Skiathos Island holidays

Experience Skiathos Island

Experience [destination]

Best Places to Visit

Skiathos Town is the only sizeable settlement on the island and is home to almost the entire population. Rebuilt after German bombing during WWII, it's a cosmopolitan town with a reputation for late nightlife, shops, restaurants and bars.

The magnificent scenery of Skiathos is a major draw for nature-lovers, with the central mountains curving down to the northern coastline and the sandy beaches set along the southeast and southwest coasts.

The natural wonder of Lalaria Beach, only accessible by a short boat trip from Skiathos Harbour, is famous for its magnificent sea caves and unusual rock formations. However, it's easy to get around the rest of the island, as it only averages 12kms long by six kilometres wide.

A pretty, ruined Venetian castle sits on the Bourtzi peninsula, overlooking the old fishing harbour and surrounded by ancient houses, tiny churches, town walls and a drawbridge. The Kastro (Castle) area was the island's only settlement for hundreds of years before it was abandoned in the 19th century.

The promenade around the harbour is ideal for an evening stroll or a meal in a local taverna, and the older part of town is picturesque, with cobbled streets and white-painted Orthodox churches, including the Church of Three Bishops with its beautiful icons.

Alexandros Papadiamantis House in Skiathos Town is a memorial to the famous Greek writer who lived and wrote on the island in the late 19th century. The great man wrote over 100 novels themed around life on the island and his charming house is set and furnished as it was during his lifetime.

Koukounaries, its lagoon and its rare stone pine forest have been major tourist attractions since 1964. The fine-sand beach here now boasts hotels, tavernas, restaurants, bars and all the trimmings of a popular family-oriented resort. Nestling in a nature reserve in the south-west of the island, it's within easy reach by boat of tiny, uninhabited offshore islands. Also in the south-west, you will find the Holy Monastery of Panagia Kounistra, surrounded by pine forests and built in the mid-17th century. This monastery holds an allegedly miracle-working icon of the Virgin Mary.

Top Landmarks

The Cathedral of the Treis Ierarches in Skiathos Town stands out because of its unusual architecture. Unlike the usual post-Byzantine form found in most Orthodox churches and monasteries, it has a square bell-tower, which rears high above the town. Its interior is spectacular and it holds a miraculous icon of the island's patron saint, Panagia Kounistra. Also here are exquisite carvings and icons of the prophets and apostles, taken from Kastro's churches when the walled town was abandoned over 100 years ago. The bronze circle bearing the icons was used in medieval times at Kastro to mark the place of marriages.

The part-ruined 16th century Monastery of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary lies eight kilometres from Skiathos Town, with its well-preserved church holding murals dating from the 18th century and more beautiful icons. The Monastery of Evangelistra is home to the only working religious community on the island and is nestled in lush green forests. The sanctuary contains magnificent frescoes and a carved iconostasis, and its museum holds the relics of a saint martyred during the Ottoman invasion. Revolutionary fighters once hid here and the first Greek flag was made in the monastery.

Entertainment

Nightlife on Skiathos is centred in Skiathos Town and around its beaches, with Papadiamanti, the town's main street, home to many of the most popular evening destinations. The seafront has a selection of clubs around the old harbour, and the town's four-star luxury hotels offer bars and lounges. The liveliest nightlife lies a walk or taxi ride from town and comprises of a dozen or more large dance clubs and bars set on the seashore with seating overlooking the ocean.

All the clubs are themed and quirkily decorated, with the all-time favourite, Pink Cadillac, seating revellers in old cars and Kahlua's trendy interior attracting the crowds to its several bars. The dance parties here all keep going until sunrise. Skiathos's old harbour is lined with bars, most of which feature happy hours lasting until 23:00. The best-known is the Rock 'n Roll Bar, with guests seated on bean cushions in the street where they can sip cocktails and people-watch.

Nightlife in Koukounaries is more laid-back as the resort focuses on families and couples rather than the hedonistic party crowd, but there's still plenty of choice as regards beachside bars and pubs, as well as watering holes in the resort's hotels. Informal nightlife begins in the tavernas and often involves traditional Greek music and dance spurred on by the equally traditional ouzo (the local alcoholic aniseed drink). Agustera and Stamelos bars are two of the resort's most popular hang-outs, and for fans who daren't miss a game, Augrista Sports Bar is the place to go.

