Zakynthos, the island where post cards come to life. This picturesque Greek island is located in the Ionian Sea. Zakynthos is a popular island for summer holidays with its stretched out beaches and crazy water sports.
Traveling internationally from Durban is not as difficult as it used to be, with many international flights leaving directly out off Durban. The easiest for us was to travel to Istanbul and then transfer to Anthens. From Athens, it is a mere hour flight to Zakynthos, however the flights are not scheduled daily. I was unfortunately unable to get a flight to Zakynthos from Anthens on the day we arrived, so we decided to hire a car at the airport and drive to the harbour where we would need to catch the fairy to take us to the Island. After flying 14 hours, the last thing anyone in their sane mind would want to do is drive 5 hours, but we did, and although we were exhausted from the flight, the drive through Greece was scenic and beautiful that we hardly felt the trip. From the harbour, the fairy ride to the island was another hour and a half. There was not a single moment on the boat that either person complained, we were completely and utterly taken aback by the sea. The different shades of blue and the clarity of the water does nothing else but entices you to want to rip off your clothes and jump into the sea.
After travelling for 24 hours, we got into the hotel, showered ate dinner and crashed.
The next 10 days on Zakinthos Island was a dream. The most busiest times to visit Greece is July and August when the temperatures are high and although we arrived late September, the weather was marvelous.
We hired a boat and explored the sea as well as the little islands scattered around. When visiting the Island it is a good idea to hire a car or even a quad bike so that you can explore the island and visit the popular beaches with their entertaining beach bars. Some of the popular beaches that we visited was Agios Nikolaos, Alykanas and Tsilivi.
As you drive to each beach, you get to encounter tiny villages scattered through the island. It is mind boggling as to the simplicity at which these people live their lives. Olive farms fill the island with many of the woman folk in the villages making olive oil to sell to the tourists. As you drive through the village you will notice the men, young and old gathering together, drinking coffee, smoking and having a good old chat. The roads themselves are so tiny and narrow, its hard to believe that 2 cars could pass each other, but somehow they do.
The Island is filled with the natural perfumes as the air bursts of the aromas of herbs growing on the sides of the streets. As warm as the day may have been it would be your disadvantage if you opted to drive with the windows up and air conditioning on. You would regrettably miss out on natures wonder.
We stopped off at the side of the road to take in and appreciate the aroma, and I remember plucking oregano, I have never smelt anything like that in my life, not even the shop bought “fresh” oregano.
The Island is also filled with the most beautiful and historic churches, some date as far back as the 1800’s. Having a tremendous affinity to churches and to be surrounded by them was a a blessing and a personal favourite.
When on the Island it is imperative that you visit the Cameo Beach Bar. You can spend the day swimming in the lagoon, sipping on cocktails whilst being entertained by their resident DJ. As the day progresses, the party picks up a few levels as the people become a little more intoxicated and inhibitions are lost. Thats when it becomes really interesting and the dancing begins.
Navagio beach was made famous in 1980 with a great story and a shipwreck. The story goes something like this, please forgive me if the facts are slightly off however I relay the story as the story was told to me by the tour captain on the boat. So there was a ship carrying illegal contraband cigarettes, and the coastguards got wind of this. There was a sea chase and the Captain of the ship sailed it onto the rocks where is crashed. The captain and the crew escaped through the mountains, however was eventually caught. The cigarettes were destroyed and the ship was drained off all its oil and given to the fisher boats. The shipwreck remains standing resting in a sandy cove framed by cliffs and the only way to access this beach is by boat. This is a beach that must be visited. You cannot spend the entire day on the beach however the tour boats give you about an hour only to explore the shipwreck and enjoy the water. This was without a doubt the most beautiful beach on the island with its white sand and turquoise water.
The food on the Island is predominantly Greek however many restaurants do make an effort to widen the options available on their menus. I have seen restaurants offer Mexician, Italian and even Indian food. But if you are travelling to Greece, you would want to indulge in the authentic Greek food. Unfortunately, this is were the Island falls short for me. We ate in many restaurants, and although they offered us Greek food, it was not authentic. It was only at the end of the trip that we managed to find a restaurant on the Island that served us real Greek food. If you are not familiar with Greek cuisine, then it is possible that you will get away thinking that the food was delectable, and it is, however not authentic.
The days sped by swiftly and before I could digest this captivating Island it was time to leave.
On the long drive back to airport, we decided to stop off at the Ancient City of Olympia. This city was where the first Olympic games were played 500BC. It is fascinating and mind blowing to be able to walk through such a historic and relevant place in our history.
Interesting Facts about Zakynthos
- Zakynthos is the Southern most and the third largest island in the Ionian sea.
- Zakynthos was named after the son of Dardanus.
- The island escaped Ottoman domination however was subject to the Republic of Venice for many centuries.
- Zakynthos has only 1 town and 44 villages.
- Zakynthos produces grapes, olive oil, raisins, wine and strawberries.
- Two great poets come from the Island. Dionisios Solomos and Ugo Foskolo. Dionisios wrote the national anthem.