We are our best selves when travelling. Some of my all time favourite memories are of travels we have had as a couple and as a family. Zakynthos, Greece added to those memories by the bucket. It was a perfect destination to escape to for a long weekend as a family. The weather was hot but not too hot, the location was central and easy to get to, the food was delicious, the activities plentiful and the cost reasonable – here’s what we got up to…..
We left from Birmingham Airport at 7:05am and after a 3.5 hour flight arrived in Zakynthos just before lunch (as Greece is 2 hours ahead). A quick 10 min taxi ride had us at our destination Hotel Papillion in Argassi. In less than an hour from landing we were pool side sipping on cocktails what more could you want!
Flights were around £500 return and the hotel was roughly £400 for bed and breakfast, we spent around £250 there so all in all the 4 day break came in around £1200 – we ate out for almost every meal and went on a half day excursion.
Hotel Papillion was perfect for us. The two bed apartment we stayed in had a small kitchenette with everything you could need. The two bedrooms meant Annabelle could have her own room – complete with provided travel cot. The balcony meant we could enjoy ‘us’ time watching the sunset after Annabelle had gone to bed. The pool was amazing. There was a small play area that Annabelle loved and meant we could sunbathe while she entertained herself. The poolside bar/restaurant was reasonably priced and was an easy go to for a quick snack or drink. And the location in Argassi was exactly what we needed, central but in a quiet back street.
Argassi itself really worked as a destination for us. Zakynthos is well known for being home to Zante – a party town- but we went for a quieter, family friendly location. Argassi is close to the airport which meant we didn’t have to get a tired toddler too much further after we arrived. Fairly small and easy to walk around – which is great for us as our natural tendency is to every part of where we are staying no matter the size! It’s also full of restaurants, shops and a good selection of bars. We didn’t get to try anywhere near enough restaurants, sadly, but every meal we had was a great one.
Highlights for us included; Gyropolis, SYRTAKI, Papillion Restaurant (not part of the hotel).
There were also a number of travel shops offering day tours to other parts of the island, to other parts of Greece or half day trips to see Turtle Island- an excursion we did and really recommend. We had also planned to visit Shipwreck beach – a famous part of Zakynthos but weather meant the northern part had rough seas so it wasn’t advised. In addition the trip is a few hours by boat and we didn’t think a 14 month old would appreciate being confined for that long.
The Turtle Island trip goes morning or afternoon and is for 3.5 hours. We were picked up by coach on the main street in Argassi and transferred to the port where the boat met us. There were about 30 people on our small glass bottom boat so it wasn’t overly busy. The first part of the trip involved circling around the bay spotting turtles, when our first outing proved fruitless we were taken towards the Keri caves. Here we dived off the boat into warm, turquoise sea and enjoyed the view. After the refreshing dip it was on to Marathonisis Island or Turtle Island.
Turtles nest on the island and can be spotted in the sea surrounding it all year. We docked in the water by a quiet beach surrounded by more caves. Utilising a rubber ring that the boat had we were able to swim Annabelle into the caves without her getting too wet. The sea was so calm, so warm and so transparent it was an incredible experience. Thankfully Laura had thought to pack Annabelle as snack so she was stuffing her face while we enjoyed the moment. It was breathtaking.
After a quick rest on the beach it was back to the boat and another circle of the bay. This time we saw 4 or 5 different turtles. As they come up for air every 7-10 minutes it was a surreal game of peek-a-boo. As the boat was small it was able to follow the turtles without disturbing them. We circled for 30 or so minutes and it was enthralling. Definitely worth doing if you visit!
We loved how friendly everyone was on the island. Every restaurant had high chairs and staff that were ready and willing to entertain Annabelle. Papillion Restaurant even had a gated play area that Annabelle LOVED. We were impressed at how thoughtful the staff were, they even gave Annabelle a shot of juice after our meal.
In fact everyone we met was so kind and friendly. Our hotel receptionist especially was amazing. Super friendly, super helpful and ready with advice on what to do as a family on our trip. She even mentioned how all the local children met in Zante square in the evening to play. We knew Annabelle’s 7pm bedtime would mean we would miss it but we took her advice to check out Zante.
Zante was a lovely, Greek town with a mix of old and new buildings. We were more interested in the old but the mix made for interesting streets to explore. Walking along the sea front you could get a sense of the towns history as a busy port. The spacious square was a meeting point and even though there was nothing happening when we were there we still met children playing and enjoyed the atmosphere of the restaurants and bars surrounding it.
We took a bus to Zante and a taxi back. The bus was €1.60 each (Annabelle was free) and the taxi back was €8.
We came back thoroughly relaxed, the trip had been easy. Annabelle had enjoyed her freedom, we enjoyed the weather and the food and the time as a family was priceless. We used to plan our trips in advance and turning up and going with the flow is new to us but when you discover places like Zakynthos you realise that some times having no plans helps you make the most of a place.
Have you been to Zakynthos? Is there anything you recommend seeing?