They Call Me "Flower of the East"
George Papadellis | SG Head
Sophia Parastatidou | SG Team | MA Candidate - ACG Apprentice
Zakynthos (also called Zante, the Italian version of its name) is the island known as “the flower of the east”. It is the third largest of the Ionian islands and it is being called “the flower” because it has breath-taking landscapes, beautiful exotic beaches with pale pure sand and crystal-clear blue waters, and super crazy nightlife. Zakynthos has a rich history, a fact that makes it even more attractive for foreigners, thus crowded during the summer. The wild nightlife of Zakynthos island is mainly located in the area of Laganas, where all must-go night bars and clubs are located. Even though things get extreme with parties and nightlife, Zakynthos has multiple faces, making it a popular destination for couples and families too.
Zakynthos island was named after the son of King Dardanos of Troy (named Zakynthos), when he arrived on Zakynthos island around 1,500-1,600 BC, according to Iliad and Odyssey. It is worth mentioning that when Zakynthos was under Venetian domination during the 15th century, a rude aristocratic oligarchic political system was established. The Venetians supported the cultural heritage of Zakynthos, which has given birth to many well-known poets and writers, such as Andreas Kalvos, Dionysios Solomos, the judge Georgios Tertsetis and the theatrical writer Antonis Matessis. When the Russians and the Turks conquered Zakynthos, the political conditions changed. And then, from 1814 to 1864, during the English domination, Zakynthos met several developments in its administrative structure and its public works.
When it comes to things-to-do, Zakynthos will surprise you with the variant options it provides! The Zakynthos Shipwreck Beach (Navagio Beach or Smuggler’s Cove), which is considered by many the most beautiful and picturesque beach in Greece, can be accessed by several organized trips from the harbour of Agios Nikolaos, 32 kilometres from Zakynthos Town. Zakynthos Town is the island’s capital, famous for its extraordinary neoclassical architecture, despite the damages from the earthquake of 1953. The beautiful streets are full of small coffee shops, traditional bakeries, boutiques and apparel stores. It is worth visiting the main church, Agios Dionysios, and walking the path from Bohali Village to the Venetian Castle. The Byzantine Museum in the main square of Zakynthos Town presents many rare Byzantine icons and oil paintings from the 18th century. The Roma Mansion, house of the famous Roma family built in 1660, is one of the oldest buildings that have survived the earthquake of 1953. One can get close to the aesthetic and reality of the aristocrats of this period only by looking at the well-maintained furniture and ornamentals of the mansion. The Zakynthos Blue Caves, located in Skinari Cape and created by the reflections of the sky and the cave walls to the crystal blue waters of the sea, are one of the most overwhelming landscapes in Zakynthos. Same as with the Navagio Beach, one can reach this place by the harbour of Agios Nikolaos. And of course, the Zakynthos Blue Caves aren’t the only magical caves of Zakynthos; true explorers must visit the Keri Caves, located 14 kilometres from the Zakynthos island’s capital, which are perfect for basic underwater exploring with masks or even scuba diving with an organized group or alone. The Porto Limnionas, close to Agios Leon village, is one of the best swimming spots in Zakynthos. It has many restaurants around and visitors can choose also a private and organized experience. The Zakynthos National Marine Park in Laganás Bay has been a favorite resort for many tourists since the 80s. It is full of rare loggerhead sea turtles (approximately 1300 turtles) and it is responsible for their protection since 1999.
Apart from the Navagio Beach already mentioned, Zakynthos has several other incredible beaches. Banana Beach is a super fun, organized beach, located only 20 minutes from the capital city, it provides several options for water sports, and it is perfect for families and young travellers! The Makris Gialos beach is located in the north part of Zakynthos, and it is not very crowded. One can experience many adventurous explorations, safely for any age, and a scuba diving school! The Agios Nikolaos Beach is undoubtedly one of the must-see beaches in Zakynthos. It is close to Banana beach, and it has great music, great people, and excellent water sports activities to keep visitors entertained during the whole day! On the island’s south side, the Gerakas beach waits new explorers to photo shoot it and enjoy its unique landscape and crystal-clear blue waters! Another fantastic option with excellent restaurants is Laganas Beach, which is also perfect to combine night swimming and clubbing! And you can also take a look at the Cameo Zakynthos island Beach, the Tsivili beach, the Porto Zoro beach, the Alykes beach, and the Kalamaki beach. Keep exploring Zakynthos island beaches, you will find more!
