Zakynthos Travel Guide
Zakynthos Travel Guide: Zakynthos (aka Zante) is a verdant island endowed with fertile valleys and a temperate climate (area: 406 sq. km; coastline: 123 km). Its landscape diversity has resulted in different types of beaches: there are sandy beaches in secluded coves where the tranquil waters are deep blue on the island’s southeastern part; yet, if rugged cliffs and an interesting underwater world are to your liking, try the western part of the island. The Venetians, who ruled Zákynthos from 1484 to 1797, called the island “Fioro di Levante” (flower of the East) as there are over 7,000 species of flowers on Zákynthos. The third largest island of the Ionian Sea, after Corfu and Kefalonia, is internationally known as “Zante”. Zakynthos is said to have been the island’s first inhabitant and the ancient acropolis is attributed to him. He was the son of Dardanos who ruled the ancient kingdom of Frigia. A Venetian fort was built at later times on the site.
How to Get to Zakynthos?
Traveling from Kyllini to Zakynthos by ferry
At the moment, there are no direct ferry routes between Athens and Zante (Zakynthos). It is however easy to travel to Zakynthos from Athens via the port of Kyllini. Read our ferry guide below for more useful information on how to get to the port of Kyllini, ferry schedules to Zakynthos, as well as tips for your ferry trip to Zante and the Ionian Islands. It takes 75 minutes and cost starting from 10€ pp. There are no direct ferries from Athens to Zante. To get to the island of Zante from Athens, you need to get to the port of Kyllini in the western Peloponnese.
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Traveling from Athens to Zakynthos by flights
If you’re wondering how to get to Zakynthos quickly, you’ll likely choose to fly. Zakynthos is very easily reachable from Athens with Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines. During the summer, some European cities offer direct flights to the island including London and Amsterdam. British Airways offers direct flights to Zante during the summer months. Also, Volotea airlines in Italy offers direct flights. Check our flight schedule to search – compare and book .
The Venetian architectural influence has left its stamp on Zante despite the damage sustained due to the seismic activity in the area. After the ravaging 1953 earthquake and the ensuing fire, a number of historical buildings and churches burned to the ground. Consequently, the significant treasures these buildings were housing perished. The town was rebuilt according to a plan where strict anti-seismic specifications applied and, to a large extent, respecting the town’s former architectural structure. On Zante, great care is taken to protect two endangered animal species, namely the caretta aretta sea turtle and the monachus monachus seal. The city of Zakynthos is the capital of the island and at the same time the island’s port.
- The Solomos Square surrounded by buildings with characteristic traditional architectural features of the island, arch-shaped windows and arcades. The bust of D. Solomos national poet of Greece dominates in the centre. Here you can also find the Public Library (with 55.000 volumes), the Post-Byzantine Museum of Zante exhibiting treasures such as statues trimmed with gold, icons and art woodcuts.
- The Post- Byzantine Museum of Zante in Solomos square, exhibits treasures such as statues trimmed with gold, icons and art woodcuts.
- The coastal road known as Strata Marina (K. Lomvardou street), which is one of the most frequented part of the city, with cafes, bars and restaurants, from the Solomos Square up to the church of the patron-saint Aghios Dionysios.
- The Aghios Markos square. Here, in 1797, the revolutionaries (popolaroi) burnt the Libro d’ Oro and planted the tree of freedom. This paved square is the main meeting point for locals and visitors. Here, you will find the Museum of Solomos, Kalvos and Eminent Zakynthians which also hosts the bust of the Greek national poet, created by Georgios Broutos in 1902.
- Rouga: Its name is Alexandros Romas street, starting at Aghios Markos Square crossing almost the whole town. This street with the impressive arcades has been the main commercial center of the city for centuries.
- The Venetian Castle situated on a hill overhanging the town in the place of the old acropolis named Psofis.
- The Stranis hill, 2 km away from the town, offering a great view. Here, the poet Dionysios Solomos inspired the ‘Hymn to Liberty’ (later the Greek national anthem) and the “Free Besieged” attending the siege of the city of Messolonghi.
Visit also the remarkable churches of Zakynthos
- Aghios Nikolaos tou Molou (Solomou Square): a church of Renaissance order (17th century) with a belfry dating back to the Byzantine period. Aghios Dionysios lived here in 1853.
- Aghios Dionysios (at the new pier of the port): where the relic of the patron-saint of the island is kept in a silver larnax.
- Aghios Markos (1516): The belfry of this catholic church situated at the Aghiou Markou Square is a copy of the one of Saint Mark’s basilica in Venice.
