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Island of Zakynthos - Ionian Islands

Zakynthos is one of Greece's most beautiful and greenest islands, boasting diverse nature, golden sandy beaches and rocky coves. Even the ancient poet Homer referred to this "wooded island", the Venetians called it the "Flower of the Levant" and the locals commonly use the name "Zante" for their home.

Zakynthos may not have as many historical monuments as other Greek islands, but its nature is exceptional. Zakynthos is also home to a large variety of animal species, most notably the nesting site of the endangered Caretta Caretta sea turtle.

Geography of Zakynthos island

The Greek island of Zakynthos is located in the Ionian Sea and with its 410 km2 area it ranks third among the Ionian islands. Together with the islands of Corfu, Lefkada and Kefalonia, it forms the western part of Greece and its distance from the Peloponnese peninsula is 16 km.

Zante coast

The surface of Zakynthos is varied.While the northern and north-western part of the island is mostly mountainous, with steep cliffs rising out of the clear blue sea, the southern and south-eastern part of the island hides fertile plains, quiet coves and beaches with golden sand. The highest mountain, Vrachionas, is located in the interior of the island and measures 758 m above sea level, while the smaller Skopos mountain with an altitude of 496 m above sea level, which rises on the Vasilikos peninsula in the southern part of the island, is also a popular tourist destination.

The beauty of Zakynthos is enhanced by the caves, both inland and sea, especially the famous blue caves with their beautiful reflections of the sun's rays. Thanks to the diversity of the coastline, visitors to the island can enjoy the various types of beaches and especially the clear, azure Ionian Sea. One of the symbols of Zakynthos has become Navagio Bay (Shipwreck Bay) with its high limestone walls, light pebbles and a shipwreck in the middle of the beach.

The picture of Zakynthos is also enhanced by the small islands in the Laganas Bay - the islet of Cameo, connected to the mainland by a wooden footbridge, the "turtle" island of Marathonisi and the rocky island of Pelouzo (also called Kalonisi).

A geographical attraction of the area is the Inous Depression, the deepest point in the whole Mediterranean at a depth of 4 500 m, located at the south-eastern tip of the island. Zakynthos also lies in a seismically active area and minor earthquakes are quite frequent. However, in 1953, a very strong and devastating earthquake of 7.2 on the Richter scale struck the island, causing damage all over the island and especially in the capital, Zakynthos. Zakynthos also faced a strong earthquake in 2018, but this time fortunately with less damage, as modern construction has undergone changes in this regard.

Climate and nature of Zakynthos

Zakynthos is the southernmost of the Ionian islands and is characterised by a Mediterranean climate with sunny, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. The winter rains on Zakynthos tend to be quite heavy compared to other Greek islands, as most of the precipitation during the winter months falls in the north-western part of Greece near the islands of Corfu, Cephalonia and Zakynthos.

The hot sunny weather and the ample humidity make this Greek island a lush paradise of olive and citrus groves, flowering trees and a variety of flowers and herbs such as sage and thyme. The Venetians, who significantly influenced the island's history, called Zakynthos the 'Island of Scents' or the 'Flower of the East'. Look around you, take a deep breath and you will understand what they meant.

Nature (Olives)

Although tourism became the main source of income for the population of Zakynthos towards the end of the 20th century, agriculture still holds an important place here thanks to the ideal climatic conditions.The main products of agriculture in Zakynthos are olives and quality olive oil, citrus fruits, local honey and the famous Zante raisins, which are grown here. It is reported that more than a million olive trees are currently growing on Zakynthos and almost every village on the island has its oldest olive tree, more than a thousand years old.

The island of Zakynthos is also very diverse in terms of its fauna. While on the island, visitors can commonly encounter small mammals, mainly rodents, but also lizards, turtles and snakes, and pictures of free-ranging goats are typical.

Carreta Carreta

However, rare and endangered species of animals can also be seen here, whose presence on the island was an important impetus for the establishment of the Zakynthos National Marine Park. The main task of the organisation is to protect the natural heritage of the island and the specific species that live here. Zakynthos is one of the few places in the world where the protected turtle Caretta Caretta breeds, using in particular the sandy beaches of the vast Laganas Bay, including the smaller Gerakas Bay and Marathonisi Beach. A small colony of Monachus-monachus (Mediterranean fur seal) also lives on the adjacent inaccessible islet of Pelouzo.

Zakynthos is also home to many species of birds, including birds of prey, wading birds and migratory birds use Zante as a resting place on their way to Africa.

