Zakynthos – one of the seven wonders of the Ionian Islands


I have spent one week in Zante, or Zakyn­thos as non greek speak­ers call it. A beau­ti­ful island like all the other six in the Ionian sea.

I fell in love with the Ionian Islands long before I have seen them. It was while lis­ten­ing to a friend of mine, telling sto­ries about their beauty.  I don’t know why, but I knew I would love them. And I was right.

I had the priv­i­lege to dis­cover the island with greek friends, hear­ing greek all day, eat­ing greek, drink­ing greek…malakia!! swear­ing-in greek.

Zakynthos is the greatest turtle nesting place in the Mediterranean!

Loved by the Artemis and Apollo for its scenic beaches, Zante is the biggest turtle nest­ing place in the Mediter­ranean sea. There are about 1200 nests on 6 beaches of the island. The turtle species Caretta, which come here, are pro­tected by the law. Because on 5 of the beaches the tem­per­a­ture of the sand reaches 29°, the baby turtles are female. On only one island, Marathon­i­sis where the white sands reflect back the sun rays, the sand tem­per­a­ture is a lit­tle bit cooler. There­fore, baby boys hatch here. Actu­ally, Marathos­nisi has an amaz­ing turtle like shape. I saw it from the air­plane also, and it was like a big turtle float­ing in the sea. 

It’s hot. Really hot!

the first thing that struck me after get­ting off the plane was the heat. I had the feel­ing I can­not breathe or if I will, I will burn my lungs. It is August, it is Greece, so take this into account. I am not used to this boil­ing tem­per­a­tures and I was actu­ally try­ing as hard as pos­si­ble to avoid it. We went to the beach after 15.00 or at very early morn­ing hours. The time between 10–15.00 was ded­i­cated to doing noth­ing.

History

oldsquarezante

Zante is the home land of the national poet Diony­s­ios Solo­mos, who actu­ally has writ­ten the lyrics of the national hymn. We stayed actu­ally just across the hill where he wrote it.

DyonisoschurchThe  Aghios Dionysos  cathe­dral– is the most beau­ti­ful on the island and the only one that escaped the  1953 earth­quake. Its cam­panile reminds of  Basil­ica San Marco of  Venice. The remains of St. Dionysos, the patron of the city can be found in the church.

Dionysos is actu­ally a very pop­u­lar name on the island. Many tav­erns, restau­rants, streets, cor­ners have its name.

Zante was occu­pied by  Mace­do­nians, Romans, British, Vene­tians, French, Ital­ians from Naples and Turks.

Church

The island had vene­tian archi­tec­ture, but the strong earth­quake of 1953 has destroyed unfor­tu­nately most of the build­ings. My greek friends told me that the recon­struc­tion  was not done because there was no money for it. So locals, have rebuilt in the min­i­mal­ist style, as they could afford to.

Zante night view

Beaches

my favorite beaches on the island where:

–Marathia

–all the beaches around Marathonissi;

–and of course the beach of Nav­a­gio for its scenic view.

See the island by boat

Sail, sail, sail. The most authen­tic way to stay away from touris­tic areas is by boat. Dis­cover small beaches, snorkle and dive where you wish. Don’t take my word for it. Try it your­self! Sail­ing beats any­thing else. If you don’t have your own boat and need to rent, ask around. The prices dif­fer and are nego­tiable. We paid 10 euros each with fuel included. We asked 4 rentals for prices and they were from 55–100 euros for the same deal.

What to do in Zante

in the evening, when the sea breeze is won­der­ful,  take a beer and go along the port on the left hand side, near the bea­con.  You will get closer to the non touris­tic side of the port, and still be able to enjoy its beauty. From here you will see the illu­mi­nated ancient Vene­tian Castle of Zakyn­thos, ships silently return­ing into the port, peo­ple din­ning on their boats, at can­dle light.

Go to Nav­a­gio. There are boats tour­ing the island and a stop for a cou­ple of hours on Nav­a­gio beach is included. You should go early in the morn­ing to avoid the crowds. It is a small beach after all. Do not for­get umbrel­las and water. The beach is totally exposed to sun. The tour costs 10 euros per per­son, and for a bet­ter deal you should go to the port of Laganas, which is also the Las Vegas of Zante – not my thing.  And take another day to go above Nav­a­gio, to see that beauty from the skies. It is a totally dif­fer­ent feel­ing. Breath tak­ing.

One unfor­tu­nate acci­dent hap­pened last year there, my friends told me. A paraglider got caught into the rocks above the beach and called the emer­gency res­cue for help. While he was get­ting help, he called his wife to tell her every­thing is under con­trol. But the res­cuers did not have a long enough string to get him down. So, even­tu­ally, due to wind cur­rents, he fell.

I stayed on the edge of these rocks with my cam­era, look­ing at Navagio…and it was unique. Scary, as the gravel was mov­ing under my shoe soles, and I was think­ing “falling down would be like a one way ticket”. But it is a cap­ti­vat­ing beauty. Like a mer­maid draw­ing you into the deep seas. Like a lethal but addic­tive love.

Even if some unfor­tu­nate acci­dents hap­pen, I would still fly off the cliffs of Nav­a­gio. It’s crazy but I believe it is also unique, and that is all I care about.

One other tip about what to do in Zante is

to see it with friends. Peo­ple that fill you with sun, laugh­ter and mem­o­ries

What to eat and drink in Zante

Eat:

  • Pasteli – it is the local sweet treat made of sesami seeds and honey. Make sure you take it from small kiosks on the streets, not super mar­kets
  • Baklava – I can­not talk about it for my mouth is water­ing
  • Graviera cheese – it is a hard cheese with a light yel­low color, and has a slightly sweet and nutty taste
  • local olives and olive oil
  • Tirokroketes/Sfougata – fried cheese balls with vari­a­tions of added veg­eta­bles like zuc­chini
  • Gemista – stuffes toma­toes and paprikas with rice and veg­eta­bles

    stuffed tomatoes made by Val and Maria
    stuffed toma­toes made by Val and Maria

Drink

  • Tsipouro – home-made Greek tra­di­tional dis­til­la­tion pro­duct from the pomace of grapes with 45º alco­hol
  • goat yoghurt

I did not pho­tograph the shots of Tsipouro I had, because maybe my mum will some day read this post. I stayed on the safe side tak­ing shots of cakes.

Last thoughts: try to explore new places with new senses. Let them guide you, before maps and travel guides do.

Next post  will be about  Lefkada. She is called “the white island” of the Ionian sea. I will explore it to find out why.

 

 

 

 

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Sol says:

    This arti­cle is really inter­est­ing. I have book­marked it. Do you allow guest post on your blog ?
    I can provide hi qual­ity posts for you. Let me know.

    1. Hei, I am sorry it took so long to get back to you. I am glad you like my post. Please feel free to write as a guest blog­ger–

      Send me your blog, I’d like to read it 🙂

      Peace and love

  2. ig says:

    Great post but I was want­ing to know if you could write a litte
    more on this sub­ject? I’d be very thank­ful if you could
    elab­o­rate a lit­tle bit fur­ther. Cheers!

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