//Zakynthos: the Greek island you will never forget

Zakynthos: the Greek island you will never forget

The Flower of the East has something for everyone, all year round

With its pristine beaches, incredible wildlife and gourmet cuisine, there is a reason why the popularity of Zakynthos has endured over the centuries. This is a destination that captivates all year round.

Named Fioro di Levante (Flower of the East) by the Venetians, and now more commonly known as Zante, the island offers something for everyone – wildlife lovers, cave swimmers or those who simply want to relax in the island’s pretty tavernas.

When it comes to nature, Zakynthos is hard to beat. The island boasts more than 7,000 species of flowers. However, most people that flock there for the nature are there to see one thing: the Caretta Caretta sea turtles.

While on the island you can join the volunteers at the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece, who make it their mission to help protect the endangered species. Join them on their morning rounds and potentially see turtle’s egg hatch. Other protected species you can see in Zakynthos include the Monk Seal and dolphins.

Greece’s cuisine is renowned around the world. Whether it’s creamy feta cheese or local wines. Zakynthos is no exception. Olive trees can be found across the island – many of them dopia olive trees, which are believed to be about 2,000 years old. Plenty of tourists make the journey to see the old elephant tree in Exohora, and are rewarded with a slice of ladotyri, a hard cheese made from goat’s milk. While on the island be sure to pick up a bottle of extra virgin olive oil as a souvenir, at the Aristeon Ecological Olive Press you can also learn about the entire process.

No trip to the Greek Islands would be complete without a visit to a beach, and Zakynthos has an abundance of them, some of which are so remote that they cannot be reached by car. You’ll have to board a small boat to reach them. Arguably the most famous is the Navagio Beach, which has a shipwreck rising from the white sand. The beach is hard to reach but ideal for those who love base-jumping. For families and couples who wish to spend time in a peaceful beach, Gerakas, part of the National Marine Park, just 18km away from Zakynthos old town, is perfect. The sandy beach is quiet and because it’s close to the sea turtle nesting sites, watersports are limited.

Those who do want to enjoy watersports need not worry, however. This is the island where Simon Sivertsen, the Norwegian teenager, created subwing. The new craze sees people pulled along by a boat, while underwater, manoeuvring themselves around and taking advantage of the crystal clear waters. Scuba diving enthusiasts will not want to miss Makrys Gialos, which is one of the best spots in all of Greece.

Daytrippers can check out Marathonisi, a turtle shaped island just off the coast of the main island. It’s a paradise where travellers can choose to explore, laze on the beach or swim around the caves.

Anyone who has been to Zakynthos before will know that there is a spirituality on the island. Christianity was brought to the island by Maria Magdalene in 34AD on her way to Rome. Churches are scattered across the island.

Whether it’s the cuisine, wildlife, history or beautiful beaches – there is something in Zakynthos for everyone. All you need to do is plan when to visit.

See www.visitgreece.gr for more information

Sam Ballard is a director and co-founder of Waterfront Publishing, creator of ABTA Magazine, Cruise Adviser, Solus and more.