Zakynthos

Moving on to the Ionian

We had yet to venture into the Ionian sea and decided it was high time to give it a go, starting with Zakynthos. We knew that an extended weekend was not enough (this is the 3rd biggest island of the area) but went ahead anyway. From the word go it became apparent that this was not going to be the place of our dreams. We managed a great time, regardless.

Here goes the rundown of it.

Getting there

We drove from Athens to Kyllini (~280 km), where we took the ferry to cross over to Zakynthos. The service is frequent and takes ~75 mins (costs approx. 90€ for 2 adults & big car). If this sounds like too much hassle you can always fly in.

Accommodation: Olea All Suite Hotel

The main reason we found ourselves in Zakynthos was Olea All Suite Hotel, i.e. the trip was built around the desire to explore this luxury resort. We were spot on with the hunch: it is a veritable slice of paradise. Emitting Indonesian vibes, it added an unexpected dimension to our local holiday.

The resort is fully equipped, catering for all needs. One could easily land here, spend their entire holiday inside its walls and never regret it. We made a point of investing as much time as possible at the premises and still were far from savouring its entirety. I can’t recommended it enough.
Click HERE for the full review.

The World-Famous Navagio Beach

Navagio features in pretty much all “World’s best beaches” lists; a visit was de rigueur. We opted to do this from above to avoid the crowds (also because it is 1000% better looking this way). Still… there was a massive queue at the viewing point and we agreed it wasn’t worth the wait (and possibly contracting coronavirus) just to have a hasty peak and a failed selfie. Instead, we climbed up some stone steps and semi-hung ourselves above a wire net and managed an incomplete, yer fairly indicative, view of the spectacle. It’s beauty was borderline hallucinating, the photos hardly do it any justice (see below ⇩).

This convinced us to take the boat tour to experience it up close (the beach is only accessible by sea). There is a choice between group visit (we were offered individual tickets for 20€ each) or hiring a boat privately (we found prices between 120 – 370€, depending on the type of boat, duration & where you book it from). We decided on the private method but then completely lucked out: all trips were cancelled (to resume after our departure) due to contrary weather conditions. We missed out on the real thing (a friend who did the group excursion however verified it was like boarding a bus during rush hour).

We were already at the southeastern edge of Zakynthos when we set off to for (nortwest) Navagio and had to cross through the entire island to get to it. In the process we got a good feel of the place. Enough to understand that it drastically differs from our average speed. We were impressed by the amount of green though and exploring new terrain is always gratifying.

And Other Beaches

Armed with recommendations from the hotel (we plead guilty on not having done proper research) we drove coast to coast in search of the picture-perfect beach. We did find a couple of nice ones but a) the amount of people everywhere was such that it obliterated all natural beauty and b) they were not really to die for – just your average good-looking Greek beach. Judging by other people’s photos however it seems we missed out on the truly striking ones. In any event, official recommendations included: Porto Azzuro, Agios Nikolaos, Gerakas, Xigia, Nobelos and Kalamaki.

We much enjoyed Xigia (the off road section on the right). Accessible through a rocky pathway (steep incline, a few minutes walk from the main road) it is a small, somewhat wild stretch of beach. Amenities are basic: 9 sets of loungers that barely fit the thin strip of land, the option of refreshments, (paid) courtesy of the nice gentleman who tends the beach, and -crucially- some privacy. Bonus attraction? The place is branded a natural spa: the water contains sulfur (hence the characteristic smell), with fresh springs popping up here and there inside the sea. If you are out for a bigger buzz (and up for some athletic climbing) the adjacent, more mainstream, super crowded sister beach can be reached through the rocks at the left.

We also appreciated Gerakas, a long beach also famous for being a turtle nesting site. The enormous size of it allowed for some much appreciated space to enjoy our swim. Uncharacteristically for July, the Greek islands and Greek summer in general, we encountered rain and overcast weather during parts of our trip. This forced us to spend more time at the resort and less exploring around but it was time well spent just the same.

Dining & Wining

Food-wise it transpired there were some options worth checking out, but with a single exception (getting to this soon) we decided to keep things open. For Day 1, a random facebook ad coupled with a recommendation from the hotel concierge led us to Dominicale. The tip turned out golden: somewhere between a fish restaurant and a fine dining establishment, the food was optimum quality and so was the service. We had a 100% satisfactory experience.

For Day 2 we had reserved in advance at Melia restaurant (labeled among the island’s top fine dining options), located inside the Lesante Blu (high end) resort. We were looking forward to the experience but it turned out disappointing. Pretentious, overdesigned, underperforming are words that come to mind regarding both the restaurant and the food, not to mention the terribly overpriced nano-portions. After several rounds of negotiation the final evening we sheepishly returned to Dominicale, where we enjoyed an even more sumptuous feast and were treated like royalty (thanks guys).
For reference, official recommendations include: Flow, Melia, Prosilio, Nobelos, Dominicale, Komis.

The above dinners were complimented with light lunching at the hotel’s pool bar (Cocoon). The same place catered for all our drinking sessions. A drive-by survey of the Zakynthos bar & club scene suggested that it was as removed as humanly possible from our tastes, we decided to forego the experience. It is understood that this way we didn’t fully get to appreciate the island’s offerings but the temptation to go for guaranteed satisfaction was too intense to ignore. Hey, we are old!

The Verdict

Not sure about coming back. We absolutely had a lovely time. Given the chance, we’d definitely like to visit Olea again and there is a background desire to discover the various breathtaking beaches we -obviously- missed. That said, with so many intriguing destinations waiting to be explored it is unlikely to happen. Should you decide on visiting however, make sure to book a minimum of 5 nights – a long weekend simply won’t cut it.

Enjoy more Zakynthos moments below ⇩.

All images © The Real Queen of Stuff  & select contributions from (R)Kudos

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