Zakynthos never forgets those who love it.
Zakynthos Island was named after "Zakynthos", son of Dardanos, King of Troy. It was owned by King Ulysses of Ithaca, the great traveler, for many years. Then, in turn, it was occupied by Francs, Venetians, French and English before becoming fully part of the actual Greece in 1864. It is the third largest of the Ionian Islands with its 406 sq. km., and the second most populated with more than 40.000 inhabitants. Well known for being one of the sunniest Islands of Greece, it enjoys a mild and pleasant climate which inspires lovers and as a result gives a birth to a great number of artists, amongst them well known poets, musicians and painters.
Zakynthos was inhabited from the Neolithic Times as some archaeological excavations have proved.
The famous ancient Greek poet and writer, Homer, first mentioned the island in his masterpieces, the Iliad and the Odyssey, stating that the first inhabitants of it were the son of King Dardanos of Troy called Zakynthos and his men and that they first came on the island around 1500 – 1600 BC.
The island was then conquered by King Arkeisios of Kefalonia. The famous Ulysses (Odysseus in Greek) from Ithaca was the next King to conquer the island.
Later on, a treaty was signed that made Zakynthos an independent democracy, the first established in the Hellenic area, and that lasted more than 650 years.
Because of the strategic position of the island was located and its very fertile land, its inhabitants quickly became quite wealthy and established various colonies in Crete, Paros, (a Cycladic island) and even in Spain.
In the 5th century, during the Persian Wars, Zakynthos remained neutral and during the Peloponnesian War took part in the Athenian Alliance.
When the Alliance was dissolved after the Athenian defeat in the expedition against Sicily, Zakynthos came under the Spartan (Lacedaemonian) rule, which established an oligarchy on the island and ended the democracy. Later on the inhabitants of Zakynthos organised a revolution and managed to restore their democratic political system.
After the Macedonian Wars, Zakynthos fell under Macedonian rule and later was occupied by the Romans. This last domination marked the history of the island. In the beginning of the Roman domination, a proconsul organised the administration of the island according to the Roman laws. Later Zakynthos gained some autonomy but had to pay an annual tax to the Romans and to send soldiers to the Roman legion.
The islanders had the freedom to establish their own laws and had their own municipality, parliament and coins.
For Zakynthos and its inhabitants, the Roman times were a period of great material and cultural development.
Around 34 AD, Christianity arrived on the island and became dominant in the second half of the 3rd century AD during the rise of the Byzantine Empire created by Constantine the Great. Then, the island of Zakynthos, along with the other Ionian Islands fell under Venetian and Frank domination, followed by the rule of the King of Naples and the Prince of Florence. During the 15th century, when the rest of Greece was under Turkish rule, the Ionian Islands were still under Venetian domination, with established an aristocratic oligarchic political system.
In 1797, French republicans came on the island promising to change the social, economical and political system but nothing lasted very long. The oligarchy was re-established when the Russians conquered the island.
The French managed again to take Zakynthos and the rest of the Ionians, followed by the English who stayed on the island from 1814 to 1864.
The French managed to regain Zakynthos and the rest of the Ionians, followed by the English who remained on the island from 1814 to 1864; during their domination, the English modernised and developed the administration and public works on the island.
Even having escaped the Ottoman yoke, Zakynthos, with the other Ionian Islands, helped the rest of Greece to organise and achieve the Revolution for Independence against the Turks.
Zakynthos and the other Ionian Islands were reunited to the rest of the newly formed and finally independent Greek State on the 21st of May, 1864.
