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Zakynthos (Zante) is the third largest of the Ionian Islands (which include Corfu and Kefalonia) that lie to the West of the Greek mainland. It has lush green vegetation of olive and lemon groves, which is due to the combination of wet winters and hot summers. In June 2005 I travelled to Zante for a week's holiday with my boyfriend to the resort of Alykanas and this review will focus mainly on this resort. But firstly I will talk about some more general aspects of the island which those considering visiting may like to know.
Let me warn you, this is probably one of the smallest airports you will ever arrive or depart from and it is not up to the standards you may have found in the larger Greek islands or in Spain. It only has one baggage caracel in the arrivals hall so if more than one flight arrives at the same time it is a bit of a squeeze. But be patient, as you will get your luggage eventually. On departure the airport has only 3 check in desks and no room to queue inside so you do have to queue outside the terminal under canopies before you can check in. Once you have checked in you go through to the departure lounge, which is small. It only has a very small number of seats and if one flight is delayed then it gets very crowded. There is a duty free and a kiosk selling drinks and snacks but it is quite expensive so I would recommend taking your own. However don't let this put you off visiting the island as I think it adds to its charm and you have to remember that these islands and their facilities such as airports haven't been able to expand at the same rate as tourism. But the good news is that they are building a new terminal so things should improve on this front very soon.
Moving on to the resort itself……
Alykanas is situated on the East cost of the Island, around 20km north of Zakynthos town and also the airport. I would describe it as a fairly quiet resort ideal for families and couples but there is still plenty to do to keep you entertained but it is not for those looking for an 18-30's holiday and who want to party all night, that's what the resort of Laganas is for! Alykanas can be seen as a twin resort with Alikes, which is attached by the stretch of beach but also by road. So you get two resorts for the price of one. The resort itself looks out to Kefalonia and in the evening you can watch some beautiful sunsets.
My boyfriend and I stayed at the Alykanas Beach Village, which we booked through
Direct Holidays but can also be booked through Airtours or directly with the hotel. It's an apartment complex consisting of 150 studios and one and two bedroom apartments which all have a pool or sea view. The facilities in the apartments were exceptional for Greece and we even had a bath and shower curtain! For those who have visited Greece before they will know these are somewhat of a luxury, as the Greeks believe them to be unhygienic. All the apartments have a fridge and kitchenette including a microwave, not that we used it. Air conditioning and safety deposit boxes were also available for an extra charge. The complex has 3 swimming pools and is situated right on the beach so you have the option of where to catch the rays. It also has its own snack bar, which served food all day for very reasonable prices (about 5 euros for most dishes), a bar, a games room and 24 hour reception. The complex is situated on the edge of the resort about a five minute walk from the bars and tavernas which meant everything was easy to get too but you weren't kept awake if you wanted to sleep.
Situated next to the Alykanas Beach Village was the Alykanas Beach Hotel, which I believe you can book through Kosmar, but also there were a range of other studios and apartments in the resort meaning there is plenty of accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets.
The sandy beach is fairly narrow but it stretches right around the bay to Alikes, so there's plenty of space. Sunbeds with umbrellas are available for 5 Euros a day but also there are stretches of sand with no sunbeds for those wanting to lay their towels down. The sand can get very hot though so I would recommend wearing flip flops even when running to the sea to cool off as my boyfriend burnt his feet! The sea itself is perfectly clear and ideal for children and adults as it was very warm even in June. It gently slopes out and is quite shallow for around 20 metres and there was hardly any current so very safe for swimming. For those interested in water sports there were pedaloes and jet ski's for hire directly on the beach and for the thrill seekers parascending and the banana boat were available around the bay on Alikes beach.
-------Tavernas and Bars-------
One of the highlights of my holiday is eating the local cuisine and especially Greek food, which is delicious. In Alykanas there were enough tavernas available to be able to eat at a different one every night and we didn't have a bad meal the whole week we were there. Starters ranged from around 2-5 Euros and main courses around 7-12 Euros. A Greek salad, which is my favourite cost about 5 Euros. Most nights our bill came to around 23 Euros for the two of us, which included a starter and main course each and a half litre carafe of wine. For those not so into the local cuisine most tavernas served pizzas and pasta and some English dishes.
