Zakynthos is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea and a well-known summer resort. The harbor city of Zakynthos is the capital and major hub, centered around waterfront Solomos Square. Popular beaches like Agios Nikolaos, Alykanas and Tsilivi offer swimming and water sports. Accessed by boat, Navagio beach is the site of a famed 1980 shipwreck resting in a sandy cove framed by cliffs.
As there are almost 200 countries in the world, my goal is to visit as many as possible before I die. Therefore I am always reluctant to go to the same country more than once – I must really seem to like Zakynthos (Zante) to have visited 5 times…so far!
2004 – ZANTE 1
Two 18 year old girls, first holiday without the parents – where to go?
My friend Christina and I walked in to a travel agents, said we wanted to go somewhere that would still be hot in late August / early September, have lots of bars, clubs and a beach! They recommended Laganas in Zakynthos island so off we went!
Laganas is the most popular beach on the island as it is also in the liveliest and busiest resort. The magnificent beach is a long 5 km stretch of soft golden sand, which gently shelves into the clear warm water. This beach is part of the National Marine Park , which works to protect the endangered Caretta- Caretta sea turtles which nest their eggs on this beach. Some watersports and boat trips are available to see the turtles, but the watersports are kept at a minimum to avoid disturbing the turtles. There are many beach bars, restaurants and tavernas lining this beach and shops are also within easy reach. A great advantage of this resort is that it is very flat so all amenities are only a short and easy walk away.
We had an amazing time – good range of clubs on the main Laganas strip – we even danced on a few bars (fully clothed), consumed lots of alcohol, met loads of people! Exactly what we wanted from our holiday.
On our first night, there was a massive down pour of rain – I remember walking down the road with water as high up as my knees – it was crazy! Luckily the weather after that night was fine.
On the main strip, there used to be an outdoor cinema which was great as you could sit outside with a cocktail watching a film. Unfortunately I believe this shut down a number of years ago which is a real shame! There’s not a lot on the main strip besides souvenir shops, restaurants, clubs and bars – but that was sufficient for our holiday needs.
Christina and I had a portrait drawn by a street artist called Theo. He takes a photo of you and draws so accurately it is quite amazing. He does around 4-5 portraits a day which I still find unbelievable as they are so detailed. There were a few street artists in Laganas but he was by far the best.
On our last night Christina and I went to a club and stayed out all night. In the morning on our way to the hotel to collect our bags, we walked along the beach and said to each other that we didn’t want to go home! Although a lot of people say that when they are enjoying a holiday, we took it a step further by actually agreeing to return, not in a year or two, we were talking about returning a week later! We clearly didn’t want the good times to end!
2004 – ZANTE 2
So off home we went and literally a week later we packed our bags and jetted back to Zante. I was meant to be starting college that week so I must have really wanted to go for some reason….Okay I met a man there so that had a little something to do with it but I won’t dwell on that as he is history!
My Father didn’t believe me when I told him I would be going back especially as college was starting that week. Only when he saw my bags packed for the second time did he realise I wasn’t actually joking….
We brought along a friend this time so it was 3 of us. It was slightly later in the season so things were beginning to settle down, bars closing earlier etc. We almost got thrown out of our hotel which was quite strange as they accused us of making too much noise – I think they got us confused with a different group! They didn’t actually throw us out, just kept telling us off, so we decided we wanted to stay elsewhere. We rented a room on the main strip of Laganas to be in the heart of the action.
I can’t remember much of this holiday but I do recall us almost missing our flight home. We woke up late in a panic, had no time to tidy up the room which was a mess. We shoved everything into our suitcase and jumped in a cab. I decided to give a very large tip to the owners of the apartment as I was so embarrassed at the state we left that room! Shame on us!
2005 – ZANTE 3
In 2005 I took my father and sister there and we decided to stay in Kalamaki which is near Laganas but a lot more quiet and relaxed. What I love about Zante is that you can have a completely different type of holiday depending on who you go with and what part of the island you stay.
Kalamaki is the name of a beach resort town on the island of Zakynthos. It is located approximately 3 km northeast of the busy resort of Laganas although despite the close proximity it maintains a much more relaxed atmosphere than its neighbour.
My 60 year old father wasn’t really up for boozing up in a club with a bunch of teenagers so we mainly lounged around the hotel pool and went for some nice dinners around the island.
It’s worth going on a boat trip to see the Loggerhead Turtles which Zante is famous for and it will give you the chance to explore the island. We did a half day boat trip and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Caretta Caretta loggerhead sea turtles are the symbol of the ecology of the island of Zakynthos. The turtles use Zante as their main nesting ground in the Mediterranean and return to the same beach where they hatched to lay their own eggs. They are considered to be an endangered species and are protected under legislation by the government.
2006 – ZANTE 4
This was pretty much the same as the last visit but we brought my mother along this time.
Again, no clubbing but lots of eating out! My family do love to eat!
We did go horse riding one day and I recall coming come with a swollen red face. I must have been allergic to some of the plants. Whilst I was resting my face under cold water at the hotel, my family went to a restaurant called Sarakina. They loved it so I joined them the next evening when I looked slightly more presentable. The restaurant is situated on top of a quiet hill so it boasts some lovely scenery. The food is average and reasonably priced based on the location, but what I loved about it was that they provide a show of authentic Greek dancing to entertain you. In addition, as it’s located a little out of the way, the restaurant offers to pick you up and drop you off at your hotel for free. Great service! I have been there several times over the years.
Another restaurant I visited frequently was Mouria: http://www.virtualzakynthos.gr/laganas/restaurants/mouria-restaurant.html
Located on the beach front at the end of the main strip in Laganas. I always love to eat with a sea view so I visited this restaurant many times as well.
I asked Theo, the street artist I met in 2004 to draw us each a portrait. These are framed and still hang in our house to remind us of this family holiday.
2010 – ZANTE 5
Jill and I decided to go on a holiday after my father passed away and thought Zante would be a good place to go especially as we had been there with my father in the past and had some great memories. We rented quad bikes and had heaps of fun cruising around Laganas and also driving to the Old Town where we were able to admire the old Greek architecture and eat at various restaurants and cafeterias. The Old Town is an ideal choice for couples especially in the evenings when the city becomes nicely lit with lights.
By 2010, Theo had moved from Laganas to another part of the island called Tsilivi which is a more family friendly part of the island. We visited him and had dinner there that evening. Unfortunately we witnessed a young girl walking down the road get hit by a car. The driver simply didn’t see her but luckily she wasn’t driving fast and I believe the girl didn’t suffer much damage.
Theo has become a dear friend over the years, and he and his wife also visited us in London in 2015. You really can make friends for life when on holiday.
It’s now been 6 years since I was last in Zante and I would love to go back, although it’s no longer considered ‘the place to be’ for youngsters, at least not in the way it once was, coupled with the current economical state of Greece, I have a feeling Zante may be a bit run down and less popular now – I hope I’m wrong though!