ZakynthosCalled "the Flower of the East" by the Venetians, Zakynthos is still one of the lushest and most-loved Greek islands, with green hillsides covered with flowers in spring and early summer, steep cliffs dropping to dazzling turquoise waters, and some of the country's best beaches.
The IslandZakynthos, although it lost much of its centuries-old Venetian architecture to an earthquake in 1953, still retains a charmingly Italian feel in Zakynthos Town. The town features porticoed streets, a spacious central piazza, and a scattering of elegant old buildings. Overlooking the Gulf of Corinth, a ruined yet formidable Venetian castle perches on a hill above the town, offering commanding views of the mainland. To truly immerse yourself in Zakynthos's allure, venture into its hilly hinterland with a rented car. This provides the perfect opportunity to explore the major sights on your own schedule. Like most Greek holiday resorts, Zakynthos is abuzz between May and October. During these months, charter flights bring a steady influx of visitors. From October to April, the island enters a period of hibernation as almost every hotel and nightspot closes, awaiting the next summer season.
Beach LifeConsidering that the island is relatively small, Zakynthos features a surprisingly large amount of stunning beaches, which makes it easy to understand why thousands of holidaymakers flock every year to this corner of paradise. The island is bathed by emerald crystal water that gently laps onto its shore, boasting an array of golden sandy beaches, secluded bays or picturesque coves. The most-coveted beach resorts are located on the north-eastern and southern part of the island, down Laganas gulf, one of the most cosmopolitan and tourist developed area of Zakynthos. On the west side, an abundance of dramatic cliffs and marine grottoes creates a breathtaking backdrop of unspoiled nature and hillside walks.
Do & See
The majority of visitors to Zakynthos are attracted by the vast selection of dazzling beaches that the island has to offer. However, you shouldn't forget to explore the island's museums, architectural masterpieces and ancient ruins. Covered in lush Mediterranean vegetation, the area that stretches along the southern coast from the promontory of Marathia’s Cape to the beach of Gerakas has been designated as a National Marine Park, housing many endangered species and several walking trails.
Greeks understand good food and they truly take their time to appreciate it. You could say eating is a national pastime in Greece, boasting a hearty array of traditional dishes made of the healthiest ingredients. On a Greek table you will easily find some tzatziki, fresh catch seafood, meat, and of course, olive and cheese. Zakynthos is certainly not short of cheerful, affordable and family-run dining options, especially in the most-coveted holiday resorts such as Zakynthos Town, Laganas or Tsivili, where you will be able to sample traditional delicacies or opt for an international eatery. Just like night spots, restaurants and tavernas in the island’s resorts may be open for a couple of seasons, then vanish when the lease runs out or when they fail to make a profit.
Turning into life over the summer season, Zakynthos is more about ice-cream parlors and iced-coffees than proper cafeterias, although the hearty Greek are very fond of strong, black coffee in the "Italian way". Breakfast spots pop-up everywhere throughout the island, offering, along with delicacies belonging to the Greek diet, no shortage of options for those who crave a more international first meal of the day.
Bars & Nightlife
Laganas is the raucous epicentre of Zakynthos’ nightlife, that, with more than 50 clubs, music bars and pubs, rocks until dawn from May until September. The other resorts, especially Argassi, have plentiful to offer too, having developed around tourism in the last fifty years. You can decide to have a colourful cocktail on the seaside or opt for an animated night out at one of the many options that the island's club scene features: Zakynthos' nightlife is vibrant and comprehensive, catering for the numerous party animals that fill the holiday resorts.
Shops and roadside stalls offer the visitor plenty of opportunities to buy cheap and colourful beachwear, designer knockoffs and conventional souvenirs as well as local produce. The main shopping street in Zakynthos Town is Odos Alexandras, two blocks back from the harbour esplanade, which has a great abundance of shops selling leatherware and gold and silver jewellery, all of which are handmade and well designed. Elsewhere, the shopping streets in the resorts concentrate on souvenirs and beachwear or toys and other essential holiday equipment such as sunblock, dive masks or snorkels. Ceramic workshops are also very popular among tourists, offering numerous gift ideas and fine pottery.