The rich vegetation has resulted in the nicknames of "Fioro di Levante" [Flower of the East] and "Iliessa" [full of woods] by Venetians and Homer respectively. The environment of Zakynthos has become a subject of international interest due to the reproduction of a rare type of sea turtle Caretta-Caretta, protected by international agreement, E.U. law and also under Greek legislation. The beach of Laganas is one of the major nesting sites in the Mediterranean for the green loggerhead turtle (Caretta-Caretta). The area also has great ecological importance due to the presence of the marine plant Posidonietum oceanicae, which forms a highly sensitive type of habitat occurring in the Mediterranean. Few years ago the “Zakynthos National Marine Park” was established. The area encompasses the Laganas Bay and the islets of Marathonissi and Pelouzo before the southern coast of Zakynthos. The substratum is sandy and the waters are shallow (10m deep ad maximum), thus favouring the wide spread of Posidonia seagrass. The coastal zone of Laganas is of high biological importance, due to the existence of significant natural habitats, such as sandy beaches with sand plant (psammophyte) communities, rocky coasts and coastal lakes. Low sand dunes occur on the beach of Marathonissi, some of them extending up to 50 m. inland. The beach is backed by dense Mediterranean maquis. The area of Laganas is renowned for its small sandy beaches which are considered to be the most important nesting sites for the Mediterranean green loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) both in Greece and, perhaps, the entire Mediterranean region. The two islets (Marathonissi and Pelouzo) lying in the Bay of Laganas support well-developed types of Mediterranean vegetation. Hospitality is deeply rooted in the souls and often creates long lasting bonds between Zakynthian people and the visitors of the Island. It is impossible to pick out the most interesting spots or the most beautiful areas as everywhere you go you will be charmed. Lovely beaches in Vassilikos, the gulf of Laganas, the sandy Tsilivi and Alykes, the medicinal waters of Xigia and the pebbly beaches of Makrys Gialos and Volimes. Inspiring sunsets in Keri and Kampi will add some dream in your stay and you will wish you could stay in the Blue Caves or camp of the Smugglers Wreck beach. Lively resorts and entertaining places are to be found in Argasi, Laganas and Tsilivi. Zakynthos has a coastline 123,2 km long. It is roughly triangular in shape. To large extent the island is plain (2/3) and it can be divided into three sections, geologically speaking, moving from north to south. The first section starts in the north at Cape Schinari and runs toward the south, including the entire western side of the island, ending at Cape Marathia in the southwest. This lightly-inhabited area is commanded by Mt Vrachionas (756m.).The middle section starts at Alykes bay and ends at Laganas bay and includes a fertile plain and the town of Zakynthos. It is flat and has rich soil and the main part of the island’s 40,000 inhabitants lives there. The third section includes the eastern and southeastern section of the island ending at the southern tip of Cape Gerakas, which is dominated by Mt. Skopos (492 m.) and several smaller hills. There are no real rivers on the island, only a few seasonal torrents.
Life in Zakynthos
Zakynthos is the southernmost, the second in population and third largest in size of the Ionian Islands. It is situated 8,5 nautical miles south of Kefalonia, 9,5 nautical miles west of the Peloponese and approximately 280 kilometres west of the capital of Greece, Athens. Its geographical position ensures easy travel to the other islands and even the mainland of Greece. A short journey across the Peloponnese brings one to the ancient city of Olympia, the birthplace and original venue of the Olympic Games. Due to the islands location, it is an ideal base to link up to the larger cities of Greece such as Patras, Athens and Thesaloniki. All local government departments have local branches so it is not necessary to leave the island in order to do any business. Zakynthos enjoys a health system that meets a high standard beginning with first aid service and medical care at the General Hospital of Zakynthos, a new modern health center near Volimes, and extending to many private doctors’ offices, with a full range of specialists, as well as the pharmacies that can be found throughout the island. Also, a second bigger new hospital is under construction with predicted completion at the end of 2008.
Zakynthos has a wide choice of late night entertainment. You will find clubs, bars, discos, everywhere on the island. The most recommended areas for drinking and clubbing are Laganas, Argasi, Tsilivi, Alykes, Kalamaki and the main town as well, with its local taverns with live music, where you can enjoy beautiful Zakynthian songs. Don't forget also to visit the hill of Bohali with old Venetian Castle. Amazing panoramic view and very good taverns with live music as well.
The climate in Zakynthos is mild Mediterranean.
Greece's main meteorological data are given below (Source: National Meteorological Service):
Average temperatures (°C)
Average daily sunshine (in hours)
Although Zakynthos enjoys high temperatures and long hours of sun, it is worth mentioning that due to the fact that the Island is not close to the North African coast and the Sahara desert, rarely the temperature exceeds 40oC. This will help the Island’s climate to be maintained mild during the coming years in which global warming will become more severe.
Zakytnhos’ airport is one of the seven international airports in Greece. New buildings for the airport will be finished at the end of Oct. 2006. Zakynthos is connected throughout the year by flights of Olympic Airways. The flight to Athens takes 45 minutes and you can get information from the main offices of Olympic Airways in Athens and the corresponding offices in Zakynthos. There are also many other flights, both on other Greek airlines and on charter flights from throughout UK (Gatwick, Stanstead, Luton, Manchester, Birmingham) and the rest of Europe (Germany, Holland, Norway, Sweden, Czech Republic, Italy, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Switzerland, Ireland), whose destination is the airport on Zakynthos and which meet the needs of tourists who are beginning their vacation in Greece on Zakynthos.
There is a heavy schedule of ferries to Zakynthos from the harbour of Kyllini, mainland Greece, in summer but fewer in winter. The distance of 17 nautical miles is covered in one hour. During summer season there is a direct ferry to Italy.
Zakynthos has a very good road network that covers the entire island. The bus lines run a heavy schedule of buses both to and from the most important areas and regularly to all the rest of the island. There are also taxis, which can take you wherever you might wish to go on the island.