beach on Skiathos, Sporades, Greece
Beach on Skiathos, Sporades islands, Greece (Credit:Dimitris Vetsikas on Pixabay)

The Greek archipelago of the magnificent Sporades islands

Let Skiathos, Skopelos, Alonissos and Skyros with their endless natural beauties be your new favorite destinations

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Lying northeast of Euboea island in the Aegean Sea, the Sporades take their name from the ancient Greek “sporas”, meaning “scattered”. The archipelago consist of 24 islands, 4 of which are permanently inhabited: Alonnisos (an ecological oasis), Skiathos (the liveliest due to its international airport), Skopelos (low-key vibe) and Skyros (traditional charm) having a special character each.

Fragrant pine forests, stunning beaches, turquoise coves, excellent waters for watersports and yachting, beautiful scenery, interesting sightseeing, picturesque capital towns, the Mediterranean’s largest marine park, Greece’s first underwater museum, Byzantine churches, medieval castles, picture-perfect courtyards, delectable local cuisine, Greek traditionalism as well as exciting cosmopolitism. 

These elements surely make this island group a necessary destination, to which you will definitely want to go back. Whether you’re seeking a romantic getaway, a family trip, or an adventure-packed escape, the alluring Sporades islands are bound to leave a lasting impression on your heart.

You will find a very broad selection of things to do and many choices of accommodation whether you are looking for luxury on a grand scale, a short break in a small hotel with a character or an intimate bed and breakfast. Whether island hopping or choosing a single destination, the memories will be unforgettable.



Alonnisos

Sporades islands
Alonissos, Sporades, Greece (Credit: Vasilis drosakis, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

One of those off the beaten path places that has charmed nature-lovers, Alonissos is a haven for travelers seeking an escape from the cares of everyday life and business routine. Pine forests, olive groves and orchards, scenic beaches, rich historical sites, quaint villages, lace-like coastline and sea treasures encapsulate the essence of an ideal holiday on this blessed Greek island. Alonissos offers outstanding attractions.

The picture-perfect  Old Town (or Hora) with its stone-built houses, mazey cobblestone streets and panoramic views;  the picturesque harbour and capital of the island Patitiri (which means wine press); the “National Marine Park of Alonissos – Northern Sporades” (the biggest one in Europe) a refuge for Monachus Monachus Mediterranean monk seal, rare seabirds and bottlenose dolphins.

Sporades islands
Dolphin in the Alonnisos Marine Park (Credit: Asterious, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The island is also home to the International Academy of Classical Homeopathy and the Underwater Museum in Peristera (where guided tours of the “Parthenon of Shipwrecks”  which dates back to approximately 425-450 BC  take place at a depth of 30m).

Peristera Underwater Museum Credit: Municipality of Alonissos https://www.youtube.com/@user-kw1jg3ub6q)

The island with the most impressing abysses in the Aegean Sea has enchanting beaches. Go swimming at Agios Dimitrios, Leftos Yalos, Kokkinokastro, Chrissi Milia, Valitsa and Yialia beaches. Outdoors enthusiasts will be rewarded with an unparalleled selection of nature-based activities: Sailing, hiking, cycling, kayaking, snorkelling, scuba diving.

Alonissos is also a food connoisseu’s paradise: Alalunga Alonnisos tuna, “pittes” (octopus pie, onion pie,  twisted spinach and cheese pie), traditional dessets like “fouskakia” (traditional donuts), “hamalia” (phyllo crust sweets filled with ground almonds, honey, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg) “amygdalota” (almond cookie) and “soultana” (a type of custard pie) are some of the must-try local specialties.

Don’t forget to buy some excellent wines (the island has strong bonds with viticulture from ancient times until today) in which the “roditis” and “malagouzia” grapes dominate. As for special events, the harvest re-enactment in July or the traditional wedding taking place on August 15 are a must.

