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Image by Julian Timmerman

Zakynthos general information 

Do you want to go on holiday on Zakynthos? Well, if so, you have to get informed a little about the history of the island, is not it? 

Zakynthos is one of the most beautiful Greek islands, only after having seen it can we understand the nostalgia of the poems by Ugo Foscolo who was born there in 1778.  Rich in history from centuries of foreign domination i.e. The Romans, The Byzantines, The Franks, The Venetians, The Turks, The French and The English all passed through before the Greek flag was finally hoisted on 21 May 1864.


The island is 45 km long, 16 km wide, has 42.000 inhabitants and has a succession of fantastic landscape and scenery and between these: long sandy beaches in the South-East, little hidden pebble beaches in the North, incredible cliffs with pure white beaches in the West and finally luxuriant hills that look over the fertile plains covered with olive-trees and grape-vines

However it is the sea that is the absolute ruler that leaves you breathless because of its clearness, intense colour, wonderful sunset and its particular inhabitants who live protected thanks to the marine park where you can often meet: the Marine Turtle “Caretta-Caretta” and the Monaca Seal. 


What to know about Zakynthos?


History:  Zakynthos was inhabited from the Neolithic Age.The famous ancient Greek poet and writer, Homer, first mentioned the island in his masterpieces, the Iliad and the Odyssey, stating that the first inhabitants of it were the son of King Dardanos of Troy called Zakynthos and his men and that they first came on the island around 1500-1600 BC.

The island was then conquered by the Great Imperial King Arkeisios of Kefalonia. The famous Ulysses (Odysseus in Greek) from Ithaca was the next King to conquer the island. Later on, a treaty was signed that made Zakynthos an independent democracy, the first established in the Hell area, and that lasted more than 650 years.

The Athenian military commander Tolmides concluded an alliance with Zacynthus during the First Peloponnesian War sometime between 459 and 446 B.C. The importance of this alliance for Athens was that it provided them with a source of tar. Tar is a more effective protector of ship planking than pitch (which is made from pine trees). The Athenian trireme fleet needed protection from rot, decay and the teredo so this new source of tar was valuable to them. The tar was dredged up from the bottom of a lake using leafy myrtle branches tied to the ends of poles. It was then collected in pots and could be carried to the beach and swabbed directly onto ship hulls. Alternatively, the tar could be shipped to the Athenian naval yard at the Piraeus for storage.

Zakynthos, along with the rest of the Ionian islands, spent six centuries as a subject of the Republic of Venice (1194-1797). Venetian rule protected the island from Ottoman domination but in its place it put a feudal oligarchy. The cultural influence of Venice (and of Venetian on local dialect) was considerable. The wealthy made a habit of sending their sons to Italy to be educated. A good example is Dionysios Solomos, a native of Zakynthos and Greece's national poet. However, both the Greek language and Orthodox faith survived intact. During the Napoleonic wars the islands were occupied at different times by France, as part of the département Mer-Égée (which induced the peasants to revolt), Russia, Turkey (Septinsular Republic) and finally Britain, which held on to them under the guise of the United States of the Ionian Islands until 1864, when they were ceded to Greece to stabilize the rule of the newly crowned Danish-born King of Greece.

During the Nazi occupation of Greece, Mayor Karrer and Bishop Chrysostomos refused Nazi orders to turn in a list of the members of the town's Jewish community for deportation to the death camps. Instead they secreted the town's 275 Jews in rural villages. All survived the war. Statues of the Bishop and the Mayor commemorate their heroism on the site of the town's historic synagogue, destroyed in the earthquake of 1953. After the war, all of the Jews of Zakynthos moved either to Israel or to Athens.


Climate: Zakynthos has a varied terrain, with fertile plains in the southeastern part and mountainous terrain with steep cliffs along the coasts on the west. Zakynthos town coordinates are: Latitude 37.79139/37°47'29 N, Longitude: 20.89528/20°53'43 E. The mild, Mediterranean climate and the plentiful winter rainfall endow the island with dense vegetation. The principal products are olive oil, currants, grapes and citrus fruit. 


Famous Zakynthians: Among the most famous Zakynthians is the 19th century poet Dionysios Solomos, the principal modern Greek poet and author of the national anthem of Greece. His statue adorns the main town square. Also the explorer Juan de Fuca (Ioannis Focas) and the Italian poet Ugo Foscolo were born here.  


Aiport & Port : The island has one airport, the Zakynthos International Airport, "Dionysios Solomos". The port of Zakynthos has a ferry connecting to the port of Kyllini on the mainland. Another ferry connects the village of Skinari to Argostoli on the island of Kefalonia.


National Marine Park :  The National Marine Park was founded in 1999. The aim is to protect and conserve the most important nesting beaches of the Caretta Caretta turtles and Monk Seal. Caretta caretta is an endangered species - especially by the deck chairs laid out on their breeding grounds and the inevitable pollution. Every year at the beginning of June, the female turtles come to the southern beaches in order to bury their eggs in the sand. The incubation period for the nest is approximately fifty five days, after which time hatchlings emerge from the nest and make their way to the sea. The survival rate for hatchlings is very small, and it is estimated that only one in one thousand hatchlings that enter the sea live to adulthood. Each nest contains around one hundred to one hundred and twenty eggs, each of which are around the size and shape of a ping-pong ball. Female turtles begin to lay nests at around twenty to thirty years of age.


Shipwreck / Navagio: this beach is the most photographed beach of Greece and the tradmark of Zakynthos. The setting was created in 1882, when the ship 'Panagiotis' carruing contraband cigarettes from Turkey  ran aground due to atraverse weather conditions and engine failure. The famous beach in only accessibile by boat. 

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