Zakynthos cuisine is a must for everyone to experience! There are many traditional taverns and shops to taste the island’s unique gastronomical treasures! When you find the right place to sit (always ask locals!), you should first order good starters, such as melitzanosalata, taramosalata, tzatziki, fried veggies, dolmadakia, and local pies. Then, for main dishes, there are several options with meat, fish, or veggies, such as souvlaki, stifado, yuvetsi, moussaka, papoutsakia, fresh local fried or grilled fish served with potatoes or rice. For vegetarians there are imam, briam, or gemista! Of course, it is necessary to combine your main dish with the typical Greek salad that contains the famous feta cheese! Suppose you are on the street, searching for take-away food. In this case, local pies, such as tyropita, spanakopita, gyros, or local traditional candies, such as baklavas, kataifi, and bougatsa, are great options! We recommend the Country Steakhouse Restaurant, the San Leon Tavern, the Premier Restaurant, the Ambrosia Restaurant, the Parthenon Restaurant, the Sizzlebang House, the Jasmine Bar Restaurant, the Piscina Pool Bar, the Grecos, and The Halfway House.
Except from the many things to see, the great bars & restaurants, and the organized tours to reach unique spots, one can do many other exciting activities in Zakynthos! First and foremost, Zakynthos has many diving spots, such as Laganas, Tsilivi, Alykanas, Argassi, Limni Keriou, and Vassilikos, where one can learn how to do safe scuba diving and enjoy this experience! Second, in Sarakinado village in Tragaki, there is the Water Village Park, a water-theme park with various activities for children and adults, such as multi racing, turbo tube, aqua spray game, and more! Moreover, don’t forget to visit Cine Negas in Zakynthos city and enjoy exceptional movies in the open-air. Last but not least, for the lovers of karting, the Zante Go Kart is a perfect choice; located in Kalamaki, friendly and safe for every age!
About Zakynthos weather: the island has a Mediterranean climate, which means that you will experience sweltering and dry summers or mild winters. For summer lovers, seeking sun and warmness, the best time to visit Zante is between June and September. The hottest month is July, with an average daily temperature between 20 °C and 34 °C. The average sea temperature is 26.5 °C, making it as warm as it should be for a perfect swim. For spring resolutions, one should know that the rains are average, minimum temperature in Zakynthos city is between 10 °C and 19 °C, specifically in April. As for October, Zakynthos weather is different; the temperatures are starting to get lower, and the rains are getting wilder! Last, Zante in December is very mild but still sunny and… shiny!
Closing, Zante has hidden treasures that few people know about, and it is crucial to mention them! To begin with, locals claim that Mick Jagger named his band The Rolling Stones after an experience he had in the village Kiliomeno (which means in Greek “rolling”). Second, the famous shoes Zante New Balance Fresh Foam Zante have been inspired from Zante Island and from the “Fresh Foam Boracay”, an Island in the Philippines! Third, there is a mystery with Zakynthos regarding a monastery with an undamaged icon of the Virgin Mary that was found in the 15th century after being thrown into the sea in the 13th century! And finally, Zakynthos is the birthplace of Zante currants (also known as Corinth raisins, Corinthian raisins, or simply "currants"), the small, sweet, seedless raisins produced from the grape variety “Corinth”, of which Zakynthos used to be the major producer. Don’t forget to taste wines in Zakynthos, as it has been the birthplace for many grape varieties and the producer of excellent wines!