Walking out of the hotel on our first morning in Zakynthos (aka Zante) were thinking about what adventures and trips we could do. A few minutes walk took us to nearby Kalamaki Beach. That’s when we realised that this trip was just going to be about the beach!
Days on Kalamaki Beach
Sunshine on blue water, with small fishes swimming around your feet in the clear water. Gentle waves and no current to get you into trouble as you enjoy just floating around.
It was! That’s Kalamaki Beach in October. The Mediterranean sea water has had the summer sun to warm up, and the crowds have all gone home.
Add a kiosk offering snacks, beer, soft drinks and water just a few steps away from your sun lounger and beach umbrella. Take a walk along the beach to Kalamaki Taverna for lunch if you’re hungry.
Why wouldn’t you spend six days there, just chilling out? So we did!
Kalamaki beach is on the Laganas Bay, at the south of Zakynthos Island and is part of a long stretch of beach (9km, I was told) which includes Laganas Beach. Laganas is the local party strip, located a few kilometres from Kalamaki. Our hotel was around 10 minutes walk inland from the beach.
This part of Zakynthos is a turtle sanctuary, so local beaches close at 7:00 p.m. The loggerhead turtles lay eggs in this area in the main summer season of June to September. October is a bit late in the season so we did not see turtles, sadly.
By this time of year the kids are back at school, so the beach was less crowded, though there were a few younger families there, along with a few "oldies" like us and some younger people taking advantage of the budget holiday possibilities.
Kalamaki beach is actually ideal for younger children (we had our grand-daughter in mind), as it is shallow with no current and small waves.
And a Beach Cat
Cats seem to be present on most Greek islands. Zakynthos was no exception. One beautiful ginger and white cat befriended us. Actually he appeared to have a human, in the form of the guy running the kiosk.
We watched on a couple of occasions as his human came down to the water, chummed it with bread and then caught a fish for the cat.
That caused a laugh with the visitors on the beach, and left one happy cat. Especially when the cat wanted to eat in the comfort of a sun lounger! He came to visit for a while.
On our first night one couple were telling us that "you can buy cannabis at the beach". That seemed odd, but, when we walked to the beach, sure enough, there was a sign advertising cannabis.
In fact cannabis is illegal in Greece, however BCD products, within certain limits, are legal (as they are in the UK). Some people smoke them with tobacco, though I did see "Do Not Smoke" warnings on the containers.
Close to the beach, Anna’s Market proved very useful for the odd packet of crisps or drinks.
Cruising into the Zakynthos Sunset
We had quickly decided to concentrate on a chill-out week on the beach, but did want to do a boat trip. Sunset on the boat at Santorini, memories of Lake Kariba sunsets, these all added up to "we need a sunset cruise". In that relaxed atmosphere, we took the easy way out and booked with the TUI agent.
All we expected was a boat trip out to see the sun setting in the sea, with a few drinks from the bar. What we got was a lot more than that, and definitely a trip to remember.
Collected from Kalamaki town, a short walk from the hotel, we were taken through the party strip in Laganas to Laganas Harbour. Once the guests from other hotels were on board we headed out from Laganas harbour to Marathonisi (Turtle Island). Just before leaving we were treated to a sighting of a turtle in the harbour, to everybody’s excitement. I believe, however, that turtles in the harbour are fed, so that the tourists can see them.
Marathonisi (Turtle Island)
The Laganas Bay area is the Zakynthos Marine Park, a conservation area, with a strong focus on the Loggerhead Turtle. Marathonisi, with a beach used by the turtles to lay eggs is an important part of the conservation operation, with residents limited to the turtles.
Our boat tied up on the southern side of the island, near a cave, in 5 metres of water. A few people took the opportunity to have a swim in the incredibly clear waters.
Blue Caves – Marathia Cape
Behind Marathonisi, the cliffs of Marathia Cape are riddled with blue caves. There are actually a number of "blue cave" sites around the island. A natural result of erosion of the limestone cliffs the caves vary in size and feature incredibly blue waters.
Our captain clearly knew his way around, taking us right in close to the caves. Plenty of photo opportunities there for some interesting photos.
In summer the sun sets between two little islets. Being late in the year, the sunset has moved, so we headed to sea to watch the sun slide into the depths of the ocean.
And the Sunset
There’s always something that grabs the emotions when the sun slips into the water at the end of the day.
Heading back to Laganas we were treated to Prosecco. A fitting end to a superb sunset trip, as we headed back towards the lights of Laganas.Heading back to Laganas we were treated to Prosecco. A fitting end to a superb sunset trip, as we headed back towards the lights of Laganas.
Evenings by the Pool
After dinner at the hotel, there were a number of spots to sit and enjoy a few drinks. We enjoyed every evening with like-minded people just enjoying life.
Every week three musicians or groups, on different nights, entertain the guests. The artist on our last night was pretty good, much liked by some of the single ladies!
One aspect I loved – travelers over 60 (like me) always seem to be "the older generation" when you read many of the travel blogs. I was almost the youngest of these after dinner groups, and all were frequent travelers, and great fun to be with!
We’re on the island of Zakynthos, so it made sense to visit Zakynthos town, right? A 15 minute / €10 taxi ride took us to Zakynthos town, dropping us at St. Dionysios Church, opposite St Dionysios Market, with a view of the harbour. The island economy relies heavily on tourism, a fact made obvious by the number of establishments offering tourist goods and services, and the number of cafes and restaurants.
We took a walk along the harbour to Salamos Square, starting point of the local "road train". The 30 minute road train trip offered a glimpse of the town, and the commentary told of the interesting 2000 plus years of the history of the region. Take a look at the Wikipedia entry for Zakynthos for the details.
To be honest, we found Zakynthos town a bit of a disappointment. If museums and art galleries appeal to you then a couple of days there would be interesting, but hose hold little appeal for us.
Organising our Zakynthos Trip
Our trip was booked through First Choice, which is part of the TUI group. Previous good experiences with TUI led us to choose an all inclusive package deal flying from London Luton and staying at the Bitzaro Palace Hotel in Kalamaki. This proved to be a great choice for a simple chill-out holiday on the beach. That said, both TUI and a local operation offered various excursions on the island.
We generally avoid the packaged excursions, choosing instead to see what the local providers are offering. On this occasion the TUI provided sunset cruise was great and proved to be excellent value.
The buffet style food in the hotel was excellent, providing a good mix of Greek and English food, for a predominantly English group. We were too busy relaxing to be worried about finding other restaurants. With many places closing for the winter, there were still a few nearby eateries open for business.
Water is an important consideraion in this hot climate. The hotel restaurant sold water in 9l (6 x 1.5l) sixpacks for €2, and the rooms have a fridge to keep it cool. Of course one can just stay close to the bar … .
Flights and Travelling
TUI flies out of Luton.
With an outbound flight soon after lunch we planned to be at Luton Airport early, to have lunch in a pub air-side after check-in. With meet and greet parking arranged through Holiday Extras, that worked beautifully. No rush, just a pleasant meal before our flight.
The TUI flight was fine – the usual budget flight crisps and drinks and a toastie, all paid separately.
Our return flight was delayed by 40 minutes, but Zakynthos airport was fine to wait. That did mean we left Luton at midnight (meet and greet worked well) with over an hour’s drive home. Might just stay over for a night next time!
Would We Go Back
Simple answer – we are already planning it!
Zakynthos is one of the few places I have visited which really called me back!