Zakynthos island is a lovely, romantic little Greek island. It is a beautiful island that is worth exploring. This article will be a guide to Zakynthos Island and explore its natural beauty, as well as its rich history and culture. The Greeks call it Zakynthos/Zakinthos. The other name, Zante, was originally given to the island by ruling Venetians, who also oversaw the planting of a vast number of olive trees on the island.
The trees are still there and so is the name Zante, which is popular with many in the travel industry because it is shorter and easier to say and spell!! The Zakintos island’s shape is reminiscent of a lobster’s open claw. The eastern-most “claw” is known as the Vassilikos / Vasilikos
- History of Zakynthos
- Geography and Weather: Zakynthos, Greece
- Wildlife in Zakynthos Island
- Food and local Cuisines of Zakynthos
- Culture of Zakintos Island
- Historical Monuments in Zakynthos
- Beaches In Zakynthos Island
- Interesting Places to Explore in Zakynthos
- Shopping in Zakintos Island
Most people know Zakynthos as the island that was the setting for the famous movie “Zorba the Greek.” This lush green island is called the “Island of Eternal Spring” because of the unending sunshine and almost constant warm temperature. With its stunning scenery and fascinating history, it is no wonder that Zakynthos is a destination of choice for many. In this blog post, I will be exploring this island, its history, and its beauty.
History of Zakynthos
Zakynthos is one of the most beautiful islands in Greece. It is a small island, but it has a lot to offer. The island has a lot of beaches, rocky coastlines, and a lot of greenery. It is also a very popular destination for tourists. In the past, the island was a part of Greece, but it became a part of Greece again in 1881. Now, the island is a member of the Ionian Islands region of Greece. The area of Zakynthos is approximately 64.5 square miles. It is the second-largest island in Greece and the largest in the Ionian Islands region. The island is also known as Zante.
Geography and Weather: Zakynthos, Greece
Zakynthos is one of the most beautiful Ionian islands. It is located in the Ionian Sea, off the southwestern coast of Greece. It is the second-largest of the Ionian Islands, and it is separated from its closest neighbor, Corfu, by a distance of only 10 kilometers. The island is well known for its beaches and the white, crystalline waters of its pristine coastline. The island is also home to a long history of Greek mythology, and it is the birthplace of the ancient Greek hero Perseus. Zakynthos Island: The Most Beautiful Ionian Island.
The weather on the island of Zakynthos is quite constant and changes depending on the current season. If tourists want to mainly enjoy the sea and endless swimming in it, they come to Zakynthos during the season. It starts on the island sometime in June and usually ends in September. Summers here are very warm, with average temperatures hovering around 25 degrees Celsius from May to October. In the main summer months of July and August, the mercury on the thermometer climbs to 30 degrees on average. The sea water is usually pleasantly warm and is often not even able to refresh itself due to the heat of the sun and its own temperature.
The summer season is usually the most stable in terms of weather, but the prices and overcrowding speak against visiting Zakynthos during the season. There are a huge number of tourists here in the summer, and if you are looking for privacy, it is better to plan your visit for a different period or choose a different destination. Precipitation during the summer in Zakynthos is minimal, but that does not mean that it is not there. If any precipitation comes, it just gently washes away all the dust and cleans the air. But this is not a long-term issue.
Autumn is magical on the island. Around you, you will be able to see the harvest of several types of fruits and vegetables. In the inland fields, local farmers will have to scramble to harvest all the crops. Everything is also connected with the possibility of tasting local fruits, which taste really great when fresh. From the point of view of swimming, September is still a passable month, as temperatures do not drop below 25 degrees and the sea is still relatively warm, so you can swim in it. Discomfort can only be caused by rains, the frequency of which is the highest here throughout the year. Especially at the end of September, it already rains fairly steadily, so trips and swimming are not possible.
From October to April, the weather in Zakynthos is quite cold and you need to pack a warm jacket in your backpack. Although these months have nothing to do with swimming, you can get to know the island’s beauty to its fullest. Winter is not as cold as inland and temperatures rarely reach zero. Rather, they hover around 10 degrees Celsius. Precipitation in winter is purely rainy. However, their regularity will surprise many. It rains here really often.
