A favourite holiday destination is the wonderful Ionian Island of Zante or Zakynthos as the Greeks say. It is one of the Heptanes or Ionian Islands and the most southern of the six main Ionian Islands (the seventh is set at the southernmost tip of the Peloponnese). It is set in the crystal clear blue waters of the Ionian Sea including the stunning Bay of Laganas with a sandy beach which is 6 miles long and the prime nesting ground in the Mediterranean, for the famous Caretta-Caretta or loggerhead sea turtles. Once an endangered species these amazing creatures are now protected in the site of this first National Marine Park.
The loggerhead sea turtles make for these sandy beaches in Southern Zante in June to bury their eggs in the sand. After about 55days in the nest the hatchlings emerge and make their way to the sea. Unfortunately only a small proportion will survive but measures have been taken to ensure that the loggerhead turtle, like the very welcome holiday makers, continue to visit the island of Zante.
It was the Venetians who gave Zante the name of the ‘Flower of the East ‘ and as you explore the rich verdant landscape and stunning sea shore you will understand why. The climate is Mediterranean with high temperatures in the summer months and plentiful rainfall in the winter. The eastern half of the island is a fertile plain which is densely populated with long sandy beaches. You will find that the western half of the island is a mountainous plateau with steep cliffs on the south west coast. Consequently the shoreline is diverse and consists of many easily accessible long sandy beaches to be enjoyed and explored and small coves with numerous natural Blue caves cut into cliffs at places such as Cape Skinera, at its most northerly tip, making Zante ideal for scuba diving or more leisurely beach pursuits.
The Navagio Beach, named after a shipwreck (MV Panagiotis) is a must to visit. It is a white pebble cove surrounded by turquoise waters and accessible by boat only. A favourite for B.A.S.E jumpers because of its location and panoramic views, a major event is held for B.A.S.E jumpers every year.
The capital of Zante (Zakynthos) is also called Zakynthos and is situated in the eastern part of the Northern coast. It is a busy, bustling town which boasts two Museums, The Byzantium Museum and the Museum of Solomus and the Eminent People of Zakynthos. Zante also has a strong musical tradition and holds a Jazz Festival ever year.
The international airport is situated only a short distance from the capital making the Island easily accessible to visitors from all over Europe. There are also two ports on the island; the town of Zakynthos is the location for the main port with a smaller port at Agios Nikolaos which has a connection to the beautiful neighbouring Ionian island of Cephalonia. Why not explore the wonders of the Island of Zante before taking a very pleasant journey by Ferry to this neighbouring island.
Also Zante is only a short distance from the mainland and the Western Peloponnese. Another neighbouring island is Ithaca, reputed to be home of Odysseus and the Epic Ancient Greek poem, The Odyssey by Homer, but links are tenuous. It should be remembered that the ancient island of Zante is itself referred to by Homer in the Iliad and the Odyssey as being the home of the son of Dardanos of Troy , Zakynthos and his men, apparently amongst the Island’s first inhabitants. The famous Island of Skopolos is only a short Boat trip away , once owned by the ill-fated Onassis family it is now the sole property of a Russian Billionaire’s daughter.
With its proximity to the sea and rich vegetation there is an abundance of restaurants and tavernas offering wonderful menus with locally sourced food and wine. With its spectacular varied landscape and lush flora and fauna , its bustling cultured town, it is little wonder that the very sophisticated Venetians named it The ‘Flower of the East’. Enjoy!