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12/07/2011

Zakynthos island

Zakynthos (Greek: Ζάκυνθος), also called Zante (its Italian name), is the third largest island in the Ionian Sea, located off the west coast of Greece. The island is named after Zacynthos,
son of legendary Arcadian chief Dardanos.

While Ios and Kos are associated with party, and Rhodes and Crete with families, Zakynthos is something in between. The majority of all beaches, towns, etc. are located along the south and east coasts, as the west and north coasts are extremely mountainous often with cliffs dropping many hundreds of feet straight into the sea.

Archaeological excavations have proved that Zakynthos was inhabited from the Neolithic Age. The island is first mentioned by the Greek poet and writer Homer. In his masterpieces, the Iliad and the Odyssey, he stated that the first inhabitants of Zakynthos were the son of King Dardanos, Zakynthos (which the island has been named after), of Troy and his men who settled around 1500-1600 BC.

Over the years the island was conquered by King Arkeisios of Kefalonia, and after him Ulysses from Ithaca. Later on Zakynthos became the first independent democracy in the Hellenic area, as a treaty was signed and it lasted over 650 years.

In the summer of 1953, Zakynthos was hit by two severe earthquakes, resulting in the total destruction of the islands infrastructure and most of its state archives. The most powerful of those quakes registered 7.3 on the Richter Scale occurred on August 12 and was felt throughout almost the entire country. In Zakynthos Town only three buildings were left standing: the St. Dionysios Cathedral, the National Bank building and the church of St. Nicholas "tou Molou". The rebuilding of the island was subject to a very rigid anti-seismic code, and has thus withstood several moderate and powerful earthquakes at a minimal amount of damage, one as late as 2005.

Mining has been common on the island, today however the only activity is two quarries on the mountain range in the western part of the island. A small mountain located on Zakynthos west side was mined during the late 20th-century, though it is no longer in use. Today tourism is the most important source of income and Zakynthos is currently one of the most popular tourist destinations in Greece.

By plane

Zakynthos is served by one airport (airport code ZTH), located towards the south end of the island near to the resort of Laganas and Kalamaki, it caters for both international and domestic flights. Almost all international flights are chartered flights from other European cities during the holiday season (May-October).

Domestic flights are available between Zakynthos airport and Athens, served by the national airline Olympic Airlines , there are usually two flights a day. The journey time to Athens is approximately 1 hour. As of January 2010, Easyjet started flying to Zante from nearly all UK airports and flights are usually Thursday to Sunday.

By ship

Zakynthos has ferry links to Kyllini on the Greek mainland from Zakynthos Town During the last years, the area has evolved to a famous tourist resort with clubs, restaurants, cafes and shops € 8.20 per person and € 38 per car. Ferries to Kefalonia can be joined at Aghios Nikolas, on the North-East tip of the island.

Get around

By public transport

There are buses that go between the most crowded areas of the island. Ask around and there will be no pain in finding the bus stops. However, bus services on the island are rather infrequent and sometimes unreliable. Taxis, however, are not too expensive.

By car

The best way to get around is by rental car. There are literally dozens of rental agencies on the island besides the big ones. Preferably get a 4WD car, as some attractions are located off the main roads. Beware of the condition of some of the roads - the smaller roads may well have pot holes and even the "better" roads are extremely slippery. Also beware of other drivers.

If you assume everyone else on the road is out to get you and drive accordingly it's probably the best way of dealing with it. Due to the island being fairly small and only a few major towns its quite hard to get lost as most roads either go eventually to Zakynthos town or to Volimes in the north and you can work it out from there. Road signs are sporadic and some are bi-lingual with English and Greek, some are greek alone. Also watch out for scooters especially in the main tourist areas.

By motorbike/scooters

Rental agencies abound. However, scooters may be somewhat painful to ride around the island, because it is very hilly, so get something with a little bit more power.

By bike

Cycling is a pleasant way of navigating the southern and central parts of the island, if somewhat impractical in the rougher, more hilly terrain of the north. Bike hire is available in all but the smallest of resorts, costing around €4-€8 per day, with discounts available for multi-day hire periods. A basket and a lock will usually be included but hire shops are very unlikely to hire helmets, so bring your own if required.

A New business callled Bike Ride Zakynthos has started up for the 2011 season, offering tours of the island if you didn't fancy doing it alone. They can be found on Facebook and their information can be found around the resorts and hotels.
source : http://wikitravel.org/en/Zakynthos

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