Back to Greece: Zakynthos Island could boast being Greece paradise island
Back to Greece. Zakynthos Island could boast being Greece paradise island
By Annick Dournes & Frédéric de Poligny
Even if you won’t find any ancient Greek monument on Zakynthos this island has everything you can think of to win the title of heaven on earth. With amazing beaches ranked among the most beautiful ones in Greece, spectacular natural sites and picturesque villages it is an appealing patchwork of sensations.
Zakynthos (also named Zante) is the southernmost island of the Ionian Islands just a few miles away from the Peloponnese coast. You can get there by plane from Athens or on a ferryboat from Kyllini (or Kilini) harbour which will of course be the best way if you travel with a car. Zakynthos is pretty vast and hilly and driving a renting car is the best way to explore it. Boats will take you to Zante, the island’s main city in a little bit more than an hour.
Being in an earthquake zone the earth shook many times in Zakyntos area but Zante still is the “Fior di Levante”, the Eastern Flower cherished by the Venetians who ruled the island for three centuries (from 1489 to 1797). This was Zakynthos golden age when artists of the Italian Renaissance gathered here to make it one of the most beautiful cities of the Mediterranean. Zante was almost completely destroyed during the 1953 earthquake but still today remain high bell towers, lovely squares brought alive by the song of fountains linked by arcaded streets where it feels good to walk in the shade. The old Venetian citadel, the Kastro, has been spared and a narrow street will take you to the top of Bochali Hill where it was built on ancient ruins of a Greek Acropolis. From there you will get spectacular views over Zante, the surrounding hilly scenery and the deep blue sea of the Patras Gulf.
Zakynthos by the sea
Everyone will tell you that Zakynthos beaches are among the most attractive ones in all Greece. Displaying an amazing range of colours the countless sandy beaches stretch along the crystal clear water of the Mediterranean Sea ranging from deep blue to emerald green, from turquoise to purple… Laganas, Gerakas, Vasilikos, Marathonisi… make your choice.
One of the best ways to discover these beaches is to take a boat that will take you for a whole tour of the island or at least for an excursion to the iconic Shipwreck beach and to the blue caves. An absolute must in Zakynthos. You can directly get on board one of these boats in Zante or at Porto Vromi (you have to buy your tickets in Maries village before getting to the boat). The wreck of the coaster MV Panagiotis grounded there at the foot of huge white cliffs in 1980, is now half buried in the fine white sand of this paradise beach that is only accessible by sea. Before leaving that horseshoe-shaped secret beach and getting back on board your boat, enjoy a delicious swim in the clear bleu sea. Next your boat will take you to several caves where the sea takes unbelievable shades of blue. Wonderful natural show!
Before starting your discovery of the island make sure to have a GPS or a good road map, or get ready to quickly get lost in the maze of small roads criss-crossing one another in a way that sometimes defies logic… Driving through vast olive groves and vineyards you will discover lovely villages of enticing charm and beauty.
In the Northern part of the island don’t miss a stop in Exo Hora to admire the oldest olive tree of the island said to be 2,000 years old, which could actually be believable looking at its amazingly twisted and crooked trunk. Further North go to Anafotria to visit the beautiful Byzantine style Holy Monastery of Theotokos built in the 15th century. Next the raod will lead you to Volimes and its typical stone houses.
Going South you will get to Katastari , a picturesque village where a festival dedicated to the Virgin Mary takes place every year on August 15. Continue your to Agios Kirikos, Mouzaki, Lithakia and several other villages to meet the quiet local way of life. At the end of the day don’t miss to end your journey in Keri to enjoy the sunset said to be the best one in Zakynthos!
Treat yourself at Lesante Blu Exclusive Beach Resort
The Lesante Blu is a 5-star luxury hotel built on the slope of a low hill that plunges into the sea. Its low white buildings seem to melt into the background and offer guests an elegant and exclusive luxury and great views of the Ionian Sea. This newly built all-suite hotel is a member of The Leading Hotel of the World and well deserves this classification.
