Let me start by saying that this trip was relatively short notice. Truth is, we had a big summer holiday planned to the Dominican Republic but when it came to paying for it, we couldn’t afford it. So we cut back, transferring the deposit we had already paid to a holiday in Lefkas, a cheaper alternative. Cheaper in cost but no less full of beauty, culture and fun.
Inadvertently, we had booked a week on an island often referred to as the Caribbean of the Ionians, mainly due to the exquisite blue waters that surround it. The waters were indeed crystal clear and some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Literally a sea of blues, every shade, dappled in sunlight, making a twinkle no filter could create. Lefkas (or Lefkada) has a unique landscape of rock face and luscious greenery, interspersed with spear-shaped cypress trees. The mix of green and blue make it a place holiday dreams are made of.
So starting at the beginning, the transfer by coach (this was a package holiday after all) was just like my first holiday abroad in the 80s. In fact I’d say there was a fair chance the coach had been around that long! But it done the job. We didn’t have any expectations of Porto Galini, but if we had, I know they would have been exceeded. When we walked into reception, Paul and I both looked at each other and said “woah!” From the staff, to the amenities, to the grounds, I have nothing bad to say. Okay, pushed, I would comment that our bath was installed the wrong way round, making it tricky to stand under the shower. But it feels petulant to even mention it.
A hotel buffet is a hard sell for me but this was good. Really good. Best bits for me were anything from the grill, which included fresh king prawns, pork kebabs, lamb chops and a traditional gyro that dispelled all the myths about kebabs only being for a night out! Also a hit was the greek yoghurt. Stands to reason really but it was SO good, creamy and velvety smooth. I had it for breakfast with oats, fruits, nuts and local honey. Then again for dinner in the tzatziki, which I slathered over pretty much anything, every day! Another highlight was the soup. Soup I hear you cry? Well, yes, soup. It was lovely, particularly the traditional greek broth with tiny pasta pearls. Always served with plenty of accompaniments to season, including a variety of fresh herbs from the organic herb garden. It obviously demanded bread and there was a plentiful selection of homemade loaves, rolls and breadsticks.
If I asked you to imagine a beautiful spa, there is a fair chance it would look like this. Candles, exotic flowers and aromatics that instantly relax you. The ladies working there were lovely, welcoming and helpful. My first treatment (I may have had a couple!) was with Eletheria. Her name made me think “ethereal” which was fitting because her treatments were that of an angel. She told me, “I have a good aura, everything I do is with love”. And she wasn’t wrong. Although I suspect she might have felt more amusement than love when listening to my little snores during the relaxation section! Of course you have to pay for treatments and actually some of the spa facilities, but it’s definitely worth it.
We booked an island hopping tour to try and get a flavour of Lefkas and the surrounding Ionian islands. Reflections Travel were fantastic and the day was a great mix of exploration and relaxation. We stopped on the island of Meganissi, ventured into a cave that once hid a WWII submarine, visited Skorpios which used to be owned by the Onassis family, and enjoyed a BBQ cooked by the captain on Atherinos beach. Well worth the €33 we paid.
We also visited the island waterfalls, which were awesome. (Special thanks to our TUI rep Chloe for the tip!) A great little exploration trip, this natural beauty is like something out of Indiana Jones, with a background chorus of wild birds and toads. If you go, make sure you wear sensible shoes and proceed with caution, its slippery and uneven. Also, water is dependant on the time of year, as is it a fresh water falls. Fortunately (or not) it rained the first two days we were there, so there was plenty for our visit.
I also have to mention Nikkos at Porto Galini and his incredible speed boat. Jared’s dream was to go on one and he loved every second. Seeing his little smile is one of those moments that will stay with me forever.
The four pools at Porto Galini are great and despite a slip-and-bump situation (special thanks to Yiannis and the hotel management for their quick reactions and attentiveness) on the first day, Jared basically wanted to spend every minute in them. All different shapes and sizes, one is 3 metres deep. So deep it made my ears pop. There’s a lovely deck area too for those who want to be close to the pool but a bit more peaceful.
The hotel has its own bay and the shingle beach, although a little uncomfortable, makes for brilliant snorkelling. If you have those little beach shoes, take them. If not you can buy a cheap pair in the closest town of Nidri (€8 by cab or €2 by bus). It’s a worthwhile investment, as there are tons of fish in the bay. Still unconvinced? Check out my Instagram pics of the beaches.
I love the space in this hotel. You don’t feel on top of anyone. The grounds are immaculate and there are plenty of areas for retreat or interaction. We played tennis a couple of times, made use of the games room and visited the kids club for an hour, which I have to say was incredible – better than many nurseries I’ve been in. The hotel also offers yoga retreats and has a yoga hut idyllically positioned in a hill side, giving the most incredible views across the bay. An attitude of health and wellbeing is reflected in all aspects of this hotel, without it being pushed on you. There were plenty of healthy – and often organic – food options, along side all the usual holiday indulgences, including an impressive cocktail list and ice cream selection! Something for everyone, and that’s not easy to achieve.
From what I saw, Greece still bears the marks of its economic downturn, with unfinished constructions and derelict half-builds a-plenty. Mixed with the traditional but simplistic Greek charm, it is a great reminder for a six year old (and accompanying adults) how lucky we are. “Mummy, everything is really old in Greece.” And yet he didn’t want to leave. We didn’t want to leave. What a testament to a fantastic holiday, a brilliant hotel and a stunning island.