Zakynthos (known also as Zante) is the third largest island in the Ionian group. It is known as Turtle Island because the National Marine Park of Zakynthos is home for turtles of the species Caretta caretta.
In 1953 Zakynthos was destroyed after a sequence of severe earthquakes and all buildings and roads collapsed. Nevertheless, everything was reconstructed and the population even increased, now reaching almost 40 000 inhabitants.
Zakynthos is connected to mainland Greece via the port of Kyllini in the north of Peloponnese. There are regular ferry lines of a few companies, as in the summer season boats leave almost every 1 hour, taking both cars and passengers. The ferries from Kyllini arrive at Zakynthos Town. There is one port on the north seaside of the island, Agios Nikolaos, which connects Zante with Kefalonia but only in the summer. The island has an airport as well.
The island is not very large (the distance from the northernmost to the southernmost point is about 50 km) but it is rich in beaches. The eastern part is most populated although mountainous and the southern part abounds in sandy beaches. The western area of the island is less populated and there are only a few beaches, one of which is Navagio - the most famous beach on Zakynthos that you see on all websites and information leaflets for the island, as well as in rankings about the best beaches of Greece. Navagio, also known as Shipwreck beach, is a small cove isolated by high cliffs and accessible only by boat, with brilliant blue color of the sea. Near it you can see the spectacular Blue Caves which are another tourist attraction on the island.
The capital of Zakynthos is the town of Zakynthos on the eastern coast. The island has two ports and one airport. Local bus transportation is well organized and there are also cars and boats to rent. Popular holiday resorts are Laganas, Tsilivi (Planos), Argassi, Kalamaki and Alykes. The bay of Laganas is the National Marine park of Zakynthos and it comprises all the beaches in the bay, including the small island of Marathonisi. The turtles nest in protected and marked sections of these beaches. Tourists can see the nests following some restrictions and rules. Boat trips in the bay and around the island of Marathonisi are also organized.
Except for Navagio beach, the Blue Caves and the National Marine park, other interesting places to visit on Zakynthos are:
- The Keri Caves and the lighthouse on Cape Marathia
- Agios Nikolaos port in the northeast, a small village with an island in front of it. If you take a boat trip to Navagio and the caves from here, your trip will last shorter. There are also speed boats that can leave you on Navagio and come back to take you in a few hours.
- Cape Skinari - this is the northernmost part of the island and accessible by car on a narrow road. Skinari is just above one of the Blue Caves groups and stairs will lead you down to the sea so you can swim in the caves
- The Venetian castle located in Bohali area above the town of Zakynthos. It also provided great view over the town, especially at night
- Marathonisi island
- The islet of Agios Sostis (Cameo) connected with the land via bridge
- The Vassilikos peninsula in the south which combines mountain views, sandy beaches and lush greenery
- Porto Limnionas, a narrow channel in the cliffs with sea caves
- The sunset tavernas near the village of Kampi, on the west coast - there is fantastic view of the sun going down