lesante cape zakynthos

Lesante Cape: Luxury and authenticity combine to show a new side of Zakynthos

12 Jun 2024 | |By Annie Lewis

Leave the party paradise of Zante behind and enjoy the laid back lifestyle of the real Zakynthos

For those who haven’t visited since the heady days of their late teens, let’s address the elephant in the room now: Zakynthos is not what it once was. In fact, over the last few years it’s undergone something of a facelift. You’d be forgiven for thinking this has come in the form of a construction overhaul, flashy retail park or brand new transport system. But no: the island doesn’t need or warrant any of the above (long live its beautiful Greek architecture and winding roads). Once Greece’s answer to Benidorm, this party-goers paradise has grown up. Or, perhaps more accurately, had a glow up.  

Board a three-hour flight from London to Zakynthos and you will, inevitably, be joined by the stag-hen-post-school-blowout crew, but also an increasing number of well-heeled travellers seeking a luxurious slice of Ionian island life. While the shores of Laganas on the south-eastern side of the island – and its abundance of Irish bars and greasy caffs – cater to the former, head in the opposite direction and you’ll find authentic Zakynthian opulence at Lesante Collection. 

As the name suggests, Lesante is a collection of three hotels – Cape, Blu and Classic – making it the biggest five-star brand on the island. Tailoring its offering to different crowds at each outpost: Cape is the new family-friendly suites and villas resort, Blu is adults-only, and the award-winning Classic was the debut hotel, opened in 2009. I booked a stay at the first, which opened in 2022, with a rejuvenating, sun-filled summer escape in mind. 

I wasn’t disappointed. Having arrived on the island via the small but bustling port – dotted with traditional tavernas, international restaurants and small shops flanked by yachts bobbing in the azure bay to the east, and craggy mountain tops to the west – I was chauffeured through Zakynthos’ winding roads towards the quaint, quiet hilltop village of Akrotiri, one of the island’s largely untouched peninsulas that boasts panoramic vistas towards Kefalonia

Building Lesante Cape’s whopping 95-key estate from scratch on a former olive grove was no mean feat (rest assured that no olive trees were harmed in the making of this resort, and 408 can be found across the site today) but the result is outstanding. In the expansive stone-hued reception, sky-high ceilings flood the space with sunlight and impeccably-dressed staff are friendly and enthusiastic from the off, on hand to whizz guests and luggage around the site on an army of electric golf buggies. It pays, however, to wander through the manicured lawns, cobbled lanes and olive grove-fringed walkways that form Lesante Cape to fully grasp its thoughtful design. 

Conceptualised as a traditional Greek village, the resort is centred around a ‘plateia’ (town square). Here, you’ll find one of Lesante Cape’s many restaurants, the Taverna, serving authentic Greek food, as well as a traditional market, a kafenio (coffee shop) that brews its beans over hot sand, a white-brick orthodox church for on-site weddings, a museum and the hotel’s vineyard, which grows grapes for the own-brand wine served across all its restaurants and bars. Traditions and authenticity are taken so literally at the plateia that,on a Monday night, visitors are treated to local music, singing and plate-smashing (and you won’t want to miss it). 

Lining each of the cobbled lanes are rows of suites and villas, all created to look like small Greek houses with their own porches. The Greco-modern style of the resort speaks to the island’s colonial Venetian past, featuring the classic ivory stone and archways that are common across Zakynthos, Kefalonia and Corfu. Despite the resort being tiered – expect a few inclines here and there, and call on the buggy team if it gets too much – privacy and exclusivity are high on Lesante Cape’s list of priorities, so not one villa is overlooked. 

Inside my perfectly-proportioned garden view pool suite, light-washed interiors featuring white stone, beige marble, wooden furniture and rattan décor create a relaxing ambience. The master bedroom, with its king-sized bed, spills out onto a spacious living area, flowing onto a stone-tiled veranda fitted with a 20 square metre private pool, sunbeds and umbrellas. The amber-lit bathroom features a double vanity, walk-in rainfall shower, deep bath and organic Zealots of Nature amenities with aromas of Greek olive oil, mandarin and lime. 

