Greece has an incredible atmosphere that can be hard to summarise. I love the descriptions within Gerald Durrell’s trilogy ‘My family and other animals’, depicting his fascination with the natural world and most importantly, life on the Greek island of Corfu.
It contains perfect instances and descriptions of the Greek spirit, and beautiful descriptions of typical Greek scenery. The ocean glowing in infinite shades of blue, and sunbaked rocks and houses, reflecting back a warm radiance. You feel all of this on the island of Zakynthos.
Zakynthos, or ‘Zante’ as it’s often shortened, lies off the west coast of the mainland of Greece. It’s an Ionian island (it sits in the Ionian Sea), with a 76 mile long coastline that weaves in and out of crystalline coves and wide, calm beaches.
Currency | Euro
Time needed | 3 days – 1 week
Weather | Mild in winter, hot and dry in the summer.
Best season | Anytime! But spring, summer and autumn should guarantee more sunshine.
Languages | Greek, but English is widely spoken in tourist areas
How to say Hello/Good Morning | Chaírete/Kalimera
How to say Thank you | Efcharistó
Transport | Walking, buses and boat
Nearest Airport | Zakynthos Airport ‘Dionysios Solomos’ (ZTH)
I was staying in the islands capital ‘Laganas’. Often considered a ‘party town’, its easy to avoid the wild nightlife if that’s not always your cup of tea. I stayed with friends, and we jumped in and out as we saw fit.
Plus, with beautiful beaches and a breathtaking coastline to explore, who wants to spend the day hungover in a hotel room!?
The island has its fair share of tourists and holidaymakers, but it’s perhaps a little less busy than other popular islands like Santorini or Mykonos. We stayed for a week, and never felt overwhelmed by crowds or queues.
We were here in June. As temperatures begin to soar into the summer highs, so we spent a lot of time at the coast, hopping on boat tours and swimming in the sea.
There are a number of boat trips departing from Laganas, taking you to different coves and caves. We hopped on a full day tour in Zakinthos (the township which gave the island its name). We skirted around the southern peninsulas, stopping at sea caves and areas of crystal clear water in shades of blue I have never seen since.
Loggerhead turtles frequent this part of the Mediterranean, and the tour guide loved pointing out the shape of Marathonisi island (can you see the shape of a turtle in the photo below?). There is a nesting site on the island, protected and cordoned off, but where visitors can catch a sneak peak during nesting season.
The white limestone cliffs of Zante glow a warm white in the brilliant sunshine, with perilously placed vegetation clinging to cracks and crevices in the rocks.
There is a cave system on the south side of Marathonisi which you can swim through, or you can make your way over to the small beach which has far fewer visitors than the turtle nesting beach on the north side, which only has a small space available.
As with a lot of coastline in Greece, the beaches can be quite gravelly or covered in pebbles, so you might want to wear water shoes or carry your flip flops on your arm as you swim!
We sailed west, hugging the coastline until we were level with the township of Keri, where we were treated to a view of what is known to be ‘the largest Greek flag in the world‘.
After a day spent soaking in sun and sea water. We turned around and headed east, to dock back at Laganas. But not before finding this beautiful female loggerhead turtle coming up for air. We visited at the end of June, just as their nesting season was drawing to a close, so felt privileged to have spotted her.
As was our daily evening routine. We arrived back at the studio apartment, dusted off sand, showered off sea water, and headed back out to find food as we were all starving.
Greek food is delicious, with plenty of hearty stews, great seafood, and popular specialities like tzatziki, moussaka, baklava. With ingredients like olive oil, feta cheese, courgettes and tomatoes being featured heavily. The restaurants were often lively, with Greek dancing, and complimentary shots of Ouzo from friendly restauranteurs. In the popular areas, especially Laganas, restauranteurs are often vying for your attention as you wander down roads, with the days heat still radiating from the ground.
We wandered into a different restaurant each evening, each had fair pricing and friendly staff. Although we were looking for budget options, we were never disappointed with the atmosphere, service or food.
Having fun with the little locals too… Street pups were numerous, and some were a little brave, nipping toes and biting hanging bag straps. They’re adorable, but take care not to fuss too much as they might be harbouring a few unwanted diseases/pests.
Perhaps the most famous landmark of Zante is Navagio Beach (or Shipwreck beach). A consistent winner or runner up in ‘World’s Best Beach’ line ups. And it’s not hard to see why…
The shipwreck, known as Motor Vessel (MV) Panagiotis, is quite recent, as shipwrecks go… It came into trouble during a storm and became beached and therefore abandoned in 1980. Originally built in Scotland and launched into the sea on a chilly Scottish January day, it now rests quite happily, in the warm limestone sand of this idyllic cove.
Navagio is not accessible by land due to the sheer limestone cliffs that enclose it. So we caught a boat from Paralia Porto Vromi, a tiny protected harbour on the northwest coast.
The water was sublime. I’ve said it previously and I’ll say it again. I have never before seen water like this. It’s crystal clear, and it sparkles.
I assumed it was because of the limestone coastline, forming pure white sand that reflects the colour of the sky through the water. Although a little research seems to conclude its possibly due to low levels of algae/plant life!
The boat slipped back into the harbour at Paralia Porto Vromi across crystalline water. It’s such a beautiful and secluded spot, and even has its own famous landmark… Can you see the shape of a face in the rock above? It’s supposedly the face of Poseidon, god of seas, waters, earthquakes and storms. It’s quite distinctive!
Turquoise waters and impressive coastal formations, I was so in love with the coastline I didn’t spend enough time exploring inland. A perfect excuse to go back and enjoy the beauty and tranquility of Zakynthos again.