It’s off to the Greek island of Zakynthos or Zante for our week in the sun, just me, my teenage kids and four of my 17 year old daughter’s friends. The flight out of Bristol is buzzing and the average age must be around 20. This is the week in July when exams have finished, the students are out and most school holidays haven’t yet started – it must be time to party!
A few of the groups have the team t-shirts, although not quite so many as I saw last time at the airport, but it’s definitely groups of lads and lasses off for their holiday in their sun, most of them probably headed for Laganas, the party capital of Zante. The group of lads behind me provide entertaining banter throughout the flight, mostly about drinking tales and the missus they’ve left behind. I catch a drifting conversation about Bombay Sapphire and West Country cider (but hopefully not together).
Our female captain, sounding a bit like the stern headmistress these kids have not long left behind, can barely make herself heard above the chatter. She asks us to keep the noise down for the safety briefing, “We love high spirits, ladies and gentlemen, but it’s for your benefit,” she tells us sternly and the noise level drops a little. We sit for a while on the runway as the pilot explains the delay is due to airport restrictions in Zante – small airport, busy day for flights, limited parking on the runway. Then there’s a roar of approval as we suddenly start to move.
A few seats ahead are a group of lovelies and I can see a pink flamingo and a palm tree on someone’s sunglasses peeping above the blonde heads. I study the array of coloured finger nails and conclude that blue is this year’s fashion colour, anything from baby blue to sparkly turquoise, while fluorescent orange is a close contender. Behind me the banter continues – “my mate said Thailand is great but don’t waste your time on India.” A faint smell of alcohol and farts wafts over me. “I need a piss” says his friend just as we’ve taken off and I resist the mother’s impulse to turn round and say “why didn’t you go in the airport?’
As we get into the flight, things are hotting up. The girls are standing up in small groups, pink drinks in hand as if they were hanging around the bar. The guys in baseball caps are cruising up and down the aisle, holding cans of Stella, looking for action. A few have come dressed as pirates, one with a red tricorn hat and lime green sun glasses and the girls are capturing the moment on their mobiles.
Three hours of drinks and duty free later, we’re nearly there and the Captain makes a long, convoluted announcement that sounds like bad news. Something about incredibly busy airport, no room to land, racing track holding patterns, but when she finally gets to the punchline it’s only a 6 minute delay. “Cabin crew 10 minutes to landing” and the plane descends low over Laganas beach. The lads behind me are thrilled at the sight of the beach and even more so when I tell them that’s Laganas where they’re staying. “Look, there’s even a football pitch!” says one of them. Somehow I forget to tell them it’s one of the foremost nesting sites on the island for the increasingly rare Caretta Caretta turtle.
The plan’s touchdown is greeted with whoops and whistles. The doors open and a wall of warm air hits us; Zakynthos is experiencing a heatwave and we love it. For the party crowd I can predict it’ll be a week of nights cruising the bars and clubs on the Laganas strip, with mornings sleeping it off, a bacon roll for breakfast and afternoons on the sunlounger by the pool or on the beach. Welcome to Zakynthos!
More things to enjoy on Zakynthos
Visitor information for Zakynthos
If you’re looking for a party atmosphere and lively nightlife then Laganas will be the place for you, but if you want a quieter, more authentic Greek experience then I can recommend the following places to look for accommodation;
Argassi – Windmill Studios and Windmill Bay hotels are family run hotels suitable for all ages, right by the sea and are owned and run by my sister Jenny Kladis and her husband Denis Kladis. You can book holidays at Windmill Hotel and Windmill Studios through leading tour operators or by contacting Jenny directly through her website.
Gerakas/Vassilikos – The Vassilikos area is where you’ll find plenty of self-catering apartments and villas close to beautiful beaches including the protected turtle nesting beach at Gerakas where you can visit the Earth, Sea, Sky Turtle information centre. Yannis Vardakastanis who runs the information centre is a leading turtle conservationist on the island and also runs a holiday accommodation company in the local area through Ionian Eco Villagers, so do contact him if you’d like to find accommodation in the Gerkas/Vassilikos area.
Agios Sostis – This quiet, pretty area with a beach and small port is just around the bay from Laganas but a world away from the packed strip and busy nightlife. Here you’ll find family run restaurants and cafes and apartments that are set up in the olive groves that are ideal for families or for people who like to relax in the day, but walk around to Laganas to dip into the nightlife. I recommend SunshineZante.com who specialise in locally owned holiday apartments and villas in Agios Sostis.
If you like to get out and about, try different beaches and explore some of the other interesting things that Zante has to offer, then you will need to hire a car and I can recommend using a Car Hire comparison search engine such as Carrentals.co.uk to search for the best car hire deals on-line then pick up your car at Zakynthos airport.
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