Skiathos is one of the small islands in the group known as the Sporades. It lies just off the coast of the Pelion region of mainland Greece.
It lacks the ancient archaeological sites present on many other Greek islands although there are a number of interesting monasteries. Most visitors come here for the superb beaches and the traditional Greek hospitality. There are over 60 beaches to choose from ranging from the magnificent sweep of Koukounaries to cosy coves for two. For the more energetic there are many waymarked trails all over the island which offer excellent walks using tracks and dirt roads.
In July/August the island is invaded by Greeks and Italians. In our opinion, as with most Greek islands, the best time to visit is May/June or September.
The town is the only permanent place of settlement on the island. Settlements outside of the town exist almost exclusively for tourists. Although the interior is very pretty, don’t expect to find quaint little villages.
Even before the paved road was built between the town and Koukounaries, Skiathos was a well known holiday destination for wealthy Greeks from Athens and Thessaloniki. It was in the 1970’s that development accelerated with the completion of the coastal road and the building of the airport – both in 1973. However, it was a further 10 years before direct charter flights from northern Europe arrived.
In July 2018 (and yes it was every bit as busy as we feared !!) we made our 18th visit to Skiathos. Our first visit was back in 1994. Since then of course there have been many changes to meet the demands of tourism. However, overall we don’t think that the island has been spoiled; it still retains the natural beauty that made us return year after year.
On our visit in 2008, we were curious to see the effect that the serious fire of July 2007 had on the landscape. The fire started up near the municipal dump and driven by high winds swept across the island, reaching down to the coast between Agia Paraskevi and Troulos. Many of the pine trees were lost but one year later the land appears to have recovered remarkably quickly. I suppose if you had never visited the island before, the treeless landscape that now exists in the affected part of the island does not detract from its overall beauty.
Skiathos International Airport “A Papadiamantis” is an airport with character. Landing is normally on a southern approach, flying over the neighbouring island of Skopelos and then turning 180 degrees to the right. This is the point when you may be able to catch sight of the runway – if it looks short, that’s because it is. The runway is just 1570 metres long. This is at least 500 metres short of a good length. In reality the only difference this makes on landing is the urgency with which the captain applies the brakes.
September 2014 - Significant work is in progress to extend the runway some 100 metres or so at the northern end and to increase the size of the apron to allow more planes to be on the ground at the same time. Hopefully the airport buildings will also be updated as capacity is already very limited. Increased parking facilities are also planned. The original airport tavernas have been bulldozed but thankfully Desire 2 is now open offering a wonderful alternative to the cramped departure lounge
May 2015 - The significant work .... continues! It may be completed by the end of 2015 but continued funding of the project in the current financial climate will be a major issue
June 2017 - Work on the apron appears to be complete meaning in theory more planes on the ground at the same time. However, the airport buildings have not been extended. One other point, on arrival, a bus is now sent out to meet the planes and passengers are bussed to the terminal building; a journey of about 100 metres. The airport is now under the ownership/management of FRAPORT. This is a German company who have cherry picked a number of other Greek airports. The Gents toilet in the departure lounge has been 'Out of Order' for more years than I can remember. Sadly, despite the German ownership, these urinals are still out of order. The only change is that the black bin bags covering the urinals have been replaced by white bin bags. Progress !!
July 2018 - Toilets fixed !!!!!
After leaving the airport the first introduction to the island will be the town’s ring road. On our first visit we found this rather scruffy and we were worried about what the rest of the island might be like. Over the years we have grown to see this as part of the charm of a Greek island. Once up at the Acropolis, heading out of the town, the views improve dramatically as the first glimpses of the coastline come into view. The beaches look wonderful and there is a strong scent of pine plus many varieties of herbs. This is an aspect that we always recollect about Skiathos and something of course that pictures can never convey.
The majority of the coastal road is lined with hotels, villas and studios. However, the interior and north of the island are largely untouched and well worth taking the time to explore.
We have always stayed in Agia Paraskevi. There is an excellent beach, a good choice of accommodation and a nice selection of tavernas, many having adjoining bars with comfortable chairs.
Agia Paraskevi is on the coastal road midway between the Town and Koukounaries. The journey from the airport is little more than 20 mins. The taxi fare back into the town in 2017 is approx 10 - 15€.