The spring season is beautiful and the island is literally filled with greenery. You will meet tourists to a minimum and it is not a problem to go on trips around the area and visit the most beautiful places on the island. If you arrive just before the season, sometime at the end of May, you will be able to swim in a relatively quiet environment when the weather is good, as most tourists are still at home.
Wildlife in Zakynthos Island
The wildlife of Zakynthos is one of the most important attractions of the island. There are many different types of birds to be found on the island, including the European honey buzzard, the golden eagle, the imperial eagle, and the bearded vulture. There are also many different types of reptiles, such as the black-bellied monitor and the European green lizard. There are many different types of mammals on the island, including the mouflon sheep, the European wildcat, the wild boar, and the European rabbit.
There are also many different types of insects, including the bee and the bee hawk. Other important attractions of the island are the beaches and the cultural heritage. There are many beautiful beaches on the island that are perfect for beach-goers. The beaches have a multitude of colors, which makes them extremely beautiful. The cultural heritage of the island is also something that visitors should not miss. The churches and the old buildings are a must-see for anyone visiting the island.
Food and local Cuisines of Zakynthos
Zakynthos is an island that is visited by a large number of tourists every year and the food sold on this island corresponds to this. You will of course be able to buy local food, ie Greek, but you will also find American fast food, Chinese cuisine or Indian specialties.
But most people who arrive on Zakynthos indulge in local specialties. These include, for example, a real Greek salad. It is a mixed salad in which tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and also lettuce leaves are added. Everything is topped with genuine Greek feta cheese, black olives and drizzled with nothing but olive oil. Greek salad is usually served as an appetizer.
Among other traditional appetizers, salad with tuna or calamari is often served. This dish basically consists of pieces of cuttlefish – cuttlefish, which the chefs fry in egg batter. Mussels and tzatziki, i.e. cucumber salad in yogurt flavored with grated garlic and dill, are also classic appetizers. It is usually served with toasted Greek bread. The Greeks are also famous for cheese. The most famous Greek cheese is undoubtedly feta. In Zakynthos, they only offer this salty sheep’s cheese with bread and traditional Zakynthos onions. In restaurants, this delicacy is topped with olive oil. You can often get bread spread like this on the beach.
Gyros is also a world-famous Greek dish. This is represented by a piece of meat that is rotated on a spit and gradually roasted. It is then put into a pita and served. Souvlaki are other typical delicacies of Greek cuisine that you will certainly find on the menu of restaurants on Zakynthos. This dish consists of pieces of various meats that are specially prepared on the spit. French fries, potatoes or rice are used as a side dish for souvlaki. Everything is topped off with a high-quality vegetable garnish, and goodness is in the world.
People on Zakynthos also like moussaka – slices of aubergine that are baked with minced meat and special local spices and, of course, with garlic. Otherwise, seafood is often served in restaurants, with octopus leading the way in several different ways. Lamb chops and Zakynthos rabbit prepared in red wine are also very popular.
In the restaurants, you can have either Amstel, Heineken and other brands of beer with your meal, or a typical local wine. The traditional local drink is Retsina. It is a type of wine that is left in special freshly made wooden barrels still scented with resin, which gives the wine a special aroma.
Culture of Zakintos Island
The Greeks, and therefore understandably the people living on Zakynthos, love traditions. Over time, of course, these traditions changed until they came fully into the hands of the islanders, who imprinted their present form on them. Church traditions mainly remained unchanged. Folk traditions are often a little modified, while they mainly involve dancing and singing folk songs.
So let’s try to list at least the main holidays that local residents like to celebrate. Good Friday is a significant church event. On this day, a procession with a Byzantine icon called Panagia Chryssopigi takes place on the outskirts of the capital of Zakynthos. It is customary to dance and sing until late at night. Everything is accompanied by traditional roast lamb.
