La Isla Bonita.
A cluster of private villas on Zakynthos’ lovely Vassilikos peninsula achieve the seemingly impossible balance of a family friendly holiday that is a genuine treat for adults too.
Zakynthos, in the Ionian islands, is more widely known to Brits by its Italian nom de plume, Zante, and was once considered something of a party Mecca. We, on the other hand, are a family with a toddler, so the only bottles we’ll be interested in downing will be milk, (perhaps with the occasional Calpol chaser). Thankfully, the beauty of travelling with a tour operator you trust means you can expect a certain quality as standard. Simpson Travel winning Best Villa Operator 2018 at the Telegraph Travel Awards will come as little surprise to anyone who has holidayed with them, so we knew that we were putting our precious family holiday in safe hands.
If that holiday moment when you touch down on foreign soil is always just a little a bit magical, for me, when that touch down is onto Greek island soil, the magic is multiplied. But still, there was something niggling me… namely, just how could a holiday that has to cater to the needs of an under two-year-old really compare to holidays of yore, when days were lazy, evenings were long, and exploring the island didn’t require at least half an hour of loading the car followed by “I thought you’d packed the arm bands” and turning back round again? We set off accordingly for Periyali Villas, on the Vassilikos peninsula on the south of the island: included in the cost of your charming two or three bedroomed villa, complete with plunge pool and gated garden, is first class childcare for your little darling(s), with British certified nannies and all the fun and games they could wish for – leaving you free to holiday just like ‘the good old days’.
With our daughter being so young, we decided to only make use of the service a couple of times during the week, but boy was it worth it. Day one and we set off on the winding roads to see where the spirit of adventure would carry us – and this was great exploring country. The Vassilikos peninsula is stunning, with endless stretches of sandy beaches giving way to hills blanketed with olive and cypress trees; we found ourselves on what felt like the top of the world, the view stretching infinitely with just the hum of cicadas and the buzz of bumblebees – attracted by the wild mountain flowers – for company. A somewhat perilous descent to Dafni beach carried the ultimate reward, of the sort of meal that Greece does best: simple, home cooked, abundant.
Next time, we headed for civilisation: into Zakynthos itself, the island’s capital and a town of infinite charm. It was market day, and the plan was simply to buy provisions for a home cooked feast that evening, but the inevitable sampling of wares at cafés, the pull of some tourist shopping and the picturesque warren of back streets in the old town meant we were spoilt for things to do, struggling to fit everything in to our morning of freedom.
And so our week rolled gently by; days relaxing at Gerakas beach, a conservation site renowned for its turtle hatching, or splashing about in our plunge pool, evenings spent lazily collecting freshly prepared food from our favourite tavernas in a blissful state of peace and quiet. There is a real art to achieving the balance of a family friendly holiday that is a genuine treat for adults too, and we were lucky enough to find it here at Periyali. It won’t be our last visit.
Prices for a week’s holiday start at £791 pp based on two adults and one child travelling in May 2019 including flights from Gatwick, accommodation (self-catering) and car hire. Visit simpsontravel.com or call 020 8108 4545 for more details