The area is named after the church of Agia Paraskevi (Saint Friday). The beach is also known as Platanias, which is the name of the valley running back into the middle of the island.
The Skiathos Princess Hotel dominates one end of the beach. At the moment the rest of the meadow land behind the beach is completely undeveloped and long may it stay that way. The Princess Hotel has been considerably improved over the years. A boardwalk has been laid for guests to get to some rather nice sunbeds. The beach taverna run by the hotel has also had a makeover and now looks very smart but with prices to match.
Platanias beach can get quite busy. For something a bit quieter a climb over the rocks to the right brings you to an unspoilt beach. However, the land above the beach, which was badly affected by the fire in 2007, is already being built on – apartments with steps down to the beach. Sunbeds can be expected soon!
Not so long ago there were 2 rustic beach tavernas but these have now both gone. We used to spend many an hour listening to the alcohol fuelled conversations of the locals as the sun set. A new looking snack bar can be found at the eastern end of the beach and a kiosk at the hotel end. The Princess also runs a much improved beach taverna. There is a very good choice of tavernas up on the main road, just a 5 minute walk away. All offer a good Greek kitchen. Most visitors to this area are from the UK but thankfully the menus have not been anglified. There is a Gyros bar just of the main road in front of the Roulla apartments and opposite the supermarket, which has now evolved into the Boubounakia taverna. We regularly use the Kohili, good food and interesting staff.
For something more energetic than lazing on the beach, there is a wonderful walk out through the middle of the island and across to the north coast at Ligaries / Kechria. The track starts to the right of the Platanias taverna. About halfway at a crossroads, look out for a path which is a shortcut down through the valley and avoids following the dirt track road around the hillside.
In 2008 we stayed at the Ostria Hotel. It is located centrally just back from the main road and only 5 minutes walk to the beach. This is good quality, well maintained accommodation. Some pictures can be found HERE. A few more pictures taken of the Ostria in May 2009 can be seen HERE.
September 2010 - We stayed at the Paschalis Studios in Agia Paraskevi. Some pictures can be found HERE.
September 2011 - We stayed at the Prekas Studios in Agia Paraskevi. Located a 5-10 minute walk down the track by the Platanias Taverna, this is a small family run complex of 14 studios and 1 separate bungalow. There is a pool with plenty of space. Aircon is 5€ per day and the safe deposit box is free. The on site Calma restuarant is highly recommended - Maria's home cooking is excellent.
Some pictures can be found HERE.
May and September 2014 - We stayed at the Marialena Apartments in Agia Paraskevi. Located one kilometre down the track by the Platanias Taverna, this is a family run complex of 14 large one bedroom apartments and bungalows set in pretty landscaped grounds. The rooms are well furnished with a good shower (plently of hot water), basic kitchen but a remarkably comfortable bed and a large balcolny. The pool area is spacious with plenty of good quality sun beds. Aircon is 10€ per day and the safe deposit box is free. Food and drink is available from 09:00 - 22:00. Beer is 3.50€ but during happy hour (15:00 - 18:00) it becomes a very reasonable 2.50€. However, spirits are very expensive; 8€ with a mixer! Free WiFi.
Some pictures can be found HERE.
May 2015, June and September 2017, July 2018 - We stayed at the Elizabeth Studios in Agia Paraskevi. Located about 0.5 kilometre down the track by the Platanias Taverna. This is basic, clean accomodation in a very pretty garden setting. There is a pool with a bar and food available all day. Saturday is pizza night (delicious) and Monday is Greek night (great fun). We have been to the bar many times before but this was the first time we had stayed on site as I was worried that I would have trouble leaving the bar .... I was right !!! Free WiFi.
Some pictures can be found HERE.
There are two harbours (old and new), separated by the wooded peninsular known as the Bourtzi. Tavernas, restaurants and bars line the harbour areas and there are many more waiting to be discovered in the maze of side alleys. There are menus to suit all tastes and pockets. There are plenty of places that offer cocktails etc at reduced prices. So buy cocktails during the happy hour(s) and keep moving to stay happy. One of the most popular activities is simply relaxing with a drink and watching the world go by.
