Strofades is a complex of two small rocky islands at a distance of 25 nautical miles southern to Cape Keri of Zakynthos and some 45 nautical miles far from Katakolo at the opposite coast of the Peloponnese. The islands, isolated in the open sea, appear suddenly, like emerging from the waves. Both of them are flat and very low, no place on them is higher than 11 meters. According to the ancient author Apollonius the Rodian, it is because of this landscape that they were called “Plotai Nissoi” (“floating islands”). Today, their names are Stamfani (the bigger one) and Arpeia (the smaller one). Virgilius in the Aenaede suggests that the islands have been called Strofades (meaning “the island which turn”) because of the following myth: “Zetis and Kalais, the sons of Voreas (the northern wind) and Orithia, were after the Harpies, who lived on these islands. When the two men arrived near the islets, they suddenly left the pursuit and “turned back”; the islands got their name as a memory of this event.”
A narrow strip of land hardly covered by the seawater links together the two rocks. The old British maps mentioned the place as Strovathi, and the Venetian ones as Stiphali.
In 1241 the Byzantine princess Irini, daughter of the emperor Theodoros the First, Lascaris, established an impressive fortified Monastery, dedicated to Jesus Christ’s Transfiguration on the bigger of the islets. Dedicated also to Virgin Mary, the monastery is also known as the Monastery of “Panaghia Pantohara” (Virgin Mary, the joy of everyone). It is this Monastery that Aghios Dionyssios, the protector saint of the island lived as a monk for several years.
The complex of the buildings is really impressive. In fact the monastery is strongly fortified, to avoid the pirates invasions, very common in the past; Strofades have always been an ideal shelter for the pirates in cases of bad weather. The walls of the Monastery, 25 meters high, were really a good protection for those invasions and an impressing spectacle for the visitors of today. Stamfani has also an old lighthouse, constructed in 1887, one of the older lighthouses of Greece.
Until the earthquake of 1886, Stamfani had also a water spring, with potable water. The water seemed to come from the opposite land, the Peloponnese, as it was shown by the plane leaves emerging along with the water.
A few monks and two or three lighthouse-keepers were the residents of the islets before the World War II. After the war the lighthouse became automatic and no monks live here anymore. Thus, the islets are uninhabited today. Only tourists are visiting them in summer.
Access to the islets is possible by excursion boats in summer. The boats depart from the port of the town of Zakynthos. Of course, if you have a yacht, private or rented, you may visit the islets any time of the year.