There’s family resort, and there’s family resort, right? I’ve written about the dilemma of choosing one before. We’ve loved our time in Fiji at the JM Cousteau resort, during our trip around the world. We’ve also loved our very un-resorty time in Tobago, for the lack of structure and rules. Last summer, we wanted to try out a new formula of this magic or potentially lethal potion. We booked one week with the Peligoni Club, located in the Ionian sea, on Zakinthos island – known the world over for the Shipwreck beach .
There are direct flights to Zakinthos from many European cities, including London, making it a bit of a mass market destination. However, the island is still underdeveloped in the north, where Peligoni is situated. It is not a hotel or a resort, in fact, but rather a collection of villa rentals that all come with access to a private club, which acts as a (semi-inclusive) family-friendly resort.
Peligoni Club is privately-owned by an English family who has effectively emulated its idea of style and fun by the sea. They’ve done it in such a way that you feel part of their (very) large group of friends enjoying vacation together. You can pick up the English newspapers if you fancy a read (more Telegraph than the Guardian), and probably some English muffins with an English breakfast tea. But don’t expect a greeting in Greek as you walk in, or the best Greek salad either. You get my point: it’s well executed if you adhere to the whole idea of transferring London life to the sea, with a bikini. It doesn’t really do it if you’re looking to immerse yourself in Greek authenticity.
Peligoni’s range of villa rentals is wide and covers different budgets, giving the flexibility to find one suited to your taste and needs. The villas are not owned by Peligoni but mostly by locals, which means that they are scattered within a large perimeter around the club and ensure a feeling of not bumping into other members all the time. The owners of the villas are guaranteed a certain number of week rentals, giving Peligoni the monopoly of availability during the summer months. It also means that Peligoni handles the quality control during your stay, a comforting factor as there is a high standard in place.
Our rental was the dreamy Villa Amoulakis, located right in front of a secluded bay where pretty much no-one except us ever made noises and splashes. We would open the shutters in the morning, find fresh bread and doughnuts for breakfast on the outdoor table and walk straight out to swim. An incredible set up, nicely decorated with a bohemian feel to it.
It came with luxurious services such as daily cleaning with a smile, and views to die for. Peligoni can arrange to fill your fridge before arrival, and handles deliveries of nappies or toothpastes if required. They can also arrange a chef, daily or for a special occasion. Those are wonderful services for those who really don’t want to lift a finger during the summer holidays. If you prefer to do some cooking, the Peligoni deli (they really have invested into their branding) is not too far from the club and sells daily basics such as fresh produce, meat, bread, hummus etc.. The restaurant inside the club has decent food served casually throughout the day on long communal tables. Pity it doesn’t face the sea but the terrace is comfortable, shaded by large pine trees. Pity also there is not one single waitress / waiter who speaks Greek. Peligoni clearly needs to step up its commitment to boosting the local economy.
One of our favorite outing was the sunset cruise booked with the Peligoni club. We were lucky to go out with the Peligoni owners majestic sailing boat (our rental boat was unavailable last minute). We sailed slowly along the coast, the breeze was gentle, we jumped in the open waters and even Amalya – who was stuck on the boat as she had just broken her arm the day before – keeps an incredible memory of that late afternoon. Sadly, we were never able to make it to Navagio beach where the shipwreck is located, but it’s not for lack of trying. Once the wind was too strong (and the only way is by boat). Another time, our skipper cancelled last minute due to a technical failure. And when we tried to join the group tour of Peligoni Club, it was full. Oh well.. We still had fun renting small motor boats with Mikko Nasi, and visiting some of the stunning grottos along the coast.
You do end up spending for unplanned extras. For example, there is the option to take an additional membership for sports water but sadly, the winds are often strong in the afternoons, so it is mostly for confident sailors. That is something we weren’t told when we booked. On the contrary, we were encouraged to pay ahead for a full package (membership + water sports) for every single member of the family. For water skiing and all activities that require a motor boat (can we go on the banana boat? pleaaaaase), you need to book in advance (it’s often full), and pay a hefty price, even with the complete water sport membership. Bummer.
You will have guessed from some of my comments, the club does its best to re-create the feeling of a private London club … and things can feel a tad too homogenous : from the all-blond twenty-something English staff making some buck while having fun to the beach attires worn by the guests straight out of Grazia magazine. If you like the feeling of belonging to a tribe (and teenagers definitely do), this is the perfect place.
The Peligoni Club is perhaps more suited to families with really young children, who will take advantage of the Sharky & George baby and kids club where young ones can be dropped while parents chil out on the sun beds. Or families with teenagers who’d rather be left alone for the afternoon and hang by the sea with their new mates. The club does quite a lot to get teenagers together, in the form of parties at night etc. Of note: the theme of the end of week party was London Tube when we were there…hmmm…how about trying The Minotaur next time?!
EAT in Zakinthos
I have gathered below a number of recommendations from our Greek friends, either those who traveled with us, or friends of friends who are from Zakinthos:
– Nobelos: it’s a lovely family-owned restaurant and hotel not far from Peligoni, right on the water. I could see myself booking a few days there one day. They only have a few rooms, the area by the water is wonderful, and the food delicious (try the home made ice creams!). All the produce come from their organic garden.
– We had more than one meal with the children at Mikro Nisi, a very casual restaurant overlooking the water, fresh fish, grilled calamari, ouzo and all. It’s also the place to rent small motor boats without a licence, the ideal way to visit the nearby beaches and grottos early in the morning, before the loads of tourists arrive.
– We feasted on Zakinthian specialties at the restaurant Palios Anemomilos in Askos. They make their own organic wine (a very particular taste) and produce. The food is outstanding and the view high up over the coast. The son of the owner is back from training in hip restaurants in East London and brings a fun touch to his family restaurant.
– Porto Roma is another small hotel with a highly recommended restaurant, although we didn’t try it as it’s further away from Peligoni villas.
Porto Limonias is a secluded spot on the West side of the island, with a rustic restaurant, not tested either.
Traveling along the southwest side of the island, in the area of Keri village. Consider eating at Votsalo restaurant above the beach Marathia (booking might be needed). Otherwise, a walk in the city around piazza St. Marco and the square of the Greek national poet- Solomos. Book at Barkarola restaurant on the seafront to hear Zakynthian kantades.
Another day trip can be enjoyed along the coast from Alykes where you can rent a boat. Eating at Nionios taverna above the beach Xugia, for amazing view of the island. And swiming at Xygia bay with the sulfur waters, ladies take off all bijoux when swimming there.
Greece is magic. I can’t wait to discover more and more Greek islands over the summers to come.
Read here for my piece about Patmos.
Do you have a favourite Greek island?