We visited Zakynthos during late February in a three-day meeting with all the 4 seasons of the island. Indeed, we saw the winter face on the first day, on the boat from Killini, we enjoyed the spring with the blooming fields, we swam like in the summer in Korakonisi on the third day and shone in Keri and Plakes. Last, during an autumn night, we enjoyed a beautiful lamb in the last evening at Portokali.
Zakynthos was the most pleasant surprise of this winter, I can say. I was there when I was young and all I remembered was only the touristic part. This time, however, to my surprise, I discovered a wonderful place with wonderful people, life and authenticity, great local products and stunning natural beauty. Villages with life, beautiful places, everyday life simple and beautiful to the point of envy. Within 3 days I managed to see most of the island and enjoyed wonderful moments with wonderful people. But I would like three months, not days, to stay there and enjoy everything. I only got a solid installment for this beautiful place with a promise to come back there sometime and I wish this moment was soon.
Through this beautiful weekend, we created a mini guide to enjoy the treasures of this wonderful island and prompt you to visit it soon and why not months except summer is more authentic.
Zakynthos is like a big museum of beaches, so many amazing choices. From the most famous beach of the island, the Navagio (shipwreck), that you can easily by boat, to the beach of Laganas. Ionian island with crystal clear waters and options to swim a pile. But we love Korakonisi with its natural beauty, Plakes (local secret) in Marathias and Volimes.
What made us a big impression is the villages, mainly in the western part of the island. So beautiful, traditional, with beautiful people. Each one of them is Keri, Koiliomenos, the village of Exo Chora, Maries, Gyri and the village of Anafonitria, where there is the monastery (you must visit it) and where Saint Dionysios stayed.
Wonderful food everywhere! Really, delicious recipes, delicious ingredients, everywhere. From spaghetti with roast chicken in Varkarola, to traditional finger food snacks at Ampelostrates in the village of Koilimenos (surprisingly fresh eggs with sausage), to stuffed ravioli in Portokali. Depending on your appetite, you will have at least 2-3 options to enjoy great food.
We were a bit unlucky, however, because we could not eat in the Courtyard of Flavors, a courtyard full of good critics.
Portokali (bar restaurant)
A word and a shop affiliated with the most beautiful man on the island, Eleni Tourkaki. The unique hospitality and the boutique just show the romance that offers you generously. The decoration of the space, created with such passion and love, takes you to a scene from a film for young and old, romantic. A place filled with positive energy, tranquility, handmade constructions, hospitality to the most beautiful extent and flooded with flavors and aromas. Its garden (must - since we visited it in February) is the ultimate escape to another parallel and magical universe.
With those who talk about Zakynthos, they will tell you Helen and Orange, who made a special impression before visiting the island, but now I know why. He is a separate man, a separate place. And as people know their places.
Wine, with local varieties of Augustiatis, Pavlos and Goustolidi. The wineries of Solomos and Grammas stand out. It was definitely a taste of Goustolidi from both wineries and of course their sweet wine from the red variety Avgoustitis. In recent years a great effort has been made to promote other older local varieties, and with the help of technology, you will now also meet Red, Verdea and Black Robolas.
Ladotiri of Zakynthos. Ladotiri (or you may hear it like "local"), is a soft cheese placed in clay pots and left to mature in olive oil. As time passes, the cheese hardens and gets a characteristic spicy flavor that in combination with the effect of the oil is a tasting challenge. Its production begins in Spring with milk from sheep that graze freely. In Zakynthos, a recipe is served with a ragout rabbit and ladotiri, a recipe that is also made with chicken or pork. You can try and buy for the Sunday pies with the greens you want to make from either the Bastas cheese farm in the village of Agios Leontas or the Korinas farm. Exceptionally both.
Also, Zakynthos has a large production of olive oil, with a large quantity of it being exported. Also known product is of course the mantled with history from the Venetian era. You will also find honey, water onions or mpelousiotiko due to its production area and in a small amount and depend on the year the raising of Zakynthos.
You can admire the beauty of Zakynthian countryside by horse riding in the area of Marathia. Discover the island by bike, especially the route from the south to the north of the island on the west side is unique but we would suggest you have time to make the island's cycle. The round of the island for sure! , with a boat or if you have the knowledge of renting a boat. You will discover small creeks, caves in the sea, private beaches. You will dive into the caves of Keri, in Marathonisi, in the Blue Caves. You will swim in blue waters (Shipwreck/Navagio), and if you are lucky you will be accompanied by dolphins and sea turtles.
What we loved
The sunrise from Bochali and the Venetian castle. We fell in love with the sun rising from the sea and see how is filling the sky and the city of Zakynthos with colors. The route to Vassilikos and the route to the western part of the island to get to the path to look at the Shipwreck/Navagio, of particular natural beauty. The view of the Shipwreck/Navagio from above, but caution because the view can cause vertigo to keep safe distances. Food at Vineyards of Ampelostrates, coffee in the Nitzi coffeehouse, Korakonisi (beach) and the extraordinary hospitality of Eleni with Panino Cafe's morning coffee, Vangelis with the amazing croissants!
More generally the people of the island, they hosted us and welcomed us in a unique way, simplistic and authentic. And finally, good food and delicious local produce, especially wine and cheese.