Zante’s reputation as a Brits abroad hub is understandable. With the introduction of affordable air fares, cheap holidays to the Greek Islands have become increasingly popular over the years. Understandably local residents have cashed in – investing heavily in tourist infrastructure. For Zante that means Laganas strip and its 5km of bars, restaurants, clubs and fast food shops as well as accommodation options and setups in other parts of the island.
Head away from the urban sprawl north and the steady climb along winding roads affords travellers stunning views towards Cephalonia across an azure coloured Ionian Sea. Gazing down from atop cliff reveals a plethora of put ins – nooks and crannies just begging you to investigate via your sit on top kayak. A selection of beaches offer opportunities to launch, giving access to gin clear water and a myriad of sea caves to explore.
Having settled into your accommodation you put in off the manmade Peligoni Club slipway. Hang a left towards the obvious offshore island (reputedly Italian owned) adjacent to Agios Nikolaos. Navigate the circumference with perhaps a stop off for refreshments in the village.
Continue in the direction of Cephalonia, traversing Zante’s sheer coastline, and you’ll eventually come across the Blue Caves – so called because of the stunning water colour lying at the base of an extensive cave network. Etched into rock after years of storms and weathering, the Blue Caves are perfect for exploring by sit on top kayak. Just make sure you stay out of the way of sightseeing boat tours with helmsman who have no regard for rules of the road!
For the adventurous it’s possible to carry on navigating towards Shipwreck Bay. Another fabulous location; given its name because of the hulking rusty wreck that’s come to rest on the white sand beach – Shipwreck Bay is absolutely stunning.
Access is tricky from shore – in fact nigh on impossible – hence the number of water craft buzzing around, especially during high season. The steep cliffs surrounding the beach are extremely vertical and as such it’s a huge draw for base jumpers who hurl themselves from the summit, only to parachute and land on the beach below. It’s a bit of a mission to get to by kayak and you’ll need at least a day to complete the trip. It’s also worth being aware of the summer thermal wind (Meltemi) which kicks in during afternoons and blows offshore. Getting caught out could spell disaster as the breeze pushes you away from land. Having a means of communication, such as mobile phone in waterproof pouch, is a good idea. If conditions are playing ball though it’s an epic journey and one you’ll never forget.
Some companies offer tours, complete with guide. This is usually the preferred option for most paddlers as getting your kit to the island, and transporting it once you’re there, can be difficult.
Heading back south and you have the tourist trap of Alikanas – a much quieter venue than Laganas, but still busy with a number hotels, B&Bs and tourist businesses. Here you’ll find a shallow shelving beach that offers mellow and easy going paddling. If the Meltemi summer thermal wind is blowing a few mushy waves may chuck up on the sand – just watch out for wind and kitesurfers if it’s huffing.
If you are tempted to head to Laganas then there’s a shallow put in with a couple of offshore islands to check out. Again be aware of the wind which can increase quickly and gust hard. Post kayaking session you’ll have abundant refreshment/après options – if this is your thing.
Zakynthos town serves up a few different put ins but you’ll have to watch out for the busy fishing fleet, numerous ferries, container ships and assorted maritime traffic. It’s worth having a mooch round the town though as there are points of interest and plenty of restaurants to choose from.
How to get there:
Fly into Zante International Airport (ZTH). The Peligoni Club, Blue Caves and Shipwreck Bay are located in the northern part of the island. A hire car is a must for exploring.
Peligoni Club offers plenty of onsite facilities including all watersports equipment, sun loungers and decking areas with waiting service, a fully stocked bar and restaurant with sea views, on water rescue boats, instruction and a varied programme of entertainment and evening shindigs.
If you’re choosing to go it alone then some hotels have kayaks for hire in the south or alternatively book yourself on a touring trip with ecozante.com and zanteblue.com
Transporting your own kit to Zante will be a hassle, and maybe impossible during high season. You’ll need to check carefully with your chosen airline regarding baggage restrictions. It will be a lot easier to sort yourself out once on the ground. Be aware that many of the northern spots are difficult to access from land with no immediate rescue services available – you’ll need to carry all your safety equipment in your boat.
Maritime boat traffic, rocky coastline with difficult access, strong winds (especially in high summer afternoons), the harsh Mediterranean sun and dehydration can all be problematic. If you’re planning on tackling any of the more remote spots be sure to have a contingency plan in place, just to be sure.
Ins and Outs:
Most of the southern tourist spots have easy put ins straight of the beach. As you head further north the coast becomes increasingly steep and rocky, although there are still plenty of beaches. Once past Agios Nikolaos it becomes much more difficult to put in and take out.
Shipwreck Bay offers beach landing, but there’s no way off the sand as the cliffs are too steep with no discernible pathway. The Blue Caves are vertical while the western coastline is extremely remote and wild with only a few access points.
If you’re staying at the Peligoni Club there’s a concrete slipway to launch from and you can easily land on the port’s beach for a breather.
The Ionian Sea is a mecca for holiday makers and watersports enthusiast alike. Zakynthos offers a diverse paddling experience with the on land Greek ambience as authentic or touristy as you care to make it.
Zante is a typically Greek island with many tourist trappings. A more authentic and rustic experience is available when you head away from busy centres. Get out of the main areas of hotels and bars and you’ll discover a wonderfully friendly island with plenty of charm and character.
Sit on top kayaking opportunities are extensive with everything from mellow sandy bottom beaches to epic and dreamy locations that’ll make you feel like you stepped onto a film set. The amazing vistas of Shipwreck Bay and the Blue Caves are in total contrast to put ins further south.
The coastline around the Peligoni Club offers amazing paddling opportunities. Agios Nikolaos, and its small offshore island, is great for circumnavigating and chilling out during the afternoon heat.
Mention Zante to Brits familiar with jetting off to the Greek island in summer and some will recount stories of Laganas strip: bangin’ tunes, burgers, booze and budget holidays in the sun. Zante (or Zakynthos – to give the island its proper name), offers so much more than the 5km sprawl of nightclubs, bars, discos, fast food outlets and holiday makers crammed in like sardines. In fact the northern region of Zante is particularly beautiful and home to the renowned Blue Caves and Shipwreck Bay – iconic spots perfect for kayak investigations.
The third largest of the Ionian Islands, Zante is nicknamed ‘the flower of the east’ and offers an extremely diverse coastline to discover. There are plenty of accommodation options on the island, with many hotels offering watersports hire (including sit on top kayaks). Our pick for seeking out the most beautiful (and tranquil) part of the island is the Peligoni Club.
Owned and run by Ben Shearer and family, Peligoni is a watersports beach club nestling on a craggy section of the island a few miles away from Agios Nikolaos – a quaint port where you’ll find traditional Greek family restaurants and sleepy sea views to while away the hours.
Peligoni Club works in partnership with a number of independent accommodation owners. Options are available for all budgets from contemporary villas, simple studios to boutique rooms – there’s something for everyone. This gives visitors the chance to immerse themselves in local culture as well as making use of the club’s facilities. Peligoni also offers the chance to indulge in its extensive watersports programme – including access to a significant fleet of sit on top kayaks.
Other companies offering kayaking, including tours of the Blue Caves, are ecozante.com and zanteblue.com – both worth checking out.
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