Easter is undoubtedly the most festive time on the island of Zakynthos. Practically all local residents participate in the celebration of this holiday. In the capital, a procession with a cross going to Solomos Square is organized on this day. Here the bishop enters and blesses all the faithful. The next day, at four o’clock in the afternoon, a procession leaves the church again. The next service is then held on Holy Saturday, when Christ rose from the dead. Everything is accompanied by the ringing of church bells and also by sounding the horns of all the ships anchored in the port. Everything is still torn apart by the evening’s monstrous fireworks display. At the same time, the much-loved local lamb is roasted all Saturday.
An important holiday is also celebrated on August 24. It was on this day in 1717 that the remains of the patron of Zakynthos, St. Dionysia just on Zakynthos. They are kept today in the reliquary of the church of Agia Dionysia in the capital of Zakynthos. It is a very interesting addition to the holiday for tourists, as they will see a large parade around the city ending with fireworks. On December 17, Zakynthos celebrates another holiday associated with the person of this patron saint. It is directly the feast of St. Dionysus. This saint was born in 1547 in Zakynthos and was later ordained as an archbishop, only to give up his office and return to Zakynthos, where he worked in the church of Aghios Nikolaos. From there he finally went to a monastery located in Anafonitriia.
In addition to church holidays, weddings and baptisms are also celebrated on the island. You will also meet the carnival here. During most celebrations, folk dances similar to the Greek Uranos dances are performed, which are said to have roots in the victory dance of Theseus after his victory over the Minotaur. You can watch some of these dances in some taverns. You can easily try to dance them.
Historical Monuments in Zakynthos
Agios Georgios Gremon
The monastery of Agios Georgios Gremon undoubtedly ranks among the important historical sights on the island of Zakynthos. It can be found in the northwestern part of the island in areas where there are large pine groves. It was built near the village of Anafonitria. This monastery was founded in the 16th century. Two monks did so – Varlaam and Makarius. According to legends, this monastery was attacked and destroyed by pirates in 1553 and was rebuilt in the Venetian style in the 17th century. Near the monastery you can also see the remains of a fortress, whose main task was to protect this area from the raids of bloodthirsty pirates.
Agia Mavra is a church dating back to the 14th century. It has practically become one of the most important places on the entire island of Zakynthos. Several beautiful ancient frescoes and icons can be seen in the interior of the church. You will also find a local miraculous icon, which has several rare gifts. Among the rarest ones, let’s mention, for example, a jewel from Queen Olga. You might hear the bells tolling in the bell tower of Venice. They summon pilgrims quite often, but mainly when a famous local festival is to be held.
Church of Agios Dionysios
This important sacral building is named after the greatest saint and protector of the island of Zakynthos, Saint Dionysus. The church can be found in the southern part of the capital city of Zakynthos. The time of its creation dates back to 1708. In 1764, however, it was relatively extensively renovated. The most important moment in the history of this building was the year 1717 when the body of St. Dionysus. It is still kept here in a silver reliquary. Pilgrims flock here constantly to pay their respects to this saint. In the interior of the church, you can also admire icons by the famous painters Doxar and Kostouzis. Dominant in this church is a very tall bell tower, which is architecturally an imitation of the bell tower of one of the churches in Venice, Italy.
Church of Agios Georgios Filikon
In the Bohali area, there is another interesting building – the church of Agios Georgios Filikon. It is mainly known thanks to the icons that tourists can see in it. The icons became famous mainly because some of the participants in the revolution in Greece in 1821 took a vow in front of them. After all, next to the icons themselves, you can also find the names of these revolutionaries.
This beautiful Venetian palace is located approximately 3 kilometers from the capital of Zakynthos. The foundations of this structure were built on the ruins of the ancient city of Psofida. You will probably already be interested in the entrance gate, above which is the shield of the lions of Agios Markos.
Beaches In Zakynthos Island
On Zakynthos, you will find a lot of beaches where you can make yourself comfortable.
This beach is probably the most famous on the entire island of Zakynthos. It is dominated by a large wreck of a smuggling ship. This is probably the biggest attraction on Zakynthos. The beach itself is beautiful, which also accounts for the presence of a large number of white pebbles. Thanks to them, walking along the beach is also very pleasant. The only disadvantage is the fact that you can only get here by boat and that there are usually many tourists here.
