Zakynthos Island holidaysThe sample prices are per person based on two people travelling!
ZAKYNTHOS ISLAND HOLIDAYSGreece
The official language of Zante, also known as Zakynthos, is Greek. However, English is widely spoken across the island, especially in the tourist industry, with the majority of visitors British. German and Italian are also spoken by many locals working in the tourist industry, particularly in the north of the island.
The euro is the only accepted currency in Zante. All other major currencies and travellers’ cheques can be changed in banks and money exchanger offices for a fee. Major credit cards are widely accepted, even in many small shops and restaurants. There are ATMs on the island; however, even in the big towns, they aren’t always easy to locate.
EU nationals and British citizens do not require a visa. All that is required is a valid passport. In the case of EU residents, a valid ID card is also acceptable. Tourists can stay for a maximum of 90 days, but an extension to stay longer can be applied for. Visitors from outside the EU or Britain may need to apply for a visa depending on their intended length of visit.
Zante is a Mediterranean island, so it benefits from long, scorching summers and mild winters. Summer runs from June to September and is extremely hot, with virtually no rain and clear skies. July and August are easily the hottest months, with temperatures often peaking at 31ºC. However, June and September, the shoulder months, still average around 28ºC with little rain. For those seeking milder weather, winter has an average daytime temperature of around 15ºC and considerably cooler nights. December is the wettest month, with November and January being considerably drier.
Zantes’ main airport is Zakynthos International Airport, in the south of the island. The airport is just a short taxi ride away from Laganas and Kalamaki. This is also the only airport on the island. All international flights to the airport are seasonal, with only a few domestic flights operating year round.
Thomas Cook and Thomas Airways offer seasonal charter flights from London-Gatwick, London-Stansted and Birmingham, among a handful of other UK airports. EasyJet offers seasonal charter flights from London-Gatwick. Out of season, UK visitors can connect with the airport via Athens, a 1 hour domestic flight away. Non-stop flights from London to Zante take around 3 hours, 30 minutes.
Travelling outside of the holiday season means visitors to the island will make a saving. Zante in September still has great weather, but without the price inflation of the peak season. Flying with a budget airline can also mean saving cash, and it tends to be cheaper to fly from London than other cities in the UK. Out of season, the most cost-effective way to reach the island by air is to fly to Athens and then pick up a cheap domestic flight.
It is possible to reach Zante by ferry from Kyllini on the Greek mainland or Kefalonia. Ferries docks in Zakynthos Town, with around five services a day, although the frequency of services drops to around three times a day in the winter months. The ferry to the mainland takes around 1 hour.
There is only one airport on the island, so domestic flights are not an option, and there is currently no train service in Zante. However, there are plenty of other ways to get around. Hiring bikes for short journeys along the coast is a cheap way to take in the scenery, while the road network is extensive and for the most part, well maintained, making car hire a valid option.
There are buses to the most popular areas of the island; however, they are not always reliable. Bus stops are not very clearly marked in the towns, although locals will be happy to direct tourists to the nearest stop. Service is often infrequent although the buses are reasonably well maintained. Air-conditioning is not standard on every bus, but travelling by bus is the cheapest way to get between the island’s resorts.
Motorbike and scooters are available to rent across the island, as are quad bikes, which are better for getting around than scooters, as the island is extremely hilly. Prices are cheap, with discounts available when renting for more than one day, and rental is available in most towns. Wearing a helmet is strictly enforced, with on-the-spot fines for tourists caught not wearing one. Rental places should provide helmets free of charge.
There are a huge amount of car rental agencies at the airport, in the towns and at the bigger hotels. Rental is fairly cheap as competition is fierce. Ideally a four-wheel drive should be hired although the main roads are well kept, but the smaller ones have the odd pothole. It’s easy to navigate the roads as most road signs are in Greek and English.
Zakynthos Town, on the east coast of the island, is the capital. Here, tourists will find all of the main shops, along with a stunning harbour. There are a lot of bars and restaurants, and it’s a great place to experience the hustle and bustle of the island.
Agios Nikolaos is a small village in the northeast. In fact, it’s tiny. Its main draw is the boat trips that run from the dock to the Blue Caves at Cape Skinari, just to the north of the village. The caves themselves are stunning, but the real draw is the sea, which is a clear turquoise colour. It’s best to visit the caves in the morning when they are uncrowded, and many tours offer the chance to go swimming. Tourists are advised to take snorkels in order to fully appreciate the site.
For those tourists after a wild night out, Laganas is famous for its nightlife. The main street in the town is made up entirely of bars, clubs and takeaways, and is extremely popular with the 18-30s crowd. The party is not confined to the clubs though, with street performers and shows every night of the week.
There’s a lovely beach here too, and although it can get crowded, it’s a great place to grab a drink beach-side. It’s also a brilliant place to spot Zantes’ famous logger-head sea turtles. Snorkelling is an ideal way to catch a sighting, although organised turtle-spotting trips are available.
Zante has its fair share of stunning beaches, but Agios Nikolaos Beach is often named as the best on the island. Located on the southeast peninsular, it’s a beautiful place with clear blue waters. Along with stunning views, there are water sports on offer, such as diving and jet-skiing, as well as plenty of bars and restaurants.
