In the north of Greece is a bunch of very green islands called the Sporades. The main four are Skiathos, Skopelos, Alonissos and Skyros. They are surrounded by lots of other smaller islands, which are also all covered with trees and shrubs, most of them big pine-trees. Because of the kind of the hotels on the islands, which are mostly in the more expensive region, the majority of the tourists visiting are a bit older and have some money to spend. Itís not bag packersí paradise. Itís more a conservative kind of island group. Especially on Skiathos you will find a bit bigger luxury-hotels with sandy beaches in the front. A big part of the visitors comes from England, and most beaches, with the exception of a few, have beds and umbrellas on them. On Skiathos we found only two beaches on which you could dip into the water without any clothes.
You can reach these islands by plane (Skiathos has an international airport) from a lot of European cities or from Athens (Skyros also has an airport), or you can take the boat from Thessaloniki (and I think also from Volos on the mainland). There are also connections with Crete and the Cyclades once or twice a week, depending on the period that you visit. I flew on Skiathos and after a week took the ferry to the Cyclades, which was about a ten hour journey, but I loved it, both sailing away from Skiathos and back to it. You sail along the island of Evia and make a stop at several† other islands. Time passes quickly with a bottle of water, a couple of bags of potato-chips, a book and a view that never gets boring.
In between the island-group itself there are daily connections by all sorts of boats: fast small ones, slower ferries and kaiks. The only island that doesnít have such good connections is Skyros. Sometimes the ferry makes a stop there and there is an occasional fast boat servicing it.
None of the Sporadic islands is really big, and Skiathos is no exception. From the four main islands this one has the best beaches, most of them very sandy and very large, but also very cultivated. Thereís a bus going from the main town, which makes a stop at practically every beach on the east and the south of the island and then goes back. There are beds and umbrellas almost everywhere you go. This may be nice for some people, but personally I prefer the more unspoiled kind of beaches, which are more difficult to reach, where you just throw your towel on the sand. We found one beach like that in the north, I think it was Asselinos, but Iím not 100% sure. The bus doesnít stop there and you have to walk a bit before you reach it. Itís a nice walk though through the forest over a sandy path. This is one of the few beaches where you can swim in the nude (like on one of the Banana-beaches) if you like. A couple of beaches, like Lalaria are not serviced by the bus, and you can reach by kaik from Skiathos town.
The beach in Skiathos town is situated close to the main road. Better beaches are for instance Agia Paraskevi (big), Koukounaries (also big) and Troulos (smaller, but overlooking a very pretty small island), but there are lots of others.
beach in Skiathos†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† map of Skiathos††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† beach near airport
Koukounaries beach††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Lalaria beach (pebbles)†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Marvin in Lalaria
The main town of Skiathos is rather big and busy, with a lot of white houses with red tiles, and typical churches. It has a nice long boulevard with shops, restaurants and terraces where you can sit down. Some of the streets are souvenir-heaven with lots of leather-shops, shoe-shops, shops that sell souvenirs of glass and ceramic and supermarkets. Thereís also plenty of restaurants to choose from. The town has a new harbour and a more quiet old harbour with a lot of kaiks and small boats. The ferries arrive in the new harbour, and here you also find the modern boats of the tourists that visit the island in a stylish way. The boats for the daytrips to the islands like Alonissos, Skopelos, Tsougria (a small beach-island) and other islands you find in the old harbour. They all leave early in the morning around 9 or 10 oíclock. Itís best to check the price of the tickets before you jump on, because we found out that there was a big difference depending on which boat you took. Although Skiathos-town has some charm of its own, some parts of it are quite busy, too busy in my point of view, especially around dinnertime. You can find some peace and quiet on the islet of Bourtzi which is connected to Skiathos-town by a small road. Here you find no cars and the view is beautiful. I really enjoyed drinking a cocktail or an ouzo there in the evenings.
