Zakynthos

'Zante' Island

Zante is called "The flower of the East" for a reason.

It is a verdant island endowed with fertile valleys, beautiful bays, and a variety of beaches; there are sandy beaches in secluded coves where the tranquil waters are deep blue on the island’s southeastern part; yet, if rugged cliffs and an interesting underwater world are to your liking, try the western part of the island. A place fore letters and art, it was influenced by all the major European countries, assimilating them into a unique cultural mix. Is the place where D. Solomos was born (who wrote the National Anthem in 1823), G. Xenopoulos (famous writer) together with local art forms such as "kantades" (singing on the streets), poetry, music and visual arts. Visitors from all over the world discover this earthly paradise flocking them every summer.

Exploring the diverse landscape

It is called that the island was born from a major earthquake in early years, rising from the bottom of the sea.

The Venetians called the island "Fioro di Levante", with more than 7,000 species of flowers on Zakynthos. The third largest island of the Ionian Sea, after Corfu and Kefalonia, is internationally known as "Zante".

Exploring the island from north to south, you should start from the cape of Skinari. Discover the beauty of "Galazia Spilia" (Blue Cave) and have a tour on one of the ‘Glass-Bottom’ boats, admire the natural sponges and corals, or ask for a dive in the crystal blue waters of the sea. A local tavern called the "Faros" (Lighthouse) with more than 20 years of history will offer you the best Zakinthian plates and local flavors.

Nearby, only 15 minutes away, you can also visit the most famous spot of the Ionian Sea. This is the mostly pictured, Shipwreck Bay (the "Navagio" as it is called) with a magnificent beach to enjoy the day. Take everything you might need (water, fruit or drinks) since you won’t find anything else, apart from a breathtaking scenery, turquoise waters and lots of sunshine. If you take the road, at the small village of Anafonitria ask for the location where you can see the Navagio from the top. Be extremely careful of the wind bursts, taking security measures and a small step at a time.

From the eastern side of the island you can find the Alykes beach, suitable for all ages, couples, or families. Its main feature is the endless golden sandy beach and shallow warm waters which is ideal for children and is definitely one of the best in Zakynthos. With its village atmosphere and stunning scenery, many bars and taverns, shops and excursions, it is a really complete holiday experience. Or swim at Makris Gialos and Ksigia, both fine pebbled beaches.

Agios Nikolaos is a sandy beach, full of young people, and from the small port, you can take a daily trip to Kefalonia. Heading south, Alykanas is a rapidly growing resorts location, and Akrotiri (Cape) and Argasi are the closest beaches to the capital of Zakynthos. Argasi is also famous for its nightlife.

Laganas bay is the most known, the largest and liveliest resort located on the south coast of the island (9 km of sandy beaches).

It is also famous around the globe for its fantastic nightlife and is a magnet for young people who want to party there. They will be spoilt for choice with its many night clubs open all night long, emitting an intoxicating atmosphere. Many of the hotels can be found away from the main strip surrounded by olive groves and vineyards, an excellent choice for families and couples of all ages.

At the south-end of Zakynthos, you will have the chance to scuba dive close to the lighthouse of Keri, or admire a magnificent sunset at the beach.

The capital of Zakynthos

The Venetian architectural influence has left its stamp on Zante despite the damage sustained due to the seismic activity in the area. After the ravaging 1953 earthquake and the ensuing fire, a number of historical buildings and churches burned to the ground. The town was rebuilt according to a plan where strict anti-seismic specifications applied and, to a large extent, respecting the town’s former architectural structure.

The city of Zakynthos is the capital of the island and at the same time the island's port. Walk around the picturesque streets and alleys with the flowered balconies, the shopping centre, or the paved square of Agios Markos (you will also find the Museum of Solomos, Kalvos and Eminent Zakynthians). This is the main meeting point for locals and visitors.

Take a tour around the city and visit:

  • The Solomos Square surrounded by buildings with characteristic traditional architectural features of the island, arch-shaped windows and arcades. The bust of D. Solomos national poet of Greece dominates in the centre. Here you can also find the Public Library (with 55, 000 volumes).
  • The Post- Byzantine Museum of Zante in Solomos square exhibits treasures such as statues trimmed with gold, icons and art woodcuts.
  • The coastal road known as Strata Marina, which is one of the most frequented parts of the city, with cafés, bars and restaurants, from the Solomos Square up to the church of the patron-saint Aghios Dionysios.
  • Rouga: Its name is Alexandros Romas street, starting at Aghios Markos Square crossing almost the whole town. This street with the impressive arcades has been the main commercial centre of the city for centuries.
  • The Venetian Castle situated on a hill overhanging the town in the place of the old acropolis.
  • Some of the remarkable churches of Zakynthos, like Agios Nikolaos tou Molou (Solomou Square): a church of Renaissance order (17th century) with a belfry dating back to the Byzantine period; Agios Dionysios, Aghios Markos (1516), a Catholic Church situated at the Aghiou Markou Square (is a copy of the one of Saint Mark’s basilica in Venice) or Agios Georgios where the army commanders and other fighters of the 1821 Revolution took their vows on the icon which is kept in this church.

Bellow the Venetian Castle is the beautiful flowery neighbourhood of Mpochari, with small quiet streets, old houses with courtyards full of green and colours, full of traditional cafés and restaurants and local music filling every corner.

Zakynthos is also famous for its cultural life. During the year you will experience the program of the Carnival festivities, the Easter time, where the Holy Week in Zakynthos has its own character with ancient customs, considered to be unique and unforgettable both for locals and visitors; the Litany and artistic events in the memory of Aghios Dionysios on August 24th and December 17th.

The National Marine Park of Zakynthos

On Zante, great care is taken to protect two endangered animal species, namely the caretta-caretta sea turtle and the monachus-monachus seal. The Gerakas bay (Laganas beach) is hosting the last and most important concentration of Loggerhead "Caretta caretta" nesting sites in the Mediterranean. Every year, from the beginning June through the end of August, the female Loggerheads come ashore at night to lay their eggs in the sand and then afterwards cover the nest.

After 55 days, the hatchlings start to dig their way out of the nest to find their way down to the sea. Survival rate is very low, only very few hatchlings (1 or 2 out of 1000) will have a chance to adulthood. Thus, it's very important to protect the nests.

You might even be lucky to see some of the really few remaining seals, living inside the caves of the western coasts, all the way down from Skinari cape, up to Keri and Marathonisi. This is the only population left within Europe. An amazing view is also the Bottlenose dolphins ("Tursiops truncatus") living in the same waters around the island.

Useful information

 

Getting there:

 

  • The island is connected by ferry to Patras, and Killini.
  • You can reach Zakynthos by aeroplane from Athens and Thessaloniki

 

Useful phone numbers (+30)

 

 

SERVICE PHONE NUMBER
Municipality +30 26950-22315
Airport 26950-28322
Police 26950-24450, 22100
Fire Station 26950-22199
Port Police 26950-28117
Hospital centre 26950-59100
Medical centre 26950-23166
Taxi 26950-48400 and online at the link: www.zantetaxi.gr
Local buses (KTEL) 26950-42656
Archaeological area of Venetian Castle 26950-48099
Public Library 26950-48128
Post- Byzantine Museum of Zante 26950-42714

 

 

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