The most popular resorts in Zakynthos and tips for interesting excursions

The island of Zakynthos has a permanent population of about 40,000 inhabitants, a quarter of whom live in the capital city of Zakynthos. The largest and most populous towns and villages in Zakynthos are Tsilivi, Laganas, Kalamaki, Argassi, Alykes and Alikanas. The capital is called "Chora" by the locals and the name "Zante" is commonly used for the island.

During the summer months, the number of people on the island increases manifold, with seasonal workers and large numbers of tourists arriving to fill the busy holiday resorts. And which tourist resorts on Zakynthos are among the most popular?

The most popular tourist resorts are located in the south of the island, on the shores of the wide bay of Laganas. The bay of Laganas is shallow, with calm seas and a beautiful sandy beach that stretches along its entire length for several kilometres. The seaside resorts in the bay are among the best tourist facilities on the island.


The most famous holiday resort in the south of the island is Laganas, a centre of tourism, entertainment and nightlife. Other popular resorts include the bustling resort of Kalamaki and the quieter resorts of Agios Sostis and Porto Koukla. Zakynthos Dionysios Solomos Airport is also located in the area (near Kalamaki).

The beaches of Laganas Bay serve as nesting grounds for the protected Caretta turtles, which gave the name to the whole "turtle" bay. Tourists can also take advantage of a wide variety of boat trips that are specifically related to sea turtle watching, such as a glass-bottom boat cruise or swimming at the "turtle" island of Marathonisi. There are also boat trips to the islet of Pelouzo, where, in addition to the turtles, there is also a rare species of Mediterranean seal, and diving trips are also very popular, for example to the Keri caves at the south-western tip of the island.

The more touristy part of Zakynthos stretches from Laganas Bay across the south-eastern tip of the island to the central part of the east coast. The seaside resorts in this area are also very well equipped for tourism and the adjacent beaches are among the most popular, mostly sandy and equipped with beach service.

Town of Zakynthos

In the southern part of the eastern coast lies the capital of Zakynthos (also Chora or Zante), a bustling and modern town that is very open and welcoming to visitors.The town is literally full of various tavernas, restaurants, pastry shops and shops selling a variety of goods, especially souvenirs and homemade dishes. In the early evening, the main avenue of Alexander Rom, the beautiful Solomos Square and St. Mark's Square, as well as the coastal promenade by the local harbour start to come alive. We recommend a visit to the interesting museums here, such as the extensive Byzantine Museum, and a look at the beautiful historical monuments in the town, the largest church in Zakynthos, St. Dionysos Church, with its tall white bell tower, stands on the waterfront.

South of the capital lie the popular resorts of Argassi, Tsilivi and Vassilikos. On the other side, towards the northern tip of the island, are the famous resorts of Amoudi, Alykanas, Alykes.

Blue Caves

However, the eastern coast of Zakynthos is very rugged and the character of the coastline and resorts changes towards the north. The sandy shores give way to pebble beaches and rocky coves, and we can visit the beautiful blue caves, one of the symbols of Zakynthos, or the natural sulphur "baths" of Xigia, several beaches where sulphur springs spring from the sea.

The northern part of the eastern coast is dominated by smaller villages, which are no longer so affected by tourism, and the locals are also engaged in agriculture or the production of traditional home-made items and dishes, which visitors can buy directly from them.

Larger and better known is the village of Agios Nikolaos, with a fairly busy harbour used by a wide variety of boats, boats and boats heading for boat trips around Zakynthos - the most popular destinations include the beautiful blue caves, a cruise around the northern tip of the island and the Skinari lighthouse to the famous Navagio Bay (the "Shipwreck Bay"), which is one of the most photographed spots on the island.


The area around the western coast of Zakynthos is the most natural, wild and rocky, and together with the inland areas are still little affected by tourism. Especially the mountain villages like Volimes, Maries or Anafonitria are traditional Greek homesteads, very picturesque villages where the original Zakynthos way of life of the inhabitants can still be seen. In the interior we recommend visiting the villages of Gyri, Macherado or Exo Chora.

The west coast is characterised by its natural attractions, with the stunning fjords of Porto Limnionas and Porto Roxa, the rock of Korakonissi, various islands and caves and, of course, the famous "smuggler's" bay of Navagio. The bay with Navagio beach can also be seen from above the cliffs, the viewpoint is located near the village of Anafonitria.

Most famous beaches on Zakynthos

Zakynthos has a wide variety of beach types, from spacious beaches with golden sand and a gradual entrance to the sea, to pebble beaches, sometimes marked by an old shipwreck or sulphur springs, to rocky areas and coves. Their distribution is in keeping with the geography of the island.