Since our last visit it was noticeable that a significant effort had been made to smarten up certain areas. Both the Harbour areas and the main shopping street of Papadiamantis street have been paved. Everywhere just looks so much tidier and cleaner. An attempt has also been made to pedestrianise some areas – but don’t be too surprised to see an occasional motorbike.
The town really comes alive at night and there is a great atmosphere just strolling around the harbour or up into the narrow back streets. It is difficult to recommend particular tavernas as there are so many but worthy of mention is Sofia’s Family Restaurant up by the clock tower. Good food and wonderful views. We also enjoyed the tavernas located past the old harbour and up the steps by the church square. If you continue walking in this area you will stumble across the older part of the town where most of the locals live.
For something livelier the majority of the towns 'nightspots' are located on the ‘club strip’ out along the coastal road to the airport. This area is only really busy during July and August when the island’s population is swelled by large numbers of Greeks and Italians.
In 2003 we noticed that a MacDonald’s had opened in lower Papadiamantis Street. In 2008 it had gone, presumably it was unable to compete with the no name gyros bar a few doors away. Good !!
Around the Island
While sitting in a taverna one day, we overheard someone say that they had hired a car for 3 days ... “had seen the entire island in half a day ... waste of time” How wrong they were. It really is worth hiring some kind of vehicle. A 4WD, motorbike or scooter will allow you to more easily use the many dirt tracks that criss cross the island. Having your own transport makes it so much easier to get to the more remote north coast beaches.
There are very few pavements outside of the town.! This means that while concentrating on avoiding any oncoming taxis, skill is required to avoid pedestrians that are forced to walk in the road. As a pedestrian be prepared to dive off into the undergrowth.
Over the years more roads have been metalled. The new roads are mainly above the town. However, there are still plenty of dirt tracks to explore, particularly in the south of the island. By 2009, a new paved road now goes almost all of the way to the Kastro.
2014 - Jeep Hire – 3 days for 120€, 6 days for 200€ - try Victoria Car Hire - Troulos.
2017 - Jeep Hire – 7 days for 240 - 280€.
There is a very good bus service that runs from the town to Koukounaries. This is worth experiencing at least once - then get a taxi. To say the bus can get jam-packed is an understatement. If necessary the conductor will leave the bus so that he can push people from behind to squeeze them on the bus. Just when you think that they can’t possibly get any more people on, the bus will stop at the next stop. Amazingly the conductor will still manage to collect everyone’s fare. A true master of his profession.
Taxi drivers on the other hand seem to believe they are invincible. I suspect that this is a common misconception amongst Greek taxi drivers in general. However, if you are really not comfortable driving on the wrong side of the road, overtaking on blind bends etc then get the bus (but see comments on the Bus above).
BUS STOPS - updated as of September 2011
Bus Stop 0- Town Terminus, Junior School and New Port
People that come to Skiathos for the beaches will not be disappointed. The beaches along the south coast have golden sand and crystal clear blue waters. The northern beaches require much more effort to get to but the reward is a backdrop of a totally unspoilt landscape. Here is an attempt to list some of the many beaches that Skiathos is famed for. There are many other smaller, more intimate beaches, just waiting to be discovered.
The locations of the beaches can be found on the following map of Skiathos.
The nearest beach to the town and as a result gets very busy. A narrow stretch of sand that extends some way along the coast. Plenty of places to eat nearby.
This area is very popular with Scandinavians, the proximity to the attractions of the town being high on their list of priorities.
Achladias (Esperides Hotel) (Bus Stop 10)
Accessed via a path to the side of the hotel.
This beach is also known as Nostos. It is a very sheltered bay with a smart beach taverna. Since 2017 it has become the home to the party people !!! This is also the start of the Kalamaki peninsular. A tour of the peninsular should ensure you see somewhere you may wish to spend the rest of your days. Numerous very desirable villas – but if you need to ask how much … you can’t afford one!
A narrow sandy beach served by an excellent taverna. We visited the taverna for the fisrt time in 2010 on the recommendation of a Greek friend. It was so good we returned twice more for lunch, and many time since.
A very beautiful beach when viewed from the hillside above. I suspect that the only access to the beach is by boat as the land above is occupied by villas.
Another beach on the Kalamaki peninsular reached via a path down from the dirt track or by boat.
