Greece, Zakynthos & Santorini

Welcome to Zakynthos

Zakynthos is an Island off the south western peninsula of Greece in the Ionian cluster of islands. It is roughly 20km wide by 40 km long with a population of just over 40,000 of the friendliest island peoples you’ve ever met! The locals on the island are really used to having their island flooded with tourists in the summer and love having us. The owner of the corner store down the road from my accommodation that I frequented everyday for beer and snacks, chatted me up on my first stop in and was genuinely interested on where I came from and what I was doing. He even remembered my name from our very first chat and greeted me every time I popped in. My first impressions of Zakynthos and still my impression today of Zakynthos island is that it’s the closest resembling thing to Thailand that Europe has to offer. Full of travelling Aussies, British and all sorts, people flock to this island because of Greece’s very loose drinking age laws. There is no legal drinking age at all in private residences, but the official law on age limit for entering a bar or nightclub is 18, however this is not enforced whatsoever. So be careful dragging home a drunken stray from the clubs at night. Whether you are a guy or gal, it may be best to ask for ID!

If you have come to Zakynthos island to party, then I recommend you stay in the main town of Laganas. They have a long main strip of bars and clubs on a road called Laganas road. It is an awesome time.

Greece has excellent seafood and of course Greek dishes such as Moussaka, Grilled meats, fresh grilled whole fish, Courgette balls, Baklava, and of course Feta and cheese salads. Oh, and can’t forget to pick yourself up a Gyro on your stumble home from the bars in the evenings.

Zakynthos is home to the Instagram famous Navagio beach, better known as shipwreck cove, that boasts an amazing cliff top view of bright blue waters and a white sand cove inlet with a shipwrecked boat right up on the white sands. The tail of the shipwreck is, back in 1980 smugglers were weathering strong winds and rough seas with poor visibility to get their precious merchandise of booze, cigarettes and women to their destination when they shipwreck their cargo boat into this cove where it has stayed since.

There are a few ways to get to this beach from the main town of Laganas. One, you will have to take a tour bus which only runs two days of the week. Don’t do what I did and assume they run every day, because they don’t! Or two, rent a scooter for about 15 euros per day. It’s about a 50-minute drive from Laganos to Zante. A taxi will cost you 80 Euros one way. So that’s pricy. When I discovered I couldn’t jump on a tour bus for another 2 days, I decided to go rent a scooter. But upon arriving at the scooter rental place, they discovered that I did not possess an international driver license which they were very sticky on. They told me that the police regularly enforce this law and it is a must. So stupid of me not to have acquired one before I had went considering they only cost about 90 dollars CAD and are good for up to ten years. I highly recommend that you just go ahead and get one. The whole process was done online, I took my own picture and it came in the mail about 3 weeks later. Anyways so after this next roadblock it was onto plan #3! Walk down the main strip of Laganas and start chatting up locals. I ended up chatting with a guy named George from Bulgaria. He spent his summers on Zakynthos and winters in Bulgaria. We made friends and shared a coffee together and he offered to take me for a personal tour around the entire island and spend the entire day with me for 100 Euros. I excitedly accepted this offer. We hoped on his scooter and drove to his house where we picked up his S2000 convertible and off we went. He took me to places such as Alikanas and Agios Nikolaos, two quite little Beach towns, and then to Navagio look out point which was well worth the rough morning trying to figure everything out. You must just sit there and take in all the beauty for a while on this once in a lifetime experience.

There are two main things you need to know about going to shipwrecked cove. You cannot get from the beach to the look out point on top or vice versa. You must pick a day trip of one or the other. The cliff face is 656ft or 200 meters high with no staircase, rope ladder, elevator or any such transportation device. Well high enough to base jump off. And people have done it. There are videos online definitely worth checking out.

George then took me to one of his friend’s restaurants and we had a few beers and an excellent spread of seafood and shared great conversations about our upbringings and life in our countries. One of my countless reasons I encourage everyone to travel alone and chat up locals. It gives you the chance to really get to know people one on one in a way you never would if you had a group of travelling companions. George and I still talk on FB every now and then, we have formed an international friendship for life.

Welcome to Santorini

Santorini is a lover’s romantic paradise boasting white Cycladic houses along reddish brown cliffs down to an amazing view of the Mediterranean, Aegaeon sea on the west side. And on the East side slopes down to coarse grain sand beaches with a multitude of colors. Santorini is the largest island of a small, circular archipelago, which bears the same name as a remnant of a volcano caldera. It forms the southmost member of the Cyclades group of islands with an area approximately 73km squared and just over 15000 people.

There are quite a few main areas of the island all with a slightly different twist and feel. If you want the classic cliff side villas, which you should to get the classic Santorini experience, then stay in either Oia or Thira.

Thira or as its sometimes spelled Fira, is the main town on the west center of the island, with white cliff side houses and is, generally busy, packed and touristy. But that is okay, because the whole island is tourists. Accommodations are all packed in like sardines, but they do a surprisingly good job of positioning them all down the cliff front, therefor making it feel secluded once you are on your balcony. Accommodations in Thera are very expensive, probably the most expensive on the whole island due to the central location.

Imerovigli is just North of Thira. One of the most gorgeous 15-minute walks north you will ever take. Imerovigli is more relaxed and a bit more secluded. This is where I stayed due to reasonably priced accommodations. I had got an entire two-story private bungalow style apartment for $180/night CAD. Apone arriving I realized why it was such a better price than the others, because I was about a 10 minute walk from anything at all. But that was okay by me.

Oia is supposed to be the lovers slow paced retreat but is also similar to Thira. It is quite packed full of tourists and is located at the very North western tip of the island. Probably about an hour walk from Imerovigli. But same great feel as Thira just a little slower paced with a nice beach you can go down to.

The local public buses I found to be quite confusing to figure out. The bus stop signs are hard to find, and they are generally packed. But this is one of the only ways to get around unless you rent a scooter, or 4-wheeler. Taxis are also hard to come by unless you poses a Greek phone and are able to call them yourself. They are also a tad expensive. There will be plenty of taxis waiting at the airport to take you to your resort and vice versa you can have your resort call you a taxi in order to take you to the airport. But to just waive a taxi down while walking on the street, will be quite hard to do.

Id highly recommend renting a scooter or ATV and spend a full day driving around the island and checking out all the sights. But be careful on the roads, Greek drivers drive crazy fast around blind corners. Especially if walking there is quite often no walking shoulder and you must walk on the road around blind corners. Just take caution. I found it to be quite dangerous.

Other places to check out are Akrotiri with Black Beach hosting black volcanic sand, Red beach and also white beach all with in 10km of each other they have different colored and feeling sands. Then Agios and on to Kamari Beach. With a little town Emporio in the middle of all of those.

All the locals of Greece are so friendly and are more than happy to help you with whatever you need. But remember one thing while on and Greek Island, you are not supposed to flush any toilet paper down the toilet. Their septic systems are not set up for this and you WILL back up the toilet. Just use the trash cans provided and most resorts will clean your bathroom twice per day. So yes, it is strange for us Westerners but it is essential for them.

Greece

Landscape 10/10

Food 7/10

Price $$$$$

Alcohol Price $$$$

Locals- super friendly and all speak English.

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