If you want to combine relaxation with therapeutic rejuvenation and spectacular scenery, then head straight to Xigia sulphur beaches in Zakynthos. These two small and unique beaches, are both known as Xigia Beach and are both set between towering cliffs.
The main attractions here are the sulphur’s healing powers and the collagen that oozes constantly from the cliffs into the sea, drawing visitors and locals seeking relief from arthritis, rheumatism, aches and pains, and various skin conditions.
However, the price you have to pay for this natural spa treatment, is to endure the characteristic and unpleasant odour of sulphur. Some people don’t mind it, saying the health benefits far outweigh the smell, while others find it hard to tolerate.
Aside from their healing and cosmetic properties, these two beaches are breathtaking and from that perspective alone, they are certainly worth visiting. Xigia Sulphur Beaches are some of the most beautiful beaches on the Zakynthos, together with Porto Limnionas, Mizithres Beach and Navagio.
1. Xigia Sulphur Beaches – location & how to get there
Xigia Sulphur Beaches, Zakynthos are located on the northern, east-facing coast of the island, about 23 kilometres from Zakynthos Town and 28 kilometres from Laganas Bay, where most visitors tend to stay. A road trip from Laganas or the capital, will take approximately 45 minutes. The beaches are also about eight kilometres south of the town of Agios Nikolaos.
Some people say the easiest way to find the Xigia Sulphur Beaches in Zante, is to just follow the smell!
Assuming you’re coming from the south, the first (south Xigia) beach has an ample parking, from where a short walk will lead you to a steep 65 step stairway, down to the beach below. It is a white pebble beach, therefore I recommend wearing beach shoes or slip slops.
When in Zakynthos, I recommend renting a car. The island is quite big and it’s super easy to get from one place to another by car. Moreover, you’ll be able to make your schedule as you wish.
We rented our car from Alamo because they had the lowest prices. The car was quite old and rusty, but it did its job perfectly.
You could of course also get to these beaches by sea, by booking organised boat tours from the port of Zakynthos, or from the nearby port of Agios Nikolaos. One exceptional day tour I can recommend, takes you from the main port, to Xigia Beach, and through to the famous Blue Caves near the northern tip of the island, where you can swim or snorkel beneath towering white cliffs and inside some spectacular caves.
You then sail round to the west coast to the world famous Navagio Beach, which will take your breath away, before heading back to port. A truly unforgettable day seeing the beauty of this special island from a different vantage point. Check out this excursion here.
2. What to expect at Xigia Sulphur Beaches
On both beaches there are a few sunbeds that you can rent, so make sure to be there early in the morning to catch one. In terms of other amenities, there are no toilets on the beach and to get to one you’ll have to climb the stairs and go to one of the nearby restaurants.
The water can be a little colder due to the underground spring water and minerals mixing with the sea, making it slightly turbid.
Southern Xigia Sulphur Beach
The beach is not often crowded, but you may have to share your space with a few geese, which have taken permanent residence here. Nobody knows whom they belong to, but the geese seem to think the beach belongs to them.
There’s no need to bring any food or drinks here. Magda’s Canteen, conveniently situated directly above the beach, will provide all your needs, without you having to traverse the steep stairway.
It’s best to place your order before you come down, and when it’s ready, you’ll be notified through the local wireless intercom system. Magda will first shout out a warning from the top and your order will come sliding down the cliff in a basket, courtesy of her own invention using an old bicycle zip-line mechanism. Magda will even deliver her world renowned ice cream this way. This woman is a genius and super friendly and her food is delicious!
Next to Magda’s Canteen, there is a place offering breathtaking views of the beach and the crystal turquoise Ionian Sea below. A steep path to the left will also lead you down to the much longer and probably less crowded, Pelagaki Beach.
I enjoyed Pelagaki Beach a lot. It’s a pebbly beach with crystal-clear water. Here you won’t find any modern amenities, just the nature’s beauty. Even in the middle of the day, you can find shade near the towering cliffs, which is quite amazing for those who don’t want to get burnt in the harsh sun.
Northern Xigia Sulphur Beach
Less than one kilometre to the north is the second (north Xigia) of the sulphur beaches in Zakynthos. From the free car park, a short but steep path and stairway, will lead you down to the small white pebble beach. With tall white cliffs completely surrounding it on all three sides and typical calm Ionian crystal blue water on the other, this beach is even more scenic than the other.
