Zakynthos (sometimes known as Zante) is a town of great contrasts–by day, the island is serene, dotted with ancient ruins and olive groves, with naturally azure seas and white sandy beaches that will take your breath away. By night, an ‘anything goes’ mentality prevails, as the nightclubs of Lagunas open their doors to throngs of tourists. The cheap drinks and year-round sunshine attract a huge number of hen parties, stag parties, and young people to Zakynthos, although elsewhere on the island there are a few quieter, more local areas, which are a bit more family-friendly. The island has a long historical and mythical significance–it was mentioned in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, and was the home of the goddess Artemis and her brother Apollo. Ancient ruins can still be seen today, and visitors can recreate the journey of Odysseus by hiring a boat and sailing around the Ionian Islands.
Location: An ancient Ionian paradise
Zakynthos has a long history, and is thought to have been inhabited continuously since the Neolithic Age. This is largely due to its favourable location in the shallow and warm Ionian Sea. The island is situated around 20 km west of the Greek mainland, and around 15 km south of the island of Cephalonia.
Business: Old traditions vs. the new
Zakynthos is a naturally fertile island, known as the ‘Green Island’ among locals. The population has traditionally relied on fishing and farming, but in recent years, the tourist trade has taken over. While there is undoubtedly a lot of money to be made from the visiting tourists, locals have opposed the influx of nightclubs and bars, particularly around the Lagunas area.
Culture: Music and museums
Music has played a big part in the history of Zakynthos. The first music school in Greece was established here in the early 19th century, and it is thought that the island was one of the first places to champion opera singing. History buffs can’t miss the town’s museums: the Byzantine Museum of Zakynthos and the Museum of D Solomos and Eminent People of Zakynthos.
Activities: Fun in the sun
There is no end to the activities on offer at Zakynthos. The infamous ‘party boats’ are ever-popular with tourists, and usually offer an open bar and a spot of island-hopping or snorkelling in the sea. The Ionian Sea is generally a safe place to swim, and the warm water makes it particularly inviting, even for non-swimmers.