If I mention the Greek island of Zante I’m pretty sure I’ve got a good idea of what springs into your mind. I was the same before I started researching venues for our wedding. Zante is famous for being a party island; a place where school leavers go to get pissed and do whatever school leavers do (I wouldn’t know as I never went on one of those raucous holidays)! Zante tends to make the headlines for all the wrong reasons, drunk Brit-kids spilling out of bars, quadbike accidents and General bad behaviour. However, this beautiful Ionian island deserves a lot more recognition than it gets credit for. The partying is pretty much exclusively contained within the town of Laganas in the south of the island, and the rest of Zante is largely unspoilt mountains, rural areas and stunning hidden beaches. There are a few main towns where you will find the regular tourist traps, but if you step outside the hotel-land and explore the island, trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Last time we were in Zante it was for our wedding (!) so when we returned this year we made it our mission to see more of this beautiful island and find out all of it’s secrets. Here are my top picks for a different kind of holiday on this paradise island.

Rent a motorboat and find your own turtles in Keri

Zante is all about the turtles. It’s famous for it and the popular beaches and harbours are packed full of ‘guaranteed turtle spotting trips’. You probably will see a turtle on one of these excursions however, they are generally large boats full of tourists so you are unlikely to get anywhere near the turtle, let alone get a photo of it. It’s much better, and not much more expensive, to take a short drive to the quiet southern harbour of Keri where you can rent a small motorboat of about 100 euroes. No experience needed, not even a driving licence! Apart from being an amazing experience and great fun, your chances of seeing a turtle are pretty high at the right time of year.  Once the boat is hired you can take it for a spin to the beautiful Keri caves and across to the famous ‘turtle island’ where the turtles lay their eggs (these are all roped off to make sure they are kept safe). For the best chance of seeing these amazing creatures we recommend heading to the opposite side of the bay to the caves, close to the Harmony Hotel and sticking close to the coastline (it’s deep so no worries about the boat!) just cruising up and down on the lookout! We saw about 5 turtles in this area and there was literally no one else there! We jumped in and snorkelled with the turtles without worrying about crowding or upsetting them with too many people. It was a truly magical experience.

 

Dine with the most stunning view in Kampi

The town of Kampi is set in the West of the island and is somewhat off the beaten track, but it’s famous for having several clifftop restaurants with the most incredible views! They get booked up in advance for evenings as the sunset there is apparently gorgeous, however we stopped there for lunch – kind of by accident during a drive! We ate at one of the clifftop venues and even in the daytime the view of the rugged coastline and the crystal clear blue water was absolutely incredible. The restaurants all serve traditional Greek dishes and are set up with stunning shaded outdoor areas to enjoy the view whilst tucking in!

 

See the famous ‘Shipwreck beach’ before the crowds

The incredible image of the rusty shell of a shipwreck washed up on the white sand is probably familiar one. In fact, Navagio or shipwreck beach is repeatedly included in roundups of the most picturesque beaches in the world! It’s definitely worth seeing, but going on a tour boat can lead to disappointment when you can’t get a picture without thousands of people crawling all over the place! I’m not exaggerating when I say that hundreds, if not thousands, of tourists pour on and off this beach all day. As it’s only accessible by boat, the first large tour comes in at about 9.30am – so to get the place to yourself you need to beat it! We were up at 7.30am and drove north for an hour to a small harbour called Porto Vromi where we hired a private boat to take us to the beach before everyone else! It does cost a bit more but as there was four of us the cost of 4 tickets on a tour boat would have been nearly as much as the fee for the private boat. It was so much fun because the boat went super fast and to get there when there was only a handful of people on the beach was simply amazing! The boat hire is also for 3 hours so after an hour of so at the beach our driver took us to some other beautiful swimming and to some of Zante’s famous ‘blue caves’. For a slightly higher cost it was more than worth it.

Eat traditional at hidden restaurants

One of the best things about holidaying in Greece is the delicious food! The authentic local meat, fish and vegetable dishes are simple and yummy, the more home cooked the better. Like anywhere, eating on the main tourist drags will likely result in disappointing meals which are neither authentic nor fresh. My main advice would be to check TripAdvisor and do not be afraid to stray a long way off the beaten track for an incredible meal! There are a lot of tavernas in Greece which are literally almost set up in someones back garden! A few evenings we ended up driving along rickety roads, following dubious directions to find a tiny authentic taverna! Eating at these types of restaurants not only guarantees awesome food, but are also much more reasonable too. I can particularly recommend Votsalo in Keri and Peppermint in Argassi.

