Sandy Maria Tsilivi Zante Greece
“The vast sandy beach offers a sense of seclusion, however watersports are limited so as not to disturb the Caretta Caretta turtles that nest here”Endless sandy beaches are plentiful on the island
© ShutterstockEndless sandy beaches are plentiful on the island The world-famous Navagio Beach
© Dimitris VlaikosThe world-famous Navagio Beach The rare Caretta Caretta has many nesting grounds on the island
© ArchelonThe rare Caretta Caretta has many nesting grounds on the island
2. A Natural Paradise on Earth
For many, the main lure to the island is the chance to see the endangered Caretta Caretta sea turtles up close. Join the enthusiastic volunteers of the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece, Archelon, doing beach rounds at dawn each morning and you may get a chance to see eggs hatch. Only one out of every 1, 000 hatchlings make it to adulthood, with many losing their orientation due to nearby beach bar lights, getting snapped up by predators or choking on plastic bags. Find out all you need to know about the exquisite turtles by visiting the Turtle Museum at Daphne.
The Zakynthos Marine Park protects nesting beaches (Gerakas, Daphne, Sekania, Kalamaki, Laganas, Marathonissi) as well as the wetlands of Keri Lake where migrating birds gather and the small islands of Strofadia. Other endangered creatures include the Mediterranean Monk Seal Monachus Monachus as well as dolphins that sometimes swim by boats, enjoying their interaction with people.
Zakynthos is abundant with nature. The Venetians didn’t nickname the lush island “Il fiore di Levante” (Flower of the East) for nothing. Meadows carpeted with chicories, daisies and poppies as well as many other varieties of flowers create hues of color and fragrance throughout the year. Apart from the towns that burst with cherry-red bougainvillea, there are wild herbs growing on the fertile countryside and numerous trees where passers-by can pluck figs, olives or whatever other produce their heart desires in this paradise.
Visit Askos Stone Park that has more than 200, 000 trees, plants and shrubs that are endemic to the island or familiarize yourself with the natural heritage of the island by visiting Helmi’s Natural History Museum.
“Zakynthos is abundant with nature. The Venetians didn’t nickname the lush island “Il fiore di Levante”(Flower of the East) for nothing.”
One of the 'dopia' olive trees which are around 2, 000 years old One of the 'dopia' olive trees which are around 2, 000 years old The island's cuisine is based on simple and wholesome ingredients sourced locally The island's cuisine is based on simple and wholesome ingredients sourced locally
3. Local Cuisine With High-quality Ingredients
The islanders place great importance on the quality of their ingredients. Olive trees are plentiful, having doubled in recent years, with the island best known for its ‘dopia’ olive trees, many of them around 2, 000 years old. The old ‘elephant tree’ at the center of Exohora – a small town in the middle of nowhere – has become something of a tourist attraction. Locals are amused by the wandering travelers who manage to find it and reward them with a story, or a slice of ladotyri, a hard table cheese made from goat’s milk and stored in olive oil so that it has a distinctive salty taste.
Visit the Aristeon Ecological Olive Press, a museum where visitors can learn all there is about the local olive oil, while also getting the chance to pick olives and press their own oil during “liotrivi” – olive oil picking season in Fall.
The island’s cuisine is oil-based and draws on traditional Greek recipes with a twist. Eat at one of the family-run tavernas and try the Zakynthos-inspired stuffed rabbit, papatoli (veal shank) and sofigadoura (a Zakynthos take on beef stew in tomato sauce). Wash it all down with one of the local wines, such as the Venetian-influenced Verdea.
Honey-based desserts such as pasteli with sesame seeds and mantolato using egg-whites and almonds are popular on the island. Mantolato in particular was brought over by the Venetians and passed down through the generations. It is traditionally eaten during engagement ceremonies and its quality is discerned by whether it breaks like glass and has a clean, white color. Also try fytoura (pan-fried semolina cake) that is traditionally served at feasts.
“Olive trees are plentiful, having doubled in recent years, with the island best known for its ‘dopia’ olive trees, many of them around 2, 000 years old.”Venetian influences can still be easily found in the island's architecture Venetian influences can still be easily found in the island's architecture The Church of Saint Nicholas of Mole on Solomos Square in Zakynthos, Greece The Church of Saint Nicholas of Mole on Solomos Square in Zakynthos, Greece Statue of Dionysios at Solomos Square in Zakynthos, Greece Statue of Dionysios at Solomos Square in Zakynthos, Greece
4. Spirituality All Around
Christianity was brought to Zakynthos by Maria Magdalene in 34 AD, who spread the word of God on her way to Rome. The patron saint of the island, however, is Zakynthos-born Saint Dionysos. The church built in his honor has an identical bell-tower to that of Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Venice. Built in 1708, the church hosts the relics of Saint Dionysos, who is the saint of forgiveness after having excused his own brother’s murderer.