If there's one place you should visit on the island, it's Shipwreck Beach. Zante is full of surprises, and this is one of those locations that makes this island so unique. You'll probably recognise it as soon as you get there; after all, it's the most popular postcard-style image of the island. This beauty spot's got as many names as it has grains of sand. Often known as Shipwreck Cove and occasionally referred to as Navagio Beach, Smuggler's Cove is a picture-perfect arc of beautiful sands framed by towering limestone cliffs (some of which are over 200 metres high). Then on the opposite side of the bay, you'll see the glistening blue waters of the Ionian Ocean. It's no wonder this place is one of the most photographed spots on the island. Smuggler's Cove is only accessible via boat. However, there are plenty of regularly organised excursions running from Porto Vromi, so its relatively easy to get to.
The history of Shipwreck Beach, ZanteThe details concerning the wreckage are shrouded in mystery and the reason as to why it ended up on this beach may never be known for certain. However, legend has it that in 1980 an alleged smuggler's ship (said to be carrying cigarettes, wine, and women from Italy over to Greece) was seen by the authorities who then raised the alarm. The Greek navy set about chasing the smugglers for hours around the coastline. There was a massive storm that night, and the crew realised there was little chance of them escaping. In an attempt to avoid capture, they abandoned their ship and its cargo, which subsequently washed up on Navagio Beach. With such an exciting history, it's no wonder Smuggler's Cove has become one of the island's most popular tourist attractions. That means it can get pretty busy (especially during the summer) as people come from miles around to see this real-life Zante shipwreck.
The best time to visitThe best time to visit Shipwreck Cove is earlier during the day, which is why most boat trips leave Porto Vromi in the early morning. It's worth waking up with the lark to grab your place and cruise around Zante's stunning coastline in peace. Things get a little hectic around lunchtime, but if the thought of rising before midday is too much to bear on holiday, try to put off your visit until around three in the afternoon (or later). By then the crowds have thinned out a little.
Things to do at Smuggler's CoveOn the beach itself, you can wander around the shipwreck, go for a swim or snorkel, or just relax beneath the sunshine and enjoy the spectacular scenery. For the best photo opportunities, take the road to the right of the beach, and eventually you'll reach a viewing platform. This is perched somewhat precariously hundreds of feet above the beach, enabling you to get a bird's-eye view of the shipwreck. It's from this point that shots of the beach are taken for postcards. It isn't for the faint-hearted, but if you're feeling brave, it's certainly well worth visiting for the best photo opportunity. On the return trip to Porto Vromi, your boat will pass the Face of Poseidon's Cave. This natural wonder is a cavern which has eroded over time into the face of the sea god. Whether you believe in this myth or not, it's still a spectacular sight.
Things to do nearbyJust slightly over a mile and a half from the cove lies the Monastery of Panagia Anafonitria. This is a Byzantine monument with architecture dating as far back as the mid-15th century. It's probably most famous for housing the icon of 'Our Virgin Anafonitria' and is definitely worth a visit if you have the time.
Practical infoPlan ahead and bring everything you'll need when you visit Smuggler's Cove. Bear in mind that there aren't any facilities available here, so bring plenty of water, food, sun cream, and preferably an umbrella with you. The heat radiates off the white cliffs, and there's no shade or cover to shelter from the sun, so that umbrella is a must-have, especially during the hot afternoon period from around 12noon onwards. Smuggler's Cove is an absolute must-see on any trip to Zante. Shipwrecks are always a great attraction, especially (as with this one) there's a cracking story attached to the legend. The beach itself is an idyllic place to relax and unwind, and you're practically guaranteed fantastic holiday photos to share with friends and family. What more could you want from a tourist hot spot?