This wasn’t my first time to Zakynthos and I had visited the famous sightseeing spots of Navagio, aka Shipwreck Beach, and Mizithres previously, so I was perfectly content to remain on-site for the duration of my stay at Lesante Cape. It was the first time I’d visited a hotel and simply stayed put but, as I soon discovered, there was so much to do and explore that it almost seemed unnecessary to leave. The subterranean spa, Armonia, offers Mediterranean healing practices within four treatment rooms, as well as a sauna, hamam, indoor heated pool, jacuzzi, and 24-hour fitness centre. Adults should take advantage of the new padel courts while those with little ones in tow can blow off some steam at the playground or enrol them into the daily, educational kids club. 

One of my favourite areas of the hotel is its exclusive beach, accessed via steps at the bottom of the resort that lead onto a bay featuring two floating wooden platoons dotted with sunbeds and umbrellas. The beach is serviced by Kyma Beach Bar at the top of the cliff, where staff, ferrying a dizzying array of coffee and cocktail combinations, are equipped with plastic shoes to wear in the pebbly bay. 

Lesante Cape is certainly a destination for foodies – particularly if you’re a fan of Greek cuisine. It includes an impressive 10 outlets, from the sophisticated Noble Bar to the fine-dining Fiore restaurant, perched on the cliff and plating up high-end gastronomy. Breakfast is served Elea, with an impressive buffet ranging from local cuts of meat and cheese, to a pancake station and concise a la carte menu showcasing Greek favourites (the strapatsada – scrambled eggs, tomatoes and herbs – is delicious). 

Two of my highlights, however, are the all-day dining restaurant Novita and farm-to-table concept Bostani. The former overlooks one of Lesante Cape’s many infinity pools and boasts sweeping views across to Kefalonia, serving traditional dishes of dolmadaki risotto – imagine dolmades unwrapped and served with mint, plenty of olive oil and chunks of smoked pork neck – and hand-made makarounes pasta with chicken and fresh mushrooms. Don’t miss the 16-hour braised pork belly served in sticky and fluffy charcoal bao buns, and the Ladenia pie filled with native Ladograviera cheese and caramelised onions.

Our dinner at Bostani was exceptional – and not just because of the food. Situated in the resort’s kitchen garden, guests are encouraged to walk through the central footpath to enjoy a sensorial experience and spot and smell the huge courgettes, tomatoes and herbs growing in abundance. Served on red-and-white gingham table cloths, Bostani pares everything back to ensure guests feel like they’re enjoying a traditional Greek Sunday meal. Lamb is roasted on a charcoal spit in the corner and the food just keeps coming, in the form of tzatziki and fluffy pittas, homemade cheese pies, bowls of fava and chunks of that oily, slow-roasted lamb with garlic potatoes – utterly delicious. 

For another exceptional experience, take a trip to sister property, Lesante Blu, to sample award-winning, fine dining fare at Melia. Helmed by executive chef Nikos Ispiroudis, this restaurant is the jewel in the Lesante Collection’s culinary crown, and takes guests on a gastronomic journey of Zakynthos. Linger a little longer at this adults-only resort – just 10 minutes from Lesante Cape and also a member of Leading Hotels of the World – to enjoy its sleek, contemporary design, state-of-the-art suites, and private sandy beach. Away from young families and children, this provides the perfect haven for sophisticated sun worshippers to enjoy the cerulean waters of the Ionian Sea and vast views of the Peloponnese.

Using Lesante Blu as your base, visit the village of Tragaki to immerse yourself in Zakynthian culture at the olive oil museum, historic local churches and monasteries, and National Marine – home to the native loggerhead turtles. Continue to connect with nature at the hotel’s Essence Spa, where the menu features a variety of tailored treatments by luxury skincare brand Germaine de Capuccini, from facials to body scrubs, and massages to signature treatments, such as the Golden Lesante: a gentle exfoliation followed by a golden nectar and yellow seaweed wrap.

Ready to give Zakynthos a second chance? With the Lesante Collection boasting a trilogy of fine Greek hospitality – from rich cultural experiences to top notch dining, and exceptional wellness offerings to state-of-the-art accommodation – it’s a no brainer for anyone visiting the Ionian island. Greek life doesn’t get much better than this. 

From £380 per night at Lesante Cape and Lesante Blu, visit lesantecollection.gr

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