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Sporadic Islands

Sporadic Islands Travel Guide

The least affected of the islands is Alonissos. This is, in part, due to the lack of sandy beaches but mainly because of its status as a world wildlife conservation area. What the Island lacks in beaches is more than made up for by the striking coastline, its marble-white rocks with deep red veins forming huge columns, topped with lush pine forests. It is now part of a National Marine Park dedicated largely to the protection of the native monk seal. Although activities around the island are limited, it is well worth paying a visit to take advantage of some of the excellent amateur fishing and superb snorkelling in the crystal clear sea amongst abundant marine life.

With a population of less than 3000, Alonissos only has 1 town and 3 villages and consists mainly of densely wooded hills and breathtaking countryside, making it a firm favourite with trekkers. Although it has few concessions to tourism the Islandís capital port, Patitri is set in an idyllic bay, sheltered by cliffs featuring strange rock formations. The busy harbour-side is lined with shops, tavernas and cafes and the pebble beach at the far end is a nice place to bathe. The in Patitri is excellent, consisting mainly of fresh fish and lobster. The best restaurants are to be found on the headland where you can tuck into a mouth-watering meal whilst enjoying stunning views of the harbour and glistening ocean below. Inland the picturesque Old Village, with its maze of narrow winding streets and quaint old houses, sits on top of a hill and has excellent views of the entire island.

The most popular of the islands is Skiathos, which is also, by far, the most commercial. The copious natural beauty, stunning landscapes, first class tourist facilities and 65 wonderful beaches, together create a holiday paradise with all mod cons.

The most popular town on the island is Koukounarie. Rated seventh best resort in the world, it has a thousand metres of sun drenched golden sand (30m wide in places) fringed by fabulous pine groves. Beyond the trees, surrounded by wheat fields and olive groves, is the wonderful lagoon of Strofilias, a haven for migrant birds. The turquoise water that laps the sand deepens only gradually, making it ideal for children and beginners. There are various sporting activities to be enjoyed in and out of the water including, water skiing, volleyball and parasailing. Along the beach youíll find plenty of busy refreshment stalls and the whole area has a friendly vibrant atmosphere. A short yet extremely pleasant walk through the pine trees brings you to Agia Eleni and then Mandraki where the magnificent sunsets make a perfect end to a perfect day.

Beyond the beaches lies a world of beauty, filled with places of interest and fascinating landmarks; the striking Kastro, on an imposing rock that hangs over the sea overlooking the jagged coastline; the Chapel of Panagia Kardasi with its bizarre belfry in the form of a ships mast complete with crows nest and the Agios Loannis monastery with its surging fountains, colourful gardens and idyllic picnic area. Skiathos town is where to head at the weekends for great food and fantastic nightlife, which starts around 10pm and keeps you dancing till dawn. Kanapista is slightly higher than other resorts and has breathtaking views of the beach and neighbouring islands. There are a great many friendly tavernas as well as great tourist facilities including an excellent ski school.

Slightly less commercialised is, Skopelos. This staggeringly beautiful island, famous for its wine, is bigger and more cultivated. It has two main towns, Skopelos at one end of the island and the quieter, virtually untouched Glossa situated on a hilltop at the other end. The Island has its fair share of beaches, but unlike Skiathos they are mostly pebbled. The interior is covered in lush pine forests and is filled with vineyards, olive groves and fruit orchards. Skopelos town is renowned for its charm. Tiers of pretty white houses seemingly cascade down the hillside towards the harbour. Above a ruined Venetian fortress watches over the maze of cobbled streets and unique buildings with wooden balconies spilling rainbows of flagrant flowers. Along the bustling harbour side numerous tavernas and ouzeries sell delicious food and intoxicating liquor to tourists and locals who intermingle under the shade of huge palm trees. Behind the waterfront the back streets hold a wonderland of fascinating shops selling souvenirs, supplies and exquisite handicrafts.

You can spend days exploring Skopelosí interior with mountain bikes, mopeds and cars all easy to hire. There are numerous monasteries tucked away amongst the groves and forests, including the uninhabited 16th century Moni Metamorfossis, the islandís oldest and Moni Evangelismo with its ornately carved and gilded iconostasis that holds an 11th century icon of the Virgin Mary. Also worth a visit is the fascinating deserted village of Klima thatís currently being restored following an earthquake. In truth you donít really need to visit anywhere in particular. Simply roaming around this beautiful island and taking in the exquisite scenery is as rewarding experience as you could wish for.

Skyros is the most distant of the Sporades, not only geographically but also topographically and characteristically. Although it has a thriving tourist industry the concessions it has made are less overt than either Skiathos or Skopelos, relying more on cultural aspects, along with good old-fashioned (an impressively high quality) hospitality. There is a strong sense of tradition amongst the inhabitants, who still celebrate the semi pagan festival during lent that features the bizarre ĎGoat Dance of Skyrosí. Once a haven for pirates and exiled criminals who entered mutually lucrative collaborations with each other, the towns have retained a distinctly decadent air. Not surprisingly the Island attracts trendy young Athenians and poseurs rather than package holidaymakers. It is also frequented by single females as it is recognised as a relatively hassle free destination.

According to legend Skyros is where both Theseus and Achilles unsuccessfully sort refuge, the former killed here by Kylomedes and the latter unintentionally lured by Odysseus to his death in Troy. The capital, also Skyros, certainly embraces its legendary status. A striking, brilliant white town on a high terrace at the foot of a precipitous hill, crowned by the ruins of 13th century castle, it is believed to be the place where Theseus was thrown to his death. It is a fascinating place filled with whitewashed, cubic houses on labyrinth streets that retain the charm of centuryís gone bye. The town has three museums and several interesting monasteries and monuments but the main reason to visit is to enjoy the extraordinarily fine food and superb entertainment on offer.

The main beaches are at Magazia and Molos, both of which are characterized by their fine grey sand and good clean waters. Reefs help cut the swell, making it safe for both children and beginners and watersports are well catered for. Quieter beaches can be found all around the island including tranquil pebbled Atsitsa and the even less crowded Kyra Panagia. Farther east is Kalamista, which is popular mainly with those who enjoy watersports, particularly windsurfing and fishing.

Whichever of the Sporadic Islands you visit you are sure to be impressed by the shear natural beauty. The quality of the tourist industry is almost consistently high and aimed at either families or up market visitors. Although overt tourism is taking an increasingly firm hold of many areas, there are still countless unspoilt places where you really can get away from it all.

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