Discover Zante: Local History, Traditions, and Festivals Guide

Discover Zante: Local History, Traditions, and Festivals Guide

The Enchanting History of Zante

Zante, also known as Zakynthos, is one of the most picturesque and historical islands in the Ionian Sea. Rich in history and culture, Zante has been inhabited since the Neolithic Age. Throughout the centuries, it has been influenced by various civilizations, including the Venetians, French, British, and the Ottomans. Each of these cultures left their mark, contributing to the island’s diverse and multifaceted heritage.

This enchanting island was named after Zakynthos, the son of the legendary Arcadian chief Dardanus. Ancient Greek historians and poets, including Homer, mentioned Zakynthos in their works. The island’s strategic location made it a coveted jewel, leading to numerous invasions and occupations over the centuries. Zante finally became part of modern Greece in 1864.

Traditional Festivities and Celebrations

Zante is a land of vibrant traditions and lively celebrations. The locals, known for their hospitality, celebrate numerous festivals throughout the year. These events showcase the island’s customs, music, dance, food, and religious practices. Here are some of the most prominent and colorful festivals:

The Feast of Saint Dionysios

Saint Dionysios is the patron saint of Zante, and his feast is one of the most significant religious events on the island. Celebrated twice a year, on August 24th and December 17th, the feast attracts thousands of pilgrims and visitors. The silver coffin containing the saint's relics is paraded through the streets in a grand procession, accompanied by local bands and choirs.

Carnival (Apokries)

The Carnival of Zante, also known as Apokries, is a festive period leading up to Lent. It is marked by elaborate costumes, masked balls, street parades, and traditional music. The highlight of the carnival is the Giostra di Zante, a jousting event that traces its roots back to Venetian times. Participants on horseback compete in this exhilarating and colorful spectacle.

Easter Celebrations

Easter is a deeply spiritual and joyous time in Zante. The island’s unique customs blend Orthodox Christian rituals with local traditions. Holy Week is marked by solemn processions, candlelit services, and the Resurrection Mass, which culminates in a spectacular display of fireworks. The locals prepare and share sumptuous feasts that include lamb, traditional sweets like tsoureki and kouloúria.

The Seichelias is a spectacular festival held in August, commemorating the naval battle fought against the Turkish fleet. The event features a dramatic re-enactment of the battle, fireworks, and a grand feast. It is a powerful tribute to the island's resilience and bravery in the face of adversity.

Distinctive Traditions and Local Culture

Zante’s local culture is a blend of ancient traditions and contemporary practices. The island’s rich musical heritage is evident in its folk songs, known as kantádas, which are often performed by local choirs accompanied by mandolins and guitars. Dance is another cultural cornerstone, with traditional dances like the syrtos and kalamatianos performed at festivals and social gatherings.

Zakynthian Cuisine

The local cuisine of Zante is a delicious fusion of Mediterranean flavors. Some must-try dishes include:

  • Sofrito: A delectable dish of veal cooked in a white wine and garlic sauce.
  • Pastitsada: Beef or rooster cooked in a rich tomato sauce, served over pasta.
  • Sgatzeto: Lamb cooked with tomatoes, onions, and fresh herbs.
  • Ladotyri: A peppery local cheese preserved in olive oil.
  • Mandolato: A traditional nougat made with honey, almonds, and sugar.

Iconic Landmarks

Exploring Zante, you’ll find a wealth of landmarks and historical sites. Some notable places include:

Bohali Hill

Bohali Hill offers panoramic views of Zante town and the Ionian Sea. The Venetian Castle atop the hill is a poignant reminder of the island’s storied past.

Navagio Beach, with its crystal-clear turquoise waters and the iconic shipwrecked vessel, is one of the most famous beaches in the world.

Blue Caves

The Blue Caves, accessible by boat, are renowned for their mesmerizing blue waters and stunning rock formations.

Experiencing the Local Life

One of the best ways to embrace Zante’s culture is by engaging with the locals. Visit the traditional villages, participate in local workshops, and experience the island's vibrant marketplaces. The warmth and friendliness of Zakynthians will make your stay unforgettable.


Zante is a captivating island rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. From its ancient traditions and lively festivals to its breathtaking landscapes and welcoming people, Zante offers an unforgettable travel experience. Be sure to immerse yourself in the local history, savor the delightful cuisine, and partake in the joyous celebrations that define this remarkable island.