Zakynthos, or as it is more commonly known Zante, is a large Greek Island which is part of the Greek Ionian group of Islands. The Ionian Islands are to the North West of mainland Greece and, as such, experience a lot of rainfall out of season. This makes Zante a very lush, green Island, especially in Spring.
The best times to visit Zante for a vacation are between late May and early September. This means you avoid the heavy rain and should have great weather. Travel in early May and you may see far more rainfall than you would like.
When all is said and done though, the climate on Zante is often very warm and sunny, even when it is raining. Zante has rather a mixed reputation for holidaymakers as it does have some very commercial resorts, most of which have been spoiled by commercialism and the tourist industry. However, that of course depends what you are looking for in a holiday destination.
Laganas Bay in the south of the Island has a long, meandering beach but is full of clubs, bars and loud, raucous tourists. Part of the beach is protected, at certain times of the year, due to the nesting Loggerhead Turtles. Despite that fac,t the local coaches and traffic drive along the beach at night using it as a short cut. There are some good restaurants along the beach where you can enjoy traditional fare whilst watching the sun go down.
One thing that is good in Laganas, especially for families, is that the sea is very shallow. It is possible to walk out quite a way into the sea and still be in the shallows. This offers safe bathing for all.
You will find a more authentic Greece, around Laganas Bay, if you move a little away from the central strip. There are lovely walking areas around the outskirts of Laganas. It is possible to feel off the beaten track without wandering too far. Most of the roads nearby lead round and back into Laganas.
Kalamaki is along the beach from Laganas Bay and is a quieter resort in many ways. However, the tourist planes fly in and out over this resort and, in high season, there is a lot of air traffic.
Along this southern side of the Island there is a small resort called Aghios Sostis. It is an easy walk from Laganas either along the beach or the country road. This resort is small and has a lovely bar come restaurant where you can sit and relax, whilst drinking in the beautiful views. The bar is called Panorama or something similar.
The North of the Island
In the North of the Island you will find villages that are more traditionally Greek and locals enjoying their Greek lifestyle. These villages are less developed and there are many day trips around the Island which incorporate these places.
The East Of the Island
In the East of the Island resorts such as Argassi, Alykes and Tsivili are developed but not quite so lively as Laganas Bay. Zante Town which is the capital of the Island is here, in the East, and is well worth a visit. There is a large harbour, plenty of shops and places such as churches to visit. Walk up to the surrounding area of Zante Town for spectacular views.
Smuggler's Cove is to the north east of the Island and attracts many visitors. It is basically a beautiful beach surrounded by high cliffs and turquoise blue seas. On the beach there is the half exposed wreck of what is claimed to be a smuggling ship. The beach is only accessed by the sea.
If you take a boat trip remember that you will be left on this beach for a few hours. There is no shade or shops here. Make sure that you pack sunscreen, food, drink and shade. It is beautiful here but gets very hot.
You can view the beach from above by standing on a rather precarious viewing platform. This is where most of the photographs of Smuggler's Cove are taken, including mine.
It is possible to hire a car, take a coach tour or travel on the local buses. The bus terminal is in Zante town. The bus fares are cheap and they operate a fairly regular timetable. If you hire a car or a bicycle you will be able to visit the more secluded beaches and interesting, off the beaten track, villages.
Fodd and Drink
As Zante is very commercial there are all too many burger bars and restaurants serving English food. However, there are still plenty of traditional tavernas, if you look around. Swordfish is a particularly good dish on Zante.
There are plenty of cash machines around resorts such as Laganas. We found these more convenient and cheaper to use than travellers cheques. If you have picked the right bank back home you may find that these cash machines are also the cheapest option.
Take an insect repellent device with you and mosquito repellent creams. You will need both.
Buy goods away from areas such as the Strip in Laganas Bay as you will get better value.
The currency is the Euro.
Most locals speak fluent English.
As Zante is an Island, food and drink that has been imported will be more expensive than locally produced fare.
Zante has something for everyone.
You will need to pick your resort well though in order to avoid disappointment. Bear in mind that the lively resorts are more quiet just out of season. Your holiday will also be cheaper to book at that time. It is fairly cheap to eat, drink and get around on Zante but with the Euro being strong against the pound, currently, you may find it is more expensive than it used to be.
For me, Zante was not my favourite Greek Island, as it was far too commercial. However, it was easy to leave all of that behind and still had a great holiday. We travelled in early May which meant that we managed to book a two weeks for the price of one holiday. We did find though that there were a fair few rainy days and it would appear that this is usually the case in late Spring. The upside was that the Island was lush, green and very pretty at this time.
The locals were lovely although many, around areas such as Laganas, were jaded from the tourists. Everyone we came across spoke fluent English but the locals still appreciated the occasional Yasso and Calimera.
Just a small attempt at speaking Greek went down a treat. If you visit why not give it a try.