Useful info

Municipality area: 129.6 km2  Population (2021): 3,138 Municipality Website: https://alonissos.gr/en/ Transport: The island doesn’t have its own airport, so the closest option is either Skiathos or Volos. You can take a ferry from Volos on the mainland, a ferry from Skiathos, a ferry from Evia (Mantoudi or Kymi) or a ferry from Thessaloniki.

Skiathos

Sporades islands
Skiathos, Sporades, Greece (Credit: dimitrisvetsikas1969 on Pixabay)

The westernmost island in the Northern Sporades archipelago, Skiathos is a real treat for visitors. Despite its small size, there is no shortage of things to see and do. Lush green landscape, amazing wildlife, protected nature zones, more than 60 beaches, nearly 200km of hiking trails, abundance of water sports, bustling nightlife scene, cultural delights, gastronomic treasures. Begin your visit to the most developed of the Sporades islands with a stop at the residence of Alexandros Papadiamantis (1851-1911), Greece’s “patron saint of modern Greek literature”. The famous 19th century author was born and raised on Skiathos. His house located in the centre of Hora, has been turned into a museum and Papadiamanti Street is now filled with lively bars, cafes, tavernas, restaurants and shops.

Explore Bourtzi, a tiny peninsula with lush vegetation that divides the island’s port into two distinct parts and where the ruins of a Venetian fortress still stand. Strofilia Lagoon, a rare wetland that’s home to plants and birds  is also recommended. Go swimming at world-renowned Koukounaries (also known as Hrysi Ammos), Banana, Kanapitsa, Mikro Aselino, Megalo Aselino, Mandraki, Elia, Aggistro, Trypia Petra and Lalaria beaches.

Sporades islands
Lalaria beach Skiathos (Credit: Georgia Valachi, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

For aquatic adventures beyond swimming visitors can cruise on a small boat  to explore the sea caves, Fonissa, Pounta and Altanous, or go paragliding, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding. The monastery of Evangelistria founded in 1794, which played a vital role in the Greek Revolution, is also waiting to be discovered. Gourmands will be delighted by the island’s local cuisine: lobster with greens, fish stew, pies such as “kalapodia” with wild greens, “Alipiakos” wine,  PDO tsipouro, liqueurs made from walnut and sour cherry, “kidonopasta” (quince paste),”aspro” (traditional dessert made with finely chopped almonds, sugar syrup and lemon).

Useful info
Municipality area: 49.898 km2 Population (2021): 5,802 Municipality Website: https://n-skiathos.gr/en/ Transport: The island has its own international airport. You can take a ferry from Volos on the mainland, a ferry from Evia (Mantoudi or Kymi) or a ferry from Thessaloniki.

Skopelos

Skopelos, Sporades, Greece (Credit: dronepicr, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Located between Skiathos and Alonissos, and preserving a low-key vibe Skopelos is one of those islands that has earned a loyal following thanks to it rugged charm. According to the legend, Skopelos was founded by Staphylos (Greek for grape), one of the sons of the Dionysos (god of wine) and the princess Ariadne of Crete. More recently, the island was the setting for the 2008 feature film ‘Mamma Mia!’ (filming took place also in Skiathos and in Damouchari in Mt. Pelion.)

Lush vegetation, charming settlements, traditional architecture, mesmerizing beaches with crystal clear cobalt waters, rustic food and rebetiko (Greek blues music) offer the classic Greek island combination of art, sun and fun. Stroll through the Old Harbour and down picturesque alleyways. Head up to the little chapel of Agios Ioannis Kastri (also known as the Mamma Mia chapel) sitting on a hill 100m above the sea and feel like a movie star. Visit some of the most beautiful beaches: Panormos, Stafilos, and Kastani, Milia, Elios. Go scuba diving to explore reefs and shipwrecks.

