So, you think Zakynthos has closed its doors? Well, let’s just have another look!
Although the main tourist season has come to the end and many think that after the summer season Zakynthos just closes down and hibernates, I would like to share with you what I would call “The Real” Zakynthos. The Zakynthos that locals have long wished to embrace all through those summer months, a quieter side, tranquil in its existence.
As large Hotel units close within the major resort areas there is a great opportunity to check out the low prices on Airbnb and Booking.com for quaint houses, villas and apartments offering all the amenities needed to get you through those winter blues.
Let’s start with the climate then, cold? For us yes, it can get quite cold as we are used to the high temperatures. However, from December to mid-March; it is often mild but rainy, especially in December and January, when more than 150 millimetres (6 inches) of rain per month fall. However, there is a moderate amount of sunny days, and these are the days we all seem to take advantage of. Although, the island is sheltered from cold spells, it rarely snows on the plains, in fact in the last 30 odd years I have been here, I only recall it actually snowing once, and even in Zakynthos town twas a day to remember a cold but pleasant 7th of January, 2017.
A day I am sure went down in history as rare as it could be. While in the inland hills, those that reach 758 metres (2,487 ft) above sea level, there could be a chance to see snow, more so in the month of February. Sometimes, however, a cold wind from the north can blow, and in the winter months the minimum temperature in the plains can reach 0 °C.
The rains are quite abundant, given that they amount to nearly 1,000 millimetres (40 inches) per year, but they are concentrated in the period from October to March
So, what is there to do here in Zakynthos during the winter months?
Well one would say just be a local!
A gastronomy tour of the Island would be a perfect choice and the local tavern offers Zakynthian dishes that not many serve through the summer months. Most would eat during lunch hours over the weekends, making sure that their outing takes up their day. You have a choice of areas, whether it be the villages nearby town or in the mountains, seaside resort or even Zakynthos town, you will always find somewhere that will please your taste buds and fill your stomach with pleasure.
Each month over the winter period from October right through to the Greek Easter there is always something happening. At the moment the wine barrels are being opened for the new season’s wine tasting, Zakynthos is well-known for its wines, verde being its speciality. Why not wonder around the wineries and see for yourself just how the wine is made, definitely it is worth trying a few and most wineries are open from midday for a few hours through the week.
Olive picking is the work of the day for most Zakynthians, whilst the season can start as early as October you can still see our farmers at work in the fields right up till the month of February. Why not try collecting yourself? All you have to do is stop and ask and I am sure you will not be refused.
November is great to get out and do some walking; some days have been great to get that last bit of swimming in just before the sea starts to get colder. Sea temperatures are warmer than those in the Aegean and range from 22°C in October and can go as low as 15°C in February and March.
There are a few social walking clubs on our Island, where people can meet up and walk around areas of Zakynthos, usually starting late in the morning and finishing just around lunch hour. There is even a social group for walking your pets, just to make it a little different but if you are into hiking there are plenty of places for you to try. Those off the beaten tracks can often bring you to a discovery that you would never had dreamt of existed in Zakynthos. Most of these walking clubs can be found on Facebook and they always have their next destination as to where they will be walking and at what time to meet.
Horse riding is also available through the winter months, although they may not be sitting at their centres, all you have to do is get in touch with the people concerned and they will arrange the horses the day you want.
December is the start of the festive season and when the shopping district basically comes alive. Name days are more and that means the locals are taking the opportunity to catch up with their friends and family. Church Festivities also take place and of course St. Dionysios on the 17th of December is celebrated in true Zakynthian style.
Christmas time in Zakynthos is not so commercial as other parts of Europe but is celebrated with Carols and events throughout the holiday season. Often the Zakynthian traditions can be seen, parties and a simple get together with friends at coffee bars and restaurants are definitely high on the list. Shopping over the Christmas holidays is a must in time for the New Year’s parties.
Religious ties throughout the festive season can be seen whilst events take place not only within the Churches but throughout the villages and town. The Baptism of the waters is a tradition that Zakynthians enjoy and a highlight during the festive season.
During the winter months we also hold the Zakynthian Tradition Carnival, a period of parties, events, omilies (street theatre) and carnival parades. The well-known event of the “Venetian Wedding” takes place as well during Carnival time still keeping our ties to the past. Young and old take part in the festivities and over the two-week period there is always something going on, whether it is in the villages or in the town square. The main parade ends in a party style atmosphere where not just those who dress up in costume have fun.
Just as the weather starts to warm up again Zakynthians will celebrate their Easter, a truly different side of Zakynthos most visitors have not seen. The holy week with all its events placed around the lead up to the resurrection of Christ, could only leave on-lookers in awe as they experience an Easter compared to none.
Zakynthos in winter has a lot to offer, there are so many social clubs as well; from learning arts and crafts, to folk dancing and of course there’s theatrical clubs as well. There are children’s play areas open and a wildlife park to visit, museums that are open and of course the cinema always plays the latest. Night clubs are open on the weekends and array of parties in true Zakynthian taste are offered over the festive seasons.
A faster pace starts taking over again in rhythm to the next summer’s session, where our Island will be swarmed with anticipated tourists wanting to soak up the Zakynthian sun and enjoy the tourist resorts arround our Island, as spring comes to an end a new side of Zakynthos comes to bloom, large aircraft bring in their first passengers and Zakynthians awaiting to please