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Zakynthos in October
Like many couples with a new baby, we had chosen Majorca for our first holiday en famille: a short flight and everything reassuringly English made it a much less daunting prospect for new parents! But feeling more confident this year and keen to avoid the summer crowds, we decided to delay our holiday and go further afield. For empty beaches and guaranteed sunshine right through to the end of October your best bet is to head for the Greek islands.
We chose Zakynthos (sometimes called Zante), the most southerly of the Ionian island group which also includes Corfu and Cephalonia. Our flight left Gatwick at 7am and, thanks to a short transfer time on arrival, we were sipping chilled retsina in our villa by midday local time. This really got the holiday off to a great start as the last thing you want after a long flight is to spend another 2 hours in a hot hire car!. We were staying at Periali Villas in Vassilikos, ten self-catering villas set in olive grove gardens with a shared pool, bar/café, and creche for children aged 6months to 2 years(which Miranda, despite never having had any kind of childcare previously, really enjoyed). For us the best thing was the location close to the best beach on the island, Gerakas- a beautiful stretch of gently sloping sand, blissfully quiet at this time of year and, on most days, calm enough for Miranda to potter about safely on the edge while we sunbathed and relaxed.(On a couple of days the surf did get up and Tim had a great time catching the waves.) Zakynthos has many other great beaches, nearly all perfect for children. We particularly liked Dafni near Gerakas, and Keri in the south.
If you only have a week you’ll probably want to spend most of your time on the beach or at the pool, but there are some worthwhile trips if you have the energy. In the capital, Zakynthos Town, you’ll find some pretty arcades and cafes set out on palm –fringed squares, but sadly, a lot of the original architecture was destroyed in the earthquake of 1953. A must-do excursion is to the Blue Caves and Shipwreck Bay. We decided it was best to drive up to the north of the island and take a boat trip direct from there. The big boats which leave from the harbour in Zakynthos Town do a full tour around the island and you could end up being on the boat all day – eight hours on board is not ideal with an active toddler! Other sights of interest include the Castello, a huge ruined castle on the hills just outside Zakynthos Town, and the clifftop restaurant at Kampi, best viewed at sunset.
Eating out with children in Greece is incredibly easy, all restaurants have an outside terrace and most places are happy to let the kids wander around as they please. The food is pretty unmemorable but there are a few nice places: we liked the seafront restaurant at Porto Roma and the Gerakas beach restaurant. Periali offers an evening baby- sitting service so there’s even a chance for you to have some romantic dinners a deux- a great treat!
Most of the island of Zakynthos is very pretty, but there have been some horrendous developments. You’ll probably want to avoid Laganas ( a mile-long heaving strip of bars, clubs, burger joints etc) and Argassi which is (rightly or wrongly!) known locally as Aghastly! In short you need to stay in the Vasillikos peninsula which has all the best beaches and as yet remains pretty much unspoilt by development. We had a great 2 weeks of sun sea and fun, for a very reasonable price. It really pays to go out of season if you can.