13 September 2011

Skiathos - An Emerald Isle

Skiathos – An Emerald Isle



“The name Skiathos is derived from the word "skia", meaning shade and "athos" for Mount Athos. It is argued by some that Skiathos cannot be 'in the shade of Mount Athos', but tradition has it that this is the origin of the name. The island is an extension of the wooded Mount Pelion on the mainland and its lush vegetation is ensured by an underground river which flows under the sea, popping up in the numerous springs on Skiathos. This makes it one of the greenest of the Greek islands. Olive and almond orchards are planted among the pine forests and grapes grow successfully on the slopes”

We landed in Skiathos late at night so had our first drive was on the wrong side of the road and in the dark! However, the drivers were all courteous, lots of holiday makers were still walking around after their dinner, and the welcome we received from Nostos was great! Our unit in the main hotel was very spacious with two bathrooms (bliss!!), two balconies and a big, comfortable bed.


Skiathos, we discovered, is a gem of an island. It’s small enough to get around easily with a car, the drivers are sane (not like Cretans!), the people are friendly and all in all, a lovely spot to while away 7 days or more.
Skiathos Town has the usual buzz of restaurants, with the more interesting ones being up the side streets away from the Waterfront, lots of interesting shops, and interesting hilltop streets. It was time to explore so we parked and set off on foot which is the only way to enjoy Skiathos Town itself. Scooters come hurtling up and down the cobbled streets. They are loaded with all sorts of goods from fresh vegetables to cement bags. It all happens on scooters in Skiathos! Helmets are for show only and are carried on the handlebars, on the arm, anywhere but on the head! It was great wandering around the old town, seeing how Greeks have lived for centuries.

We kept seeing black marks above doorways and wondered what that meant. Suddenly we came to an extremely narrow alley and were about to turn around when a young woman came out of her house and said we should just carry on through – me sideways! There was a black mark above her door as well so we asked her what it meant and with many hand-signals and Greek that we could not understand, we at last understood that “Papa – he gone” She crossed herself with a tearful smile and we commiserated accordingly. She very kindly agreed to pose for a photo outside of her front door, next to her washing which was hanging out to dry.


In afternoon drive took us to through the pine forests to Mandrake and Agristos beaches but the wind made it too cold for a swim. This Northern shore gets more wind than many of the other beaches so it must be great on a really hot day!


Kastro was our next expedition – Kastro was the biggest medieval town from the twelfth century till 1830. It was built on a very high and very steep cliff at the north end of the island. This position made it easy for persons to see any attack coming and they could defend themselves. Today many of the older buildings are in ruins but restoration appears to be taking place and the paths and gardens were full of flowers. The walk down to the beach is quite strenuous, but the walk back up is a killer!


We had parked about 6 km away as we had decided to stroll down to Kastro – bad idea! Going back uphill in the heat was a killer. Praying for somebody to stop I stood at the roadside, puffing and panting with no water! James has asked at the kiosk for water only to be told they would be open in 2 weeks time. “OK, I’ll wait” he said. The chaps were horrified and told him he could not possible wait! But suddenly as 4X4 came rattling along and the driver stopped! I could have kissed him – a farmer with hardly any English but he drove us back to our car much to my great thankfulness!

Skiathos has over 60 beaches – it does not seem possible on such a small island but it’s true. One would have to work hard to visit them all so we chose to visit the more out of the way and quieter ones. The popular beaches have rows and rows of deck-chairs and you can sun yourself, have a swim, eat at the beach Taverna, sun yourself some more and so on……..! The water is crystal clear and an absolute delight. The quieter beaches are normally reached by car and there always seems to be a Taverna around – even in the weirdest places!
All aboard for Kechria and Ligharies (Taverna on Kechria was open, Taverna on Lighares was still deserted) – this is a bumpy drive but well worth the effort. We met a couple from Yorkshire along the way – they suddenly popped out of the woods much to our amazement.


We found out that there was a lovely walk along the stream that they had followed so we went off to explore it for awhile. The most peaceful place, a stream running through, lots of ferns, flowers with beautiful butterflies and dragon flies busily going about their business. Skiathos has many walks – they are numbered but it would be advisable to buy a book first – not that one could get too lost in Skiathos! 



The beach at Kechria has a basic Taverna, which was very busy when we arrived. Our Yorkshire walkers were there, a family of 5 who arrived by boat, some sun tanners – all in this remote spot!




 Unfortunately, we were rather upset by the sight of a dog tied up along the road with a muddy bucket of water and no food. Dogs normally love James but this one did not even manage a flicker of a tail wag which was most distressing – poor thing appeared to have lost all hope for living.


It appears that Greece is not known for its kindness to animals – see article below
 Greek Embassy Demonstration
Anneka Svenska attended the Greek Embassy on Holland Park on the 26th of August, amidst a fantastic turn out of demonstrators.

Both Anneka and Vesna, founder of the Greek Animal Rescue confronted an Embassy official and after passing the petition over, engaged in a strong debate surrounding the mysterious disappearance of over 15,000 strays in and around Athens in the run up to the Olympics.

Our favourite beaches included Kechria, Mandraki Beach, Agristos Beach, Asselinos, Ghournes, Nikotsara but we visited lots of them – each has it’s own character and appeal.


We visited the Evangilistrias Monastery where we got chatting to a lady from Norway about cameras! This Monastery is now only inhabited by 2 monks with a third due to join them the week after we left. They have a shop where they sell the wines made by the monks, lots of trinkets and tourist goodies. A museum inside is worthy of a visit.


Most people visit Skiathos for the beaches but this little island has so much more to offer, the scenery is great, loads of walking trails, an artist's delight and a peaceful atmosphere. For those wanting an active night-life visit the island in Peak Season July/August and you will not be disappointed!   

Highly recommended!

Beaches:

Koukounaries - the best of both worlds! Lovely warm water, sand and shady pine trees close by if you wish to escape the heat of the day. It a longish beach - approx. 1 km.


Banana Beach - again lovely sand, pine trees for shade, taverna and wonderful views. You can also do wind-surfing at this beach.

Troulos Beach - this is a very popular beach as there is lots of accommodation close by in the Troulos Valley and it's the 2nd village of Skiathos.

Little Banana - this beach is also known as Spartacus and is the "unofficial" nudist beach!

Other busy beaches with beach umbrellas and taverna's are:
Vromolimnos, Platanias, Achladies & Megali Ammos.

Kechria Beach is accessible by road or boat and has a great little Taverna.

Vromolimnos - this very popular beach has a Taverna and is also a water-skiing spot.

Kastro Beach - pebbly but great for a swim after visiting the old town of Kastro. There is the inevitable Taverna.

One could go on and list all 60 beaches but that would spoil your fun - finding that great beach that suits you totally and which you will return to again and again!





Narrow Streets in Skiathos Town








Restaurants invite you to sample their wares


Skiathos in Harbour








Take a trip to one of the other islands













Skiathos Town

The airport is so close to town you have to beware of the Jet Blast!

Beware!!


Tourist Trips


Whatever method of transport you use, make sure you explore Skiathos!

© Judelle Drake



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