The most sought-after beaches in Zakynthos are located in the south of the island in Laganas Bay and on the south-eastern coast of the Vassilikos peninsula. The large sandy bay of Laganas, with its gently shelving waters and calm sea, is made up of several beautiful beaches with beach services including beach bars and water sports. The bay is also known as "turtle bay", as this is where Caretta turtles come to lay their eggs in the sand. As a result, the beaches of Laganas Bay also have certain rules (e.g. no beach umbrellas in the sand, no entry to the beach before dark, etc.).

Gerakas beach

The largest and busiest beach on the island, Laganas Beach is located in the middle of Laganas Bay and attracts visitors of all ages during the peak summer season. It is well organised and offers all-day entertainment. The neighbouring Kalamaki beach is also popular and busy. Towards the edges of the bay are quieter but still beautiful beaches, mostly sandy and with good tourist facilities. Porto Koukla, Dafni and Gerakas beaches are particularly popular. A wooden footbridge at Agios Sostis beach leads to the small island of Cameo with its bar and small beach, and a rented boat takes you to the "turtle" island of Marathonisi beach, where sea turtles are found.

On the south-east coast of Zakynthos, on the coast of the Vassilikos peninsula, are the popular beaches of Agios Nikolaos, Banana Beach and Porto Azzuro. These are beautiful sandy to sand and shingle beaches, equipped with beach service and often water sports.

However, the east coast of Zakynthos is more diverse, gradually moving from sandy and organised beaches in the south to secluded pebble to rocky beaches in the north. In the central part of the eastern coast, north of the capital of Zakynthos, we can still find several very popular beaches, well organised and with adjacent holiday resorts that provide all the necessary facilities for visitors. The longest beach on the east coast, Tsilivi beach, is a wide beach with fine sand and shallow waters. The beaches of Alykanas and Alykes are also well-known, especially popular for their relaxed atmosphere, light sand and crystal clear sea.

In the northern part of the eastern coast there are three unique beaches, collectively known as Xigia beaches, near which sulphur and mineral springs with beneficial effects on the human body spring up.

The western coast of Zakynthos offers the most beautiful, crystal clear sea, but with beaches that are very difficult to reach from the mainland. Often these are rocky coves and fjords, accessible only from the sea by boat. Well-known beaches are, for example, Porto Vromi or Porto Roxa, which are partially organised and accessible from inland. The unorganised beaches of Porto Stenitis or Porto Limnionas are also popular.

Navagio beach

However, the most famous beach on the west coast is certainly the white pebble beach of Navagio, which is hidden in a narrow cove and attracts visitors to an old rusting shipwreck. The ship is said to have belonged to smugglers who wrecked it here in the 20th century. The beach is protected by high limestone cliffs and is only accessible from the sea.

The area around the west coast of the island is particularly popular with diving and snorkelling enthusiasts, as the combination of clear sea and enchanting underwater rock formations is ideal for this sport. Diving expeditions (diving trips can be booked at the water sports centres) also head to the Blue Caves in the north of the island or the Keri Caves in the south-west of the island.

History of Zakynthos and the most important historical monuments

According to Greek mythology, the island of Zakynthos was the favourite resting place of the god Apollo and the goddess Artemis. However, the island got its name from Zakynthos, son of the Trojan king Dardanus, who occupied the island with his men and built the first city there. Another interpretation derives the island's name from the Greek and from the words "za" ("many") and "kynthos" ("hill"), the combination of which can be loosely translated as "many mountains", which is quite apt for the island.

The history of Zakynthos is very long and complex. From the time of Homer, who mentions the island in his epics Ilias and Odysseus and depicts it as a green paradise with magical nature, Zakynthos went through the rule of several powers until it became part of free Greece in 1864. The history of Zakynthos is therefore typically divided into several periods according to the domination of specific powers.

The first historical conquerors of Zakynthos were the Romans, who occupied the island in the 2nd century BC, followed by the Romans in the 4th century AD. Constantine the Great annexed the island to the Byzantine Empire. The main reason why the powers were interested in Zakynthos was its strategic location, which allowed for the expansion of trade relations and power. And while some eras of power brought periods of growth and prosperity to Zakynthos, others brought decline and oppression to its inhabitants.

Panagia Skopiotissa

The development of Christianity came especially with the Byzantine period, when new church buildings were built alongside defensive structures. Among the oldest buildings of this kind on the island are the magnificent monasteries - the monastery of Panagia Skopiotissa, which probably dates back to the mid-15th century, but unfortunately only part of it has survived, the monastery of Anafonitria, which was founded in the 15th century and dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the last years of whose life were said to have been spent here by St. Dionysios, and the church of Panagia Keriotissa, which preserves an ancient image of the Virgin Mary. Not far from Maherado is the Eleftherotria Monastery, which was probably founded in the 15th century.

