Shallow water for swimming
Good for families
Fun for teenagers
Short transfer time from the airport
Plenty of nightlife, which will be a bonus for some.
All locals speak English
Plenty of nightlife, which will be a negative for some
Lots of English restaurants
Wet weather off high season
Today is 30th Decenber 2009. It is freezing cold in the UK and Summer seems a long, long way away. So, for me, this is the perfect time to reminisce about sunny, vacation experiences.
Of course some vacations or holidays are better than others. This article about Laganas Bay, on the Greek Island of Zakynthos or Zante, may help you decide if it would be the perfect holiday destination for you, or one from your nightmares.
Our Holiday experiences
We travelled to Zakynthos, staying near to Laganas Beach, in May 2001. Although this a few years ago, I know from friends and colleagues that little has changed.
Zante is one of the Greek Ionian Islands. These Islands are quite lush compared to Greek Islands in the east.
We flew from Manchester in the UK and the flying time was very good. As it was late spring it was an unexpected break for us. We were not sure what the weather and Island would be like. However, as it was early May, we got a two weeks for the price of one deal which was really very good.
Having visited quite a few Greek Islands already we thought we knew what to expect. Greek Islands do vary but usually they all have some local cutlure and traditions and the locals always offer a warm welcome.
After we had booked our holiday friends decided to tell us that we would not enjoy Laganas Bay. They said it could be noisy and overcrowded in high season and was becoming overdeveloped. A bit late to tell us now we thought, but that's the way the cookie crumbles. So, with some apprehension off we went. As always we decided to give it our best shot and not pre-judge the resort.
At the time of this holiday I was in my late 40's and my husband in his early 50's. We were travelling as a couple and staying in a self catering studio. The accommodation was set to the east of Laganas within easy walk of the beach, but on a quiet road.
Zante airport was small and, although it was not bad, it wasn't the cleanest airport I had ever seen, not by a long way. It had a really stale smoky smell to it.
As the coach drove us from the airport, in the early hours of the morning, we had our first glimpse of Laganas Bay. The drive took in Kalamaki and the strip in Laganas.
The strip is a very long main road leading from the outskirts of Laganas right down to the beach. The clutter of bars and shops along the strip would be some people's idea of Heaven but it was our idea of Hell. This was not simply because we were now a bit older, as even when we were young we liked to experience the local culture, sights, and have a tranquil holiday. We certainly were not looking for Blackpool with sun but we wondered if that was what we were going to get.
The coach then surprised us and drove along the beach heading to the road where our accommodation was situated. Unless things have dramatically changed I assume that the traffic still uses the beach as a quick cut through in the early morning and late evening. Part of the beach was excluded for access to traffic, even by foot, at night due to the nesting of the endangered Loggerhead turtles.
Settling into our accommodation, it was fairly cheap and cheerful but by the end of a fortnight felt like home. There were nice grounds and a good sized swimming pool. We didn't use the pool much though as it was not large and there were a lot of families there.
Our first venture out to the beach took us the short walk down our quiet road, past a couple of supermarkets to the beach. On our first day one supermarket tried to short change us by confusing the currency, and so never got anymore trade from us. At one time in Greece you would never have experienced this. How times have changed, we thought. Walking onto the beach it was warm and quite good sand despite all the traffic at night.
Venturing into the sea it felt a bit cool but it was easy to feel climatised. After all, it was only May. The sea was very shallow for quite a long way out. You could walk or swim out a long way and feel very safe. This would be perfect for family holidays.
There are glass bottomed boat trips from Laganas to see the turtles swimming. These are very reasonably priced, but not many people actually saw any turtles!.
As our holiday progressed we found turning one way, at the end of our road, we could walk along the beach to the Strip or carry on past it to Kalamaki. The walk to Kalamaki was very pleasant along the beach and it is a much quieter resort, except for one thing.
The planes coming in and out of the airport fly low over here for landing and for departing. Very noisy but a spectacular sight. In high season these planes will no doubt be a pain. I was glad we were not staying in this resort.
The other direction, from our road, lead to the beach and a short walk in shallow water around the headland to a different bay. Here was Aghios Sostis. There was a good choice of restaurants and tavernas here and a very small beach. You could access this resort by road but it was a much longer walk. It was a scenic walk though.
From the end of the strip, near the beach, the local buses ran. As usual they ran on GMT(Greek maybe time),but all joking aside they kept to a reasonable timetable. As it was early May the weather was a bit unpredictable to say the least.
Most days were sunny and some very hot. Unfortunately, we had a couple of deluge days when it was quite cool and the rain seemed as if it would never end. If you are visiting Laganas in April or May, I would advise you to take a brolly and a thin jacket, as people other tourists stated that they had found the weather to be like this during previous Spring visits. This is probably why Zante is such a green island.
The main strip that runs from the beach has plenty of shops, bars, cafes,restaurants, banks and a couple of chemists. There are plenty of cash-points readily available. You can also hire bikes here and as it is such a flat area around Laganas you would have no problems.
Although I moan about the commercial side of the strip it was convenient. I had to trek along there quite early one morning alone, as my husband had burnt his legs quite badly in the sun, and I needed the chemist. I felt perfectly safe and it was reassuring to know that what I needed was readily available.
We took a lot of walks in the area around Laganas and you find that most of the roads lead back around in a circle, so that you can get around and see quite a bit without getting lost, or off the beaten track. We felt perfectly safe and met some nice local people doing this. In Laganas centre it is a bit too commercialised for this.
Walking around the nearby countryside you are filled with the scents of various plants which is lovely. On a night, although it was early in the season, we were plagued with mosquitoes so you do really need to wear an insect repellent and have an anti mosquito plug for your room. You also need to buy bottled water as the tap water is too mineralised for non locals.
Eating out at night there are some good places to dine. At the end of our road, as you turned onto the beach, there were quite a few restaurants directly on the beach. We found a particularly good one which became our favourite. As we like to try the local cuisine we avoided the burger joints. It was very pleasant eating your meal at this taverna, listening to the sea and watching the sun go down.
If still available there is a free minibus to a Greek night, in a restaurant near an old rambling, derelict mansion. We did not go but were told it was a great night out, for food and entertainment.
Although this review may sound negative I think that's because:-
- We visited early in the season and the weather was not brilliant.
- We have been to much nicer Greek islands and resorts.
- Our accommodation was a bit basic, but then it was cheap.
- Nightlife, drunks and clubs are not our thing but they may be yours.
- It was so busy even early in the season that I cannot imagine what it must be like in high summer.
- It did not feel Greek in Laganas. It could almost have been anywhere in the sun.
As for recommending Laganas Bay I would like to say maybe.
If you like a commercial resort, which is overdeveloped, has too many bars and English shops, has jaded locals who in general are fed up with the tourists, has a long beach and good weather in high season, you will probably love it.
If, like us, you want some modern conveniences but with some of the real Island, with scenery, sunshine, tavernas and a bit of culture thrown in, then it will not be for you.
The island itself was not bad, if you selected places to visit carefully.
Zante town(the islands capital)was reached easily and cheaply by the local bus. It had a different feel, good architecture, shopping and was better for a traditional night out.
The island tour which took in a lot of the north of the island showed Zante's diversity.
If you hired a car you could see all sorts of local attractions. However this is a review of Laganas Bay.
So as I have already said if you want a lively resort with plenty of hustle and bustle, life, music, pubs, clubs, shops and a great beach thrown in then you will probably not be disappointed.
If, however, you are looking for the real Greece, stay as far away from Laganas Bay as possible.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.