Dining Out

Skiathos Town has a good choice of tavernas as well as eateries serving international cuisine, but for the most authentic local dishes, Koukounaries wins. For real Greek food in the main town, back street tavernas frequented by locals are the best bet, even though the harbour and sunset views are missing.

Eating out on the island is a relaxed experience, involving typical Greek foods and the island's flavourful olive oil. For a fast meal, souvlaki (kebabs, made with pork and served with a garlic, yoghurt and cucumber sauce in pitta bread) are the answer.

Seafood is a favourite and much-loved meat dishes include moussaka (oven-baked spiced meat and aubergine layers enlivened with a creamy bechamel sauce). Pastitso is another filling treat, made using fresh pasta, meat and bechamel sauce, which is layered and baked until golden. Avgolemono chicken soup, made from chicken broth and flavoured with egg and fresh lemon juice, is a great starter to any meal. For a snack, tiropites are delicious little parcels of filo pastry which are filled with mixed goat's cheeses. Filo pastry is used again in the popular local dessert, baklava, which is layered with lashings of honey and chopped almonds.

Local Greek wines include the pine sap-flavoured retsina. While it's not to everyone's taste, it goes very well with Greek food; fresh, white Greek wines are a good alternative. Flavoured liqueurs are found on all the Greek islands and make a great end to any meal, and the fiery, traditional Greek spirit ouzo is flavoured with aniseed, mixed with water and served as an aperitif. Greek coffee is a remnant of the Ottoman era and is thick, strong, sweet and served in a tiny cup.

Beach

Skiathos is famous for its beaches, several of which are considered to be the best in the whole of Greece. The main beach at Koukounaries is set on a great, curving bay that is backed by forests, and the mainly low-rise resort doesn't impinge on its beauty. Banana Beach to the southwest of Skiathos Town is for the young set, with naturist bathing allowed in adjacent Small Banana Beach. Kanapitsa Beach and Agia Paraskevi beaches are best for a wide variety of water sports, and Asselinos is a huge, undeveloped stretch of soft sand. The beaches on the Mandraki Peninsula are peaceful options.  

Romance

For couples looking to rekindle romance in their lives, Koukounaries is the destination. Small hotels, quaint tavernas and the resort's setting in a protected nature reserve are perfect for a romantic break, and the tiny, secluded bays farther along the coast can be reached by boat for a day alone with a picnic and each other.

Hiring a private boat gets you around the island's breathtaking coastline with a choice of over 60 beaches, many of which are unreachable by land. Wandering through the protected pine forests before dinner for two and a spot of sunset-viewing is perfection.

Family

The Greeks love children and welcome them at hotels and restaurants, making sure they're having a great holiday. Koukounaries is the best place for a family holiday as it's away from the noise, bustle and crowded beaches in Skiathos Town. Hotels here are known for being family-friendly, and the wide, shaded beach has fine sand, shallow water and safe bathing for youngsters. Another family-oriented beach which is great for family holidays is Agia Paraskevi, with its family-friendly hotel, beachside taverna and quiet evenings. 

Adventure

Although, due to Skiathos's small size, land-based adventure sports are somewhat limited, the beaches around Skiathos Town as well as Kanapitsa Beach and Agia Paraskevi Beach offer a variety of water sports, from waterskiing and snorkelling to paragliding, jet-skiing, scuba-diving and windsurfing. Sailing is popular, and renting a speed boat or yacht is easily arranged. In the island's beautiful interior there are walking trails through fragrant pine forests, and sea-caving and clifftop walks along the coast are a good way to spend a day. Getting around on a bike or motorbike can be an adventure in itself on the dirt roads in the mountainous centre of the island.

Need to know

Need to know [destination]

Language

The tiny island of Skiathos lies in the Greek Sporades Islands archipelago and has Greek as its official language. Basic English is spoken by most people on the island, as its economy mainly depends on tourism, with German also spoken in many resorts. In addition, a local Greek dialect is spoken.

Currency

The official currency of Skiathos is the euro, which is accepted across the island's 50,000 square kilometres. Skiathos Town is the island's main settlement, with several banks, currency exchange outlets and ATMs, as well as hotel currency exchange facilities. The rest of the island is given over to summer beach resort developments and campsites, with ATMs and currency exchange part of the service. Major credit cards are accepted in most places except small local eateries and markets.

Visas

Greece is part of the EU and EFTA, meaning that citizens of EU and EFTA countries, including the UK, may enter without a visa for an indefinite stay. This also applies to nationals of Schengen countries. Citizens of many non-European countries, including the USA, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, can also enter visa-free for a stay of up to 90 days in any 180-day period. Nationals of countries which are not on the visa waiver list need to contact their nearest Greek embassy or consulate for details on visa requirements.