- Aghios Georgios: The army commanders Kolokotronis, Nikitaras, Fotomaras as well as other fighters of the 1821 Revolution took their vows on the icon which is kept in this church.
- Panaghia Pikardiotissa at the outskirts of the castle.
Best Attractions of Zakynthos
Probably the most photographed and, arguably, beautiful beach in all of Greece, Shipwreck Beach lies in the so-called Smuggler’s Cove on Zakynthos’ west coast. Made up of fine white pebbles backed by cliffs, the beach takes its name from the wreck of a contraband cigarette smuggling ship that washed up here in 1980. The most special aspect of this beach is that it can only be accessed from the sea — grab a taxi-boat from the harbor at Agios Nikolaos, which is on the island’s northeast coast, 32 kilometers from Zakynthos Town.
On the main square in Zakynthos Town, this purpose-built museum displays religious icons, frescoes, and sculptures from the island’s churches and monasteries, dating from the 12th century onwards. You’ll see Byzantine icons carved into wood and there are two rooms dedicated to 18th-century oil paintings. There’s also a scale model of the town from around 1950, giving you some idea of how it looked before the devastating 1953 earthquake. Address: Solomos Square, 29100 Zakynthos Town
Built in the 1660s, this proud mansion is one of the few old buildings to have survived the 1953 earthquake, which wiped out most of Zakynthos Town. It is owned by the Roma family, who decided to renovate it and opened it to the public in 2007. Inside, you can see period furniture, paintings, and books, giving you some idea of how local aristocrats lived in the centuries prior.
On the northern tip of the island, at Cape Skinari, you’ll find the most spectacular so-called Blue Caves. Inside, the bright blue sea reflects the color of the sky, which is mirrored off the walls of the caves and creates an absolutely magical azure and sapphire light scheme. You can visit the Blue Caves in a small glass-bottom boat, which departs from Agios Nikolaos (on the northeast coast, 32 kilometers from Zakynthos Town), or as part of the longer round-the-island cruise from Zakynthos Town.
Zakynthos National Marine Park in Laganás Bay
On the southeast coast, eight kilometers south of Zákynthos town, the wide bay of Laganás is home to several blissful stretches of sandy beach. Since the 1980s, it has been the island’s top resort, with budget accommodation attracting young visitors in search of sea, sun, and fun. This area is also the breeding ground for the loggerhead sea turtle, which is an endangered species, known for being very timid. An estimated 1,300 loggerhead turtles live around Laganas Bay and are protected in the Zakynthos National Marine Park, which was founded in 1999 to limit access to certain parts of the beach during the nesting season. To learn more, visit the park’s exhibition center in Dafni, at the east end of Laganas Bay.
Askos Stone Park
A must-do for animal lovers, Askos Stone Park is in the north of the island, close to the village of Volimes, 30 kilometers from Zakynthos Town. It’s highly recommended for children — animals here include deer, raccoons, peacocks, and tortoises, as well as a pony, donkey, goats, and chickens. You get a map and a bottle of water with the entrance ticket, and there are attendants in the park who can explain where the animals are from and how to feed them.
Zakynthos Cultural Events & Festivals
- Carnival: A traditional town crier goes around the island proclaiming the program of the Carnival festivities. On the last Sunday of the Carnival is the procession of the Carnival King. The festivities end with the “Mask Funeral”.
- Litany and artistic events in the memory of Aghios Dionysios on August 24th and December 17th.
- Easter: The Holy Week in Zakynthos has its own character with ancient customs and an exceptional rite as far as the religious ceremonies are concerned.
- The celebration of Holy Week on Zakynthos Island is considered to be unique and unforgettable both for locals and visitors to the island. At noon, on Good Friday, crowds of worshippers take part in the procession of the Crucified through the town.
- In the early hours of Holy Saturday morning and starting from the “Saint Nicolas” Cathedral Church the epitaph procession takes place in accordance with the local ancient custom, while the Bishop announces the Resurrection at sunrise. At the first chime of the bell, the Bishop lets white doves free while from the bell tower clay vessels are thrown onto the road just as is done by all the inhabitants of the island out of their windows.
- Giostra: Giostra takes place fifty days after the Greek Orthodox Easter. It is one of the oldest events on Zakynthos. It used to be part of the Zakynthos Carnival but is now celebrated during the three-day celebrations of the Holy Spirit. Giostra is a competition where competitors, mounted on horseback, compete against each other to win. Zakynthos has two Giostra competitions. No one knows exactly when Giostra started, but its first official mention is in 1656. It is an event full of competition, costumes and proud old tradition.