However, a large number of these religious buildings have been subsequently rebuilt, and the present-day monasteries and churches often date back to the 17th or 18th century.

A significant epoch in the island's history was the so-called Venetian period (15th to 18th centuries), which marked a period of general prosperity for Zakynthos and a period of flourishing, particularly in the fields of culture and architecture. The influence of Venetian culture is still evident on the island today.

One of the oldest important Venetian buildings is the Church of St Nicholas, which was built in the mid-16th century and stands in the capital of Zakynthos. Its interior is beautifully decorated with murals, icons and other religious jewels. The church was also home to the monk Dionysios, later a saint.

Church of St. Dionysus

The Church of St. Dionysus, the largest church on Zakynthos, stands in the island's capital. The church was founded by monks in the early 18th century to house the remains of Saint Dionysus in safety. The church's current appearance dates from the mid-20th century and includes the church's tall, white bell tower.

For a beautiful view of the entire town of Zakynthos, we recommend visiting the Bochali lookout point. Bochali is a beautiful little village located directly above the capital and served as the aristocratic quarter of the town during the Venetian occupation and the years that followed. In the middle of the 17th century, on the highest point of the village, a castle known as the Venetian Castle or Bochali Castle was built. Today we can only see its remains.

The 18th and 19th centuries were not only on Zakynthos, but also in the struggle for equal rights and independence of Greece. During the Greek War of Independence, the people of Zakynthos openly supported the Greeks and in 1864 Zakynthos became part of a free Greece.

However, the 20th century was not a peaceful one for the citizens of Zakynthos either. It was marked by two major events - the Second World War, when the island was occupied by Italian and then German troops, and not long after, in 1953, a very strong earthquake hit Zakynthos. The earthquake destroyed almost the entire capital of Zakynthos, but caused great damage all over the island and caused Zakynthos to have far fewer original historical monuments than other Greek islands. After the earthquake, only three major buildings remain standing in the capital - St. Dionysius Cathedral, St. Nicholas Church and the National Bank building.

The modern history of Zakynthos has been defined by the restoration of the capital and historical monuments, the emphasis on tourism development, but also by the desire to preserve its way of life, especially in terms of agriculture, the quality of food products and traditional crafts.

Saint Dionysios - patron saint of Zakynthos

Saint Dionysios (Agios Dionysios) became the patron saint and protector of the Greek island of Zakynthos. Dionysios was born in 1547 into a Zakynthos noble family that emphasized Christian upbringing and education. Dionysios was educated and knew several languages. After the death of his parents, however, he decided to give up his property and enter a monastery, settling on the small island of Strofades, south of Zakynthos. He was ordained a priest and later became archbishop of Aegina.

Despite his successful ecclesiastical career, Dionysios decided to return to Zakynthos and live there as a monk in all modesty. Many people sought his advice, help and comfort. He was a very pious man who even managed to forgive the assassin of his brother when he hid him from his persecutors. He spent the last years of his life in the monastery of Our Lady of Anafonitria.

Dionysios died in 1622 and, in accordance with his wishes, was buried in the monastery on the island of Strofades, where he had spent so many years. During a period of pirate attacks in 1717, the monks of the Strophadian monastery decided to transfer the saint's remains to a safer place in the temple in the capital city of Zakynthos. It is reported that even after all these years, the body of the monk Dionysius remained intact, smelling of the blissful scent of incense and healing myrtle. There was talk of a miracle and Dionysios was declared a saint.

Dionysos Today, the relics of St. Dionysius are kept in the Church of St. Dionysius and are open to the public during services and special feasts. Two main feasts associated with St Dionysius are celebrated on Zakynthos - in August (when the monks brought the relics of Dionysius to Zakynthos) and in December (the day of the saint's death), and several days of religious ceremonies, processions, markets and accompanying festivities are held on this occasion. Outside these important festivals, pilgrims go to the places associated with the saint, especially the Church of St Dionysius and the Monastery of Anafonitria.

Map of Zakynthos island

Beautiful green nature, a flood of colourful flowers, remarkable fauna including the protected giant tortoise or the rare giant seal, sunny weather, well-equipped tourist resorts with long sandy beaches and crystal clear sea, interesting boat trips, good conditions for water sports, the eponymous capital of Zakynthos with the magnificent St. You won't be bored on Zakynthos during your holiday and you can use our overview map of Zakynthos to plan your trips.