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.
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.
The 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.
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.
my favorite beaches on the island where:
–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
- 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
- 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.