Watch the sunset from a beach bed at Porto Roxa

Being perfectly situated on the West Coast means that Porto Roxa sees the most beautiful sunset, it’s famous for it. We new this tiny beach had a nice beach bar and a lovely setting to watch the sunset so we set off there (about an hours drive from Keri) in the mid afternoon. We were delighted and pleasantly surprised to find a gorgeous hippy beach bar serving yummy cocktails and allowing guests to relax on swinging mattresses rather than sunbeds! It may sound odd, but kicking back on a double bed with a mojito to watch the sun go down was incredibly relaxing. There are the traditional sunbeds too for those who want them, but the hanging beds were something different that I’ve never come across before! And the sunset was just….wow. Worth a visit.

Zakynthos will always hold a special place in my heart, but I truly believe it is an amazing holiday destination for couples, families, and has something for everyone! I hope if you decide to make the trip to this idyllic Ionion island that you find these top picks helpful! Have fun in paradise!

 

 

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  Body transformation journeys are extremely personal. I want to put this up, mainly because I am proud of my achievements so far and I want to continue to motivate myself and hold myself accountable for my results, however I am a bit nervous about posting pictures.

First thing to say: this is not a “weight loss” journey, which is why it is not named as such.  Weight loss has been a nice bio-product of me changing my lifestyle, hopefully for good. I have now been on this journey for 4 months, there have been ups, downs, alterations and compromises, but overall I am feeling like a new person.

I just want to point out that this is my journey, these are my views and my choices, I am in no way preaching as to who needs to lose weight or that certain things are good or bad. It’s how you feel that counts and I truly believe that.

Let’s rewind to December 2015. This was when I decided something needed to change. I was gaining weight and struggling to fit into my clothes and therefore struggling with confidence and self esteem. I was suffering with insomnia which has been an ongoing thing and most of all I was just feeling generally unfit and rubbish. Something had to give and I think a looming wedding was enough to push me to really change my lifestyle.

I hit the ground running. January 1st I joined a gym, I cut out carbs (completely) and began a totally “paleo” diet.  Essentially, all I was eating was meat, fish, eggs and nuts.  I started going to the gym 3 times a week for cardio and a bit of weight training. It was tough, but in the first 6 weeks I made a huge amount of progress and I found it motivating.

However, by month two I had plateaued. And I was miserable on the paleo diet! For me, it was just too restrictive. So Paul and I had a chat and decided that we would lax off slightly on the diet front.  We now eat our version of a “healthy” diet, only putting things in our body which are as natural as possible and free from artificial ingredients. We have reintroduced brown rice for example, and rarely a bit of wholemeal pasta. I have found this change really helped me to maintain the diet plan and stopped me from giving up.  I now love what we eat.

At this point I also wanted a shake up in my workout routine. I was getting bored and didn’t really know what I was doing! So Paul and I contacted a friend we used to work with who is a successful personal trainer who develops and sells body transformation work out plans.  Alex Crockford’s “She-Fit” programme costs £50 for an intense, 12 week gym and fitness programme which is sent to you in document form.  The programme requires 4 resistance workouts per week plus cardio and works in cycles so the workout changes every few weeks or so.  I am now 5 weeks into this programme and I can honestly say it’s changed the way I feel about the gym! I now look forward to getting up at 6am and sweating it out for an hour!

 

So this is where I’m at now, 4 months in. I’m really pleased with my achievements and I’m proud of myself. I’ve lost a dress size and 2 stone but it’s more about what I’ve gained that I’m so pleased with. I’ve gained confidence, a low of exercise rather than a dread of it, a healthier and more positive outlook on life. I’d even go as far as to say that I’ve seen a reduction in anxiety and I’m sleeping better.  I know making changes like these won’t solve all problems, but I’ve certainly seen many of mine improve drastically. I would recommend a lifestyle change to anyone, even if it’s just baby steps.

Let’s see where the next 4 months takes me!

xox