Zakynthos (Greek: Ζάκυνθος), or Zante (from Venetian) is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the third largest of the Ionian Islands. Zakynthos is a separate regional unit of the Ionian Islands region, and its only municipality. It covers an area of 410 km2 (158 sq mi) and its coastline is roughly 123 km (76 mi) in length. The island is named after Zakynthos, the son of a legendary Arcadian chief Dardanus. The name, like all similar names ending in -nthos, is pre-Mycenaean or Pelasgian in origin.
The capital, which has the same name as the prefecture, is the town of Zakynthos. It lies on the eastern part of the northern coast. Apart from the official name, it is also called Chora (i.e. the Town, a common denomination in Greece when the name of the island itself is the same as the name of the principal town). The port of Zakynthos has a ferry connecting to the port of Kyllini on the mainland. Another ferry connects the village of Agios Nikolaos to Argostoli on Kefalonia.
Minor uninhabited islands around Zakynthos, included in the municipality and regional unit, are Marathonisi, Pelouzo and Agios Sostis in the Laganas bay, Agios Nikolaos, near the eponymous harbor on the northern tip, and Agios Ioannis, near Porto Vromi on the western coast.
The island has a long musical tradition. It was a precursor of opera and operetta in Greece and on the island it constituted links between nobles and the rest of the people. In 1815 it saw the establishment of the first Music School in Greece. During the first Olympic Games, in Athens 1896, the Music Band of Zakynthos took part in the event. It was the period when composers of Zantiote origin, such as Domeneginis Kapnissis enjoyed some fame in Europe. Inaugurated in 2009, Zakynthos also now has its own Zante Jazz Festival. Clubbing has become a part of the culture, generating a lot of money in the summer months.
MuseumsThere are two museums located in Zakynthos Town: The Byzantine Museum of Zakynthos, featuring renaissance paintings, Byzantine icons and more; also the Museum of Solomos and Eminent People of Zakynthos hosting the mausoleum of Dionysios Solomos, Andreas Kalvos as well as works by many eminent Zakynthians.
Flora and faunaThe 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. The Zante currant, a small sweet seedless grape, is native to the island.
Bay of Laganas is the site of the first National Marine Park and the prime nesting area for loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) in the Mediterranean. In the early 1980s, the Bay of Laganas was seriously threatened as a nesting habitat, but thanks to the efforts of MEDASSET founder and president Lily Venizelos it could be preserved. 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 lives 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.
The most famous landmark of the island is the Navagio beach. It is a cove on the southwest (northwest near village of Anafonitiria) shore, isolated by high cliffs and accessible only by boat. The beach and sea floor are made of white pebbles, and surrounded by turquoise waters. It is named after a shipwreck (MV Panagiotis), which sunk on the shore around 1980. The ridge area from Anafonitria has a small observation deck which overlooks the shipwreck, and there is a monastery nearby.
Numerous "Blue Caves", are cut into cliffs around Cape Skinari, and accessible only by small boats. Sunrays reflect through blue sea water from white stones of cave bottoms and walls, creating interesting effects. Keri is located in the far south of the island. It is a mountain village and has a lighthouse in the south. It includes a panorama of the southern part of the Ionian Sea.
Bochali hill above the Zakynthos town contains a small venetian castle, and offers panoramic views onto the town. Strani's hill, located on the other side of Bochali, is the place where Dionysios Solomos wrote Greece's national anthem.
Marathonissi (also known as "Turtle Island" because of its turtle-like shape), an islet near Limni Keriou (the beach of village Keri; also known as Keri Lake) is a small paradise, with tropical vegetation, turquoise water beaches and sea caves.
Info source: wikipedia
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