There were 2 tavernas but in 2008 the bigger taverna was closed and looked as if it had been for some time. The lively bar at the end of the beach was still going strong. Popular spot for some late afternoon partying.
Kolios (Bus Stop 14)
Mid way between Vromolimnos and Paraskevi but much quieter. A very good beach taverna. There is a campsite at the back of the beach but I have never seen anyone using it. The bay is also a favourite anchorage for some very desirable boats.
This is the beach of Agia Paraskevi and is one of our favourites. Backed by the impressive Skiathos Princess Hotel there is a lovely sweep of golden sand although the beach does shelve quite steeply into the sea. There is a full range of watersports available including boat hire.
Troulos (Bus Stops 18, 19 and 20)
The beautiful beach is backed by a couple of very good tavernas, an Ideal spot for a relaxing lunch to escape the heat of the afternoon. The beach does get very busy and always seems crowded.
The escape route is a good walk out along the quiet road to Aselinos.
Maratha (Bus Stop 22)
Near the Skiathos Palace Hotel.
Mandraki (Bus Stop 24)
Reached via a track from Koukounaries, it is quite a long walk through a magnificent Pine tree forest but well worth the effort. A lovely curved bay which is unusually backed by sandstone cliffs. The beach gets its name from the word ‘Mandra’, Greek for livestock enclosure.
A perfect spot to watch the sun go down over the Pelion peninsular. Couple of beach tavernas.
On a very first visit back in 1994 we stopped off at this beach on a round the island boat trip. We had excellent Souvlaki, fried fish and plenty of wine. We have been back many times since to watch the sun set.
The taverna stays open for the sunset trade. Ideal if you want a simple meal in beautiful surroundings with just a handful of people for company. It is very peaceful except for the obligatory shouting match that can occasionally be heard from the kitchen.
From the far end of the beach there is a path which goes up and over the headland to Small Banana beach.
Not anymore !! Head towards Eleni and then take the track signposted up over the hill to the right. The beach is also known as Krifi Amos and is in a wonderful natural setting. Where once upon a time the track came to a dead end here it now continues on to make it much easier to reach Mandraki and Elias.
Banana is reached from the track just before the parking area for Koukounaries. Up over a hill and down through the olive trees. There are actually 2 beaches separated by a rocky headland - Big Banana and Little Banana, one of which is nudist. Facing west, this is another favourite spot to watch the sun set. A couple of trendy bars provide the entertainment (loud).
July 2018 - Luxury sunbeds available 20 Euros a pair !!
This is quite rightly acknowledged as one of the prettiest beaches in the whole of Greece. The downside is that it is very popular and is covered in sunbeds from one end to the other.
The sandy beach curves around the bay for nearly a kilometre and there is a wonderful smell from the pine trees that back onto the beach. Finally after all these years I have just discovered that ‘Koukounaries’ is Greek for pine cones – should have been obvious really ! There are tracks through the trees to the lake.
Apart from the sunbeds the area has been developed so that the beach tavernas, bars and even the toilets blend into the surroundings. The boardwalk looks as if it is meant to be there. The council have endeavoured to keep the area as natural as possible. All tourist development is well away from the beach on the other side of the lake and lining the main road heading around to the beach.
The only eyesore is the abandoned shell of the Xenia hotel sitting atop of the headland. Although the Skiathos Palace hotel on the opposite headland is probably due an expensive makeover.
Julu 2018 - The old Xenia hotel has now been entirely renovated/rebuilt. It is now a high end luxury hotel.
There are plenty of watersports on offer plus boat trips around the island. If you don’t mind the crowds this is a fantastic beach.
Abelakia beach (Bus Stop 26)
Situated between Koukounaries and Banana. Follow the track to Banana and then take the signposted path down to the left. Behind the beach is a very swish new taverna/bar, with prices to match.
A spectacular wide sweeping bay backed by heather and shrubs. There are sunbeds and a cantina at the western end of the beach. To the east, where the nudists tend to go, there are a number of wooden constructions used as mini shelters.
An alternative route is via a track off the road to Aselinos. On route there are excellent views down to Koukounaries and across to the mainland. The track ends at a headland with Elias to the left and to the right is the beach of Agistros.
