My happy place ...
This weekend I headed to the island of Zakynthos, Greece in the Ionian Sea. Another early flight had me leaving London before dawn but since there is a two-hour time difference between Greece and London it was well worth it otherwise the day would have been half gone before it even began. I arrived into Zakynthos International Airport around 11:30am, after a three-and-a-half-hour flight from Gatwick airport. In my planning for this trip I wasn’t able to find any hostels on the island, rather only hotels which I wasn’t too keen on. I decided to book an Airbnb which ended up being the best decision I could have made. My Airbnb host, Nicoletta was very friendly offering advice and answering questions before I had even arrived; and she even offered to pick me up from the airport. This was so great and very handy because the public transport system on the island was very minimal. So I was greeted by Nicoletta at the airport and then she drove me to the modern studio apartment that I had rented in Agrassi, a town on the island. The flat exceeded my expectations, looking even better than it did online, so I was a very happy camper.
For the afternoon I decided to hire a quadbike to travel across the island to the Shipwreck Beach View. I spoke to almost all of the bike hire companies in Agrassi before deciding on one. I was only allowed to hire a quadbike and not a scooter because I had no prior experience, which was fine with me but luckily the rule didn’t apply to the quadbikes because I had never driven one of those either. It was also worthwhile to shop around with the companies as I was quoted so many different prices ranging from €25-€40 for a twenty-four-hour hire. I chose my quadbike and aptly named my new Greek companion Kostas. We headed North-West across the island towards the famous viewpoint. I was advised that the trip would take me one-hour but it took me about double. Now I am good with navigation but unfortunately one can’t drive and navigate at the same time on a quadbike. Pretty much impossible, even with google maps. So two-hours later after only two wrong turns, which is actually a major achievement since there was just about no road signage the entire way, I made it to the viewing point. I almost missed the final turn to the beach view thanks to the lack of signage but I saw some worn chalk writing on the road which directed to the viewing point. The viewing point over the beach is extremely tiny so I didn’t bother going to it, instead like other bloggers recommended I followed a small trail near the platform to get an alternative view over the cove. It wasn’t exactly a set path more just some dirt patches from people wandering in the area. It was a great decision, since I was so much more free with hardly any other people around. I enjoyed the scenery and captured some great snaps of a view that I have been dreaming of seeing for years. The trusty tripod helped me out along with some kind fellow tourists.
After a couple hours I headed back to Kostas (my trusty quadbike) and started the long drive back to Argassi. Whilst driving over the mountains it rained quite heavily which wasn’t so much fun on a quadbike, I really wouldn’t recommend it! It eased up a little but the roads were extremely wet and unfortunately very slippery. I was driving very carefully, like a nana really, but even after slowing down turning a corner, my breaks gave way and I did an unintentional 360-degree turn. Safe to say I freaked out but luckily the bike didn’t flip. So I froze in the middle of the road! Embarrassingly but luckily this all happened in a small village where there was a group of locals nearby. The older Greek men were yelling at me in Greek but thankfully a young pre-teen boy spoke in English asking if I was okay and if I needed any help! Safe to say I accepted his help and he got me back on my way. I was so thankful and appreciative of this small gesture of his, because if it weren’t for him I don’t know what I would have done. I didn’t catch his name, but he will forever be referred to as Hercules after having saved this damsel in distress! Believe it or not, five-minutes down the road, my bike skidded again, freaking me out yet again. And this time there was no one around to help. I had to just mad up and sort it out myself but at least I had a rough idea of what I had to do after Hercules had helped me before. Thank goodness that there were no cars around, because I don’t want to imagine how bad things could have gotten. Safe to say that for the rest of my drive back to town I drove like an UBERnana! I made it back safely, with no more incidents but I did drive past a car accident with a car flipped upside down, but luckily everyone involved was out of the car and safe. So pretty much moral of the story is that the roads in Zakynthos are insane and the cars and bikes are not equipped for wet weather. Would I hire a quadbike again? Heck yes! And I definitely would recommend it to anyone visiting Zakynthos because it is just about the only way to get around, especially if you want to visit the Shipwreck beach view because there is absolutely no other way to get there. I found some Souvlaki for dinner in town which was delightfully delicious and a very nice way to finish off my first day in Zakynthos.
The next morning, I was booked on a boat trip with Cruisemar to Marathonisi Island and Keri Caves with the big selling point of Loggerhead Turtle spotting. The company picked me up from the centre of Argassi along with some other customers and drove us to the town of Laganas where we boarded our boat, the Christina. We had barely left the port before we started spotting a Loggerhead turtle. Our guide provided us with lots of information about the turtles and their relationship to the island of Zakynthos, an island that they keep returning to, to lay their eggs after years and years. As soon as the guide spotted a turtle, everyone on the boat shifted to that one side, just about tipping the boat over. The turtles were very majestic and relaxed even whilst being bombarded by numerous tourist boats. They mainly remained under the water and only appeared above the surface for a split second before swimming back to the depths of the Ionian Sea.
After the turtles swam away we left the harbour for the Keri Caves on the South West Coast which are only accessible by water. The boat dropped anchor here and we were able to swim in the crystal clear water. I jumped on in with my snorkel and GoPro at the ready and enjoyed every second exploring the caves. I could have easily have been left behind I was having too much fun that when I briefly glanced back at the boat, just about everyone else was already back on board. The boat could cater to a total of 88 people but we had only 40-45 people on board which was nice. The group of people also created a lot of diversity, there were young families, young couples and older groups from a variety of countries including England, Poland and the Czech Republic.
