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Holidays to Zante

The Ionian island of Zakynthos (also called Zante) has been colourfully billed as 'the green island of poetry, song and love', mainly because it was the home of Dionysios Solomos, who wrote the Greek national anthem, 'The Hymn to Liberty'.

Arriving in Zakynthos by ferry is certainly a poetic experience: the picturesque town curves around a bay dominated by a Venetian Fortress and the St Dennis Cathedral. Zakynthos town is reminiscent of Venice with its historic St Mark's Square and Solomos Square, lined by reconstructed neoclassical buildings. The Solomos Mausoleum is a museum dedicated to the island's aristocracy of bygone days, while the Byzantine Museum sports splendid icons and frescoes salvaged from the island's beautiful medieval churches, destroyed in the massive earthquake of 1953.

The main attraction for visitors, however, is the triangular shaped island's 57 miles (92km) of coastline, particularly on the eastern and southern flanks, which are blessed with beautiful bays. Favourites are the white sandy beaches of Lagana and Geraka, also renowned for being the nesting grounds of the Caretta-Caretta sea turtles.

Inland, the mountain villages lure holidaymakers away from the beach to sample some local hospitality and good food and wine, and to explore monasteries tucked away among the greenery. Tourism has become the main income earner for this popular resort island, but the rapid development of infrastructure in recent years has not depleted its traditional charm - Zakynthos remains pleasantly poetic.

Information & Facts

Climate

Zakynthos enjoys a typical Mediterranean climate with mild winters and warm summers. Summers are gently cooled by breezes, called 'Meltemia'. Zakynthos experiences a fairly heavy rainfall during winter which, together with the fact that it has a number of underground springs, is what makes it greener and more fertile than many other Greek islands.

Getting Around

Getting around Zakynthos is not a problem - the island has a good road network and a reliable bus service. There are buses to almost every destination on the island leaving from the central bus station in Zakynthos town, near the waterfront (42 Filita Street). At the station there is a board displaying prices, departure times and destinations. Tickets are available on the bus. Taxis are available from taxi ranks throughout the island and rates are fixed. There is also a radio taxi service (+30 26950 48400).

There are various companies on the island providing car, motorbike, scooter and bicycle rentals. Taxi boats leave from Zakynthos harbour and other island ports to various destinations including Alykes, Limni Keriou and Laganas, while cruises are available to the Shipwreck and the Blue Caves.

Language

Greek is the national language, but English is widely spoken.

Money

The Euro (EUR) is the official currency, divided into 100 cents. Banks and bureaux de change are widely available and travellers cheques and major credit cards are widely accepted. ATMs are widespread and are generally the cheapest and most convenient method of obtaining euros.

Nightlife

Zakynthos nightlife offers visitors a variety of entertainment including pubs, bars and nightclubs. The trendies spots are on the south end of the island, mostly in Laganas, Argassi, Kalamaki, Tsilivi and Alykes. Q Bar in the Laganas resort has good music and even better cocktails, while Molly Malone's Irish pub in Tsilivi has big screen TVs for sports.

In Argassi, Red Lion serves draft beers and shows all the latest movies. Two Brothers in Tsilivi is also very popular. Argassi's Barrage nightclub is a great place to hear some techno, house and commercial dance music, and Ghetto in Laganas has a massive sound system. Also in Laganas, sip exotic cocktails and watch the fire show at Rescue.

Shopping

Shopping in Zakynthos will not go unrewarded; the island has a vast array of goods to entice visitors. The main shopping area is Alexander Street in Zakynthos town, but there are also gift and souvenir shops at many of the holiday resorts. Shoppers in Zakynthos will find everything from designer labels, jewellery and leather goods to embroidery, olive wood carvings and ceramics. The most popular Zakynthos souvenirs include locally produced mandolato(nougat) and cheese.

Sightseeing

Zakynthos is a wonderful destination for a relaxing holiday, its main attraction being the gorgeous, unspoilt beaches and turquoise waters. The Vassilikos area has some of the best beaches, including St Nicholas and Gerakas. Loggerhead sea turtles can be seen at the National Marine Park in Laganas Bay. The Smugglers Cove Shipwreck is a must-see, as are the Blue Caves near the village of Volimes.