Climate

The climate of Skiathos is classified as Mediterranean, with hot, humid summers and mild, wet winters. July and August are the hottest months, with daytime highs of around 27°C and only slightly cooler nights. The tourist season runs between April and October. Spring on the island sees a glorious coverage of wildflowers while June sees the start of the high season with temperatures of 26°C and sparse rain showers. The strong Meltamia winds arrive from mid-July and most tourist facilities close down by November.

Main Airports

Skiathos Island National Airport is the island's only airport. It handles around 240,000 passengers each year, mostly during the tourist season. It's a small airport hosting year-round scheduled flights to Athens as well as seasonal holiday flights to European and UK destinations.

Flight Options

UK travellers can fly seasonally with Monarch or Strategic Airlines from London-Gatwick or Manchester, with Sky Wings from Birmingham, with Thomson from Manchester, Birmingham or London-Gatwick, or with Thomas Cook from London-Gatwick, East Midlands, Manchester, Newcastle or Bristol. Reaching Skiathos from the UK out of season requires a transfer in Athens. Alitalia offers a seasonal charter to Rome, Olympic Airlines flies to Athens, Austrian Airlines flies to Vienna and many other European low-cost and charter carriers cover mainland European destinations. Average flight time from London to Skiathos is 4 hours.

Travel Advice

For a cheaper deal on flights to Skiathos, it's best to check online or with a local travel agent for special offers on package holidays, especially in the shoulder seasons. Check low-cost or charter carriers' websites for sales and last-minute deals.

Hotel accommodation charges on Skiathos are at their height in July and August, but swimming and outdoor activities are just as good in late spring and early autumn. Transport on the island is by bus, car or taxi.

Other Transport Options

Ferries run from Athens to Skopelos in the archipelago and on to Skiathos, and Athens can be reached cheaply and relatively comfortably by long-distance bus from London's Victoria Coach Station. By train from London, the journey begins with the Eurostar to Paris, connecting with a high-speed overnight express sleeper to Milan. After overnighting in Milan, the Adriatic coastal express to Bari connects with the Athens ferry.

Getting Around

Skiathos Island is tiny and easy to get around by taxi or hire car. Local buses use three routes and the main road bisects the island, with minor roads radiating out to beaches, tiny settlements and coastal resorts, as well as the dirt roads in the mountains. Kaiki, traditional boats, are the best way to get to isolated beaches, uninhabited islands and local coastal beauty spots, and are easily hired from fishermen at harbours or through tour operators. For reaching the mainstream tourist sights, taxis or buses are the best idea.

Bus

Buses from Skiathos run three routes, with the first route from Skiathos Town to the smaller town of Koukounaries, stopping at 24 spots along the way. The second and third routes are from Skiathos Town to Xanemos in the island's northeastern quadrant and Moni Evangelistrias in the north. Buses are relatively comfortable and are the cheapest way to travel. They allow for an Getting Around of this lovely island and a chance to meet its friendly local people.

Car

Self-drive by hire car is essential for exploring the mountains and the northern side of Skiathos, and can be arranged at the airport with one of several well-known international firms. For mountain travel on dirt roads, a four-wheel drive is necessary, especially in the shoulder seasons when rain falls more frequently, but the rewards of great views, isolated hamlets and ancient churches and monasteries are well worth the extra effort and cost.

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FACTS

  1. The island is only 46 square km and has over 60 beaches. It is around 12km long and averages 6km wide.
  2. In the 19th century Skiathos was an important centre for shipbuilding because of the ready availability of pine wood from the forests on the island.
  3. Think the scenery on Skiathos looks familiar? That could be because the island was the location for the 2008 musical film hit Mama Mia starring Meryl Streep.
  4. The island's airport is infamous for its exceptionally short runway. It's so short pilots have to undergo special training to land on it.

FACTS

  1. The island is only 46 square km and has over 60 beaches. It is around 12km long and averages 6km wide.
  2. In the 19th century Skiathos was an important centre for shipbuilding because of the ready availability of pine wood from the forests on the island.
  3. Think the scenery on Skiathos looks familiar? That could be because the island was the location for the 2008 musical film hit Mama Mia starring Meryl Streep.
  4. The island's airport is infamous for its exceptionally short runway. It's so short pilots have to undergo special training to land on it.

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