As soon as I saw a picture of Shipwreck beach in Zante I was determined to visit. The hidden cove with turquoise water, white cliffs and the rusting skeleton of a shipwreck, make it one of the most unusual beaches in world.
Getting there: the drive
The famous photo of Shipwreck beach (Navagio beach) is taken from the cliffs above. Although there are lots of boats that actually go to the beach, getting to the viewpoint is much harder. It isn’t walking distance from any town, there are no public buses to the area and a taxi ride is expensive (I have read that it costs about €100).
The few tours that go to the viewpoint only stay for about 10 minutes. Therefore the easiest way to get to the viewpoint is by renting a car. It is very cheap and then your time at the viewpoint isn’t limited. There are plenty of signposts showing the way and it is also easily found on google maps by searching ‘shipwreck viewpoint’. The site itself and the car park are both free, the only problem is that the roads are very winding and quite narrow so you need to be a fairly confident driver.
Walking to the viewpoint
The official viewpoint is a small metal gate opposite the car park and whenever a tour arrives expect a long queue. However this spot does not offer the best view because of the surrounding cliffs. The photos that are all over postcards and Instagram are not taken from the here.
When you get to the viewpoint turn right so that you are walking away from the beach. At first you can’t see the water at all and it feels like the wrong direction but there are spray painted red dots marking the way as shown below.
Best place for photos
At the end of the trail there is a headland facing towards the beach. But my favourite photos were taken early on, when the trail started to slope downwards after the cliff. About midway the cliff starts to obstruct the view of the beach but the view opens again towards the end of the trail. The photos below show the subtle changes as we walked towards the headland.
Best time of day to visit
Before I went I assumed that the photos must have been photoshopped, but the colours really are that vivid. How bright it looks depends on how clear the sky is and the way that the sun is shining. This is why in the hour that we spent at the viewpoint the colour varied slightly.
The bright blue colour is at it’s best from about midday into the early afternoon. During the morning and late afternoon the surrounding cliffs cause a shadow across the whole bay. Although we stayed from 11:30 until 12:30 and there was still a slight shadow over some of the beach. In the summer months I have heard of people going at about 17:30 and still getting great photos. However when we went at 18:00 the difference in colour was noticeable compared to when we went at midday.
Best time of year to visit
I recommend going at the end of September, beginning of October or maybe May. This will be out of season enough that there aren’t lots of boats in the water, countless people on the beach and crowds of tourists at the viewpoint. Also it is before everything begins to close down for the winter (from October 15th onwards). We went at the end of October and although there was still quite a lot of other tourists, a lot of the restaurants were closed and the boats to the beach didn’t run as regularly. At least the weather was good and the average temperature was about 24ºC. Whatever time of day or year you choose to go, I am sure you will be impressed.
Once you are past the official viewpoint there are no safety railings along the whole of cliffside, so please tread very carefully. You don’t need to be anywhere near the edge for an amazing view or to take a lovely photo. All of my photos were taken quite far from the edge because I was so scared of the ground crumbling or tripping over!
Getting to Shipwreck beach
Most boats to the beach depart from Porto Vromi Maries because it is closest. There are also ones that leave from Agios Nikolaos, Cape Skinari and Zakynthos city. They usually dock at the beach for an hour. A lot of boats not only go to shipwreck beach but also to the blue caves.
The story behind Smugglers cove
Navagio beach has become increasingly popular and was even featured in the Korean drama, Descendants of the Sun. Part of it’s appeal is that it looks like a place that has an interesting story behind it. There are lots of different versions of how the boat ended up on the secluded cove (including that it was planted there purely to attract tourists). But the most common is that in the early 1980s a freightliner called Panagiotis was trying to outrun the Greek authorities because it was smuggling cigarettes and alchohol from Turkey. The captain miscalculating the depth of the water and ran aground. This is where the nickname smugglers cove comes from.
However the captain of Panagiotis has recently disputed this story saying there was no contraband aboard and the shipwreck was due to a storm and mechanical failure. He was later cleared of smuggling but told it was his responsibility to remove the vessel. When he went to the cove to work out how this could be achieved, he said that the remains of the shipwreck was so beautiful that he decided to leave it there. Whatever the truth is, the result is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. For more things to do in Zante click here:Things to do on a short trip to Zakynthos (Zante)