers.