Zakynthos – past and presentOne of the sweetest of the Ionian islands, Zakynthos (also known as Zante) offers beautiful scenery and beaches, a fascinating history, and some unique experiences for visitors, including hidden caves, and sea turtles. Like Corfu, the island was under Venetian rule for several centuries from the late 1400s, but Zakynthos Town also endured two devasting earthquakes in 1515 and 1952. Despite this, you can still visit many historic sites, including St Mark and Solomos Squares, the Post Byzantine Museum of Zante, and the town’s main church, Agios Dionysios, which houses the relics of the town’s patron saint, dating from 1708, and reconstructed in 1954. For spectacular views over the town and the port, we recommend you visit the village of Bohali, where you’ll find the remains of its Venetian castle, set in a park with pine trees. Unfortunately, most of the castle was destroyed by the 1952 earthquake, but you can still see the outer walls and battlements and remains of churches and other buildings, as well as the main gate, bearing the Lion of St. Mark, the symbol of Venice.
A lush, green island, Zakynthos was named by the Venetians as ‘Il Fiore di Levante’ (Flower of the East) for its fields of flowers and trees, including fig and olive trees. If you’re travelling with children, you might like to visit Askos Stone Park, a forest reserve and wildlife sanctuary in the north of the island, near Volimes village. The range of animals and birds here includes peacocks, deer, horses, goats and sheep, and the guides will help children to feed the animals. Zakynthos, has the reputation of producing some of the finest quality olive oils in Greece. A visit to the Aristeon Ecological Olive Press, in the south of the island, at Pantokratoras village, just a 15-minute drive from Zakynthos Town, is a top experience for food lovers. There is a museum here and tours including olive oil tastings can be arranged, and you can also buy a wide range of olive oils, as well as olive soaps and other local products.
Top tours and tablesThe Mediterranean cuisine on Zakynthos takes full advantage of the island’s fresh local products, including fish, meat, vegetables, olive oil, honey, cheese and goat’s yogurt. A selection of good restaurants to visit include Komis Fish Tavern, and Votsalo, by the sea, with views to Marathonisi island, and Taverna Scloubou, a traditional taverna, close to Agios Sostis village and beach. Not to be missed Zakynthos experiences include a visit to beautiful Navagio (Shipwreck) Beach, which can be accessed by the sea taxi from Agios Nikolaos in the north-east of the island, or on a variety of tours, including one at sunset, and a day tour to visit both Shipwreck Beach and the Blue Caves. You can also choose to visit the Blue Caves in a small glass-bottom boat, which departs from Agios Nikolaos for a longer round-the-island cruise from Zakynthos Town.
See the turtlesAnother recommended tour by boat is from Keri beach to the small island of Marathonisi, known as ‘Turtle Island’, the breeding place for the Caretta Caretta sea turtles, an endangered species that reproduce during the summer months. Organised tours to Marathonisi island can also be arranged, one of which includes a visit to Keri Caves, a row of caves opening directly to the crystal-clear turquoise sea. Visitors can explore them with just a mask and snorkel, or with a scuba dive tank, as part of an organized excursion, or just rent a boat and go independently. The best diving schools include Zante Diving which also runs trips to Turtle Island and Keri Caves. It’s an amazing experience for photographers eager to capture the effects of the sun reflecting through the water and onto the cave walls.
Luxury villas to rent in ZakynthosWe are featuring six beautiful villas in the north of the island, just above the famous Blue Caves, and with sensational sea views. The villas (Villa Dardanos 1-6) are situated on a large estate of 40,000m2, each very private with its own pool, terrace, and garden. Offering 2-6 bedrooms, they’re ideal for couples or families. If you’re looking for large villas to rent in Zakynthos, you can book several of these villas together, to host a larger extended group of family or friends.
A feast of luxury extras Built with natural stone, and beautifully decorated throughout, these villas also come with many additional treats included in your stay. Guests can enjoy locally produced wine from the estate, traditional Greek herbs (oregano, rosemary and lavender), fresh organic vegetables and seasonal fruit, olive oil and olives. You’ll have complimentary use of kayaks for sea trips to the Blue Caves, snorkelling equipment, fishing tackle equipment, mountain bikes, binoculars for bird watching, telescope for star gazing, and access to an outdoor gym.
Top villa for families in ZakynthosIntroducing the gorgeous 3-bedroom Villa Keri. Set a wonderful position on a hillside outside the traditional village of Keri, with breathtaking views over Keri Lake Bay and the Ionian Sea, as well as Marathonisi (Turtle Island) and the gulf of Keri, the villa is just 1.2 km from Keri beach, and 15 km from Zakynthos Town. The beautiful garden features a fabulous heated swimming pool (with hydro-massage, aero-massage, and a shallow end for children). The garden also has a play area for young children. The surrounding terraces cater both for sunbathing and relaxing in the shade, and there is also an outdoor bar (offering a variety of drinks) with wonderful sea views. There is also a dining area with a barbecue, and the property has private parking and a helipad.
Best private haven In a quiet location at the centre of the island, Villa Romiri is an award-winning 5-bedroom villa surrounded by olive trees, vineyards and pine trees, and offers peace and privacy. The nearest shops are 1.5 km away and it’s just 5 km from the nearest beach, Laganas Bay. Zakynthos Town is just a 10-minute drive, and the main sights on the island, including Shipwreck Cove, the Blue Caves, Marathonisi Island, Vasilikos and Gerakas are easily accessible. The owner here can arrange many services for guests, including private airport transfers, car rentals – and an exclusive range of concierge services such as yacht charter, cooking classes, private chef, and more! With its large grounds and many amenities, the property is also suitable for weddings and other special events.