Introduction to Shipwreck Beach on Zakynthos
Shipwreck Beach in Greece, also known as Navagio Beach, is one of the most photographed sites in the Greek Islands these days. It is ‘Instagram famous’ now as a favorite travel photo bucket-list destination.
If you’ve explored travel or holiday options in the Greek Islands, there’s a very good chance you’ve seen photos from the Shipwreck Beach overlook viewpoint in various Greece travel promotions.
Where is Shipwreck Beach in Greece?
Shipwreck Beach is in the northwest corner of the Greek island of Zakynthos, in the Ionian island group along the western edge of Greece. Zakynthos / Zakinthos is also known as Zante, so you may see any or all of these names used.
See the maps below.
Getting to the Best Shipwreck Beach Viewpoint
Driving to the Overlook Site
We rented a car for a few days while on Zakynthos, so that’s how we got to the beach overlook area.
Our hotel was in Zakynthos Town (Zante Town) near the southeast corner of the island, so we drove a mostly diagonal northwesterly route in order to reach the overlook site.
The drive takes approximately 50 minutes, with interesting villages and landscape scenes to take in along the way. We stopped a few times at some scenic spots to take photos, so our total driving time over was closer to an hour.
By Bus / Group Tour
Many visitors to Zakynthos also take tour buses and private group tours to reach the shipwreck overlook site with a commercial tour operator.
Many packages are available. You’ll see vendors pitching their tour options along the harborfront in Zante Town.
Also check out the Shipwreck Beach tours available from Viator. There are many tour options available here at various price points, and you can lock in your tour well in advance.
Just be sure to book an actual ‘overlook’ or ‘viewpoint’ tour, and not a boat trip only to the beach itself, if your goal is to experience the clifftop view.
A Shipwreck Beach overlook or view point tour is NOT the same as a beach visit… just to be clear on that point.
Tip: If you visit the Shipwreck Beach overlook site on your own, and see tour buses arriving at the same time, do what you can to beat them either to the main viewing platform and/or to the hiking trail if it’s also open. You may save yourself lots of time this way and have an easier time getting to the best photo spots along the cliffside edge.
By ATV / Quad Cycle
We also saw people riding ATVs into the overlook area. That seems like a great way to get there from nearby towns, though I’d personally prefer a small rental car if traveling from Zakynthos Town itself.
Check for Overlook Closures Due to Fire Risk
When we visited Zakynthos in late August 2021, parts of Greece were dealing with serious wildfires, and local officials were on high alert about taking fire precautions.
In fact, a day or so before we visited the overlook point, we were advised twice by locals in Zakynthos Town that the only road into the viewpoint area was completely closed due to wildfire precautions.
Our hopes of visiting the Shipwreck Beach overlook were almost snuffed out! This was a major bummer. When, if ever, would we get back to Zakynthos to try again?!
Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained
So, we decided to just take our chances and drive up there anyway. It would be an interesting drive in any case, and we might just get lucky.
Here’s what we saw when we arrived.
As we first approached, it looked like everyone was being turned away. Our worst fear after making 95% of the drive to get here!
Then we saw that a lone guard in an orange vest was actually letting cars through, one at a time as other visitors drove out. One car out, another car let in. Just a simple form of crowd control, not a show-stopper.
We couldn’t believe our good luck on this day. Within 30 minutes or so, we were in!
Good Timing and Good Luck!
By the way, we later learned that the entire access road into the overlook area was completely closed for about a week or two before our visit. Then a week or so after we left Greece, the road to the overlook viewpoint was open again, but the foot trail (see below) over to the best photo areas was closed.
This meant everyone was constrained to just using the official viewing platform, which meant huge lines and not-great photo angles. Some people just gave up and left.
To sum it up… we got really lucky on our visit timing! Hopefully, things will work out well for your visit too.
I really recommend doing some research specifically on the beach viewpoint accessibility as close as possible to your planned visit day, especially if visiting during the hottest weeks of summer.
Check for the latest reviews on TripAdvisor. You can also view and book available excursions here.
Also see the Zakynthos Informer website for any updates related to fire precautions or other Shipwreck Beach viewpoint access issues.
Best Times of Day to Visit the Overlook
Given that the beach faces mostly west, and the cliffs here are quite high, you may want to avoid morning hours for your visit if you want abundant sunshine in your photos of the actual beach and shipwreck.
If you go too early in the day, at least parts of the beach, shipwreck, and cliffside faces will be in shadow. The blue tones in the water may also be more muted in the morning hours before the sun gets high enough to make the blue sea colors really ‘pop’.
Morning hours will be best for avoiding crowds and tour buses, however. It’s just a timing trade-off to consider.
Sun angles and timing of course depend on the time of year, too. You may want to grab a good mobile app that shows sun (and moon) angles for anywhere in the world at any time of day or night. Check your favorite mobile app store for a highly-rated sun position app.
In general, afternoon hours should be fine for good sunlit photographs here. Some visitors will want to be here closer to sunset to get the classic Golden Hour (pre-sunset) or even Blue Hour (post-sunset) photo opportunities.