The seabed, however, is fairly steep on this beach, dropping abruptly and becoming deep within a few metres from the shore. The deep water close to shore, along with the cold underground springs and high amounts of sulphur pouring from the cliffs, results in cooler and invigorating water.
There are a few sunbeds and umbrellas on the water’s edge on a first come basis, so it may be wise to bring your own umbrella, as the sun really gets hot at midday in the summer. If you get here after 3pm, the cliffs offer some shade and there will be fewer people too.
A small canteen situated above the beach, provides tasty snacks and drinks to see you through the day. There are no other amenities on this beach.
3. Where to eat near Xigia Beaches?
Apart from the two canteens above both Xigia Beaches, which offer a limited but delicious array of food, drinks, welcome shade, and fantastic scenery, there is no shortage of eateries around both beaches. Pelagaki Taverna and Nireas Restaurant next to the main road offer an excellent range of western style meals as well as an authentic Mediterranean cuisine at surprisingly reasonable prices.
Wild Boar Stifado, Yemista (stuffed vegetables), grilled lamb and one of the best calamari on the island, are all to die for. Needless to say, drop dead gorgeous views, are standard features of both these charming restaurants.
Xigia Taverna, a few hundred metres to the north also offers stunning views and a mouth-watering menu, including one of the best seafood platters found anywhere and of course, the all-time favourite, souvlaki.
A few hundred metres north of the northern Xigia Beach, is the last place you’d expect to find a brewery, but hey, we’re in Greece, right? Levante Brewery offers a unique range of hand crafted beers, to enjoy on a hot summer’s day with a traditional Greek meal.
4. Sulphur Springs Zakynthos – Health Benefits
The medical and therapeutic benefits of bathing in natural sulphur springs have been known and practised since ancient times, and Zakynthos is fortunate to have two of nature’s own spa baths; one at Marathias on the southern part of the island, and the other here at Xigia.
Apart from their natural beauty, Xigia beaches provide a free and natural spa in Zakynthos, drawing many locals and visitors every year. The health benefits of bathing here are endless. Why would so many people be prepared to tolerate the characteristic and offensive odour given off by the sulphur pouring into the sea on this remote part of the island?
Rich in sulphur and collagen, bathing in these waters, offers relief from inflammatory diseases like arthritis and rheumatism, as well as countless skin conditions, such as psoriasis, eczema, acne, neuralgia, dandruff, and skin rashes. Sulphur and collagen also have cosmetic benefits, softening and detoxing the skin, and slowing down the aging process, leaving your skin soft albeit a little smelly for a while. Hard as it may be, try not to rinse off for as long as you can after swimming, for maximum effect. And suddenly, you’re 10 years younger…just like that!
Apart from its numerous agricultural and industrial uses, today, sulphur is also used in the pharmaceutical industry and is contained in many expensive skin creams, lotions, soaps and bath additives and even in several antibiotics. But here, it is pouring into the sea, in its purest form, free for everyone to enjoy.
5. Where to stay in Zakynthos
With so much to do and see along this coastline, you may find yourself wanting to spend a little more time here than you anticipated. Several hotels and apartment rentals with panoramic views of the coastline, and within walking distance to the beaches, provide more than ample accommodation options. Below are my recommendations.
- Budget – Aggeliki Studios – beautiful rooms in good location, beautiful garden, amazing hosts, good amenities
- Mid-Range – Alterego Studios – awesome location, clean and spacious rooms, beautiful pool, close to many restaurants and shops
- Luxury – Zante Maris Suites – beautiful views and infinity pool, excellent restaurant on site, luxurious and spacious rooms, friendly staff
Although this section of the island has not been over commercialised yet, the two Xigia Sulphur Beaches can become fairly crowded during the peak season, mainly due to their small size. A better time to visit them is towards the end of summer around September and perhaps into early October. During this time, there are less crowds on the island, but the weather is still fine and the water is still warm.
While there may be other islands in the Mediteranean that also offer spectacular scenery, a stunning coastline filled with beautiful coves and beaches for relaxing and watersports activities as well as great food and entertainment, not many can pride themselves with free beauty and therapeutic treatments, like Xigia Beach, Zakynthos.
Next time you’re wondering where to take your loved one or family for an all-round perfect getaway, look no further than Zakynthos in the Ionian Sea. It has virtually everything. Other amazing places you shouldn’t miss in Zakynthos are Turtle Island, Porto Limnionas Beach and Mizithres Beach. Check them out!