Is Zakynthos a hidden gem for digital nomads in the winter? By beating the costs, the crowds, yet while still keeping the views, we think yes!
Zakynthos has become one of the most popular Greek islands in the summer. The warm weather, Mediterranean Sea, and turquoise water attract loads of tourists each year. There are designated tourist towns filled to the brim with hotels, restaurants, and clubs, to offer tourists everything they need.
Sounds like a perfect summer destination. But would you rather bypass the crowds?
If you’re looking for a lot more peace and quiet, you might want to consider Zakynthos as your winter destination instead. Which is exactly what I did for a 3.5 month digital nomad escape.
This popular tourist destination becomes an off-the-beaten path gem in the winter, making it the perfect place for digital nomads to relax while still getting their work done.
Here's all you need to know about spending winter in Zakynthos as a digital nomad.
What is Zakynthos Like in the Winter?
I haven’t visited all of the Greek islands yet, so I’m not gonna tell you that it’s the most impressive island around. But oh my, are those beaches stunning! For beach lovers, this is definitely a must-visit destination. Due to sulfate in the rocks, the ocean gets its incredibly blue color. I expected that it would be less blue in the winter but that’s definitely not the case.
While it might feel too chilly to go swimming every day, the views make for a perfect laptop backdrop.
The island has loads to offer in terms of pretty spots. There’s a mountain range in the middle of the island, which offers plenty of hiking trails. This isn’t what you see on Instagram, and I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the island.
The weather, of course, would be a reason for digital nomads to visit Zakynthos in the winter. The mild winter temperatures, that easily still hit 16°C (60°F), are a dream for those of us who want to escape cold & rainy northern countries. Even Athens, Greece has been covered in a blanket of snow during the winter, albeit a light blanket that tends to melt away.
Lows at night mean you'll still want to pack some sweaters though as they can reach around 8°C (48°F). Cold spells that bring snow are possible but they're unlikely. If it does happen, it'll most likely occur in the mountains on the island, not along the coastline.
On average, the warmest month in winter is December and the coldest months are January and February, although December tends to get the most rainfall.
You can expect some rainy days but don't worry, you'll still find plenty of sunshine to explore in. For me, on days when the winter rain hit hard, I settled down for a long day of work and when the sun was out, I went out, too.
If you don't have as much flexibility in your work schedule, it may be luck of the draw when it comes to the weather but if you can pick and choose when you're online, Zakynthos' weather shouldn't hold you back.
Best Things to Do in Zakynthos
Those beaches are the reason people come to Zakynthos and they’re worth the hype. Shipwreck Beach (Navagio Beach), Myrithres, and the Cliffs of Kampi all offer views like you’d expect in tropical countries.
However, the island has more to offer.
Did you know the island houses over 400 caves? Most of these are along the coast, with the Blue Cave being another popular tourist attraction. But you’ll find plenty around the island as well, like the Damianos Cave. A bit inland, you’ll find an easy hiking route which brings you to the cave. It looks a bit like a skull and gives an amazing view over the island and the ocean. The island is covered with hidden gems like this, that deserve time to explore.
Because they are so used to tourism, most people speak enough English to have a basic conversation. While I always recommend learning a bit of the local language on Mondly before and during your trip, you'll be able to get by with English.
Things to Do in Zakynthos in the Winter
The highlights mentioned above will still be there in the winter. The ocean is warm until around Christmas so if you arrive here before then, you can still enjoy swimming in the stunning Ionian Sea. Note though that the chance of storms and rough seas are obviously bigger in the winter months than during the summer months.
After Christmas, the weather still allows you to sit outside so you can still enjoy the views and go for nice hikes. If you enjoy nature in all its beauty, the rough seas are still a stunning sight to see, even if they're not enticing to jump into.
If you prefer to spend the entire winter at the beach, then most of the Greek Islands aren’t for you. I'd recommend heading either to somewhere like Panama, Turks & Caicos, St. Kitts & Nevis, Thailand, or the Philippines where the average temperature is always warm.
