Geography

Zakynthos 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. Zakynthos has a thriving tourism industry.
Zakynthos lies in the eastern part of the Ionian sea, around 20 km west of the Greek (Peloponnese) mainland. Island of Kefalonia lies 15 km on the north. It is the southernmost of the main group of the Ionian islands (not counting distant Kythira). Zakynthos is about 40 km long and 20 km wide, and covers an area of 410 km2 (158 sq mi). Its coastline is approximately 123 km (76 mi) long. According to the 2011 census, the island has a population of 45,650. The highest point is Vrachionas, at 758 m. Zakynthos has the shape of an arrowhead, with the "tip" (Cape Skinari) pointing northwest. Western half is a mountainous plateau, and the southwest coast consists mostly of steep cliffs. Eastern half is a densely populated fertile plain, with long sandy beaches, interrupted with several isolated hills, notably Bochali, overlooking the city, and the peninsula of Vasilikos in the northeast. Peninsulas of Vassilikos on north and Marathia on south enclose wide and shallow bay of Laganas on the southeast part of the island.
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.
Flora and fauna: 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 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.[13] 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.

Traditional food products
Zakynthos has a mild Mediterranean climate with a lot of rain between November and January and plenty of sunshine throughout the year. It is an island with lush vegetation and rich in agricultural products based on the cultivation of olives, citrus fruits, grapes and flowers.
Olive oil: The island of Zakynthos is full of olive groves and a key source of income to the local farmers is olive oil. Families still harvest the olives around November and take them to the local processing plant which each village has to be turned into olive oil in the traditional manner. It is the high quality and standard of the olive oil that makes it another popular product to be exported.


Wine: Zakynthos has many large vineyards all over the island which produce different types of wine. Each family traditionally produces its own wine which is drunk daily with the family meal. In many villages this is a tradition which is still very popular. There are many different types of grapes used and each wine is unique with its own taste, colour and aroma. There are many wine producers which sell the wine all over Greece and also export it abroad.

Honey: In the mountain villages of Zakynthos. honey is still produced in a traditional natural way and has a wonderful unique taste. You can purchase honey from the Zakynthian shops and also from the locals who sell their wares by the roadside.

Currants: One of the main sources of income for local farmers for many years is the cultivation of black grapes which are then dried naturally in the sun to become currants. The currants are used in Greece in the making of other products and they are also exported to other European Union countries

Cheese: Zakynthos has its own special cheese which is native to the island. The cheese is called Ladotyri and is a hard cheese produced from goat's milk and sheep's milk. The name Ladotyri is taken from the Greek words for oil and cheese, as the traditional procedure used to make the cheese involves it being kept for long periods of time in olive oil giving it a wonderful spicy flavour.

Mandolato - Fytoura - Pasteli: Mandolato, Fytoura and Pasteli are traditional local sweets of Zakynthos which have been made from recipes passed down through the generations. The Mandolato is nougat made with egg whites, honey, sugar and almonds and is usually consumed during Carnival time. The Fytoura is made from semolina, fried and covered in lots of sugar and the Pasteli is made with sesame seeds, honey and almonds. Both of these are sold throughout the summer months by stall holders in Zakynthos Town.

Ceramics: Throughout Zakynthos Island, you will find many pottery workshops where artists produce beautiful handcrafted ceramics. Some workshops offer you the chance to see the process and make your own pieces. The ceramics are made by moulding the clay, decorating the piece using spikes and traditional tools, firing it in a kiln and then colouring and glazing the product. Using the designs and techniques of Byzantine ceramics it is very difficult to find two pieces alike therefore each is unique.