Greece // The Ionian Islands //


ZÁKYNTHOS, (Zante) southernmost of the six core Ionian islands, is somewhat schizophrenically divided between relative wilderness and indiscriminate commercialization. Much of the island is still green and unspoilt, with only token pockets of tourism, however, and the main resorts seem to be reaching maximum growth without encroaching too much on the quieter parts. The island has three distinct zones: the barren, mountainous northwest; the fertile central plain; and the eastern and southern resort-filled coasts. The biggest resort is Laganás, on Laganás Bay in the south, a 24-hour party venue that doesn’t give up from Easter until the last flight home in October. There are smaller, quieter resorts north and south of the capital, and the southerly Vassilikós peninsula has some of the best countryside and beaches, including exquisite Yérakas.

The island still produces fine wines, such as the white Popolaro, as well as sugar-shock-inducing mandoláto nougat, whose honey-sweetened form is best. Zákynthos is also the birthplace of kantádhes, the Italianate folk ballads which can be heard in tavernas in Zákynthos Town and elsewhere. In addition, the island harbours one of the key breeding sites of the endangered loggerhead sea turtle at Laganás Bay.

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