Chapel of Agios Ioannis Kastri, Skopelos (Credit: Long lasting memories, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

When it’s time to take a break from the beach, you’ll find flavours unpretentious and authentic: “Astakos Giouvetsi”, a lobster dish served with orzo pasta, “rofos stifado” (grouper fish stew with onions) “strifti” the famous twisted phyllo dough Skopelos cheese pie. If you’ve got a sweet tooth you can’t miss “avgato” a traditional spoon sweet, made from a special variety of white plums and “rozedes” made of walnut.

When it comes to art, the island has a long pottery tradition, so buy a piece of traditional handmade Skopelos pottery for your beloved ones. The rebetiko festival held every summer, is another highlight of the island. Whether your ideal Greek holiday features eye-catching landscapes, chalk-white houses, pure island atmosphere, flavorsome dishes, dancing and singing, Skopelos is ready to tick those boxes.

Useful info
Municipality area: 96.229 km2 Population (2021): 4,518 Municipality Website: https://www.skopelos.gov.gr/ Transport: The island doesn’t have its own airport, so the closest option is either Skiathos or Volos. You can take a ferry from Volos on the mainland, a ferry from Evia (Mantoudi or Kymi) or a ferry from Thessaloniki.

Skyros

Skyros, Sporades, Greece (Credit: g20gf on Wikimapia)

Secluded beaches, raw and untouched nature, traditional architecture, prehistoric sites, more than 550 churches, local folk art, delectable cuisine and rare Skyrian horses are what the southernmost and biggest island of Sporades adds up to. Skyros remains off the radar but the island is an unbeatable destination for people searching for old-school holiday tranquillity. The island (green in the north, barren in the south like the Cyclades) is famous in the Greek mythology as the place where Theseus died and as the place from where Achilles set sail for Troy.

Explore the island’s main settlement (Chora) amphitheatrically built around a now-restored castle of Byzantine origin. Inside the castle lie the ruins of a 9th century church as well as the the monastery of Saint George, one of the most important landmarks. Wander around the cobbled alleys, admire the Skyrian houses, visit the Manos & Anastasia Faltaïts Folk Art Museum, the Archaeological Museum and
“Megali Strata”, which leads to Brook square, dominated by the statue of the English poet Robert Brook (1887-1915) who died on Skyros during the First World War.

Skyros Chora (Credit: PLAKLE, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

For beautiful swims, lovely places are Agios Petros, Kyra Panagia, Atsitsa, Agalipa and Agios Foka. Magazia, Molos and Gyrismata are also famous seaside resorts while Acherounes is a heaven for water sports enthusiasts. For those of a non-beachy disposition, there is a complex network of hiking trails.

Known all over Greece for its rich tradition in the arts of ceramics, woodcarving and embroidery, you can’t leave Skyros without buying some souvenirs like diminutive carved furniture. Colourful cultural events, like Skyros Festival will add a special touch to your holidays on the island. Foodies will love the island for its lobster-spaghetti or “astakomakaronada.” Skyros is also famous for its Carnival, which takes place the last weekend before Lent. So if you can’t visit the island during the summer, you have a good reason to make it on time for this unique celebration, centred on the remarkable goat dance, done by groups of masked revellers.

Useful info

Municipality area: 223.10 km2 Population (2021): 3,052 Municipality website: https://www.skyros.gr/en Transport: The easiest and fastest way to get to Skyros is by plane. The ferry from Kymi to Skyros is actually the only way to reach the island by sea from the mainland.

General safety precautions

Sun Protection: Greece’s Mediterranean climate can get quite hot during the summer. Apply sunscreen with a high SPF, wear a hat, sunglasses and stay hydrated. Swimming Safety: Never swim alone. Swimming with a buddy is always best, especially if you’re not a strong swimmer. Be aware of currents.
Driving: If you decide to rent a motorcycle or scooter to get around the islands, be very cautious, ensure you have a valid driving license, and always follow local traffic rules. Respect local customs: As with any destination, it is important to respect the local culture and customs. Be mindful of your choice of clothing when visiting religious sites. Travel with respect not only to the local people but also to the environment.