As you leave the green plain on the south side of the Greek island of Zakynthos, the land rises into dry, mountainous terrain that makes up the northern half of the island. The road snakes through scrub and low pine trees, rising gradually higher, until you reach the top and start descending towards the rocky cliffs of the northern shore.
My Greek niece Sophia had promised to show us one of her favorite swimming spots at Porto Limnionas. We follow her car through the mountain villages with old stone built houses that survived the 1953 earthquake and down narrow tracks fringed with brown waving grasses. The ground is too rocky for the olive trees to grow here and the low pines are blackened from last August’s forest fire. It feels so remote that we’d never find this place on our own yet as the sea and cliffs come into view we arrive in the middle of nowhere at a packed car park in front of a taverna.
We walk down and see a finger of narrow inlet with limestone cliffs, where the sea is intense turquoise, broken up by patches of darker blue, where seaweed clothes the bottom. Overlooking this protected inlet are terraces with sunbeds shaded by rush-covered sunshades and the odd pine bush stunted by the wind. Down below a path has been made with steps down to the sea and a flat platform of the rocks that make a terrace to jump into the water. My daughter and her friends are already in the water, making a circle of bobbing heads that rise and fall with the swell.
It’s a windy day and Sophie calls to warn me to swim well away from the rocks as I jump in. I launch myself off the rocks and the salt water wooshes up my nose, making me splutter – it’s either sink or swim here – nothing in between, no sandy shallows to lie in. I can see people with masks and snorkels exploring around the rocks and sea caves on the far side of the inlet and some are even clambering up the rocks and jumping from the top of the cliffs. To get out is a little more tricky than to jump in as the wind is up and the swell is crashing over the rocks where I entered and then sucking the water back. I choose my moment and grab a short piece of tree stump to haul myself out.
We settle on our sun loungers, the girls in the sun, me in the shade, to watch the water in the cove frothing white over the rocks. The crickets in the pines are chirping away loudly, I turn my head to see one on the side of the pine tree and it returns the attention by flying into my hair. I comment on how noisy the crickets seem but Sophia tells me that the Greeks consider the sound of crickets soothing, “When we hear the crickets, we know that summer has come” she says. We go up to the café and sit on the shady terrace, drinking iced tea and eating Greek salad and chips but Sophia has oven-roasted pork – the Greeks like to eat their main meal at lunchtime. After we’ve finished the waiters bring us a mixed plate of melon – watermelon red and cantaloupe green and we take it down to eat overlooking the sea. I try to soak up all the warmth of the sun, the turquoise water frothing white over the rocks and the scent of pine and oregano as a memory in the bank for when I get back to Bristol.
Taverna Porto Limnionas, near Agios Leon, Zakynthos, Greece. Tel 26957 72072
If you want to seek out the hidden spots like Porto Limnionas where the tourists don’t normally go, then you will need to hire a car and we booked ours through the Car Hire comparison search engine, Carrentals.co.uk that enables you to search for the best car hire deals on-line.
More places to swim on Zakynthos
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