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Zakynthos – aka Zante – may be better known for high-octane hedonism and non-stop parties than a go-to, serenity-inducing island. Yet the more peaceful side is the original Zakynthos, an untamed, lush utopia even wilder than its pulsating alter-ego; quieter, slower and almost 3,000 years older. Beyond the flashing lights and electric-blue fishbowls lies a land and culture that inspired ancient philosophers, prompting Homer’s classic tomes and “Corelli’s Mandolin”.
Owned by the Vithoulkas family, the Lesante Collection is a high-end hotel triptych: Classic, Blu and Cape. Staying at the adults-only Lesante Cape Resort & Villas in Akrotiri (the newest addition) and the family-friendly Lesante Blu Exclusive Beach Resort in Tragaki, we headed to the southern waters of the Ionian Sea to embrace authentic Zakynthian culture, nature and tradition.
Lesante Cape Resort & VillasPerched on a secluded hilltop studded with 500-year-old olive trees, Lesante Cape has the feel of a traditional Greek village, and boasts a café, taverna and church. Island culture lives on here, with workshops, live music and dancing filling the central square (agora), and the Armonia Wellness & Spa specialising in ancient Mediterranean healing treatments.
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Drop by the cobbled agora for casual dining at Greek Taverna, enjoy to-die-for coffee and sticky baklava at Kafeneio, and, if you time it right, a lively night of plate-smashing. Such is the commitment to historical and cultural authenticity, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped back in-time to a sprawling, sun-bleached Hellenic settlement.
The 55 suites and 10 villas are a lesson in design. White stone archways and low-rise buildings form zen-like sanctuaries decked out in neutral, creamy hues, with flourishes of rattan furniture, rope wall hangings, driftwood lamp stands and local art.
The crowning glory is the three-bed Cape Villa, a 400 square-metre private home that epitomises the grandeur of aristocratic Zakynthos. Kick back with a pool-side Ouzo spritz while your personal chef rustles up supper – ask for the grilled octopus with a side of smoked eggplant, followed by Kaimaki ice cream.
Eating and drinking
Greek chef Aggelos Bakopoulos heads up the restaurants: Elea (traditional breakfasts and Mediterranean cuisine), Novita (net-fresh seafood) and Fiore, award-winning fine dining with a side of spectacular sunsets. Ingredients are sourced locally or plucked from the organic bio-garden and farm.
A resident sommelier is on hand throughout, with recommendations on everything from local and international wines to non-alcoholic cocktails. We joined him for an unforgettable tasting session in the wine cellar.
The “farm to table” cookery classes at Bostani are a must-do. We filled wicker baskets with vine-ripe tomatoes, juicy olives and tufts of fragrant herbs under the watchful eye of an accomplished chef, who taught us how to rustle up divinely simple fresh salads and sea bass for our lunch.
Experiences and things to do
This haute-boho coastal retreat may well detain you, but if not, there are an array of adventures to be had on land and sea. From bike tours to remote village strongholds, hikes through forested gorges and private yacht cruises, the team will work with you to plot an unforgettable Greek odyssey.
Lesante Blu Exclusive Beach ResortNamed after the shimmering waters surrounding this beach-side escape, Lesante Blu is located just 20 minutes from Zakynthos Airport. Guests can also arrive via yacht or helicopter thanks to the on-site helipad and dock. If you happen to be yacht-less, simply stroll along the private jetty and hop aboard a vessel belonging to the hotel.
Indulgence peaks here, with a private beach, infinity pools, top-notch suites and impeccable service. The “Golden Lesante” body wrap at Essence Wellness & Spa, with locally foraged golden nectar and yellow seaweed, is not to be missed.
There are 92 suites at Lesante Blu, each with sea views, spacious terraces and several with private pools or outdoor whirlpool baths. We stayed in an open-plan deluxe suite, which featured an elegant bedroom and relaxation area, marble-lined bathroom with a huge spa tub and pool-clad veranda facing the azure Ionian.
Eating and drinking
From fine dining gastronomy at Melia to casual fare at Ostria and Gaia, each pays homage to age-old Greek and Mediterranean flavours, while celebrating the abundance of fresh seafood and local ingredients, from olive oil to honey and raisins.
Experiences and things to do
Whether you remain cocooned here or venture afield, the choice is yours. On-site activities includes paddle-boarding, tennis and sunset yoga classes. Excursions include boat trips to turtle beach, Blue and Kerì caves, and Navagio (the iconic shipwreck beach).
Enjoy fine dining with a view at Lesante Blu’s Melia restaurant
(Image credit: Lesante Collection)
When to go and don’t miss… Spring is an often-overlooked season, and an ideal time to visit Zakynthos. Escape the sweltering heat and crushing crowds and experience island-life like a local.
Head to the National Marine Park, which was founded in 1999 for the protection of the endangered Caretta Caretta turtles, a 150 million year-old species who call Zakynthos home. Also, spend a grounding afternoon connecting with the earth with charismatic artist Hanne Mi who runs ceramic classes from her light-filled ceramic art studio in Vassilikos.
Meg Roberts was a guest of the Lesante Collection, a family-owned group of five-star properties on the Ionian isle of Zakynthos. Room rates at Lesante Blu Exclusive Beach Resort start from €350 (£303/$371) and room rates at Lesante Cape Resort & Villas start from €400 (£345/$424). See lesantecollection.gr
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