Difference between revisions of "Zakynthos"
Revision as of 20:23, 3 October 2006
Zakynthos, also called Zante (its Italian name) and Zakinthos Greece, is an island in the Ionian Sea. While Ios and Kos are associated with party, and Rhodes and Crete with families, Zakynthos is something between.
The majority of all beaches, towns, etc. are located along the east coast, as the west coast is battered by strong winds.
National language is of course Greek, but pretty much all inhabitants also speak English (probably due to the fact that British tourists are by far the largest fraction of tourists). German is spoken by many as well, and Italian is well-represented, especially in the northern parts of the island.
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.
By public transport
Bus services on the island are rather infrequent and sometimes unreliable. Taxis, however, are not too expensive.
The best way to get around is by rental car. There are literally dozens of rental agencies on the island besides the big ones. Preferrably get a 4WD car, as some attractions are located off the main roads.
Rental agencies abound. However, scooters may be somewhat painful to ride around the island, because it is very hilly, so get something with a little bit more power.
Cycling is a pleasant way of navigating the southern parts of the island, if somewhat impractical in the rougher, more hilly terrain of the north.
Zakynthos, due to mild winter rainfall, is an extremely lush island; the Venetians (who conquered it) referred to it as 'Il fiore del Levante'-- the Flower of the Levant. March-May is a particularly rewarding time to visit; the island is relatively low on tourists, the Easter parade takes place and the island blooms spectacularly with a myriad of colourful flowers and lush green hills. The best time to see Zakynthos is in May, when the main season hasn't yet started, and the vegetation is in full bloom.
Zakynthos, like its neighbour Kefalonia, was heavily affected by the massive earthquake of 1953 and subsequently a lot of its stunning Venetian architecture was sadly destroyed. Ruins still lay in some parts of the island due to this. The main town was completely rebuilt and still has an uncanny resemblance to Venice's San Marco square; it is well worth taking a look at.
The beautiful white cliffs that plunge into azure seas towards Keri have to be seen to be believed; the water is wonderfully clear and it is worth hiring a boat to see such sights. Warning: Upon rounding the northern face of the island, there is no radio signal discernible from boat to Zakynthos. It is therefore not recommended that a tourist should venture out to that part alone, if it all.
You can't miss ads by the tour operators. Blue caves can be seen starting from three places:
Originally a smuggler ship, which lost engine power in 1981 and was washed ashore in a magnificent small bay. Featured in Greek tourist ads, it is located on the west coast and best visited by going there from Porto Vromi. Go there either early in the morning or in the afternoon (>15:00), as in the time between the big around-the-island cruise ships anchor there and the beach is heavily crowded. Going there in off-peak times ensures you will have the beach pretty much to your own. For the ultimate picture, follow the signs to the Agios Gergio Kremnao monastery - when you arrive there, use the road to your right to get to a small viewing platform.
The very northen edge of Zakynthos is labeled Cape Skinari. Here you can get a panorama view of the sea, having both the calm waters of the east and the windy of the west within view. At the location there are also some ruins from the great earthquake in 1953.
Zakynthos is not so much an island for children; the water park there is small and rather hard to get to as compared to that in Corfu. Most resorts there are relatively low-key and tourist booths are more likely to offer excursions to neighbouring islands or the Greek mainland rather than concentrating on Zakynthos' beauty. This is a shame, because it is still an island where mountainside villages and hidden coves await discovery by the discerning traveller-- it is well worth hiring a car, though beware of the sometimes treachorous mountain roads.
Zakynthos is home to the endangered loggerhead turtle. These shy, gentle creatures nest in the south of the island during the spring and summer months, but their numbers are threatened of late, and one of the biggest culprits is undoubtedly mass tourism. Eggs that have been laid on the beaches of Laganas and Kalamaki have in the past been smashed by deckchairs or dug up by children; turtles have been killed on Zakynthos roads after having been disoriented by the bright neon lights of the bars they mistake for the moon by which they navigate their way to the sea. Thankfully, the Greek authorities are placing emphasis on protecting the turtles with signs and volunteers reminding tourists on the beaches of their duty to respect the turtles and stay away from them.
That said, several unscrupulous firms on the island run "turtle tours", whereupon a tourist can pay to take a boat ride to "spot" the turtles-- this is not a good idea. The turtles are easily distressed by this intrusion, and this has a knock-on effect on their breeding and hence is contributing to the threat to their very survival.
Traditional agricultural products are olive oil, (thyme) honey, currants, and wine, which can be purchased at road-side stalls or in the villages.
Zakynthos is a growing tourist island, and hence amongst traditional Greek fare one will find Anglicised cuisine. In Laganas, travellers would be more hard-pressed to find baklava than an English-fry up, but there are some very good places to eat Greek cuisine, and at very reasonable prices.
In particular, Mermaids in the resort of Kalamaki serves a good variety of Greek and international cuisine.
If in the Northern part of the island, towards Alikes, do try The Clear Horizon at Amoudi-- these apartments are served by a restaurant with a friendly owner who serves traditional Greek fare-- baklavas, stifado, briam -- at very reasonable prices in large portions, with an unrivalled view of the Ionian sea and Kefalonia rising from the mist in the background.
Bars are found in abundance on Zakynthos, from the lazy beach bar to clubs to British-run establishments. The beer of choice is Greek Mythos beer, though Amstel comes a close second. Drinkers looking for a more sartorial experience are advised to check out bars in Zakynthos town.
Zakynthos enjoys a very low crime rate, but precautions should still be taken, especially in heavy tourist areas. Regrettably, a lot of petty crime is down to the tourists.