Island of Zakynthos
Floating on the turquoise waters of the Ionian Sea, south to Kefalonia, Zakynthos (or Zante) is the closest to paradise on earth!
Home to the worldwide famous Navagio (Shipwreck) beach and glorified by innumerable travel guides, Zakynthos island is one of the most popular Greek islands! Breathtaking landscapes, exotic beaches with sugar fine sand and turquoise waters and crazy nightlife are the main reasons why this island is wildly popular. But, there’s more than that!
History and Geography
Zakynthos lies in the eastern part of the Ionian Sea, around 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of the Greek (Peloponnese) mainland. It is the southernmost of the main group of the Ionian islands (not counting distant Kythira). Zakynthos is about 40 kilometers (25 miles) long and 20 kilometers (12 miles) wide and covers an area of 405.55 km2 (156.58 sq. mi). Its coastline is approximately 123 km (76 mi) long, while the highest point is Vrachionas, at 758 meters (2,487 feet).
The ancient Greek poet Homer mentioned Zakynthos in the Iliad and the Odyssey, stating that its first inhabitants were the son of King Dardanos of Arcadia, called Zakynthos, and his men. Zakynthos participated in the Trojan War and is listed in the Homeric Catalogue of Ships which, if accurate, describes the geopolitical situation in early Greece at some time between the Late Bronze Age and the eighth century BCE. In the Odyssey, Homer mentions 20 nobles from Zakynthos among a total of 108 of Penelope’s suitors.
Philip V of Macedon seized Zakynthos in the early 3rd century BC when it was a member of the Aetolian League. In 211 BC, the Roman praetor Marcus Valerius Laevinus took the city of Zakynthos with the exception of the citadel. It was afterwards restored to Philip V of Macedon. The Roman general Marcus Fulvius Nobilior finally conquered Zakynthos in 191 BC for Rome
After the fall of the Byzantine Empire, it was held by the Kingdom of Naples, the Ottoman Turks, the Republic of Venice, the French, Russians, British, Italians and Germans.
Things to Do
Things to do in Zakynthos are many as the island is largely tourist developed. Diving is a popular activity in Zakynthos and actually many diving centers have opened in the tourist resorts of the island. These centers offer courses and organize diving trips to interesting reefs and uninhabited islets.
The trademark of Zante, as the island is known in Italian, is the scenic Navagio (Shipwreck) beach. Many pictures and postcards have tried to capture its beauty, but the reality is far better! Only accessible by boat, Navagio beach has magical turquoise waters, white sand and is backed by dramatic towering cliffs. While the view from above is simply breathtaking, you should also experience a dip in its enticingly clear water. Apart from Shipwreck beach, though, there are many wonderful Zakynthos beaches you should visit, such as Laganas Zante, Gerakas beach, Vasilikos beach, and Spiantza beach. Some of these beaches are where the endangered caretta-caretta sea turtles lay their eggs every spring and summer. You might be lucky enough to see them getting out of the sea to hide their eggs under the sand, but you should by no means disturb them!
After exploring the emerald bays of the island, take a break from the beach life to visit Zakynthos Town, the capital of Zakynthos. Strongly influenced by the Venetians, who had also named the island “Fiore di Levante” (flower of the east), Zakynthos Town has many hidden gems to explore! Saint Mark Square, the Venetian Castle, Solomos Square and the Post-Byzantine Museum of Zante are some of the best places to visit in Zakynthos Town.
As for things to do in Zakynthos, you’ll never run out of options! Partying, scuba diving, Zante tours, and water sports will keep you entertained during your Zakynthos holidays!