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Zakynthos - Turtle Island with Scenic Bays

While Zakynthos' mountains and hills invite visitors to go hiking, divers and snorkellers are mesmerised by the island's unique underwater world and the magical Blue Caves. The beautiful beaches are perfect for family holidays and serve as an important nesting place for the loggerhead sea turtle.

Navagio Bay

Geography - The southernmost Ionian island

Zakynthos, also called "Zante", is the southernmost of the Ionian Islands and belongs to Greece. With an area of about 407 km², it is the third biggest island of the island group and the tenth biggest in the country. About 38,800 people live on Zakynthos. The capital is the city of the same name, which is called "Chora" by the inhabitants. Other interesting places are Laganas, Vasilikos, Argassi, Keri, Alykes and Alikanas. The island is relatively mountainous with peaks of up to 758 metres of height, of which Vrachionas is the highest point. The climate is Mediterranean with hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters.

Aerial view of Zakynthos city

Nature - A popular nesting place of the loggerhead sea turtle

Due to the high precipitation, which mainly occurs in winter, Zakynthos has a lush, green vegetation. The island flourishes and is covered in a colourful sea of plants, especially in spring. Great areas are used for agriculture, mainly for the cultivation of currants, vine, olives and southern fruit. Zakynthos has numerous bathing locations, many of which are located in bays. The most popular bay on the island is probably Shipwreck Bay with Navagio Beach. Other wonderful beaches are Kalamaki, Gerakes, Porto Roma and Vasilikos. However, some of the beaches are protected because the increasing tourism has already depleted the endangered loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) over the years. One protected area is Laganas Bay, which is considered one of the most important nesting places in the Mediterranean. After all, Zakynthos is referred to as the "Turtle Island" for a reason. Travellers can watch dolphins in the waters surrounding the island.

Giant turtles on Zakynthos

Culture - Churches, monasteries and a Venetian citadel

Archaeological finds have shown that Zakynthos was already settled 110,000 years ago. The earliest modern settlements can be traced back to Mycenaean times. According to Greek mythology, the god of wine - Dionysus - was particularly fond of the island. Culture enthusiasts have the opportunity to visit a variety of churches and monasteries on Zakynthos, for example the Cathedral of Saint Dionysios with its holy relics, Anafonitria Monastery and Faneromeni Church. A bit outside of Zakynthos city, you see the fascinating Venetian citadel on Bochali Hill. Travellers who are interested in museums should visit the Byzantine Museum and the Museum of Dionysios Solomos. The island's most popular sight and its landmark is Shipwreck Bay (also called "Navagio Bay"). The bay, which can only be accessed from the sea, accommodates a smugglers' ship which stranded here in 1980 and contained illegal cigarettes. This bay and the ship are a popular postcard scene.

The Church of Agios Dionysos on Zakynthos

Experience - Blue Caves and local specialities

While the south of Zakynthos has been affected by mass tourism, the north still contains deserted and native regions, in which travellers find beautiful mountain villages and remote bathing locations. Travellers who are looking for a unique taste adventure will enjoy a trip to Zakynthos. Local specialities are taramasalata (cured roe paste), gemista (stuffed peppers), calamari (squids) and tzatziki. Greek dishes like moussaka, souvlaki, dolmades (stuffed vine leaves) and Greek salad are common too. One special feature on the island is the preparation of dishes on charcoal grills and the fact that the dishes are served very hot because dishes are normally served at a lukewarm temperature in Greece. People have the drink Retsina, a white wine which contains pine resin, with their meals or the well-known aniseed liqueur ouzo. The nightlife on Zakynthos is not as lively as on the other Greek islands. There are several bars and clubs in Laganas but it is rather calm in the island's capital. Holidaymakers who enjoy going shopping have a number of opportunities in Zakynthos city. There are many small shops which sell clothes, leatherware, icons and typical souvenirs. A real highlight, which you should not miss out on, is a trip to the Blue Caves at Cape Skinari, Cape Keri and Marathonisi. The water there shines in different shades of blue and offers a breathtaking sight.

Caves on Zakynthos

Activities - A spectacular underwater world

The beaches on Zakynthos are excellently suited for going bathing, especially for families. The crystal clear water of the Ionian Sea also offers great conditions for going diving and snorkelling as well as other kinds of water sports. Tsivili Beach is an excellent destination for visitors who want to go sailing and surfing. Divers will be fascinated by the island's incredible underwater world and its underwater caves. In the mountainous regions, you can go hiking and mountain biking. In addition, travellers can take part in regular guided tours to the neighbouring island of Kefalonia and to the Greek mainland.

Snorkelling in the Ionian Sea

Information

The easiest way of reaching Zakynthos is by plane or ship. If there is no direct flight to the island from your city, you can fly via Athens. In addition, travellers can arrive in their own car or a travel coach on a ferry from Italy or the Greek mainland. Zakynthos has adjusted well to tourism and is equipped with a well-developed road network and public transport.

Zakynthos has a lot to offer and is particularly suited for families, hikers and water sports fans. Dive into the magical underwater world and marvel at the different shades of blue in the caves. Taste the local specialities and enjoy the majestic sight of the loggerhead sea turtle, which has found the perfect nesting place on Zakynthos.

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