Zante : know the island
Zakynthos (Greek: Ζάκυνθος), also called Zante (its Italian name), is the third largest island in the Ionian Sea, located off the west coast of Greece. The island is named after Zacynthos, son of legendary Arcadian chief Dardanos.
While Ios and Kos are associated with partying and Rhodes and Crete with families, Zakynthos is something in between. Most of the beaches and towns are on the south and east coasts, as the west and north coasts are extremely mountainous often with cliffs dropping many hundreds of feet straight into the sea.
Towns and villages
Zakynthos Town – capital, on the east coast. This has the main shops, piazza and harbour from which the frequent ferries to the mainland port of Kyllini depart and arrive.
Agios Nikolaos – (north east) although the small village has only ~30 year-round inhabitants, it is the second most important port on Zakynthos, as the ferry to Kefalonia departs there. The bay itself is fairly sheltered by the tall mountains and island in the bay and has many sea front restaurants along with a local coastguard station. Boats running trips to the blue caves slightly to the north depart from here and although quiet it can get busy at certain times of day when bus loads of tourists arrive to get the ferry to and from Kefalonia
Alykes and Alykanas – a closely linked pair of family resorts on the east coast north of Tsilivi.
Argasi – A few km south of Zakynthos town on the Vassilikos penninsula. No real beach and consists of a few streets with hotels and more across the main road that runs up the peninsula. It has some bars and clubs but not a lot else to recommend it.
Kalamaki – Located to the east of Laganas past the turtle “no build zone”. Although a busy resort its less of the all night party area than Laganas and is more suited to families. Most of its buildings and shops are located on the main road that runs between this resort, past the airport and towards Laganas. Like Laganas it shares a very long sandy beach that stretches for many miles across the south part of the island.
Keri – Basically 3 parts to this. The pebble beach and coast area at Limniou Keri, the village of Keri itself in the mountains and further west the lighthouse of Keri which is popular with tourists who want to see a sunset.
Laganas – The (in)famous resort of Laganas. This is the main “party” town on the island. The main street consists almost entirely of nightclubs, bars and fast food outlets. It’s very popular with the younger visitors and the 18-30 brigade. The beach itself has some nicer bars and restaurants along its length.
Tsilivi – A family orientated resort north of Zakynthos town. It has some late night bars and near nightclubs but on the whole is a bustling family resort with all the usual hotels, supermarkets, restaurants and so on. It has a very wide and long sandy beach along with watersports available from it.
Vassilikos – A quiet village in the south east on the Vassilikos penninsula. Here there are now no major hotels and just apartments, villas along with restaurants and tavernas. It has much more of a small village feel to it, has no nightclubs or other entertainment as is the place to look for a more relaxing, quiet holiday. In this area are the turtle nesting beach of
Gerakas and Dafnia. Slightly to the north is Agios Nikolaos (not to be confused with the one in the north) where there are many watersports, basic scuba diving and a buisier place.
Archaeological excavations have proved that Zakynthos was inhabited from the Neolithic Age. The island is first mentioned by the Greek poet and writer Homer. In his masterpieces, the Iliad and the Odyssey, he stated that the first inhabitants of Zakynthos were the son of King Dardanos, Zakynthos of Troy (after whom the island was named) and his men who settled around 1500-1600 BC.
Over the years the island was conquered by King Arkeisios of Kefalonia, and after him Ulysses from Ithaca. Later on Zakynthos became the first independent democracy in the Hellenic area, as a treaty was signed and it lasted over 650 years.
In the summer of 1953, Zakynthos was hit by two severe earthquakes, resulting in the total destruction of the island’s infrastructure and most of its state archives. The most powerful of those quakes, which registered 7.3 on the Richter Scale, occurred on August 12 and was felt throughout almost the entire country. In Zakynthos Town only three buildings were left standing: the St. Dionysios Cathedral, the National Bank building and the church of St. Nicholas “tou Molou”. The rebuilding of the island was subject to a very rigid anti-seismic code, and has thus withstood several moderate and powerful earthquakes (the most recent in 2005) with a minimal amount of damage.
Mining has been common on the island, but today the only activity is two quarries on the mountain range in the western part of the island. A small mountain located on Zakynthos’ west side was mined during the late 20th century, but it is no longer in use. Today tourism is the most important source of income, and Zakynthos is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Greece.
Zakynthos is served by one airport (airport code ZTH), located towards the south end of the island near to the resort of Laganas and Kalamaki, it caters for both international and domestic flights. Almost all international flights are chartered flights from other European cities during the holiday season (May-October). Domestic flights are available between Zakynthos airport and Athens, served by the national airline Olympic Airlines , there are usually two flights a day. The journey time to Athens is approximately 1 hour. As of January 2010, Easyjet started flying to Zante from nearly all UK airports and flights are usually Thursday to Sunday.
Zakynthos has ferry links to Kyllini on the Greek mainland from Zakynthos Town During the last years, the area has evolved to a famous tourist resort with clubs, restaurants, cafes and shops € 8.20 per person and € 38 per car. Ferries to Kefalonia can be joined at Aghios Nikolas, on the North-East tip of the island.