Porto Zoro is a smaller beach where you won’t find absolute privacy, but it’s certainly not that busy. The pleasant atmosphere here is enhanced by several bars, one restaurant and also a chillout beach bar for younger tourists.
Porto Rosa Beach is extraordinarily beautiful before sunset. It is a harbor rather than a beach. You will find much-needed privacy here, as there are not many tourists here. Gerakas Beach Gerakas Beach is a beach that is definitely worth visiting for its large size. Here you will find places where there are a lot of people, but also completely secluded areas where you will have more privacy. Access from turtle conservationists is limited to two hours a day.
Although this beach has very poor access via a relatively dusty road, it often enchants tourists with its vastness.
Banana Beach Zakynthos
Banana Beach is located near the resort of Vassiliki and offers beautiful panoramas supported by pure golden sand. It’s not quite in the tourist area, but it certainly doesn’t disappoint with its facilities.
Laganas beach is located near the resort of the same name. It is basically a bay with shoals around which smaller sandy beaches are spread. This corner of the island is ideal mainly because the access to the sea is really gradual, which allows swimming even for families with small children. If you head east, you can easily reach Kalamaki beach.
Xigia is a small pebble beach, but it became famous thanks to the sulfur springs that spring up here. In addition to the standard sulfur smell, the sea water is also colored. In places of mixing with sulfur water, it gets a yellow tint. However, thanks to the content of this element, bathing is ideal not only for fun, but also for rehabilitation.
The golden, yellow-sanded beach of Kalamaki lies between the resort of the same name and another resort, Laganas. The entire beach is heated by the sun quite intensively in the summer, and the entrance to the sea is gradual. The beach also boasts completely complete equipment for various water and land sports. During the season, however, it is relatively overcrowded.
Interesting Places to Explore in Zakynthos
In the northern part of the island of Zakynthos, there is one of the most interesting locations, which almost no tourist can miss. The Blue Cave is located near the village of Volimes. Visitors usually go to the caves by boat with a travel agency, but some of them can also be reached from the windmills in Skinari. From there, you go up the roofed floor. The Blue Caves are massive vaults of rock formed over thousands of years. The caves are mainly characterized by the wonderful play of colors inside. In a certain light, the cave is literally turquoise. These caves have become the biggest magnet for divers, who discover the hitherto unknown underwater world here. Light rays penetrate even below the sea level, creating unique scenery.
Monastery of Anafonitria
The Anafonitria monastery is also a beautiful and rather mystical place on the island. It is located in the northwestern tip of Zakynthos. Nearby is the village of Plemonariou. The entire building dates from the 15th century. The monastery is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and consists of several buildings. Inside the monastery there are very rare paintings and icons. It is often said that whoever lights a candle in a monastery will have all their wishes come true. That is also why tourists can buy a candle for a symbolic price.
A trip to the heart of the island of Zakynthos
Some travel agencies also organize trips to the interior of Zakynthos. These trips are usually directed to local villages, around which typical crops such as olive oil, wine and other agricultural products are grown. You can taste the famous raisins and other crops. The prices of such trips are around 1,000 crowns Trip to Navaggio beach Among the most popular trips is the all-day one via one of the boats.
It departs from the main port of Zakynthos and the destination is the most famous Navaggio beach. It is characterized by the fact that it can only be reached by sea and also by the wreck of the smuggling ship Panagiotis. This wreck is slowly but surely falling apart here. Everything is also connected with beautiful bathing. You can also buy ice cream and other snacks on the boat. Adults pay approximately 28 euros for this cruise and children 15.
Water park Water village
Water park Water village, or Vodní vesnice in Czech, awaits you in Sarakinado. This location is located near Agios Kirikos. There are all kinds of slides, pools and other water attractions. However, you will be able to sit at one of the bars or have a quick snack or ice cream. You can also buy some small souvenirs here. Entrance to the park costs 10 Euros for children and 16 Euros for adults.
