The Ionian island of Zakynthos – also known as Zante – might be a renowned party destination, but there are plenty of places to cure your hangover, enjoy nature or indulge in a spa treatment.
Ever since the Greek god Apollo, god of healing, cast his light over the island, Zakynthos has been a prime wellness destination. Today there are plenty of options for anyone in search of rest and relaxation. Whether you’re seeking active therapy, need some spiritual healing or just a place to escape and unwind, you’re sure to find it here.
Greeting the sunset in a cobra pose or hailing the sunrise from a tree pose is a great way to tune into this idyllic Ionian Island’s spiritual vibes. With Zante Fitness and Yoga Retreats, you can align your chakras with one of the yoga classes or get an energy boost at an intensive boot camp – if you really need to pump some adrenaline, try the six-day Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Camp.
If you prefer to go it alone, grab a mat, hire a board and head for the wilder northern half of the island for a spot of stand-up paddleboard (SUP) yoga.
After a night partying at one of the island’s clubs, what better than filling your lungs with sea air as you hike a warren of paths – and maybe even make the acquaintance of some local goats.
For an easy climb, head for the plateau of Iperagathos, set in a level plain surrounded by olive groves and vineyards, to see the 17th-century Iperagathos monastery. If you’re seeking something more challenging, make the steep hike up to Skopos Mountain, crowned by the two churches of Panagia Skopiotissa and Agios Nikolaos Megalomatis. Don’t want to do it alone? Eco Zante organises regular hikes in season.
There’s nothing like splashing some cash for soothing the soul. In Zakynthos, you’ll find it difficult to resist the handmade jewellery, fashion and homeware by local Greek designers, strappy handcrafted leather sandals, ceramic turtles, olive wood kitchen accessories and fridge magnets. “The best place to shop here is in the lovely paved streets near Solomos Square in Zante town, but you should also try some of the resorts like Laganas and Alykes. The best thing is that shops stay open very late, especially in summer,” says Philippa Unwin, who has a holiday home on the island.
Beach bliss is an actual state of mind in Zakynthos, an island whose endless stretches of sand are renowned for their pristine beauty. You’ll need to take a boat from Zakynthos port to discover Navagio – better known as Shipwreck Beach – with its pale white sands and turquoise waters sheltered by high cliffs, but be prepared for crowds in summer.
If you prefer to get off the beaten track, make a beeline for Gerakas Beach’s sea turtle-friendly mirror-clear waters and fine sand beach, or take the narrow road that leads to the – even more secluded and spectacularly pretty – cove of Porto Vromi on the island’s less developed northwestern coast.
Said to strengthen the core muscles, lower blood pressure and alleviate stress, horse riding is good for your health, so what could be more healing than heading out to explore Zakynthos on horseback? Family-run business Happy Horses have well-schooled mounts that are perfect for beginners, as well as more experienced riders. “For the more adventurous riders, there’s a fabulous scenic mountain ride, which includes a ride up to the top of the mountain, followed by a trek down to a beautiful secluded beach where you can swim in the sea with your horse,” says Evelyn, who works at the local tourist board.
With calm sparkling waters and an abundance of marine life, Zakynthos offers plenty of opportunities to get out on the water and relax as you see the world from a totally different perspective. “Smaller kayaks offer the best chance to see turtles and rare monk seals – although make sure you never get too close or bother them in any way,” says Giannis Giatras, owner of Art and Wine, a painting workshop and a boutique winery on the island. You can also sign up for a half-day cruise with companies such as Porto Vromi Maries and enjoy snorkelling in sky blue waters near the stunning Blue Caves.
Whether you’re seeking a day spa for a relaxing session before heading out on the town or looking for a resort spa where you can spend time between other activities, Zakynthos does not disappoint. Couples will love Porto Zante Villas & Spa’s range of award-winning holistic treatments that are best enjoyed in one of the resort’s private sea-view villas, while boutique hotel Contessina Suites has a wonderful grotto-like pool with swinging basket chairs where you can relax after a healing treatment (try the Ancient Greek therapy, which includes a dead sea mud body mask).
If you need to escape life’s fast pace, switch off social media and recharge yourself, try a week-long Wellness and Detox retreat with Zantezest, where tai chi or yoga, combined with workouts, beach walkabouts and delicious raw food cuisine is guaranteed to get you back on track.
One of the island’s best little-known gems, Xigia Beach near the resort of Mikro Nisi is the perfect place to soak away any aches and pains. The warm waters that lap at this unique beach are packed with sulphur, which contains precious minerals said to cure everything from arthritis to skin problems and cellulite. There are plenty of sun beds, parasols – and even a small canteen – so you can easily spend a lazy day here soaking up the healing powers of the water.
Set in olive groves and surrounded by pristine beaches, Logothetis Organic Farm is the perfect place to escape the world as you nourish yourself with health-giving organic goodies sourced from the farm’s own gardens. The farm is surrounded by lush greenery where you can pluck oranges or figs from the trees, depending on the season. “You can do many things here: you can eat farm dinners made with organic produce, learn how to prepare and cook local recipes or taste our homemade olive oil,” says owner Angela Logothetis.
Founded in 1999 to protect the unique flora and fauna of this island, where rare sea turtle Caretta Caretta and endangered Mediterranean monk seal Monachus Monachus come to breed, the National Marine Park covers most of the southwestern part of the island. You can take a boat out to Marathonisi Island and snorkel in the clear waters to spot the turtles that come to nest here, but for a totally unique escape get a group together and charter a sailboat from local company Boat Affair, then sail out for the day to visit Zante’s uninhabited Strofades islands.