From the Keri Caves we headed to Marathonisi Island, also known as turtle island, which actually even looks like a turtle. Unfortunately, at this time of year the majority of turtles have headed south towards Africa seeking warmer water. So this meant that there were not many turtles around to swim with, but we were very lucky to have seen them in the harbour. We docked near a small beach on the island with a few caves nearby and enjoyed another swim stop. The water was ridiculously clear and there were lots of fish around as well. Eventually the trip had to come to an end and we were taken back to the harbour and then driven back to the town centre of Argassi. It was a fabulous day trip that was well worth €12.
For the remainder of the afternoon I decided to wander to the nearby town, and also capital of the island, Zante town. The four-and-a-half-kilometre walk wasn’t exactly pedestrian friendly, walking on the road for the majority but it was a nice walk along the coast nonetheless. Along the way I found a beautiful pottery shop showcasing beautiful crockery and jewellery and I even had the opportunity to design a bracelet with the help from the owner and designer.
After a brief exploration in Zante town I headed back just past Argassi to the Essence of Anadalis restaurant. The seaside restaurant offered beautiful sweeping view over the ocean, with the Greek mainland in the distance as well as the town of Zante. Only opened in 2015, and a little way out of the city it was relatively quiet but it picked up as the night went on. I had an absolutely divine meal and impeccable service. I ordered the Crab Tortellini to be accompanied by a passionfruit cocktail and was served fresh bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar as well as fresh tomato pesto while I waited. It was absolutely amazing and I was also given a complimentary appetiser which to be honest with you I have no idea what it was but it tasted amazing. The service was very quick and before I knew it my main had arrived. It was incredible, I didn’t want it to end, the pasta was freshly made and the crab meat also fresh and locally sourced. I was in food heaven, one of the best meals I have ever had in my life! And it only set me back €20. I waddled my way back to my flat with my food baby and relaxed, preparing myself for my next day in the wonderful Zakynthos.
For my final full day in Zakynthos I booked another one of Cruisemar’s day trips. This one toured the Blue Caves on the North East Coast and the famous Shipwreck Beach, also known as Smugglers Cove or Navagio Beach for €20. I was again picked up from the town centre, this time however, we headed to Zante town port to board our boat, Spartacus. The capacity was 77 people but luckily we only had around 50. Most of the other customers were over the age of 40 and spoke Polish, so yet again I was the only Aussie and the only solo traveller. The Spartacus boat advertises that it is the only boat that can get you to Shipwreck in an hour, and it did just that. The beach is only accessible by boat and unfortunately it was already quite busy when we arrived. It would have been nice to see the beach quieter but you can’t have everything can you. We had one-hour to spend on the beach before heading to the Blue Caves. Now one-hour is barely anytime at all but it was still enough to get a quick look around and to snap some pictures. I climbed onto the famous Shipwreck which looked like it was falling to pieces and could give way at any second … sorry mum! But it was really cool to wander through and presented some great photo opportunities. I was a little concerned that quite a few young children were climbing over it since there was barely anything to hold onto and lots of sharp corners. I had a dip in the cove, the water was such a serene turquoise colour, I’d never seen water that colour before.
My one-hour in the cove flew by and before I knew it we were being called back to the boat and headed for the Blue Caves. I hadn’t been expecting too much from the Blue Caves, having seen the Keri Caves the previous day and visiting the Blue Grotto in Malta the previous month but I have to say my expectations were exceeded. The water was crystal clear and the cave formations were stunning. But what sold me most on it was the swim stop we had there. The water was the clearest out of everywhere I had been on the island and the snorkelling was great fun there with lots of fish.
The day flew by and we had to head back to Zante town after an incredible day around the island. The coach returned me to Argassi where I just relaxed in my flat on the terrace reading and also went for a brief swim at the local beach, but after having swam in so many incredible places, the beach just couldn’t live up to it. After such an incredible dinner the previous night at Anadalis, I decided to head back for seconds; it was after all my final night in Zante. The friendly staff remembered me from the previous night and even offered me my same table. It was tempting to order the Crab Tortellini again but I decided to try another one of their seafood meals. I ordered the Prawn Risotto, even though I’m not usually a big fan of risotto but I was very pleasantly surprised. Again I was served freshly baked bread with tomato pesto and olive oil and balsamic vinegar, I was even given another taster appetiser. Tonight the complimentary appetiser was different to the previous night, and even though the waiter explained what it was I barely paid any attention I was already hacking into it. And there were no complaints from me; yet another delicious meal. The risotto shortly followed and, my goodness it was exquisite. The prawns were perfectly cooked and the dish just got better and better with every bite. I enjoyed my meal with not one, but two sneaky glasses of Rose which went down a treat. After sorting the bill, again only €20, the staff further exceeded my expectations and gave me a complimentary glass of dessert wine. Safe to say I will be returning to this restaurant and recommending it to everyone who visits Zakynthos. It was definitely one of the many highlights of my trip.
I rolled myself home, my stomach completely full and me a very happy chappy. And before I knew it I was heading back to the airport, driven by my wonderful Airbnb hostess after one of the best trips of my life! Zakynthos, I will be back!