the islet of Bourtzi†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† views of Skiathos-town
views of the old harbour in Skiathos-town††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
the green landscape of Skiathos††††††††††† ruins at Kastro†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† the coastline
Skiathos is a nice island to use as en Ďescape-baseí for a week or so during the off-season. You can make a couple of nice walks along the coast (the mountains arenít too high, the roads are good, and the nature is quite pretty), lie on the beach, make excursions to several other islands and do the tour around the island by kaik. Since the island-group is much smaller then for instance the Cyclades the choice here is more limited. But then again: if you think that you have seen it you can take the ferry in the direction of Crete and choose another island in the Cyclades to visit. If you fly back home from Skiathos make sure to check when you can return with a ferry though, because itís not a daily connection J.
rocks along the coastline†††††††††††††††††††††††† Tsougria-island††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††ferry in the new harbour†††††††††
peace and quiet†† *
main village†††††††† **
MY RATING ** (2 out of 5)
Alonissos ***and a half
Iím one of those people that made a daytrip to Alonissos and Skopelos. It really was the best day of my stay in Skiathos J. The boat trip was very interesting and beautiful, sailing along the islands green and rocky coastlines. We even had an encounter with a group of dolphins, something thatís supposedly not unusual in that area, but for us it was an event. Though Alonissos-town is considerately smaller than Skiathos-town, I preferred it over its bigger neighbour. The harbour is very cosy with lots of trees and lots of flowers, and thereís also a lot of people that hold all kinds of birds in small cages in front of their house. The terraces in the harbour were quiet and good and the people were friendly. Thereís not much traffic going on. On the right side of the town thereís a small pebble-beach, and there are a couple of streets with some shops. What also attracted the attention was a big old wall in the middle of the town that was covered with shrubs and trees. You can walk along the harbour and the pier, but thereís also the possibility to climb some stairs and take a look at the town and the harbour from a higher level.
Alonissos harbour††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† map of Alonissos††††††††††† the green harbour of Alonissos
views after climbing the staircase††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† the harbour
views of the Chora
So this is it: I can only give an impression of Alonissos, but as they say: first impressions are usually right. I immediately felt at home in Alonissos. There was a good and a relaxed atmosphere in the air. It gave me some time to breath after the busy island of Skiathos. I havenít seen any of the other beaches or much else of the island during my short stay, but on first sight I think itís a good island for walking and exploring. I read that the beaches are not as good as they are on Skiathos, and that they are more like pebble-beaches and that the access is more difficult, but what is the definition of a good beach hť J??? I personally would prefer these kind of beaches over the umbrella+chair-beaches of Skiathos. I must find time to go back one dayÖ.
peace and quiet ****
main village†††††† ***
Again only an impression: this was for me love at first sight. Skopelos-town is wonderful. Itís big, the houses are build against the mountain and the harbour is very attractive with lots of shops and terraces, and a beautiful, big white church on the right side of the boulevard. Within a couple of minutes I thought ĎI wouldnít mind living here JÖí. You can get lost in all the small streets as you climb upstairs, and some of the views you get as a reward are astonishing. There are lots of little churches, cosy little squares and trees and flowers everywhere you go. Every here and there you will find a strange shop with funny and interesting items that you wouldnít find on other islands. And just because itís so big doesnít mean that itís busy or noisy. Itís in fact nothing like that: because itís build on a mountain and because most of the streets are so small thereís hardly any traffic. I loved it. This is one of the nicest Greek towns that I ever visited, maybe (no offence friends in MykonosÖ) even nicer than Mykonos-town, because it is so peaceful. A big fat 5 stars for this town.
view of the harbour†††††††††††††††††††††††††††† map of Skopelos††††††††††††††††††††††††† the white church on the boulevard
views over the town with its churches and terraces
some pictures of the nature (from the internet)
Like on Alonissos most of the beaches here are supposedly also pebble-beaches. I didnít stay long enough to check on them LÖ I can only tell you that the town-beach is one pile of big and small pebbles and not very inviting to spread your towel on and take a dip into the water. As far as we could see during the boat-trip the scenery on the island was beautiful.
peace and quiet *****
main village†††††† *****
THE DODECANESE & NORTH AEGEAN ISLANDS
Two big island-groups in the east of Greece with some islands close to the Turkish coast, containing for instance Samos, Chios and Lesbos. Iíve only visited this part of the Greek islands 4 times, the last time a couple of years ago, and the other times maybe around 15 to 27 years ago. I have only seen 6 islands in this region and therefore some of them are high on my Ďwannasee-listí, like Leros for instance. Iíve Ďdoneí Kos, Patmos, Samos, Kalymnos, Rhodes and Telendos. Two times Iíve used Samos as a base and one time Kos. The last island was already disgusting twenty years ago, so I donít even want to try anymore today, because itís very unlikely it has improved.
