Mama Mia! It’s Zakynthos and Kefalonia

Greece is one of my favs. This time around we picked a place where we could fly non-stop from Amsterdam. One of the few islands where this was the case back in 2016 was Zakynthos. I Googled the island and after seeing Navagio Beach (Shipwreck Beach) I yelled TAKE MY MONEY because I was sold. We arrived on the first day of the official tourist season so it was still a little chilly, but those savings warmed us up real nice.

We rented a quad which was the best idea ever. The island is perfect for it except for one hill that we had to push the quad up because the battery wasn’t strong enough. I lent a helping hand.

Pro tip: If you think your quad rental lights are broken, and you are about to angrily drive back to the rental company in a nighttime rage make sure to turn the dial all the way to the right in order for the lights to work.

Zakynthos stunners

Zakynthos waterfront town is so good. It is where the ferries leave to and from the island. You will see a castle at the top of the hill, but be aware it is not always open. So that is why we didn’t end up going inside, the gate was locked. The viewpoint at Bochali is stunning. There is a church right at the lookout point so there are churchgoers who may get in the way of your photo. SO rude.

Laganas is party central. This is the area where the quad was rented from. I could have just dreamed this, but I think we reserved a quad in advance and the company dropped it off at the airport for us when we arrived. Laganas beach isn’t the best compared to some of the other ones on the islands, but drink up me hartys yo ho! Apparently, you can see turtles around Laganas if you do a tour, but we didn’t because the water was too choppy. Cameo Island is near here as well. It’s cute. Mostly for weddings, but the photos looked nice so we went. Usually, I think there is a restaurant/bar open here but we went just when the season got started so they were still cleaning it up. It didn’t matter to us since we ate at the most scrumptious restaurant ever. I hate myself for not remembering the name, but maybe it wasn’t meant to be shared. Maybe it only presents itself to weary travellers who want to get sloshed. We followed some handmade signs nailed to back-alley fences and hung on olive trees until we came across an archway (to heaven?) with the same writing that stated “black wine”. It was some Easter-type holiday so everyone was roasting full lambs on sticks. It takes HOURS. so just because you think it looks ready, it’s not. You can buy the meal at most restaurants that have the full animal bbqing out front.

Agios Nikolaos is where we took a boat tour to see the blue caves (just show up, no need to pre-book). They are pretty, I even got 14 likes on my Instagram pic! We went swimming too, which was cold in mid-May but it was 23 degrees so we had to.

Xigia is a small beach which is said to have healing powers because of the salt or something that comes off of the nearby rocks. It is a gorgeous small white pebble beach.

Anafonitria Monastery is pretty. It is a nice little stop that you can spend 15/ 20 minutes at.

Akra Skinari viewpoint is easy on the eyes although there was a spider incident that I’d rather not relive.

Shipwreck beach (Navagio beach) itself is only accessible by boat but everyone takes photos from above. I mean everyone. So if you have rented a quad, go early since the parking lot fills up quicker than my wine glass. The massive buses will nearly hit you as they try to manoeuvre and when you are walking the trail you will have so many people in your photo that it will look as though you are in a parade. Also, a word of warning, there is a fruit stand with a donkey tied to a tree on the way to the beach lookout. It is insanely overpriced for rubbish fruit and the donkey costs money to take a photo of. So make sure you pack snacks since there isn’t much in the way of food up there. That’s a lie, there is a snack truck-ish at the lookout point that sells cool drinks etc.

Arriving in Kefalonia

After 4 days we felt as though we had seen the entire Zakynthos island so we decided to take a ferry to Kefalonia. This is a mildly funny story (about a 6.3/10)- so if you’re in for non-noise-making laughter, read on.

After some ice cream, we began our next adventure.

To get to Kefalonia in the off-season from Zakynthos you need to take one ferry to the Greek mainland and then transfer to another ferry. In the high season there is a direct ferry- this is not the funny bit. We arrive at the Kefalonia port and from previous Grecian experience we were used to having an insane amount of hospitality-type people greet us. In high season, there are hostel workers holding signs to entice us to stay at their accommodation and boatloads of tourists surrounded by busybodies eating and talking. The port of Kefalonia in May was deserted and would more accurately reflect a desert if it weren’t for the buckets of rain pouring down. Isn’t that always the case? A few local people and us got off the ferry. We rock up to the ferry ticket booth since there wasn’t any tourist info centre anywhere to be seen. We buy our return ticket so we don’t get stuck on the wrong island (our flight left from Zakynthos). She sells us tickets not being at all phased by this request (foreshadowing). We ask about the area and where we can rent a car.

