Zakynthos: 5 places to see

The sights of Zakynthos: top 5 things to see on the island

Zakynthos used to rival Corfu in refinement and beauty of its architecture, but a devastating earthquake in 1953 wiped most of the island’s buildings off the face of the earth. Only the name that the Venetians gave to the island – Fiore di Levante – the flower of the East, reminds of its former greatness. Today Zakynthos is mostly famous for its natural beauties and beaches, some of which are included annually in the top list of the main tourist attractions of Greece.

5. Askos Stone Park

The Askos Stone Park in Zakynthos opened recently, in 2002, but has quickly gained popularity among tourists. It is located just 1 km from the village of Volymes.

It is also often called a contact zoo, but that is not quite the right definition. This is a national nature park of more than 50 hectares.

For visitors who have decided that it is important and necessary to look at the animals of Zakynthos in their natural habitat, only one-fifth of its territory is open.

Askos Stone Park is often referred to as the contact zoo

You won’t get lost: the looped route takes you strictly along cobblestone paths with wooden railings past stone houses, bird houses, and animal enclosures. You can rest during the walk in pavilions or on benches made of stone.

All the buildings fit so organically into the landscape of the park that they seem to be a part of it.

Fans of antiquities will be interested in artificial ponds carved in the rocks 400-600 years ago.

In addition to local and brought from other countries animals (raccoons, chinchillas, African goats), the park is known for the fact that on its territory there are about 200 thousand different herbs, shrubs and trees. The oldest olive tree in the local grove is more than 600 years old.

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4. The Venetian fortress

The first fortress on Zakynthos, on the rocky Bokhali hill, was built at the end of the XII century by the Sicilian Normans. The conquerors were not too fond of the antique legacy and the fortress was built on the ruins of the acropolis of Psophis.

From 1479 to 1797 Zakynthos belonged to the Venetian Republic. In order to defend the island in the middle of the XVII century the Venetians erected a new fortress on the same hill.

Time, wars and earthquakes didn’t spare it: today only ruins remain of the walls and buildings of the fortress.

The fortress belonged to the Venetians, as evidenced by the image of a winged lion over the gate to the former bastion of Tre Porte.

The fortress was built by the Venetians in the middle of the XVII century and served as a defensive structure

The best preserved buildings are the prison, the powder magazine, some wells set up by the British, who had possessed the island until 1864 and Grimani Bastion, today a look-out point.

From the walls you have the best views of the town and of some of the sites, especially the square of Dionysos Solomos, the author of the Greek anthem.

You can visit the fortress any day except Monday from 8:00 to 14:30. The ticket price is 3 euros.

3. The church of St. Dionysios

Every year on August 24th and December 17th the people of Zakynthos organize ceremonies in honor of the patron saint of the island, Saint Dionysos of Zakynthos.

The main festivities and the procession, with the participation of senior clergy and thousands of pilgrims, are held on the waterfront near the Church of St. Dionysius. This church is almost the only building that survived the 1953 earthquake.

However, the church’s remarkable seismic resistance is understandable. The previous church of St. Dionysius collapsed in an earthquake in 1893.

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In 1900 the authorities wisely decided to build a new church to replace the old one, but on stronger foundations and with better materials.

The author of the project was the famous architect and Byzantine architect Anastisios Orlandos, who chose for the church the classical form of a three-nave basilica.

The church of St. Dionysios of Zakynthos is almost the only building that survived the 1953 earthquake

The construction of the church was not hurried: it began in 1925 and was completed in 1948, but almost nothing had to be rebuilt after the earthquake.

On the contrary, the church has a 40-meter belfry with a pyramidal roof, very much reminiscent of the bell tower of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice. The church is adjoined by the building of the Strophadian-Dionysius Monastery, which was revived in 1956.

The miraculous relics of St. Dionysius in a silver frame made by the famous 18th-century jeweler Georgios Diamantis are kept in the church.

In the museum of the church you can see the paintings on spiritual themes by the famous painter Nikolaos Kantounis, a native of Zakynthos from the turn of the 18th-19th century, jewelry and rare handwritten books from the 16th-19th centuries.

2. Blue Caves

The Blue Caves (Galazes Spilies) or the Blue Grottoes are true man-made marvels that thousands of tourists from all over the world come to visit every year.

The caves are situated in the north of Zakynthos, at Cape Schinari, near the place Aspros Vrahos and consist of 2 arched spans: Megali Spilia (Big cave) and Micri Spilia (Small cave).

The caves were discovered only in 1897. They got their poetic name thanks to the play of sunlight, penetrating the water from the surface to the bottom, and the rocky vaults reflecting the glare.

The limestone that makes up the rocks has given the water an incredible emerald hue.

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Blue Grottoes are a true natural wonder

According to the legend, the caves were created after the Creator dropped a magic ring with a blue stone into the sea on the last day of creation.

Obviously, the ring was not a simple one indeed: the water in the blue grottoes is considered healing because of underground mineral springs.

You can reach this attraction of Zakynthos only by sea from the port of the capital of the island or from the port of Volimos of Agios Nikolaos.

The best time to visit are in the morning hours, when the color of the water, exposed to the sun, changes constantly and takes on a deep blue, then a light emerald hue.

1. navagio cove

In 1982 the Panagiotis was sailing from Turkey to Italy, bound for the port of Kefalonia.

The ship was carrying a contraband cargo of cigarettes, but the customers never waited for it. The shipwrecked off the northwestern shore of Zakynthos, in the shallow waters of Spirili Gulf, due to storms and engine room malfunctions.

The shipwreck occurred at night, but none of the crew were injured. The sailors tried to sail away with some of their cargo but were stopped by the Coast Guard.

At dawn, fishermen from the surrounding villages saw a marvelous picture: a ship thrown by the sea on the shore, and a bay literally overflowing with cigarettes in waterproof bags.

Some of the cigarettes immediately magically “evaporated,” but most of the cargo was collected and later auctioned off.

The colorful views of Navagio Bay have long been the hallmark of the island of Zakynthos

In the interest of the investigation, several pictures were also taken from different angles. The pictures of the old ship on the snow-white sand, surrounded by grey rocks and the turquoise sea impressed even the sophisticated travelers who had read about the shipwreck in the newspapers.

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The ship was left ashore and Zakynthos acquired a new attraction.

Since then, tourists did not have to worry about what to see on Zakynthos in the first place. The bay of Spirili got a new name – Navagio, which just means “shipwreck”.

It can only be reached by sea. The best views of the bay, which have become without exaggeration the hallmark of Zakynthos, are from the territory of the 16th century monastery of St. George on the rocks (Agios Georgios Kremnon).

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