map of the Dodecanese††††††††††††††††††† overall view of the islands††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††the north Aegean islands
Samos ***and a half
Samos is big and Iíve only seen a small part of it. The island is situated close to the Turkish coast and in the eastside you can see the mainland of Turkey. Weíve stayed in Phytagorion both times, a delightful fishing- and tourist-resort in the south of the island. Itís a nice little village, and my absolute favourite time of day to be there must be in the morning when itís very, very quiet (where are all the tourists?), and you can sit down with your sleepy face and have your coffee and your breakfast (bacon and eggs J) while listening to the waves and looking at the boats in the harbour. Itís the best way to slowly wake up. Itís surprising how quiet it is at that time of the day considering the amount of tourists that fly to Samos on a package-deal. I have no idea, but I think most of them are in the hotels outside of Phytagorion-town and they only come to town in the evening to have dinner and a cocktail or two, threeÖ. We stayed in the Phytagorion-hotel. Nothing really fancy, but itís the only hotel in Phytagorion-town itself that is situated directly on the (pebble-)beach. I just wanted the view and the possibility to be in the water as soon as possible. Phytagorion has a long boulevard with restaurants, cocktail-bars and shops. In the side streets you will find more of the same, but off course there is no view of the Mediterranean here. There are two little beaches inside the village that are made out of pebble stones, and they are not very good. But just outside the village you will find the start of a beach that is good: quiet and sandy with here and there the occasional pebble. And it goes on for kilometres. You can walk along this beach for one-and-half to two hours time to another very attractive little village, and find pieces of beach without anybody lying on it on your walk. In the evening Phytagorion becomes alive with music, cocktail-bars and nice food (try Ambrosia on the boulevard, which is fab). The bar of the Phytagorion-hotel, which is on the beach, is very nice (loud music as well).
map of Samos†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Phytagorion††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††the landscape
Besides Phytagorion there are plenty of holiday-destinations on Samos-island, like Karlovassi, Kokkari, Samos-town and others. Iím told that Kokkari is also very nice, but I have never been there. Karlovassi I have seen from the ferry on my way to Mykonos, because it was a stop on the route. It looked very nice, with as a remember a very beautiful big church somewhere in the village. Itís pretty big. The only other place weíve stayed for one night (or more: one day, because we arrived at eight oíclock in the morning after a 9 hour boat-trip, and we just took a little nap there to get some energy back) was Samos-town: a definite no. The town looked nice from the boat, but once we started to explore it we both hated it. The buildings in the harbour-front looked pretty impressive, but it was just the front. In the streets behind the harbour we found some sort of ghetto, with buildings falling to peaces, like it had just been struck by an earthquake. It radiated an atmosphere of poverty and decay. No nice shops, no nice restaurants, no nice beach and no nice boulevard. People were walking around appearing to be uninterested in eachother. No friendly faces at all. We didnít know how fast we could go back to Phytagorion again. Samos-town is one of the most disgusting Greek towns Iíve ever seen.
