Zakynthos is an island of certain extremes: beauty and crass, mass tourism of the worst sort. The islands – like all the Ionian islands is lush and verdant and boasts the now famous ‘shipwreck beach’ (Navagio) that many seek to travel to and swim at. Yes, it’s worth it and numerous excursion boats make the run from ports on the west side of the island. Environmentalists and capitalists clash daggers at Laganas where the mass tourism trade is carried out to the detriment of the Caretta Caretta, or loggerhead turtle that loves the beach as much as British tourists on a binge. Read this page for the background. There is an alternative scene to Laganas at Vasilikos over to the east, but it is much more low-key and less busy.
Thank you for putting together such a great site. My husband and I are planning a trip to the Islands in May – neither of us have been and, honestly, have no idea where to even start putting together an itinerary. We have at least 14 nights to spend there (and may be able to push that to 17). I’m in my early 30s, my husband’s in his early 40s. Our priorities are culture and history, swimming, beautiful views, nice towns, and food and drink. We’re not interested in clubbing at all, but more laid-back late night bars definitely appeal. This is probably our one big holiday this year so while the budget is more mid-range than sky-high, we can push it a bit for the right places or experiences. We’re happy to take in quite a few islands, or with a mix of longer and shorter stays.
I think Naxos would be the best island for you: incredible beaches, wonderful villages, great restaurants, and some very good hotels (though I don’t think I’d go so far as to call them hip – but nice, for sure). The farther south you go from Naxos Town the quieter the beaches get – so keep going to find the balance you prefer. If you want an island with a little more hip but beaches not quite as perfect then try Paros. If you want to err on the quieter and idyllic side then Antiparos or Ikaria.
The other groups are best tackled individually. For example, the Ionians have no ferry connections to the rest of the Greek islands; the same story with the Sporades and the Argo-Saronics. The NE Aegean islands do have a link to the Dodecanese and the Cyclades but are probably best left for another trip once you have got the feel of the rhythm of the Greek islands.
Zakynthos is an island of certain extremes: beauty and crass, mass tourism of the worst sort. The islands – like all the Ionian islands is lush and verdant and boasts the now famous ‘shipwreck beach’ (Navagio) that many seek to travel to and swim at. Yes, it’s worth it and numerous excursion boats make the run from ports on the west side of the island. Environmentalists and capitalists clash daggers at Laganas where the mass tourism trade is carried out to the detriment of the Caretta Caretta, or loggerhead turtle that loves the beach as much as British tourists on a binge. Read this page for the background. There is an alternative scene to Laganas at Vasilikos over to the east, but it is much more low-key and less busy.
This quiet island is waking up. Luxe boutique Zemi Beach House recently opened with classic details and a laid-back vibe that call to the local natural beauty of Shoal Bay East beach. On Merrywing Bay next to sister property CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa, The Reef by CuisinArt recently unveiled 80 new suites. Here, farm-to-table fare means local fish and fresh produce from the on-site Hydroponic Farm. The Four Seasons Resort and Residences Anguilla took over the former Viceroy Anguilla with villas that overlook white-sand beaches and the rugged coral coastline.
Argostoli is the capital on the mid-west flank of the island and is not really a destination itself, that moniker falling to the contiguous beach scene running from Lourdata south eastward to Skala. While development might have caught up here by now, it should still be a pleasant beach scene and focus for a relaxing stay. The Melissani Cave on the east coast is a must attraction and while it can be visited on a day excursion from anywhere on Kefallonia the two villages or Agia Efthymia and Poros are low-key ‘resorts’ pulling in a regular crowd of travellers and may warrant a look-in. The port of Pesada (just west of Lourdata) is the home of the local ferry to Zakynthos (Zante).
These groups are generally better connected among themselves than with other groups, so you are probably better advised to target them on this basis. As it’s your first time to Greece, you may want the full-on Greek island experience and you could easily fill your five weeks flitting from one island to the other in the Cyclades. You could start in Kea and work your way down to Milos via Kythnos, Serifos and Sifnos then segue to Paros and Naxos. Dip down to Santorini, up to Mykonos and back to Piraeus. The map will also show plenty of other Cyclades islands to pick and choose from such as Ios, Sikinos, Folegandros, Amorgos, Syros, Tinos and Andros – yes! too many choices, but you will find that sticking to one group it will be easier to get between them. Realistically for a period of five weeks you will not want to be doing more than 6-8 islands.
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