The lady laughs.

Apparently, there are no rentable cars anywhere near the port at this time of year. We decide to walk in the direction that we think a town is. After following signs for a car rental place that led to nowhere, we sat down to eat and contemplate what to do next. Yadda yadda yadda next thing we know were sitting in the backseat of a rickety car being driven by some Greek waiter’s dad who doesn’t speak English through the impossibly windy mountains to a town called Sami that’s over an hour away. Rumour had it Sami had rental cars. We made a bit stop at the driver’s house. Not entirely sure why.

Upon arrival in Sami, where everything but one open travel agency was closed we went in and asked if we could rent a quad. The guy said Kefalonia isn’t really “quad” worthy since it is so mountainous, they aren’t powerful enough to make it up the hills. He didn’t laugh at us which was progress. So we asked about cars. Specifically, I wanted a bright red jeep with an open top. There was nothing available. The wonderfully nice travel agent (that I can’t remember the name of, but I know when you walk in the desk is on the left-hand side as of 2016) said that one rental company might have something so he phoned on our behalf. No luck. We went to get food to mend our sorrows and we happened to walk past a rental company (since there were about 15 in this town of Sami). We decide to call the number written on a sign at Artelaris Travel and surprisingly a Greek man picks up. He tells us all his vehicles are reserved except for one. The back window is not there but it was drivable. Good enough for us, we’ll take it!

The rental guy pulls up sometime after we have eaten our gyros in, get this, A BRIGHT RED JEEP.

“Did you ask if it was automatic?”

Me “Nope”

Of of course it wasn’t.

We asked the rental guy if we need to buy car insurance and he said now there aren’t any Italian drivers on the roads at the moment so we’d be fine. We asked if there we any extra driver fees he said nah. We asked about locking the vehicle. He laughs and puts his hand through the non-existent back window. We needed to go to the port to take our ferry back to Zakynthos so we asked where we could drop it off at the end of the rental period. He said the ferry port, just leave the keys under the mat, we are on an island.

That was that.

Kefalonia Treats

We stayed in Assos, which was lovely. A couple who rented a car “parked it” but accidentally left it in drive when they got out to explore the area. The car launched itself off the cliff- I hope they had insurance, unlike us.

Myrtos Beach is so bright light white that it hurts your eyes. It’s splendid. , Melissani Cave near Sami is chill, Mount Ainos has a solid view and we stayed in Agia Efimia, which had lively Greek restaurants where the wine was a flowin’. Fiskardo was dashing.

Departing Kefalonia

We were back in Sami at our go-to delicious cheap gyros place called Soulatso Grill House. We are sitting there chatting and the Greek man across from us chimes in about something. The next thing we know we’re on the topic of our flight leaving from Zakynthos back to Amsterdam. This is where it gets good.

Greek man, “oh yeah no you won’t make that flight.”

Us, “why not?”

Greek man extremely casually, “the ferries have stopped running, they’re on strike”

Us, ” no they’re not, we would have heard about it” as we say this we look over to the massive ferries docked at the Sami port uh oh

Panicked- we ask what other options we have. None were feasible including swimming or paying a fisherman cash to take us back to Zakynthos. We thought why on earth would the ferry lady sell us tickets if she knew they would be on strike the following day? She knew. Don’t tell me she didn’t. Again, at a total loss as to what we should do, we head back to the one travel agent that was so nice to us last time. He informs us we can fly. More specifically, in a small plane. We already saw our dolla bills flying away from us. The kind man let us use his computer to book the €‎70 for each ticket for a 12-minute flight, which he didn’t even get a commission for so we ended up giving him some extra money for all his help. As I type this, I don’t know if it actually happened or if I want to believe we are good people like that and so I lied to make myself look better.

Originally we booked our Zakynthos accommodation right near the port, not the airport so we had to pay for a taxi to get us to the hotel and of course when we asked for a refund on our ferry tickets, the lady told us they were valid for 1 year so she didn’t need to give us money back. We informed her that we won’t be doing this route again within the year and we insist she gives us our €‎45 back. She did.

In the end, apart from a few mild heart attacks, we made it back to Amsterdam on time.

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