Zakynthos Town is the best place for museums and to get a feel of the history of the island. Unfortunately, a huge earthquake hit Zante in 1953, destroying much of its historic architecture. Ruins can still be seen across the island and Zakynthos Town has been rebuilt in its original Venetian style, seen in many of its buildings. Zakynthos Town Square is built in a similar style to Venice’s St Mark’s Square.
The shipwreck on the shore of Porto Vromi was a smuggler’s ship that was washed ashore in 1981. There are tours of the wreck available, but the ideal time to go is early morning or after 15:00. Chances are the beach will be completely deserted around these times.
From here, visitors can head to Agios Gergio Kremnao Monastery where there is a viewing platform some 200m above the beach. This platform provides a great backdrop for holiday snaps, with the wreck, the beach and the clear blue waters below.
In the west of the island is the village of Kampi. At the top of the hill here, there is a memorial statue to honor those who lost their lives in the civil war in Greece. Here, visitors will find the Mycenaean Cemetery, and the top of the cliff, 300m above sea level, is a truly spectacular place to watch the sunset. There are family-run tavernas in the area, too, for a traditional evening meal.
Zante is the home of the logger-head sea turtle and the island is extremely strict on the protection of their nesting sites. One such site is Marathonissi, a small island in the bay of Laganas. The island is a national marine park and strict visiting hours are imposed. It is a great place to see the turtles in their natural habitat, and boat trips are available from Laganas.
Zante takes advantage of the great summer weather by holding two outdoor music festivals each year. The Ionian Concerts Classical Music Festival (mid-June to late July) and the Zante Jazz Music Festival (15-17 July) are both held at the open-air theatre of Dermatousa. The theatre looks out across the sea, so a stunning backdrop accompanies the music.
Smaller, but just as fun, impromptu music events are held across the island during the summer. Tourists should keep an eye out for posters or listings. The traditional Greek tavernas also put on shows in the evenings, with singing and traditional Zorba dancing.
For those wanting to party hard, the place to head has to be Laganas. It is almost impossible to move more than five feet without walking into a bar at this popular spot with the 18-30s crowd. As expected, it gets extremely crowded, especially during the peak season.
For a bit of fun with the family, Zante has an impressive go-karting track in Kalamaki. Various games and group activities are available here. Water Village Entertainment Park, a short drive outside of the town of Tsilivi, features slides and rides which are suitable for the whole family, along with a huge vertical drop slide for the bravest among the group.
There is a cinema on the island, with both Greek and English films on offer. However, cinema-goers should not expect the latest blockbusters, as most of the films shown are at least a year old, along with some classic Disney films.
The food in Zante alone is a reason to visit the island. Traditional Greek food is big here and the speciality of lamb kleftiko is enough to get visitors off the beaches and into the restaurants. This dish is slow baked in a stone oven for a long period of time and arrives at the table alight. The meat is extremely tender and is traditionally served with roasted vegetables.
Most Greek dishes come in massive portions, but for those wanting to sample a few different things at once, there’s the Greek meze. Similar to Spanish tapas, this is a number of different dishes shared between a group. Staples of meze are bread, olives and tzatziki (a refreshing yogurt and cucumber spread) along with sagonaki cheese, a sweet cheese which is commonly fried, and meatballs.
With Zante being an island, the seafood here is popular. There are many seafood restaurants across the island, so visitors won’t be stuck for choice. The swordfish is a particularly popular dish and is usually served with salad and a mountain of potatoes.
The Greek dessert of baklava, a sweet filo pastry with currents and honey, the perfect end to any meal, can be found pretty much island-wide.
The Greeks love their food, so finding something to eat at any time of day won’t be an issue. Eating is often a long, drawn out affair, with many dishes and plenty of wine, and most restaurants have some form of entertainment. Be warned, if the traditional Zorba dance starts, diners will be expected to join in!
Thanks to the influx of British tourists it’s also possible to find many non-Greek cuisines on the island, with the traditional English-fry up a particular favourite in the tourist spots. There are also Italian and Mexican places in the bigger towns.
Tourists are spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches, but one of the best places to head is the strip of beach between Kalamaki and Laganas. The beach is a few miles long, and although both Laganas and Kalamaki have many restaurants and bars, this middle section sees few crowds, yet is close to the heart of the action.
For those looking for seclusion with their other half, Tsilivi is the place to be. With a beautiful sandy beach and great views, it’s a quiet resort where couples can escape the crowds for some alone time. There’s a selection or bars available, but it’s also only a short journey to the capital of Zakynthos Town where entertainment options abound.
There are plenty of locations away from Laganas that are great for families. Laganas itself is more suitable for the party crowd. Kalamaki is a bustling town on the east of the island, with plenty of restaurants and water sports for the whole family. Many of the hotels in the area are family orientated, with kids’ activities and small paddling pools.
There are many water sports to be enjoyed on the island, but those really wanting to feel the rush can head to Navagio. Here, professional base jumpers come to jump (with a parachute, of course) from the 200 metre cliffs. Those wanting to join in can hire equipment from companies in the area and follow local instructions.