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Zakynthos also Zante, the other form often used in English and in Italian (Greek: Ζάκυνθος, Venetian: Zacinto), is the third largest of the Ionian Islands. It covers an area of 410 km2 (158 sq mi) and its coastline is roughly 123 km (76 mi) in length.
Zakynthos over the years has become a favorite destination of tourists both local and foreign who book themselves on cheap Greece holidays to enjoy the island's mild Mediterranean climate and of course to swim and frolic in the waters off Zakynthos' many white, sandy beaches and coves. Some of the most popular among these beaches are Navagio Beach which can only be reached by boat and those found in the largest resort of the island, Laganas, whose powder whitesand beach stretches over 10kms long. Here is a brief overview of the island's history and geography.
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. Zakynthos has a thriving tourism industry. History Zakynthos was inhabited from the Neolithic Age, as some archaeological excavations have proved. The famous ancient Greek poet and writer, Homer, first mentioned the island in his masterpieces, the Iliad and the Odyssey, stating that the first inhabitants of it were the son of King Dardanos of Troy called Zakynthos and his men and that they first came on the island around 1500-1600 BC. The island was then conquered by the Great Imperial King Arkeisios of Kefalonia. The famous Ulysses (Odysseus in Greek) from Ithaca was the next King to conquer the island. Later on, a treaty was signed that made Zakynthos an independent democracy, the first established in the Hell area, and that lasted more than 650 years. The Athenian military commander Tolmides concluded an alliance with Zacynthus during the First Peloponnesian War sometime between 459 and 446 B.C. The importance of this alliance for Athens was that it provided them with a source of tar. Tar is a more effective protector of ship planking than pitch (which is made from pine trees). The Athenian trireme fleet needed protection from rot, decay and the teredo so this new source of tar was valuable to them. The tar was dredged up from the bottom of a lake using leafy myrtle branches tied to the ends of poles. It was then collected in pots and could be carried to the beach and swabbed directly onto ship hulls.
 Alternatively, the tar could be shipped to the Athenian naval yard at the Piraeus for storage.
 Geography Zakynthos has a varied terrain, with fertile plains in the southeastern part and mountainous terrain with steep cliffs along the coasts on the west. The 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 capital, which has the same name as the prefecture, is the town of Zakynthos; 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). According to the 2001 census, the island has a population of 38,957. In the southwest is the National Marine Park of Zakynthos where loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) are found in the Bay of Kalamaki. 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 live 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 port of Zakynthos has a ferry connecting to the port of Kyllini on the mainland. Another ferry connects the village of Skinari to Argostoli on the island of Kefalonia. The Zante currant, a small sweet seedless grape is native to the island. Sites of interest include Shipwreck Bay, Cape Skinari and the Blue Caves. The western part of the island is accessible and has a panoramic view of the sea. The ridge area from Anafontria has a small observation deck which overlooks the shipwreck and there is a monastery nearby. 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. For tourist facilities, Zante has campsites and beaches including, a beautiful stretch near Keri, around 100 m in length and surrounded by cliffs. The island also offers a plethora of arches and cliffs which are widely known beyond the island ; one is underground. Several documentaries have been filmed around this area of Zakynthos/Zante. Beaches are to be found in Porto Limnionas, Porto Vromi and Porto Zoro.
Notable people Among the most famous Zakynthians is the 19th century poet Dionysios Solomos, the principal modern Greek poet and author of the national anthem of Greece. His statue adorns the main town square. Also the explorer Juan de Fuca (Ioannis Focas) and the Italian poet Ugo Foscolo were born here.
Saint Dionysios of Zakynthos (c. 16th century)
Nikolaos Koutouzis (1741–1813)
Ugo Foscolo (1778–1827),
Italian writer Andreas Kalvos (1789–1869)
Dionysios Solomos (1798–1857), poet and creator of the Greek national anthem Pavlos Carrer (1829–1896), composer Leonidas Zois (1865–1956), historian Gregorios Xenopoulos (1867–1951), writer-journalist George Costakis (1913–1990), art collector Kostas Dikefalos (born 1956), sculptor