My Zakynthos Travel Guide - A Week In Greece

Okay, so last Christmas my boyfriend surprised me with a holiday to the Greek island of Zakynthos more commonly known as Zante, we had been together for roughly seven years at the time and never been abroad......shocking right? I'm sure many people can identify with this, life gets in the way all the time and it can be easy to put off travel plans especially when you don't actually have a passport. Anyway, Steven sneakily booking us a trip forced us to finally get our acts together, and last week we finally went on our first holiday together and I thought some of you might like to know my thoughts on this little Greek island, Zakynthos!

Zante is a fairly small island with just one airport, a variety of stunning beaches, bright blue seas and a combination of lively nightlife and quiet towns. We chose to stay in the small beach resort town of Kalamaki at the Exotica Hotel and Spa, this is a great area for those who want something more chilled or couples looking for a romantic break. It's just a short drive to the party town Laganas so if you do decide you want a wild night of partying you won't need to go far (I believe it's about a 6min drive from Kalamaki to Laganas). 

We visited the island in October at the very end of the season so it was pretty quite and we had mixed weather if you go to party and lap up the sun then I would recommend going a little earlier in the year. 

The Hotel
As I mentioned we stayed at the Exotica Hotel and Spa which is a short drive away from the airport so only costs about 13 euros to get to in a taxi. The hotel itself looks pretty and is very clean, the rooms are nice but the toilet/shower situation isn't the best, the toilet is in the room and only separated by frosted glass and a double door which has a gap right in the middle meaning if anyone stands at the sink outside they can see everything which isn't ideal. This is an all-inclusive hotel with buffet-style meals, the food was pretty good but if you are a very picky eater like myself you may struggle a bit, there's also a decent selection of cocktails on offer which are fairly basic but definitely tasty and great to have when chilling by the pool. I will also say that the staff were very friendly and helpful and the hotel was a very reasonable price, I had a few minor issues but as a whole, I do think the hotel was lovely and definitely worth the money.

A few minutes walk from our hotel takes you to the main area of the town with a long street of shops, bars, restaurants and stops for booking trips and hiring cars. On our second day, we took a walk up and booked two different trips the first being a jeep safari around the island and the second a 4-hour cruise to some of the most iconic areas of Zante which includes the Blue Caves and Shipwreck Cove (Navagio Beach). If you book multiple trips you can make a saving and I believe we paid roughly 110 euros for both days. Let's start with our experience on the jeep safari, you are picked up from your hotel along with the other passengers coming along for the day, now the jeep didn't exactly look like the pictures and Steven and I were squished in the back where you had almost no space for your legs which wasn't the best start, we were accompanied by 3 other passengers who got to sit up front and had a much comfier seating arrangement. We set off for the day with our guide who was very friendly and was cracking plenty of jokes along the way, the first stop was to a small town with a monastery and a cute cafe overlooking some beautiful scenery where you could relax and have a coffee, next we headed off to the highest point of the island which was definitely the bumpiest portion of the journey and took the longest to get to but it had some stunning views and was a great stop for taking pictures, then I believe we stopped off for some lunch (you'll need to factor in this extra cost along with the earlier stop at the cafe) now I'm not going to lie the restaurant we went to wasn't the best and the food was only average, we were also bothered by quite a few flies whilst trying to eat so I would say this was the low point of the day. After lunch, we went to one of the most iconic areas of the island which looks down over Shipwreck Cove, there is a small lookout point which allows you to safely take pictures and look down on the beautiful beach, as it was October we didn't have too long of a wait for the lookout point but in the height of summer you may need to wait hours. We were warned by our guide not to climb out onto the cliffs as it is extremely dangerous and people have fallen and died, if you look on Instagram you will see many have done this to get that beautiful shot of themselves overlooking the shipwreck but it's definitely not worth risking your life for so be very careful! Next, our guide gave us two options, visit the Blue Caves which again comes at an additional cost or head off to a beach where you can have a swim or relax with a drink at a bar that overlooks the beach as we were already going to be visiting the Blue Caves the next day we decided to visit the beach. Then finally we stopped off for some wine tasting at an organic farm that produces, wine, olive oil and beauty products, the wine tasking was fairly basic but a nice way to finish off the day before being driven back to our hotel.

The next day it was time for our 4-hour cruise, we were picked up by bus at the little shop where we booked the trip before picking up the rest of the passengers and heading off to the harbour to get on the speedboat. The first stop is Shipwreck Beach (you basically sail to the furthest away stop and work your way back) it took quite a while to get there and the closer you got the choppier the sea got which was a little intimidating as you aren't sure if this is normal or not (I think it was worse because it was October and a fairly cloudy day), when we did arrive we were taken aback by the stunning setting of this secluded little beach with bright blue water and surrounding high cliffs. The only way you can get to the beach is by boat and it was worth the trip however as you get off the boat you need to remove your shoes and socks and we didn't realise it's a pebble beach as opposed to sand which meant it was quite painful to walk on so I would recommend having a pair of flip-flops that you don't mind getting wet packed away in your bag. Okay, so Steven can swim and I.....can kinda swim....if I can stand up so we decided to paddle out and enjoy the water which was actually quite a nice temperature but I only managed to make it a few feet before I felt like I was being battered by the waves so I made a hasty retreat and left Steven to it. It was a little disappointing the water wasn't calmer but again I think this could have down to the time time of year and it wouldn't be an issue for a strong swimmer. So, of course, I waddled around on the softest part of the beach and took pictures instead. After about half an hour we were called back onto the boat and made our way around to the Blue Caves, yet again these were stunning to look at and you could stop off and have a swim, the water is quite deep so I had to sit this one out. We began sailing again and by this point, Steven and I were regretting our choice not to bring any snacks, so we were very grateful when we stopped off at a little port and were able to grab a coffee and a snack it was a beautiful little spot and sorted us right our before we headed off to the final swim stop which I believe was called Xigia Beach and smelled like Sulphur which is apparently very good for the skin and has a host of different benefits. After our final stop, we sailed back to the harbour and back to our bus, this was apparently a 4-hour cruise but we were definitely gone longer, I'm not sure if this was maybe down to the choppy water slowing us down but overall it was a great day and we definitely slept well that night.

Overall the trips were good, especially for our first visit to Zante, they allowed us to see and do a lot but in the future if we do return I think we would hire a car and go exploring ourselves this way we could stop of at some different beaches and spend the day relaxing rather than having the time restrictions that come with these pre-planned trips. We did want to go on the boat trip that took you out to see the Loggerhead Turtles but the weather wasn't quite good enough so this is another thing we would do if we return.

I also want to mention that we took a drive into Zante Town one night which had a very pretty little square with lots of twinkly lights and candles and lots of bars and restaurants. We had some food and a cocktail, both were lovely but the price was definitely higher for the cocktails than what you would pay in Kalamaki but the cocktails were by far the fanciest so I think the quality was reflected in the price. I'm also going to give a little shoutout to Vintage Restaurant Bar in Kalamaki, this little place was very pretty and the food was amazing, they had a decent amount of options for a fussy eater and when you order a meal they bring out a little plate of delicious freshly baked bread and trio of olives, chopped tomatoes and some sort of flavoured soft cheese, Steven and I both loved this and it was a great little touch as well as being asked if we would like a complimentary little shot of alcohol to finish off our meal. If you visit Kalamaki I would definitely recommend trying this place out!

Okay so I think I've covered all the important elements of our trip, my final thoughts are that Zakynthos is a beautiful little island with stunning beaches and it was a great first holiday for me and Steven, I could definitely see us returning in a couple of years!

Yamas! (cheers)

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