All rooms are huge white suites with big terrace, a bedroom with living room in open plan style, lavish marble bathroom. Some of them have outdoor private jetted tub or a private pool or a stared ceiling slowly glowing in the night (only if you choose to put it on!) They all offer stunning views over the Ionian Sea, free Wi-Fi, tea and coffee service, luxury Bulgari bathroom amenities… anything to make you feel special and spoiled!
Your day will begin at the Gaia Restaurant where after making your choice at the incredibly diverse, tempting and hearty buffet you will enjoy your breakfast on the outside terrace bathed in the morning sun. The choice of food is just amazing and you can even have unlimited Champagne if you feel like it. You will undoubtedly want to make that breakfast last for much longer than your usual quick morning bite!
There are three different restaurants open for lunch and diner, all of them overlooking the gardens, the sea and the gorgeous infinite pool. The chefs have found their inspiration in the wide choice of sea food and fish of the island and of course in traditional Greek recipes spiced with an exciting modern twist.
The “Melia Fine Dining” was awarded with one FNL star and named “Best Fine Dining Cuisine” in Southern Europe in 2019. Executive chef Nikos Ispiroudis makes an elegant and tasty cuisine able to please the most demanding guests. Get ready for a wonderful dinner enjoying a beautiful sunset!
Ideal for a snack or a full lunch or dinner the “Ostria Bar” is open all day long next to the pool. It also is a great place for an evening drink including signature cocktails made with fresh herbs from the hotel gardens. You can also enjoy them at one of the three bars of the hotel, each one with its own decoration and atmosphere. The Panorama Bar offers an exceptional selection of Champagne and is the perfect place to relax late in the night.
On request the hotel can also arrange especially for you a romantic candlelit dinner on the beach.
Of course, the hotel has a spa, “The Essence of Wellness”. This huge place with an indoor pool offers a wide range of treatments. Not to forget a fully equipped gym and a tennis court.
More information at www.lesanteblu.gr
Getting to Zakynthos
For those willing to only have sea-side vacations, flying to Zakynthos, directly or via Athens, is the easiest option. But If you want to add a little discovery of Greece, take a flight to Athens. Stay one or two days to visit at least the Parthenon and to wander in the charming streets of Plaka down by the Acropolis. Then take a car and get the road to Corinth (2hours) which is the Eastern gate to enter the Peloponnese and its wonders.
Then from Corinth you have to cross the Peloponnese to Kyllini harbour just after Patras on the west coast. The highway gets you there in a bit more than 2 hours, but if you have time, do it at your own pace and meander through the Peloponnese, visiting some of the most iconic places of Greece. In two or three days you can enjoy a visit of Epidauros, Naflio, Mycenae, Olympia or Mystra just to name a few.
Yalos Tours, a great option to manage your journey through Greece
Organizing such a tour can be tricky for individual travellers. To make it simple why not call in a Greek expert travel agent such as “Yalos Tours” that for years has worked for thousands of international tourists and tourism professionals. They can provide for everywhere in Greece hotel booking, car rental, ferry reservation… and any special request you may have.
For travel agents: www.yalostours.gr/en (BtoB platform available in English)
To contact them directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
Aegean Airlines, the obvious way to fly to Greece:
Aegean Airlines whose daily flights from London have already resumed, propose many destinations through Greece (mainly via Athens and Thessaloniki) is expected to have more flight options during this high season from Dublin and later on from Manchester and Edinburgh. It’s a good value-for-money company even if due to this sanitary crisis the on-board service had to be made simpler than before. All info on Aegean website: https://en.aegeanair.com
Travelling back to Greece is now possible since a few weeks. Yet respecting the new sanitary measures is essential to make it safely. If you need more information about these measures you can read our previous article at https://b-c-ing-u.com/architecture/back-to-greece-at-last-world-meanderings-n90/
Text and Photos ©Frederic de Poligny and Annick Dournes