Next to Elias and now boasting a cantina. Park on the headland and go down the steps to the beach. For the more adventurous, try taking a vehicle down the very steep dirt track. You may need 4WD to get back up!
Aselinos (Bus Stop 18)
Reached via a good tarmac road from Troulos and also popular with the round the island boat excursions. This is a long beach with a large taverna. As with the other north facing beaches it can be windy here and the waves quite spectacular due to the predominant north wind.
The big taverna is still operational but in 2008 the only rain we had during our 2 week stay happened while we were in the taverna having lunch – a new roof needs to be high on the list of improvements. We lost count of the number of times we moved tables to avoid rain drops in our food.
This beach is a popular destination for people walking out from Troulos. During the spring, no later than May, the meadows on route are covered in wild flowers.
Mikro Aselinos - up over the headland from Aselinos - now with a cantina.
A wonderful walk across the heart of the island from Ag. Paraskevi will bring you to Kechria. However, this is one of those beaches that looks better when viewed from a distance but the walk there is certainly worthwhile. There is a smaller beach with a small beach taverna to the right – this is sometimes called Super Paradise.
NB. New signs in 2010 now indicate that the main beach is know as Ligharies, the smaller beach as Kechria.
The magnificent Lalaria beach, on the north coast, can only be reached by boat and only then if it is not too windy. Well worth a visit. It is a stony beach made up of many different colour pebbles which reflect to spectacular effect in the azure blue sea. It is said if you swim through the rock arch twice you get younger.
A narrow inlet with a small stony beach. Absolutely no facilities. The journey down to the beach is the fun part!
Difficult to get to and lacks appeal, even from a distance.
Located at the northern end of the runway, this is a perfect spot if you enjoy viewing aircraft at close quarters. They may land or take off directly overhead !! There is also another beach to the right of the flight path. In 2014, the airport runway is now that bit nearer the beach !
This is one of the small islands off the south coast. Boat trips from the town are readily available and take you to a fantastic beach with a small cantina serving basic food.
If you are on a package holiday, boat trips are the most popular of the excursions on offer.
My advice would be to get down to the town around 9am and sit in one of the cafes around the old harbour. The boat owners will be looking for trade – just sit back and decide which boat/trip/captain you fancy. Not only will there be more choice but by paying ‘direct’ it will be much cheaper. Most of the trips leave around 10am. in 2014, average prices were 25-30€ for a trip around the island and 40€ + for a trip to Skopelos/Alonissos.
If choosing the round the island trip, check with the captain if the boat is going to Lalaria - sometimes a strong north wind prevents safe passage around the north of the island. There will also be trips to Tsougria, water taxis out to specific beaches and for something further afield bigger boats go out to the neighbouring islands of Skopelos and Alonissos. The latter can also be reached using the Flying Dolphins, tickets from the harbour office. It is also possible to hire out small motor boats – these are also available from many of the more popular beaches.
We did our first round the island boat trip in 1994. In 2014 we finally got round to our second, primarily to revisit Lalaria. Cost was 25€ but we won the trip at the weekly Skiathos Dog Shelter quiz raffle.
The road to the monastery is well signposted from the town ring road. There is a reasonably good road all the way up. Dating from the 18th century the setting, high in the hills, is very spectacular. Monks still live and work here and for some reason there are many caged birds in the inner courtyard. While up in this area, an ideal spot for a break is at the Platanos Taverna. From the balcony there are superb views down to the town and across to Skopelos. Or try the Panorama Restuarant nearby, also with great views and pizza!
The Kastro is the ruins of the fortified medieval capital of the island. It is located on a rocky promontory in the north of the island and its location offered some protection from the pirate raids. There is a new tarmac road which goes almost all the way to Kastro. In 2010, the old rock track had been cobbled and this goes all the way down to an amphitheatre where there is parking available. From the car park there is rocky path down to the beach or up to the Kastro – best avoided in the mid-day sun. Round the island boat trips also stop at the beach below the Kastro and the passengers are allowed time to make the walk up the cliff path. In 2010 we were relaxing with a frappe in the beach cantina when not one but three boats arrived. The tranquility of the setting was shortlived !
