Zakynthos, due to mild winter rainfall, is an extremely lush island; the Venetians (who conquered it) referred to it as Il fiore del Levante— the Flower of the Levant. March-May is a particularly rewarding time to visit; the island is relatively low on tourists, the Easter parade takes place and the island blooms spectacularly with a myriad of colorful flowers and lush green hills.
Zakynthos, like its neighbour Kefalonia, was heavily affected by the massive earthquake of 1953 and subsequently a lot of its stunning Venetian architecture was sadly destroyed. Ruins still lay in some parts of the island due to this. The main town was completely rebuilt and still has an uncanny resemblance to Venice‘s San Marco square; it is well worth taking a look at.
The beautiful white cliffs that plunge into azure seas towards Keri have to be seen to be believed; the water is wonderfully clear and it is worth hiring a boat to see such sights.
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 of Troy (after whom the island was named) 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.
Mining has been common on the island, but today 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, but it is no longer in use. Today tourism is the most important source of income, and Zakynthos is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Greece.
In the summer of 1953, Zakynthos was hit by two severe earthquakes, resulting in the total destruction of the island’s infrastructure and most of its state archives. The most powerful of those quakes, which 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 (the most recent in 2005) with a minimal amount of damage.