Music and Majestic Landscapes: Easter on Zakynthos

Zakynthos' rich musical and religious traditions, spectacular natural landscapes and mountainous villages, make for a unique Easter travel destination.


The island of Corfu may be a wildly popular destination for the Easter holidays, but on Zakynthos, the days of Holy Week are filled with unique customs.

Zakynthos has a rich tradition of music, particularly ecclesiastical music – if you listen closely, you will hear that the accent is different in many of the hymns and psalms. The municipal philharmonic orchestra accompanies many of the ecclesiastical observances at Easter, which adds a particular theatricality and mood to the ceremonies.

 

The Epitaphioi (funerary biers) are also different to the other islands and regions of Greece. Here, they’re made of sculpted woodand adorned with gold leaves instead of flowers. At the Metropolitan Church of Aghios Nikolaos, the procession of the Epitaphios begins early in the morning, at 4:00 am on Holy Saturday. Churchgoers return to the church at 5:30 am, when the service continues. The First Resurrection follows shortly after when the local custom called “Gloria” is celebrated: everyone bangs pots and chairs and makes a lot of noise, while people throw clay vessels from the windows of the houses surrounding Aghios Markos Square.

Where to go

Zakynthos is renowned for its beaches, attracting thousands of tourists throughout the summer. The island, however, is also flush with natural wonders. The best time to visit its lush hinterland is spring, and it’s no surprise that the Venetians referred to Zakynthos as “Il fiore di Levante,” which means “The Flower of the East.” The Venetians were in awe of the rich diversity of the island’s flowers, wild herbs, and trees.

You can learn more about the Zakynthos’ rich flora at Helmi’s Natural History Museum (Aghia Marina, Zakynthos, Tel. (+30) 26950.650.40, from April 16 the museum is open to the public 09:00-17:00, entrance fee €6). The museum collections include more than 6,000 exhibits, including fish, birds, mammals, ores and minerals, and rocks from Zakynthos and other parts of the world. You can also learn about the island’s ecosystems and get information on recommended thematic walking trails.

Zakynthos is indeed a hiker’s paradise. The island boasts many trails and routes in the beautiful countryside at Kastri, on the northwestern side of the island, or in the mountainous regions of Ano Volimes in the north. The villages in the island’s hinterland may not offer much regarding accommodation, cafés, or restaurants, but they are filled with untouched landscapes. Drive out to the north and visit the villages of Volimes, Anafonitria, Orthonies, and Maries. You’ll find a traditional cafeteria in almost all of them where you can stop for refreshments along your journey.

To see the city of Zakynthos from above, make your way up Bohali Hill. Apart from its breathtaking view, the hill is also known for its “frigania,” a pastry made with milk, sugar, cream, syrup, rusks, walnuts, and marmalade. You can try a savory version of a “frigania” at “Latas Café Bistrol” (Bohali, Tel. (+30) 26950.482.30).

Where to stay

At this time of year, most visitors prefer to stay in the town of Zakynthos, as the big hotels close to the sea have yet to open.

Diana Hotel (Aghios Markos Square, Zakynthos, Tel. (+30) 26950.285.47, double rooms start from €65, including breakfast). Located centrally, Diana Hotel overlooks Aghios Markos Square and is close to many sights and stores. The hotel’s rooms have a classical design, while the family rooms have two separate bedrooms and bathrooms.

 

Bitzaro Boutique Hotel (52 Dionysiou Roma, Zakynthos, Tel. (+30) 26950.236.44, double rooms start from €76 including breakfast). A classic city hotel in front of the sea that operates all year round. The hotel’s rooms have been renovated and carefully furnished, with minimalistic décor and elegant lighting. In addition to the double rooms that have a view of the sea or the city, the hotel also offers suites with a jacuzzi.

Yria Hotel (4 Kapodistriou, Zakynthos, Tel. (+30) 26950.446.82, double rooms start from €46, including breakfast). Located in a central area of the city, the hotel offers 32 rooms, many of which have a view of the sea.

Pothos Villas (15 Kalvou, Sarakinado, Zakynthos, Tel. (+30) 698.161.8735, rooms for two persons start from €90). Located just 6km from the town of Zakynthos, Pothos Villas offers three private, independent, and fully-equipped villas in olive groves and vineyards. The villas can accommodate up to six persons and are an excellent choice for those who prefer a quiet and remote accommodation. For a more vibrant stay, however, guests can also book the 70-square meter Platinum Suite.

Hotel Contessina (Tsilivi, Tel. (+30) 26950.235.12, double rooms start from €177, including breakfast, open from April 13). Luxurious and comfortable 5-star standard and superior double rooms, junior suites with a hot tub, executive lofts, and large suites for families and groups – all rooms have an elegant and modern décor with an earth tone color scheme.

Potamitis Windmills & Apartments (Skinari, Zakynthos, Tel. (+30) 26950.223.44, double rooms start from €80, not including breakfast). The two windmills, double rooms, and one-bedroom apartments are in a small town north of Zakynthos with a view of the Ionian Sea. The stone windmill can accommodate up to three persons and has two storeys, while the white windmill is suitable for two persons.



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