When thinking of holidays in Greece, most people have in mind some clichés, often linked to Mykonos and the Cycladic islands: white cubic houses with blue window frames and shades, turquoise blue waters, some dazzling white churches with a dome and a bell silhouetted against a clear blue sky and scarce vegetation of thyme and oregano bushes.
If you want to experience a different beauty of Greece, it is worth to head north to discover the Sporades Islands, and in particular the island of Skiathos. Yes, I know, nature lovers will argue that SKiathos is beautiful, but awfully touristic. I agree. This is true during the peak season. But I invite them to come back and visit the island, off-season, in May for example, when nature has taken its finery, but massive tourists haven’t arrived yet.
Skiathos is a small island of 48km² and belongs to the Sporades, a group of islands in the Northern Aegean Sea. It is the closest to the mainland. To give a brief overview, I would say that Skiathos has the best beaches, Skopelos is the most picturesque and Alonissos is the wildest and less touristic.
For good or for bad, Skiathos has an airport with a daily flight connection with Athens. From mid-May, it also proposes direct flights connections with several European countries, among them, many flights to the UK. There are no boat from Piraeus, but daily boats or Flying Dolphins from the harbours of Aghios Constantinos and Volos.
If you wish to live a more unique and unforgettable experience, a wonderful way to reach the island is to take a taxi boat from Katigiorgi, 70 km away from Volos. The taxi boat is a motor boat for about 8 persons and the crossing takes some 20 minutes. Instead of arriving to the commercial harbour of Skiathos town, you will berth on the magnificent beach of Koukounaries, in the southwest part of Skiathos. Accosting there at dusk is magic.
Let’s be honest: in the peak season, Koukounaries may be very disappointing for whom is keen of lonely beaches and authenticity: it is overcrowded and noisy. Off-season, Koukounaries is one of the most exceptional places to start to discover the island. Koukounaries means "stone pine" in Greek and is a protected area, with a white sandy beach lined by a stone pine trees forest and a lagoon with ducks and seagulls.
God blessed Skiathos with a priceless gift: hundreds of sources with crystal clear water. Thanks to these sources and to the abundant ground water, the island is covered with lush vegetation: valleys with plane trees or fig trees, fields with olive trees, hills with forests of pine trees, gardens with cherry, orange, lemon or pomegranate trees. In the spring, it seems that the whole island is getting ready to celebrate the main event of the Orthodox Church: Easter. The islanders are whitewashing their houses, the fields are covered with thousands of multicolour wild flowers and soft green grass..
Each time I go to my villa in spring, I sit on the terrace and watch this extraordinary Mediterranean landscape. I admire all these shades of green around me, from the silver green of the olive trees, the yellow green of the plane trees and the dark green of the pines. Skiathos is a real paradise for painters, photographers, but also for walkers, bikers and herbs hikers: you will climb the hills on one of the many dirt roads, leaving behind you the main road, the villas and the organized beaches and in the shade of the pine trees, you will smell, hear and watch this untouched nature with absolutely no constructions around. Then, when you reach the top, you will receive all the Aegean Sea at your feet, as a precious reward...
This is my Skiathos, the one I love, the one I want to share with you who demand more than a “souvlaki”, a ride on a jet-ski and a beer in the pool...