Greece is now by far one of the most popular countries in Europe for South Africans and if you are planning a little getaway to this beautiful country, I hope this will help you manage and plan what is to become of one of the best trips of your life.
Greece has about 227 inhabited islands to choose from so you can imagine the confusion when you see so many people posting pictures from different parts of Greece and you have no clue how to narrow down your trip. Lucky for you, some islands are easy to visit by boat and just a few hours apart but some you actually need an entire day to get to. My decision to choose Zakynthos was an easy one because no one I know has been there.
Making Zakynthos your destination:
You probably wonder what else is there to do in Greece. Besides the blue waters, boats, food and nightlife, there is nothing. Zakynthos is not a destination you can choose if you are someone who likes historical tours because you will get bored. Not to say that the island does not have history, it is just not Athens. The main reason why Zakynthos is the perfect vacation spot is the fact that all you need to do is eat and go to the beach- RELAX.
The island is also for people who appreciate and love beach living as well boats. I never thought that I would enjoy being on a boat the way I did on this island, plus it taught me a lot about peace and patience.
Booking and getting there:
One of the many things I appreciate about Europe is the options one has to travel and how affordable it is. Booking for this trip was not as bad as I imagined compared to booking for European trips all the way in South Africa. We used Tui to find an all-inclusive deal which included flights, accommodation, food and beverages for around €759 (R12,800) for the both of us. This deal also included airport transfer.
P.S: Europe Summer can get crazy so make sure you plan meticulously because a lot of flights were getting cancelled. I think we were saved by booking a full package.
It took a couple of hours for us to make it to Greece due to flight delays and hotel transfer. Our hotel was literally 7 minutes from the airport which was a plus. No one prepared me for the heat we experienced in Greece, no one! For the first hotel, we stayed at Cavo D’oro hotel and honestly, the pictures are a little exaggerated.
I was expecting mid range, semi lux stay but got a basic room with no towel change and cleaning. That is a health hazard waiting to happen if you ask me, especially with the heat and use of pool with the same towels (ugh), so we made a request for new towels. The food was delicious, so I guess some things worked out okay.
The best thing about an all-inclusive booking is that the hotel is responsible for midday snacks on top of the breakfast, lunch and dinner they serve. The downside is that, the food is hardly what you would want or fresh. I realised that at some point they served the previous night’s food for lunch.
The second hotel we stayed at was Club Zante Hotel which was a teenager’s paradise (we had no clue until we got there) and the one thing I remember about this place is that the food was terrible but the bed was comfortable. The only saving grace was that the beer was flowing as it was also an all inclusive booking.
Things to do:
- Visit Laganas Beach for cocktails: We visited this beach on our last day in Zante because we had lots of time to kill. The beach is a little bit busy compared to some because it is just 5 minutes walk from Club Zante hotel.
- Rent a boat for an entire day: This is one of the most convenient things that a lot of people add to their itinerary and it helps to tour the island by boat. Some choose to rent a boat for the entire day or for a few hours. Honestly, choose whichever option you can manage in terms of finances. We spent about €400 (R6600) for the entire day including fuel. Alternatively, a cheaper option would be to rent for a few hours. To book, always visit the port/pier where you can negotiate a good price instead of booking online. We used Fun@sea.
- Visit Porto Azzuro beach: This is one of the famous beaches on the island and I think is my favourite of them all. The water is generally hot all around but this beach is more comfortable with a bar on site, bathrooms and sun beds with umbrellas for your comfort. There is where a lot of tourists go for some ski clay that supposedly makes your skin softer and younger. I bet to differ but if it is your thing, you’ll love the entire experience.
- Visit Xigia Beach: Do not be shocked when you arrive at this beach and it smells like rotten eggs. Due to the sulphur in the water, the water smells like rotten eggs (prepare yourself). It is also believed that your skin feels rejuvenated after a good swim in the water (I’m still waiting for results). While here, make sure you visit Nireas Stone Village for lunch. You will love the views and food.
- Try Porto Vrimi: This beach is a little bit far from a lot of hotels however, from this side of the island, you can rent a boat or take a group cruise to the shipwreck beach which is much cheaper and highly recommended instead of paying an exuberant amount of money for a boat for an entire day.
- The Shipwreck lookout: If you do not mind standing in a queue to take a picture or a peek at the blue Zante waters and shipwreck beach from above, then this is where you should be. You do not need to pay any fee for this and there are refreshment trucks available to purchase a cool drink while you wait your turn.
- Eat at Essence restaurant: This restaurant just has delicious food in general and I have not much to say about it but try it.
I honestly had no idea on how much I would fall in love with Zakynthos. Everything was so easy to do ad people were welcoming. You will find yourself amongst a lot of Dutch and British people because most of the establishments are owned by foreign nationals of the two countries and of course Greek people. To get around, choose either a car, scooter or quad bike especially if you do not have a lot of luggage.
Finally, check the weather for humidity because I feel like I nearly died from the heat. The heat was actually not a problem, but the level of humidity made me fell like peeling the skin off my bones. If Greece is not on your list, add it! Stat!!!