Best Options for Viewing and Photos
The Official Overlook View Point
The ‘official’ and closest overlook point is the narrow metal viewing platform. (See second photo below.)
You may see a lot of people queuing for this spot, waiting for their turn to have a few seconds to grab some overlook photos from the narrow platform.
As I mentioned above, this is NOT the best vantage point for capturing great images of the beach and shipwreck.
It’s not even close.
But it may be the only option for people on an organized tour, e.g., a bus tour, if the actual time permitted on site is too limited.
Tip: If arranging to join a bus tour, be sure to ask about the time limits for photography at the overlook site. I’d say you’ll need at least 45-60 minutes on site if you want to venture over to the better cliffside views described below.
Hiking to the Cliff Edge for Better Views and Photos
If time permits and you also have the desire and physical ability to get far better views of Shipwreck Beach, the rocky and dusty trail over to the cliffside edge views is well worth it.
Just be VERY CAREFUL if you choose to get anywhere close to the cliff edge. More on this point below.
The Hiking Trail
Here’s what the trail looks like on the way to the best Navagio Beach overlook positions.
It took us approximately 15-20 minutes to walk all the way out to the pointed overlook in the distance. That’s why I recommend at least 45-60 minutes time on site if you want to take the hiking trail out and back, with some picture-taking time near the viewpoint.
60+ minutes of free time on site is even better.
The trail itself is pretty rocky and dusty. Be careful if you are wearing open-toed shoes or sandals. Lightweight hiking shoes or rugged sandals will work best, but people manage this trail in all types of footwear.
Unfortunately, this trail is NOT wheelchair friendly.
Not for Small Kids or the Elderly
We did not see any parents taking young kids on this trail and/or to the cliffside edge.
That seemed pretty smart to us. If you’re visiting here with young ones, you’ll likely want to stick to the official overlook platform closer to the main parking area.
Similarly, the cliffside trail is not friendly to elderly folks with mobility or balance issues.
The Cliffside Edge, Near the Point
This is where all the best photo action is. You’ll get the best shots by far from near the edge of the cliff that directly overlooks the beach and shipwreck.
Here are some of the views and shots you can get from this vantage point.
Side Note: My trusty Teva sandals, at 27+ years of age, are older than many of the people visiting this place. 🙂
As I mentioned already, just be super careful if you decide to get anywhere near the edge of the cliff here. The rocky edge up top is not entirely stable everywhere, and there may be gusts of wind that can take people by surprise and impact your balance.
And, as you can see from these photos, there’s no protective railing at all here.
If it’s very crowded when you visit, you may also be distracted or bumped into by other people jockeying for good views and photo positions.
When we visited, it wasn’t super crowded and everyone seemed patient and careful when taking photos.
When it comes to visiting the Shipwreck Beach Overlook, pay close attention to your position and footing relative to the cliff edge while taking your epic travel photos and selfies.
Every year at clifftop tourist hotspots around the world, people in search of the ultimate selfie pics make a final and fatal error in judgment. Don’t be one of them, please.
Camera and Photography Considerations
The vast majority of visitors to Shipwreck Beach will be armed only with smartphone cameras. That’s fine… you can get great landscape and wide-angle shots with any modern smartphone camera. You’ll need a pretty wide angle to capture the beach with shipwreck as well as the surrounding cliffs and sea all in one shot.
You might even try the panorama mode on your smartphone, or a few telephoto shots to capture just the beach and shipwreck below.
My Smartphone Plus DSLR Strategy
I used a Samsung Galaxy S21 (12 MP) as my main camera for this trip to Greece, but also brought a Pentax K-50 DSLR (16 MP APS-C sensor) with a compact 50-200mm telephoto zoom lens, a 1.4x teleconverter, and a compact 21mm prime (~ 30mm full-frame equivalent).
I was determined to travel with less photo gear on this trip while still covering essentially all of the photography situations I was anticipating. In hindsight now, I’d say this was a good combo approach.
The image quality of the DSLR with a decent but compact telephoto lens just far exceeds what I would have gotten with the Galaxy S21 camera and its hybrid zoom set at maybe 10x or so.
Here are a few telephoto shots from the Pentax K-50 DSLR. These are all shot from the clifftop overlook area.
The second shot below is at about 420mm focal length equivalent on a full-frame camera.
I also switched to the Pentax DA 21mm prime lens for a few shots, like the one directly above of the couple at the far viewpoint. These are decent shots too, but they didn’t capture a wide enough view of the entire beach and cove entrance compared to the Galaxy S21 wide angle camera.
Of course, professional landscape photographers and travel photography enthusiasts come here with very capable DSLR and mirrorless gear to get professional-grade shots for personal portfolios, stock photo collections, and other commercial photography purposes.
In some cases, a lightweight but sturdy travel tripod might also come in handy for early morning or post-sunset ‘blue hour’ shots. But for essentially all visitors arriving during normal daytime hours, a tripod is not needed at all.
