I stayed in the St Denis apartments in Tsilivi, Zakinthos (Zante) in early summer 2011 with my girlfriend. I also travelled round the island and spent a day in each other resort on the island, and went to all the key tourist locations. You may have to stay in 2 rooms as bookings at the St Denis can be a bit of a rip off, and apparently the tour operator does not pay the full amount (only 13 nights out of a 14 night stay, so I had to pay another 30 euro myself!). The holiday was provided by First Choice and I flew with Thomas Cook, but I booked with Thomson! The airport seemed really organised when we flew in, literally off the plane and in the apartment within 30 mins. The transfer should only take 15 mins. Going home was the total opposite unfortunately. Our flight left at 8am but the pick-up was arranged at 2am, so it was a painful journey home and wrote-off a day of our lives. DON’T drink the coffee from the airport departure lounge, they charge 5 Euros for a small plastic cup. It is slightly less in the main terminal entrance.
The St Denis... is a medium-sized complex, quite rustic in appearance and looks pretty decent. The rooms all seemed in good order and there no holes in the walls etc to let in mosquitoes. There are about 5 blocks surrounding the pool area, with about 8 apartments in each block (2-3 floors). All seemed to have a little terrace or balcony - our terrace was very close to the pool and so had no privacy, but there was a bit of space by the room door where we could sit in the sun. The rooms all seem a good size. The pool is basic and there was a bit of space to sit around with 20 or so pairs of sunbeds/umbrellas. There is a bar by the pool that served food also, but I never used it as everything could be found cheaper just along the road. There are also a few computer terminals in the bar area that offer internet access, but for something silly like 1 euro per 10 mins, so nobody used them and I did hear people complaining about that. There is free Wifi just along the road at the nearest bars and restaurants, so if you sit on the wall near one you can set-up free internet access on your mobile or laptop. The maids came to clean most days, to change towels and bedding etc. There are safeboxes and air con but at a ridiculous price so nobody used them. There was usually hot water and the kitchen area in our appt was well equipped with a full cooker and FF.
Tsilivi... the St Denis is located centrally, the beach is about 3mins walk. The nearest shops, restaurants, bars are virtually next door or a few away. There is a little shop on the complex, and this is OK, but a supermarket up the road is better - cheaper and has local produce/fresh food. Car hire is good just across the road, and there are 3 or 4 other hire places to check. Don’t accept any ‘500 Euro excess’ nonsense. There are lots of good restaurants in the village and it would be hard not to recommend one. The Olive Tree has a lot of reviews, and it is good, but not so much better than elsewhere. It was always very busy but it was slightly more expensive than the other restaurants for the same standard of food. There is an ‘Olive Tree’ and ‘Olive Garden’ in Tsilivi so don’t get confused (they are both good). You will enjoy all of the restaurants and they all work very hard to please you. You may get a free half-litre of wine with the meal, but be aware that they often add water to the wine so it’s not always such a good deal. Some of the bars do this also. They added water to a sambuka and I caught them doing it. They may get a ‘friend’ to buy you a drink, so you buy one back etc. I hadn’t noticed this happen in Greece before. They must be really struggling. But you were always made very welcome everywhere. Jokers was a very good bar and a lot of fun, and they really made an effort to entertain us.
The beach at Tsilivi... was reasonable but I didn’t really spend much time there. Although it stretches the length of the village there were only a few metres between the water line and the front of the bars, shops and road/tracks etc. So there was little room in some parts to sit, with so many tourists staying in the resort. There were lots of sunbeds but most people were just sitting on the sand. I got the feeling that they were having another poor season. The beach was sandy and clean. Local beach traders were up and down every 10 mins trying to sell drinks or whatever. And there were quite a few migrant traders in the resorts, which I was not used to in Greece. Every 5 mins you would be asked if you wanted to buy sunglasses. This is a shame and not at all usual for Greece.
Zante is a beautiful Island... one of the most scenic in the med. But it is slightly more touristy than the other Greek islands. There are a lot of Brits working there. If you travel around the island there are some really nice little beaches.
Zakinthos town is quite a busy place, not really offering much to see.
Argassi is a small resort, but it is near a nice peninsula of the island.
Kalamaki seemed more expensive than Tsilivi to book a holiday there, yet I would say that Tsilivi is a nicer resort. Kalamaki is next to a big long beach that stretches for about 5 miles, to Laganas. It would be handy to stay in Kalamaki as it’s slightly more central and closer to some nice quiet beaches and also Laganas if you want a big night out, or Argassi if you wanted to visit there. The big beach is nice, but not spectacular for Greece.
Laganas is the party town, full of young brits who go for the party and not the sun. It has what you would expect there and seemed fairly decent. Unless you’re 18-30 and want action every night you’re much better off elsewhere.
There are a few small resorts, such as Alkes, which is towards the north of the island. It was small and quiet, with a reasonable beach, but quite far away from everything else.
I did notice that compared to other Greek resorts, they were much more ‘after your money’. It has lost a lot of its Greek hospitality over many decades of tourism. The locals of these Greek islands are often very simple people (those in Zante seemed more so), which can get a bit frustrating. But they are very friendly, decent and honest - that’s what makes the Greek islands so good for holidays, when compared to Spain etc.
Overall I would say that Zante is a scenic island, great for a good all-round holiday, and has a lot going on – you would not be able to see everything in a week. It is slightly more tourist-orientated than most of the other Greek islands and this is quite noticeable. The standard is good and I would be happy to return to Zante. Tsilivi or Kalamaki would be my choice. But I won’t book through Thomson, Thomas Cook, or First Choice and I won’t stay at St Denis. I was left feeling disappointed with the tour operator for being dishonest (and thinking they could get away with it!) and also the St Denis for being a bit unprofessional, miserable, and a bit unreasonable. They did not make me feel welcome in their (expensive) apartments. You can find accommodation in the resorts for much less than what the tour operators charge you.
Ground floor has less privacy on the terraces and occasional scraping from people upstairs; upper fl...
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