Downsides to Winter in Zakynthos
Zakynthos in the winter has some downsides. As the island is built around summer tourism, it shuts down during the winter. The tourist towns are absolute ghost towns and it will be hard to find a boat to rent to visit the bays that you can only access from the ocean.
Some small pubs will be open though so while you can't expect much happening, some restaurants and bars do stay open year round. Making friends during this time can be tough since not as many people choose to come here in the winter. Even a lot of the locals leave or spend their time at home resting with their families. If you're quick to get lonely and are looking for a place to network and have pals, winter in Zakynthos might not be for you.
If you want to do all the tourist things but with less crowds, your best bet is to go in the shoulder season (think October or March).
If you actually like the quiet and the idea of having those viewpoints to yourself, winter in Zakynthos will be a good option. Just don’t expect a lively island with co-working places and on-going activities.
Living in Zakynthos as a Digital Nomad
While most digital nomads are tempted by the parties, busy beaches, and underwater activities here, I was actually looking for somewhere calm and picturesque to spend my winter.
It's important to realize that most tourist beach towns in Europe will practically close down during the winter. This isn't unique to Zakynthos. This is the same for Saranda, Albania and Kotor, Montenegro, for example. They're all completely different towns from summer to winter but luckily for us, the views don't change and the costs of living tend to drastically drop.
If you're like me, winter in Zakynthos is really great but there are a few things you should be aware of.
Where to Stay as a Digital Nomad
Zakynthos is a very tiny island so you could stay anywhere, as long as you rent a car. It’s about 20-30 minutes from one side of the island to the other.
If you want cafés, restaurants, and people around in walking distance, you’ll have to stay in Zakynthos Town during the winter. This is the only place with plenty of variety, also in terms of accommodation, while the rest of the island shuts down in the winter.
Some places around the island are open, like small tavernas or high-quality restaurants. Google won’t be any help, as none actually state up-to-date opening hours, instead they'll show you their summer hours which most likely won't be the same. But if you have a car, you can just drive around to see what’s still open. When you find something, you’ll know for sure that it’s an authentic, local place, filled with local people.
What I did was a catsit. As most locals spend their winter on the mainland, there are quite a few options for long-term house- and petsits. New to the idea of house or petsitting? Here's how you can start housesitting in Zakynthos or anywhere else in the world. Don't worry, housesitting is safe for solo female travelers, too.
When to Visit Zakynthos as a Digital Nomad
If you want a bit more of life, I recommend you visit Zakynthos in the shoulder season, instead of during the winter. Locals slowly come back around in March, while the official start of summer season is in April.
Many local pubs and restaurants start opening up again for the locals, while they arrange everything for the next busy season. This gives you a better chance to mingle with the locals and more options for food around the island.
Most tourists leave the island by the end of September but October is still a very nice, warm month in Zakynthos. Most locals stick around until November, so again, October will be that month when there’s still plenty to do, without the crowds.
Is Zakynthos a Digital Nomad Hub?
No, it isn't. It’s clearly set up for regular summer tourism. Although you will be welcome to sit in a café with your laptop, you probably won’t be joined by other nomads. This could, of course, change in the future. As of now, you won't find a community like in the famous nomad hotspots of Bali, Chiang Mai, Medellín, or Da Nang.
The wifi is generally pretty good, although the winter does have a tendency for storms to roll in and bring temporary power outages. If you have daily meetings, it might not be reliable enough for you. But if you’re not dependent on set hours and around the clock internet availability, it’s a great place to go with the flow.
I think it has great potential to become a winter nomad destination, but I guess all it needs is someone to set something up and create a community. Please let me know if that’s going to be you because I would love to come back for it.
Will You Spend Next Winter in Zakynthos?
While I don't think winter in Zakynthos is for everyone, for the right person, it's a real hidden gem. Well on the beaten path in the summer, this Greek island completely transforms during the winter months.
For a digital nomad destination that gives you immense natural beauty but tempts you more to stay inside to work than full of distractions, you'll love visiting Zakynthos in the winter, too.