Should you wish for a change of scenery during your stay on Skiathos, or if you are the sort of person who likes to stay for a few days in several different destinations, the Sporades group of islands makes a perfect choice. The three best known islands of the group ie Skiathos, Skopelos and Alonissos all lay within a very short distance of each other and are linked by speedy and frequent boat and hydrofoil services. That said, they each have a distinctive character and their very own charm.
Alonissos is the smallest of the Northern Sporades islands and, in past times, was dependent on Skopelos, but is again covered in dense pine forests which appear to be suspended over the sea. Alonissos is probably the quietest of the three main islands and the least affected by the tourism industry.
The old capital of the island (Horio) was badly damaged in the earthquake of 1965, although some of the original houses have been preserved, some renovated and others abandoned. The new capital was located in the port of Pattitiri, the main arrival port to the island for visitors, where there is a variety of restaurants and cafe bars to be enjoyed, as well as the new museum of Alonissos.
This island has a number of good, sandy beaches as well as numerous small islets dotted around to explore, for example Kyra-Panayia with its monastery dating from the 16th century, Skantzoura – known for its fishing and Psathoura – the most northerly and famous for the ancient city submerged beneath the sea of the southern coast.
The area around Alonissos is dedicated as the National Maritime Park and is a highly significant breeding ground for a rare species of seal, the Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus monachus).
There are daily crossings to Alonissos from Skiathos either by Flying Dolphin, Flying Cat or Car Ferry, a journey which takes approximately 20 minutes. Excursion boats from Skiathos also visit Alonissos and the Marine Park, with some calling into the port of Pattitiri and visiting the old town.
Skopelos Island is 12.5 miles long and covers an area of 37 sq miles. Archaeologists believe that important settlements existed in the Sporades as early as the Neolithic period and the tombs at Sendoukia, in the middle of the island, would suggest that there was almost certainly such a settlement on Skopelos.
Named Peparethos by the ancient Greeks, legend has it that Prince Stafilos (son of the God, Dionyssos and Ariadne,the daughter of the King of Minos) was both the founder and ruler of the island. In 1936 the legend was brought to life by the discovery of a rich grave at Stafilos with many artefacts,including a gold handled sword dating from the Hellenic times. It is the largest Mycenaean sword yet discovered and suggests that this was the tomb of a royal personage who died around the time the Cretan settlement was established.
The position of Skopelos (Peparethos) on the crossroads of major trade routes meant that the island was plagued by piracy for many centuries - in fact up until the early part of the 1900s. During Turkey`s occupation of Greece, many freedom fighters took refuge on the island and, in the 1820`s, there were an unbelievable 70,000 people resident on Skopelos (the maximum number of people on the island in the height of summer now is only 20,000). Skopelos became part of the new independent Greece in 1830.
It is an island where virgin pine forests extend from one coast to the other, all the way down to the very edge of a turquoise and blue sea with the main town a maze of picturesque cobbled streets, just waiting to be explored.
Visitors can wander for hours along mule tracks, through an exquisite rural interior dotted with tiny cottages and chapels or take their pick from beaches with all facilities and coves where the only sound is the breeze in the pine branches overhead, and the soft lapping of the Aegean at their toes? Skopelos is also ideal for those whose idea of holiday heaven is a different eaterie every evening - a traditional greek family taverna one night, a garden restaurant where fusion cuisine is accompanied by award-winning wines the next.
Visit Skopelos and discover its many captivating beauties for yourself!