Drone Photography at Shipwreck Beach
As far as I know, drone photography is legal at Navagio Beach, both on the beach itself and up on the clifftop overlook.
The location is far away from the Zakynthos airport, so there are no airspace restrictions to worry about.
The Greek Wedding Clifftop Couple
As we were hiking back to the main overlook and parking area, my wife noticed a bride and groom heading out to the point with their event photographer for some wedding photos.
Here’s what that looked like. If anyone reading this knows the couple, please let them know about this post. I’d be happy to share a few photos with them to help augment their wedding album.
These zoomed-in images might have been impossible to capture (in any reasonable quality) at a distance with just a smartphone camera. The DSLR with true optical telephoto zoom was a big help for these shots, so I was glad I had it with me and ready to shoot as needed.
Navagio Beach Shipwreck History
The rusting ship on Navagio Beach is the remains of the MV Panagiotis, a small cargo ship that was allegedly smuggling cigarettes and possibly other contraband between Turkey and Italy.
As the most popular story goes, during a bad storm in early October 1980, and with the Greek Navy in hot pursuit, the Panagiotis ran aground here and was abandoned by the captain and crew. The ship was then quickly relieved of its valuable cargo and radio equipment by some eager locals.
That’s why this secluded cove is also known today as Smugglers Cove.
Over time, this beach became known as Shipwreck Beach. Booming tourism, social media, and smartphone camera technology have combined to help it become one of the most famous and most photographed beaches in all of Greece.
For more on the history of Navagio Beach and the shipwreck, see this Wikipedia article.
Also, the alleged smuggling activity of the ship and crew is disputed… as noted in this article about the mystery of the shipwreck.
This very interesting 2019 article from the Zakynthos Informer includes several historical photos of the MV Panagiotis in its working days before the shipwreck. It also includes alternative versions of the shipwreck story.
Memorial for Dennis Arvanitakis
Right next to the Greek flag at the edge of the overlook, you’ll spot this beautiful memorial to a young man who departed too soon… Dennis Arvanitakis.
You might at first assume that he passed away here, but that is not the case. Dennis was a young Greek man living and working in Australia. He died in Spain at the age of only 22, according to this article.
He simply loved this spot so much that his family on Zakynthos arranged to place a memorial here.
Rest in peace, Dennis. And best wishes to his family and friends.
Here’s a nice tribute video that actually shows the installation of the memorial bench. It includes some very good drone footage as well.
Booking Boat Trips to Navagio Beach
See these options for booking trips to Shipwreck Beach online. There are many packages and price points available here.
If you’re already on the island, you’ll find many groups selling tours right along the street around the harbor edge at Zakynthos Town / Zante Town.
In any case, just be sure to select a trip that goes to the overlook viewpoint if that’s your main interest, or the beach by boat if that’s your top priority. They are not typically combined into the same excursion.
Of course, you can always arrange to do both!
- Check your smartphone’s free storage / memory capacity before arriving, especially if you plan to shoot a few videos while here.
- Try your smartphone’s ‘panorama’ camera mode for some really wide shots. Try holding your phone vertically, not horizontally, when panning to capture your panorama shots. It can be a bit challenging to stay steady with the windy conditions here!
- Back up your Shipwreck Beach overlook photos as soon as possible to your favorite cloud storage service. Do this as soon as you get back to your hotel or other reliable Wi-Fi connection. (Seriously… when are you ever going to get back here again?!)
- Carry some water and maybe some light snacks with you if you plan to stay here awhile and/or if the official platform viewpoint line is super long.
- Don’t forget sunscreen and a hat if you visit during prime summer months. There’s not much shade to be found here.
- There may be a few vendors near the main overlook platform area selling locally-made goods, but no bathrooms for tourists (if I recall correctly).
- If you like high clifftop views like this, also see the clifftop overlook site near the Keri Lighthouse in the southwest corner of the island. It’s an even closer drive from Zakynthos Town, and not nearly as crowded.
Shipwreck Beach Overlook – Final Thoughts
We had a great time visiting and photographing this iconic spot on Zakynthos. It was well worth the drive over from Zakynthos Town and back.
If you go, just be sure to check the latest local updates about getting access to the site, as well as the cliffside trail and best view points. As we discovered, even the locals in Zakynthos / Zante Town may not have the latest correct info on this. We took a chance and went anyway, and got lucky as I described above.
Also, just be very careful near the edge of the cliff. Getting too close really won’t get you much better photos, and it’s just not worth the personal risk.
Above all, have fun at this incredible overlook point, and Navagio Beach itself if you decide to visit the beach and shipwreck up close as well. They are both memorable experiences for sure!
For more photos of Greece, also check out my Greece and Greek Islands travel photography page.
For any photo inquiries, get in touch here. Email works best. All images in this post are copyright © 2021 David A. Kamm. (That’s me with the Greek flag below.)
Thanks for stopping by to learn more about this amazing and beautiful site in Greece!
Drop me a comment below if you have any questions or other thoughts to share.