There are fewer bars to choose from than tavernas and there weren't any nightclubs so this resort isn't for those looking to party all night. But I was happy as most of them served cocktails and one bar had a happy hour till 12pm when cocktails were 2.50. However if you are looking for a livelier night out or a change of scene Alikes is about a 15 minute walk and has a greater range of tavernas and bars including a Chinese and a Irish bar and is a generally more lively resort. If you don't fancy walking there are plenty of horse and carts, which will run you between the resorts for 5 Euros per trip.
We went on two excursions whilst we were away and it made a change to get out of the resort and see the island. A handy tip though is not to book excursions with your tour operator but to go into the resort and use one of the tour operators there, as you will find they charge half the price for the same trip. We used Dionisos tours who were excellent and have English staff and numerous offices throughout the resort. These are some of the excursions you can take.
Shipwreck Bay/Smugglers Cove - this is one of the top 20 most photographed sights in Europe and you cannot go to Zante without visiting it. Shipwreck bay is situated on the north of the island and is only accessible by boat. On the beach is a shipwreck, which was smuggling contraband cigarettes and alcohol onto the island 20 years ago and was washed ashore in a storm. In this bay however is the bluest sea you may ever see and it is a picture postcard sight. I have attached some photos at the bottom. To see the shipwreck you can either take a half-day trip or stop at it as part of a cruise around the island, which is what my boyfriend and I did. This cost us 15 euros for the day and was a bargain as we sailed all around the islands with numerous swimming stops including shipwreck bay.
The Caretta Caretta Turtles - Laganas Bay is home to the Caretta Caretta Logerhead turtles and is the only nesting site for them in Greece. Laganas Bay is now a designated marine park to try and protect the
Pictures of Zante (Greece)
turtles which are dwindling in numbers due to the resort of Laganas being built which disturbed their nesting grounds on Laganas Beach. We took a half day trip with Graham a member of the turtle protection society which meant we got to see some of the turtles without harassing them as many boats do and also he gave us a talk on their breeding and nesting patterns which made it an interesting and educational trip. For every 1000 eggs a female turtle lays in the sand only 1 will make it into the sea and survive. This trip cost 15 Euros.Other trips available which we did not go on include: -Kefalonia - The neighbouring island, which we could see from our resort, is only 8.5 miles from Zante and you can visit the places where Captain Correlli's Mandolin was filmed. 35 Euros -Athens - The capital of Greece and site of 2004 Olympic games. 85 Euros -Olympia - You can visit the site of the original Olympic games on the Greek mainland. I visited here on a previous trip to Zante and it was interesting to look at all the ruins and stand on the start line of the original 100 metres. 38 Euros - Water Park. 25 Euros - Zante Town. 7 Euros.
As I said we visited in mid June and it was scorching. It was in the 30's most of the time and in July and August I believe it can even reach the 40's. In Alykanas we found there was quite breeze coming in from the sea, which helped to cool you down, but you still need to careful in the sun and slap on the sun tan lotion and keep out of the midday sun.
Overall we had a brilliant holiday and would I would definitely recommend the resort of Alykanas and our accommodation. It was perfect for us as a young couple just looking to chill out and relax but also with things to do during the day and in the evening. The resort would also be ideal for families as it has a very safe clean beach and the locals were very child friendly as lots of the tavernas had climbing frames etc.
My top tips would be:
- Make sure you take or buy some plug in mosquito repellers as our there were lots of our little friends flying about looking for some nice English skin to bite. I normally don't get bitten but did this time. - Don't book your trips with your tour operator but with travel agents within the resorts, as you'll find them at half the price for exactly the same trip. - Make sure you take plenty of water with you to the airport on departure, as you may have to queue outside for quite a while before checking in.