With dramatic white cliffs contrasted against jewel-toned turquoise and blue seas, the Greek islands are some of the most beautiful destinations on Earth. Add in the possibility of visiting a remote beach that has a bit of intriguing history, and travelers are set for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
On the Ionian island of Zakynthos (or Zante), located four to five hours west of Athens, there is a hidden cove called “Navagio.” The beach is only accessible from the water, although it can be seen from the cliff-top road towering above the pristine sands.
Besides the unparalleled beauty of this secluded spot, this beach’s claim to fame is a slowly rusting and crumbling structure known as the “Panagiotis.” This shipping vessel, which was smuggling alcohol and cigarettes, crashed on shore in 1983 as it was trying to evade the Greek Navy. This incident left the beach a ship graveyard and gave it the nicknames of “Shipwreck Beach” or “Smuggler’s Cove.” The captain of this ship reportedly disputed this incident and said it was foul weather that ran them aground instead.
Over the past 25+ years, the ship has sunk further into the sand. It has become a favorite day trip for tourists who want to see an unusual site embedded in a beautiful backdrop. Boats take 20 minutes to reach the site from Porto Vromi Bay. If visitors want to see the beach from the cliff-top viewpoint, they will have to drive approximately one hour from Zakynthos. The viewpoint should be approached with caution as there are no railings.
What to Know Before You Go
The beach can get crowded with tourists in peak season, but typical strategies for avoiding crowds – go early morning, late in the day or in the offseason – apply here too. The location was briefly closed in September 2018 after a cliff collapsed. It has reopened with some restrictions on where boats can anchor.