This pearl of the Ionian has everything going for it
Beautiful beaches, a fertile inland, friendly locals... and the odd surprise or two, including turtles, shipwrecks, caves and offshore arches. Sit back and admire beautiful Ionian panoramas, or get stuck in to the island’s many natural attractions – the decision’s yours.
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Any purchases on Zákynthos will likely be island specialities. The National Marine Park of Zákynthos, designed to protect the loggerhead sea turtle, encompasses Laganás Bay, and accordingly you can buy every conceivable souvenir commemorating the creatures: ceramic turtles, tea mugs, key chains, etc. Bottled wines – both the crisp white Verdea and various hues of rosé or dark red, made from grape varieties not found elsewhere – are well worth taking home; reputable wineries include Callinico, in Kalípado village, near Alykés; Solomos, in Kydóni, just inland from the main town, off the Volímes road; and Oinollpi, in Agriá near Maherádo.
Food & Drink
The restaurant scene on Zákynthos is far healthier than the menus at some of the beach resorts might suggest. At opposite ends of the main town, Green Boat (Dionysíou Róma, behind municipal lido) is the go-to place for affordable seafood, while Malanos (Agíou Athanasíou, off Kalamáki road, Kípos suburb) is a shrine of magireftá (casserole dishes), justifiably packed all year. A 1953 earthquake did for most of Zákynthos’ architecture, but many stone buildings in the westerly mountain villages survived and today shelter restaurants with more careful cooking and regional recipes: try LIthino (Maherádo), Alitzerini (Kilioméno outskirts) or Kalas in Kambí hamlet, beyond which salubrious Tou Papa perches at a vertiginous cliff edge next to a controversial memorial cross.
It might not rival Corfu’s, but Carnival on Zákynthos – with the same Venetian heritage as the other Ionian Islands – boasts a similar repertoire of parties, fireworks and the like.
Feast Day of Saint Mavra
Mass at the imposing church of Agía Mávra in Maherádo village precedes banqueting and folk dancing in the village square.
Theatro Avouri/Skalia Cultural Village events
There’s generally something on at this lovingly constructed stone venue outside Tragáki village, though often with a distinctly educational or child-centred slant rather than concerts.
Tasting of local wines – often excellent, as noted – in the port capital.
Feast Days of Saint Dionysios
24 August, 17 December
Processions in honour of the island’s patron saint, with his relics, begin from the imposing waterfront basilica of Ágios Dionýsios in Zákynthos Town. Afterwards, there are a few days of eating, drinking and dancing.
Few visitors stay in the main town; if you do, Palatino (Kolokotróni 10) in Repára district offers great value for contemporary facilities. Vasilikós Peninsula, southeast of town, has the best, most scenic beaches, and worthy choices in the posh, design-led Bay Hotel & Suites, or Hotel Vasilikós Beach (Ágios Nikólaos cove), with ample watersports. Northwest from town, Tsilivi (go for the sleek Al Mare) and Alykés are also popular bases, though their beaches can’t compare with Vasilikós. At Límni Kerioú beyond Laganás, special mention goes to the extra-friendly Bratis family’s well-appointed Pansion Limni, arguably the best budget option on the isle.