Said to be the sunniest of all Greek islands, Zakynthos is also one of the greenest. In the spring and late September, wildflowers cover the hills, making it an ideal destination for those who seek to be surrounded by natural beauty and a little off the beaten path.
Located at the southern end of the Ionian Islands group, Zakynthos features beautiful scenery and excellent sandy beaches where it's easy to imagine you've been shipwrecked on your very own deserted paradise. In fact, one of the island's most popular excursions is to a small stretch of beach, called Navagio, accessible only by boat where the remains of a shipwrecked vessel poke through the sand. Other must-sees include the spectacular Blue Caves where the pounding sea has carved amazing grottoes and the annual migration of Kareta-Kareta loggerhead turtles who travel from Africa to nest on Zakynthos' beaches.
It is an island of big contrasts for the presence of golden beaches and massive rocky coasts. Zakynthos benefits from a Mediterranean temperate climate with mild winters and cool summers. Ranging from mountainous landscape in the north to gentle hills and flat countryside of the south, Zakynthos, or Zante, has some of the most beautiful beaches to be found.
The town of Zakynthos is located in the eastern part of the island, at the foot of Bohalis hill. It has gone through many hardships, the worst being the earthquake in 1953 and the fire that followed it. It has, however, managed to preserve many of its Venetian ornaments and is still as enticing as ever. Your stroll around town starts at the central Solomos Square, with the statue of Dionyssios Solomos, the Greek national poet dominating it. Here, your attention will be drawn to some very impressive buildings, such as the Town Hall building and that of the National Bank as well as the church of Agios Nikolaos.
Walking down the central Dimokratias Street one ends up at the Agios Markos Square, named after the neighboring church. At a small distance one see the Solomos Museum, which is definitely worth a visit. Agios Dionissios Church, dominant at the port, is dedicated to the patron Saint of Zakynthos and it is a landmark not only for the town but for the whole island. The original church was destroyed in 1893 at the big earthquake that hit the island and was rebuilt in August 1948 in its present form.
“Zante” by Live Zakynthos is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Make sure to visit the Alexandros Romas mansion, in the area of Reparon, next to the Kyria ton Angelon Church. It was built by the English merchant Robert John Geoffrey in 1660 and became the property of patrician Alexandros Romas in 1880. Since then, the building has been the main residence for the Romas family, and it is the only sample of palazzo mansion remaining in Zakynthos after the disastrous earthquakes in 1953. In the interior you will have the chance to admire the luxurious antique furniture, the family heirloom, and other historical objects. Enjoy the small architectural treasures that will amaze you as you wander around town.
“Roma's Mansion in Zante town” by Heather Cowper is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Activities include organised and private tours as well as shore excursions, including the Town of Zakynthos and island tours, water park day activities, day trips including excursions to Marathonisi Island and the breathtaking Smuggler's Cove with the Navagio shipwreck. The very warm waters that wash the coast favor a particularly long tourist season and make Zakynthos an object of international interest especially because in the southern part of the island the Caretta-Caretta turtles breed; they are a rare specimen protected by the Greek legislation with a new marine park. Along the rocky, western coasts the seals Monachus-Monachus breed too and they are also protected by the local administrative authorities. Over the last years the island has undergone a progressive development to offer tourists modern infrastructures keeping its traditional aspect still visible both in the restaurants along the seashore and the small villages in the outback.
Zakynthos, Navagio Beach.
Byzantine Museum Tours The museum opened to the public in 1960. The visitor can admire three levels of Byzantine icons carved in the wood, original frescoes of the 15th, 16th and 17th Century, paintings of the 18th Century and oils on canvas of local artists like Doxaras, Koutouzis and Kantouni.
Zakynthos North Coast Discovery Cruise Join an unforgettable escorted cruise to the North of the Island. Cruise past the residential area of Krioneri, the resort areas of Tsilivi, Alykanas and Alikes, up to Skinari, where you can see the lighthouse. Also, just off the port of Agios Nicholas at Skinari there is a small island in the shape of a turtle, officially belonging to the Vatican as it was not ceded to Greece along with the rest of the Ionian Islands in the 18th Century. From this point the island of Kefalonia can be seen. The boat then sails fairly close to the famous Blue Caves. Their name derived from the color of the water, a mixture of aquamarine and turquoise. This area is also the deepest part of the Mediterranean called the Well of Ionysos, which is about 4,500 meters deep. Heading onto Smugglers Cove, where the wreck of the ship “Panayiotis” can be seen, and a stop for a wonderful swim in the lovely blue waters. Navagio (shipwreck) Beach is rewarded as TripAdvisor traveler's choice 2013. This beach is not sandy but has small white pebbles. The then turns around and cruises around the north coast and the captain will make other swim stop(s) during the afternoon before arriving back at the town port at about 16:30.
Venetian Fortress The Venetian Fortress of the island, built in 1480, stands on top of Bohalis Hill. It was built where the walls of the ancient acropolis used to be. From here one can enjoy the panoramic view of the town of Zakynthos. Part of it was destroyed by the Turkish invasions and the Venetians gave it its present form in 1646. During the reconstruction from the Venetians, the main paved street was opened. The grand Gate and the canons were also added as well as the entrance gate, in which the marks of Venetian rule are obvious, such as the Lion of Agios Markos, a characteristic Venetian symbol, found on its upper part. The most important buildings of the fortress are the 12th c. Byzantine church of Sotiras or Pantokratoras, the 14th c. three-aisled basilica of Agios Frangiskos, the 15th c. church of Agios Ioannnis Prodromos and the single-aisled basilica of Agia Barvara, the Venetian prisons and the gunpowder storage room, the English Officers' sports field, the British parliament building and the barracks.