Zakynthos is best seen through the lens of its locals. That’s why, the best advice toward travelling this Greek Ionian Island is to find that local and let them show you their island.
Here is my local – Dimitri Therianos – an organic farmer and champion of ecotourism.
I engaged with Dimitri on AirBnB when I was desperate to travel to Zakynthos but had no idea where to start. The Greek Islands are often intimidating when you are trying to organise your travel of them on your own. He and his family offer four villas in their hometown of Kalithea but because I was only one…he organised for me, a one bedroom in the family home.
That there…was one of the first things I learned through my Zante experience. Don’t stop at the ‘face-value’ of the listings on AirBnB… not only in Greece, but anywhere.The site is geared towards interaction between users and hosts… make the most of it.
ARRIVING AT ZAKYNTHOS
When arriving at Zakynthos (Zante), organise a pick-up. I was greeted by the smile, laugh and broken english of Dimitri. He drove me towards the heart of the island: Kalithea. I was given a private tour of the island right from the start.
BECOME PART OF THE FAMILY
Kalithea is a village in the heart of Zakynthos with a population of just over 200. It boasts nearly more tractors than cars.When I arrived at the Therianos’ family home, I was greeted by my temporary Mama. She spoke no english and immediately taught me lack of language is no barrier to formation of a relationship.
EMBRACING GREEK LIFESTYLE
In Kalithea I learned about the growth and production of olive oil. To the Therianos family, olive oil is the answer to everything. And when travelling, it’s important to adopt the customs and habits of those around you. It’ll give you a glimpse of how they really live.
If you have the flexibility, travel to Zakynthos at a time when there is a festival or a celebration. The first night I spent on the island fell on the celebration day of St. Dionysios of Zakynthos. The island came alive with festival spirit, as the church celebrated the transferring of the monks’ holy relics.
KNOW WHERE TO GO
Living like a local (and with locals) in Zakynthos opens you up to the possibilities of experiencing the very best hidden spots the island has to offer.
Zakynthos boasts the most incredible coastline. But that’s not all.
Making your way to each beach is far more educational when you’re with a local family. With greek radio blaring, the windy roads around Zakynthos are best travelled in good company. Traditional (often) non-english speaking tavernas also dot the villages.