The ancient Greek poet Homer mentioned Zakynthos or ‘Zante’ in the Iliad and the Odyssey. Today it is a tourist destination with crystal turquoise water and long sandy beaches, especially beloved by dreary- weather weary Brits.
Zante is the first established independent democracy in Greece with its Lake Keri providing invaluable tar to preserve ship planking. Venetian rule protected Zakynthos from the Ottoman domination, but in its place was a feudal oligarchy that lasted until the end of the Venetian Republic in 1791.
The treaty of Campoformio dismanteling the Venetian Republic awarded Zakynthoa to France. Captured briefly by Russian-Turkish fleet, it returned to French rule and then conquered by Britain in 1809 and remained part of the United States of the Ionian Islands until it became a full member of the Greek state in attempt to stabilize the rule of the newly crowned George I.
Zante refused to turn over their 275 Jewish residents during WWII, hiding them in rural villages. All survived the war.
Only three buildings were left standing after the 7.3 quake of August 1953, leading to a huge effort to expand and repave infrastructure roads as well as constructing buildings on a swimming slab and enforced with steel, determined by the government to ensure safety.
Twenty five miles long by twelve miles wide, Zakynthos has the shape of an arrow. The western half is mountainous, the eastern half densly populated fertile plain with long sandy beaches. Principle products are olive oil, currants and citrus fruit. The Bay of Laganas is prime nesting site for loggerhead sea turtles, the females laying her eggs in the sand each June.
Base jumpers favour the sheer white cliff of the cove at Navagio Beach. “Blue Caves” are cut into the cliffs around Cape Skinari; sunrays reflecting through turquoise blue water off the white stones of cave bottoms, creating the amazing blue lighting effect. A wide range of marine life attracts scuba divers from around the world.
The island has a long musical history and is the location fo the first school of music established in Greece, taking part in the first modern Olympics held in 1896.
Zante is third in size of the Ionian Islands, verdant green and home of author of the Greek National Anthem. When the ferry arrives, you may just feel you are arriving in Venice. The bells of St Dennis Cathedral , the picturesque main town and a serpentine road leading to the Venetian Fortress has been described as breathtaking.
The summer warmth, azure sea, endless swimming opportunities, amazing food and tourist-focused people make the Ionian isles a wonderful holiday location.