Navagio Beach, Zakynthos island, Greece

From the white villages of Santorini to the charming fishing villages of Koufonissia, we’ve come to expect the spectacular from the Greek islands. But even by those lofty standards,  Navagio Beach is special, for this is a beautiful beach cove with a story. And not just any story: one that involves international crime and a chase on the high seas.

The story can be found in the ghost of the Panagiotis, a shipwrecked smuggler ship that ran aground here in 1980. The details aren’t fully known, and perhaps never will be, but the accepted story is that the Panagiotis was smuggling contraband cigarettes – presumably to Italy – when the Greek authorities intervened, sending the navy in pursuit.

In poor weather, the ship sailed into water from which it could not escape. The crew fled, leaving the ship to be washed ashore, where she currently remains. Navagio Beach is a breathtaking sight, even without the shell of the Panagiotis. The shipwreck just adds the intrigue. The beach is surrounded by tall limestone cliffs, some of which rise 200 metres to the sky, and is complemented by a brilliantly blue sea. Sailing ships moored just away from the shore complete the spectacle. It’s a gorgeous scene, one well worth the slight hassle it takes to get here: it’s only accessible by boat, so you’ll have to book yourself onto one of the tours available or charter your own boat if you want to see the wreck up close.

Alternatively, you don’t have to be on the beach to experience Navagio Beach. In fact, the best views are actually 200 metres above the shipwreck, from a viewing area on the limestone cliffs that looks down on the beach. There, you’ll be given fantastic photography opportunities and a view you’ll remember for a lifetime. There’ll also be less crowds, which can sometimes make the beach feel claustrophobic. This view can be  reached by car.

However you experience it, a visit to ‘Smugglers Cove’ is a must do when you’re in Zakynthos (Zante). In a chain of thousands of islands, each with their own unique selling point, this might just be the one the one with the biggest “wow” factor.

Photo by MrHRdg/Flickr

Photo by MrHRdg/Flickr

Image by Flickr/Plaw2

Image by Flickr/Plaw2

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