Kokkari††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Samos-town††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† church
peace and quiet††††††††††††††† ***
main town†††††††††††††††††††††††† ****
MY RATING *** and a half (out of 5)
Patmos ****and a half
Patmos is a little gem and itís one of my favourite islands to visit. On three of my four holidays in this region I have also visited Patmos, the first time just out of curiosity, the other two times because I liked it so much I wanted to go back. And after returning to Patmos after eleven years in 1997 or so it struck me that almost nothing had changed and that the shape and the size of the Skala (harbour) and the atmosphere of Patmos had pretty much stayed the same. I could even rent my old apartment and nothing had changed there. I think they even had the same furniture and the same fridge. They did build a couple of more houses, but not much. I found only that the village of Grigos had expended a lot and that some of the buildings there had gone and others had been put in their place. The ambience at the beach had remained the same though. Patmos is excellent for making walks and excellent for a beach-holiday. Itís relatively quiet, the tourists and the inhabitants are friendly and free. You can be who you want to be. Itís not a party-island where young people drink themselves unconscious in a disgusting way, but you can have some fun in the evenings and have a nice drink on a terrace or inside in a bar/dancing. Thereís a nice little place in the harbour where in the evening everybody goes to for a drinky. You can just sit there and relax or you can dance inside. The people on the island are happy and they have a smile on their face, service in most restaurants is wonderful and the food delicious and cheap, and again: served with a smile (most times, haha).† We found out that the restaurant in the street just behind the harbour served the best food at a very cheap price. Itís also always busy. The people working there were funny and really sweet. In Skala you will also find the best bakery of Greece J.If you want to rent a place you can find a real bargain. We paid about Ä18 a day for a big apartment in the centre with a small patio both in the back and in the front. As a matter of fact everything on the island is sort of cheap.
overlooking the island††† map of Patmos†††††††††††††† the monastery
Patmos has no airport, so you can only reach it by boat. It has good connections with for instance Samos and Kos. The first thing you will notice when Patmos comes into view is the enormous monastery that dominates the chora on the mountain, and that overlooks the harbour. Patmos is a religious island. A visit to this monastery is an absolute must, because itís really beautiful. Also visit the treasure-chamber while you are there. You cannot go in wearing shorts or a t-shirt that shows too much, so bring a pair of long trousers or something if you plan to go in, or you will have to wear a piece of cloth. Weíve seen a lot of guys looking like drag queens while we were there. In the chora you also have wonderful views over the island. The liveliest and nicest village on the island though is Skala (the harbour). Itís situated on a part of the island where the island is almost split into two, and within a few minutes you can walk from east side of the island to the west side. Itís a cosy village with a town-beach thatís not too bad. Itís close to the main road, but thatís itís only disadvantage, because even the main road is not that busy, and the beach itself is fairly quiet with good sand and some ducks to complete it J. If you take the main road and walk either to the right or to the left you will stumble upon other nice beaches, some very quiet, or if youíre lucky even completely deserted.
views over the island of Patmos
the landscape of Patmos†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††me on the beach and inside the monastery
peace and quiet† *****
main town†††††††††† *****
MY RATING ****and a half (out of 5)
It must have been twenty years ago that I have visited Kalymnos, on my first real hopping-trip. I didnít have much experience island-hopping then and didnít know what to expect, but I was hoping it would be nicer than the island of Kos, on which we had flown. The harbour of arrival was already big and busy then, too busy, noisy and with a lot of traffic, and since we were looking for something more quiet at the time we immediately jumped into a taxi and said Ďplease take us to the other side of the islandí. We ended up staying a week in the village of Mirties, which was really small then, and I loved it. It had a disco and a cocktail-bar, nice restaurants, very friendly and outrageous inhabitants that hardly saw any visitors, and a good beach. We didnít need anything else, we just had fun. Iíve never gone back to Kalymnos since that time, because Iíve found nicer places to go to, and Iím sure it has changed a lot in the meantime and probably not for the good. I just remember that I loved it† and that the people were very nice.
the harbour††††††††††††††† map of Kalymnos††††††††††††††††††††† the busy and big harbour of Kalymnos
the harbour of Kalymnos†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Mirties overlooking Telendos
peace and quiet††† **
main town†††††††††††† *
Telendos *and a half
Telendos is situated opposite the village of Mirties on the island of Kalymnos. You can get there if you take a small boat from Mirties, although Iíve also seen people swimming to it. Actually itís nothing more than one rock in the sea with a beach in the front. When I visited Telendos it had only a couple of fishermenís houses on it and one taveerna. Now Iím told it has hotels build on it and has become a holiday-destination with its own spot in the brochures, but Iím sure it must still be pretty quiet. I remember climbing the island and finding thousands of pieces of old pottery laying around on the hills. Telendos is maybe nice to take a look at as a daytrip-destination, but I cannot imagine spending an entire holiday there. Itís simply too small for that.
view of Telendos: a dry rock in the Mediterranean sea
peace and quiet† ****
main town†††††††††† *
MY RATING *and a half (out of 5)