Circuit of the island of Zakynthos
A sightseeing tour of the island of Zakynthos is strikingly reminiscent of a trip to the heart of the island. You will drive through beautiful picturesque villages, past orchards and pastures, and you will also stop at the Bochali viewpoint, from where you can see the capital of Zakynthos from afar as if in the palm of your hand. The stop is usually made at the Callinicos winery and you will reach the port of Agios Nikolaos. This is usually where the trip towards the Blue Caves begins. The trip costs approximately 39 Euros for adults and 25 Euros for children.
If you don’t stick to just getting to know the island of Zakynthos, it’s no problem to go on a trip to the neighboring island of Kefalonia. The trip takes place on a boat and along the way you will be able to see several beauties hidden at sea. These include, for example, sailing on the underground lake Melissani and stopping at a bay called Myrtos. It ranks among the most photographed places in the whole of Greece. The whole trip also includes the possibility of visiting the capital of Kefalonia, Argostol. You will have time to browse local souvenirs and homemade items. The price of the trip is 53 Euros for adults and 35 Euros for children.
Sailing towards Turtle Island
Turtle Island is also a well-known location. The cruise will take place around the beautiful Vassilikos peninsula towards the turtle island called Marathonissi. As part of the trip, you will be able to swim in the crystal clear sea and look at the turtles under the water surface. But you can also observe such dolphins. You will also see rock caves as you cruise around the Keri Peninsula. The approximate price of such a trip is around 20 Euros for adults and 10 Euros for children.
Trip to Olympia
What would a vacation in Greece be without seeing the famous Olympia, the place where the first Olympic Games took place. You will be able to see the ruins of the temple of Zeus, the ruler of the gods, and the place where the famous Olympic stadium stood long before the beginning of our era. As part of the trip, you will also visit the Archaeological Museum, where you will admire the most beautiful ancient sculptures. You will certainly find time for a walk around Olympia, combined with the purchase of various handmade souvenirs. The trip costs approximately 59 Euros for adults and 39 Euros for children.
Shopping in Zakintos Island
Payments are made in Euro throughout Greece, and of course it is the same in Zakynthos. The first place is, of course, buying food. These can generally be bought in Greece either in a hypermarket or in smaller shops. There are no large supermarkets on Zakynthos, so tourists have to make do with smaller grocery stores.
The opening hours of shops are usually set relatively irregularly to the taste of the Czech citizen. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, shops are open from nine in the morning to three in the afternoon. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the opening hours are longer and you will be able to go for groceries from nine in the morning until eight in the evening.
For orientation, the prices of basic foods should be indicated. On Zakynthos, these prices are slightly inflated compared to mainland Greece. So, for example, bottled water with a content of 1.5 liters costs 1 Euro, a pizza costs 4 Euros and a cola costs 0.55 Euros. Among other foods, let’s name a dalama for 0.50, bread for 0.80, baguettes for 0.30 and a kilogram of cheese for 5 to 10 Euros.
If you go out for food on the street, a typical gyros will cost you 1.5 Euros and a moussaka will cost you 4 Euros. In the restaurant, various dishes and drinks also cost significantly more. For lunch in one of the restaurants, you will pay roughly between 6 and 10 Euros, while beer costs around 1 Euro and wine around 3 Euros. A traditional Greek frappe costs 2 Euros.
The opening hours of souvenir shops are logically somewhat different. The opening hours of these shops are set from 9 in the morning to 8 in the evening. These opening hours are fixed throughout the week. The shopping center is located in the capital of Zakynthos and is mostly located on Alexandrova Street.
So what are the basic souvenirs that people from Zakynthos most often take with them? One of the most common commodities that people generally bring with them from Greece is olive oil. Local people claim that olive oil from Zakynthos is the best in Greece. Another product that is characteristic of Zakynthos is bee honey. The local one is thyme and has a very specific smell and taste. Local merchants also often offer nuts pickled in honey. Montolato is also a local specialty. It is essentially a kind of analogue of Turkish honey, but it is produced using a different technology.
When you think of Greece, many people think of metaxa. The one from Zakynthos is really excellent. The Zakynthos onion is also a non-traditional product. It is much larger in size than the classic one and also has a typical sweet taste. Otherwise, cheeses, leather goods and various perfumes are also transported from Zakynthos.
Image Credits : Wikipedia