Homer first mentioned the island of Zakynthos in his writings in both The Iliad and The Odyssey, where he stated that the first to inhabit the island was the son of King Dardanos of Troy, after whom the island takes its name.
Zakynthos was conquered by the Great Imperial King Arkeisios of Kefalonia and the next King to conquer the island was Odysseus from Ithaca. Later Zakynthos became an independent democracy.
Reminiscent of Venice, with its historic St Mark’s Square, the town which curves naturally around a the bay, is dominated by a Venetian Fortress and the St Dennis Cathedral,
Zante, as it is now known for short, has one of the most breathtaking coastlines in the Mediterranean. The most southerly of the Ionian Islands and the third largest after Corfu and Kefalonia, Zante ranges from mountainous landscapes in the north to lush hills and flat countryside in the south.
The Venetians called it ‘The Flower of the Orient’ because of its olive groves, lemon trees and bougainvillea which make the island a painter’s paradise.
Places to See On Zakynthos
The Blue Caves
The blue caves below Cape Skinari are so named as the reflections of the sea give a blue hue against the stunning white backdrop of the rocks and these hues give swimmers a similar reflection so that even their bodies appear to be blue!
Zante is also renowned for the Caretta loggerhead turtle, an endangered species which only nest and breed in Greece (a good choice)!
The best place to visit if you want to see these amazing creatures is Laganas Beach particularly at sunset between July and August.
Porto Vromi, Maries
The village of Maries is said to be named after the two Marys, Mary Magdalene and Mary Klopas. Surrounded by legends the area is also home to the amazing rock profile belonging to Poseidon, God of the Sea.
This is the place to come for a boat trip to see the shipwreck on the north-western coast of Zante, where it is rumoured that Mary Magdalene came ashore to spread the gospel of Christ – her footprint can even be seen on the rock.
The Jewish Cemetary
Until 1712, the Zakynthos community had two synagogues, the “Zante” Synagogue and the “Cretan” Synagogue, which took its name after the Jews from Crete who had settled in Zakynthos when Crete was occupied by the Ottomans in 1669. The “Zante” synagogue suffered serious damage during the earthquake which shook the Ionian Islands in 1953; and the “Cretan” synagogue is no more than a ruin today.
During the Nazi Occupation, the Germans asked Mayor Karrer and The Metropolitan Bishop Chrysostomos to hand them a list of the Jews living on Zakynthos. Thanks to their denial, the Jews were rescued and hid in some of the more remote villages of the island. To show their gratitude, the Jews erected a monument in memory of these two extremely brave men in the old Synagogue’s courtyard area.
Zakynthos by Greek Houses Online