Zacinto or Zante, commonly called Zakynthos by the poets, is the southern and third biggest among the seven Ionian Islands.
It covers an area of 405 sq. km, with a little more than 35.000 inhabitants and it is located 300 km west from Athens and 15 km off the Peloponnisian coast, where from is reachable by a regular ferry service.
Zakynthos, is the island of the big contrasts due to the presence of golden beaches and massive rocky coasts. It benefits from a Mediterranean temperate climate with mild winters and cool summers. The generous winter rains favour the growth of thick vegetation and assure a remarkable water reserve.
This is the reason that the island is very green and in the past both Homer and the Venetian rulers used to call it “wooded” and “Levant flower”.
The very warm waters that wash the coasts favour a particularly long tourist season from late April to early November.
Zakynthos has been made an object of international interest because in the southern part of the island breed the CARETTA-CARETTA turtles, which 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.
In addition to the wonderful natural landscape, Zakynthos offers the possibility of visiting numerous surrounding deserted small islands like: Pelouzo and Marathonissi in the Lagana's Bay, St. John in front of Porto Vromi and the Strofades.
The latter are two small islands 27 nautical miles south from Zakynthos which are part of the marine park due to their beauty.
Lately the island has undergone a progressive development to offer tourists modern infrastructures keeping its traditional aspect still visible in both: restaurants along the seashore and the small villages in the outback. This traditional aspect of the past in conjunction with the stunning spots and the virginity of Zakynthian countryside turn this small island to a Paradise for a memorable holiday.
Zakynthos is very easily reachable from Athens with daily flights of 45 minutes.
The airline companies covering this route are: Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines. On their websites there are timetables and costs.
Further more, during the summer period, Zakynthos is directly connected to many European cities with charter flights.
From England there are direct flights leaving from London, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, etc.
There are also flights connecting Zakynthos with Kefalonia, Corfu, Preveza (Lefkada) and Kithira by Sky-express airlines.
Zakynthos’ airport “Dionysios Solomos” is only 3 kms away from Zakynthos town and it is reachable by taxi or regular local buses.
Zakynthos Marine Park is located along the southern coast from the promontory of Marathia’s Cape to the beach of Gerakas, including the outback of the beaches of Limni Kerì, Laganas and Kalamaki and the Strofades, two small islands 50 nautical miles southern of Zakynthos.
This area presents the main characteristics of the Mediterranean ecosystem, with sandy beaches, emerging rocks and sandy dunes, whereas in the outback there are thick pinewoods, fertile areas for the agriculture and the Mediterranean landscape with spontaneous vegetation.
The Seals Monachus MonachusNational Marine Park has been founded in 1999 with the main purpose of defending the particular fauna of the southern part of the island and of its integration with the local society.
The most important animal specimen to protect are the turtles Caretta-Caretta and the Mediterranean Seals Monachus-Monachus.
In addition to turtles and seals the park intends to protect also other animal specimen:
Birds: the southern gulf of Zakynthos and the Strofades are usually visited by migrating birds, wild swans, swallows, kingfishers, and sea gulls.
Reptiles and amphibians: there are many frogs, tortoises, iguanas and soft water snakes.
Mammals: in the outback there are many porcupines and wild rabbits, whereas in the park waters it is possible to meet dolphins with the “bottle muzzle” or Tursiops Truncatus.
The symbol of the National Marine Park of Zakynthos is the turtle and the head office is in Zakynthos, El. Venizelou street.
Near Dafni beach there is also an exhibition centre of the sea turtle Caretta Caretta.
For those who love sporty holidays, Zakynthos offers a lot of sporty activities: In the beaches of the most important resorts such as Alykes, Tsilivì, Laganas, the possibilities to find water sports are really infinite and then there are a lot of tours by boat or by bus to let the tourist discover the beauty of the island.
For those who would like to try unusual emotions, there are many choices among which you can choose jeep safaris or horse riding along the Turtles Bay.
For speed lovers there is a Go-kart track and for families with children there are water parks and entertainment centers.
For the ones loving diving, there are many diving centres to admire island's deepness and to visit the many sites of the western coast and for those who do not have a diving licence, there are many beaches where it is very nice to snorkel.
As is the case in the rest of the Ionian archipelago, Zakynthos has quite a reputation in the arts, especially literature. Dionysios Solomos (1798-1857), its most famous man of words, penned the poem that became the national anthem of Greece, Hymn To Liberty, and was a great champion of demotic Greek. The other noted poet to hail from the island was Andreas Kalvos (1792-1869), who preferred the purist katharevousa form of the language for his twenty Odes. Playwright and novelist Grigoris Xenopoulos (1867-1951) was the third literary star to rise here, his novel Red Rock being the most revered of his works.
The island was originally settled by Achaeans from the mainland in prehistory and earned a brief mention in Homer's Odyssey as "wooded Zakynthos", an apt description still today, as it shares the common Ionian characteristic of greenery. In ancient times it was ruled by whoever held the upper hand in Greece itself, from the Athenians and Spartans through the Macedonians and Romans to the Byzantine Empire. Subsequently, along with the rest of the Ionians, its history diverged from the rest of Greece, first being handed round a succession of Italian rulers before the Venetians saved the region from the lengthy Turkish occupation suffered by the rest of the country and established a dynasty on Zakynthos from 1485. The names of the governing noblity were recorded in the legendary Libro d'Oro, hated by the impoverished locals and eventually incinerated when the French took over in 1797. Following a brief spell under a Turko-Russian alliance and the French again, Zakynthos spent its last fifty-five years under colonial rule as a British protectorate before being reunified with Greece in 1864.
The most notable and devastating event in the island's modern history was the 7.2 Richter earthquake that decimated both it and neighbouring Kefalonia in August 1953. Over seventy percent of dwellings were destroyed in the quake and ensuing fires, which raged for ten days. Mercifully, the death toll remained relatively low, at around 200, as most people were out of doors when it struck, but obviously the island had to be rebuilt from the bottom up, a monumental task that required many years. Unlike on Kefalonia, however, the Zakynthians were quite quick to turn their misfortune into an opportunity and jumped onto the touristic bandwagon not long after Corfu did, during the 60s, although major development did not really kick in until the 80s.
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