While we were resting in the church courtyard an elderly man appeared and put sweets on the table. This was followed by some glasses. My wish came true when he then came over with some tsipouro. He told us that he was part of a group known as the ‘Friends of Kastro’. There are some 200 members worldwide but only about 20 or so ever make it to the island in any one year. Essentially they provide voluntary help to maintain the site.
This is well off the beaten track and reached via a rocky track off the road to the Kastro. To avoid back tracking the only way out is down a very steep, precarious and rough dirt track down towards the town. The Monastery is very well maintained but the only life we encountered while we were there were the cats.
In 2011 we discovered a new church built on the north coast - follow signs for the Kastro and then pick up the signs for Alexandros. The church is new and well worth a visit for the views alone.
Watching the aeroplanes
This is a popular activity, particularly on the busiest airport days of Tuesday and Friday. It is possible to stand right at the end of the runway although beware that on take-off there is significant blast from the jet engines as the pilot throttles back.
Landings are more spectacular and usually arrive from the south, coming in very low over the harbour area, parallel to the town. To get an idea of the entertainment on offer go to www.youtube.com and enter ‘skiathos airport’.
For an alternative view, try the beach at Xenemos which is at the northern end of the runway.
Skiathos Dog Shelter
The people who run this shelter do a fantastic job. The shelter is open every morning so that visitors can walk the dogs along the picturesque track which looks down into the Aselinos valley. More information about the shelter can be found here. A weekly quiz is held every Wednesday at the Iguana Pool bar in Agia Paraskevi. All proceeds go to help with the running of the shelter.
Despite the obvious commercialism of the island it was interesting to note that the vast majority of tavernas offered traditional Greek kitchens rather than trying to specifically pander to other nationalities tastes. The town offered the option of a more ‘international cuisine’.
A meal for two with a couple of drinks was about 40 - 50€. The most we paid in the town was 50€.
Amstel Cost of Living Index as of 2018
Taverna 3.50€ approx.
Supermarket – 500ml bottle - about 1.50€.
In 2008 the UK exchange rate dropped from 1.40€ to 1.20€ - this made a significant impact on spending power. To be fair most taverna owners had resisted the temptation to increase prices which meant that their prices did seem reasonable. Holidays to places like Greece and Spain are no longer the cheap holiday option they once were.
By 2009 the Euro was worth just 1.09€. Again, prices seem to have been held but there were significantly fewer visitors to the island. In 2010, with the Greek economy in turmoil, we feared the worst. The exchange rate was around 1.15€ which meant that overall we spent only slightly more than in 2009. Fuel and cigarettes, however, have gone up significantly. B&H 38€ for a carton of 200.
In May/June 2015 the Euro hovered between 1.35€ - 1.40€. Prices on the island for food and drink were much the same as for 2014. However the possibility of a Greek exit from the euro could have a dramatic impact. Cash will be king so don't rely on cards or withdrawing money from ATMs; as these could run out of money.
2017 - generally prices have increased in line with most other Mediterranean countries. The days of cheap holidays seem long gone. There are some exceptions - parts of the Spanish costas will still sell a beer for 1.50€. Of course there is still the option of a Gyros - a cheap and tasty option if on a limited budget !
Until the airport buildings were extended in 2002, passengers were instructed to check in and then go to one of the two tavernas that existed just over the road. Tannoy announcements were made from here but more importantly you could actually see your plane land. This would be the signal to head for Passport Control. Nowadays the airport is capable of handing many more people and whilst you are not encouraged to go to the taverna (Desire 2 is now operating following the removal of the two orginal tavernas), many people still do. Tannoy announcements are no longer made but you can still see the plane land – from that point there is a minimum of 45 minutes to get through Passport Control.
When we first visited Skiathos it was common practice for flights back to the UK to make a refuelling stop at Thessaloniki. This was because the planes were unable to take off from the short runway with a full load of fuel. It now seems common place for flights to return direct to the UK. If you are unlucky, you may find yourself making a stop at any one of the following:-
Thessaloniki – refuel – stay on the plane. This can add up
to an hour to the return flight.
In 2017 Thomas Cook flights were stopping at Kavala to refuel - passengers stayed on the plane.
July 2018 - Thomas Cook flights may or may not make a stop, it just depends on weight, weather conditions etc. Often you will not know until the captain makes an announcement just before take off. Thompson use larger planes and these seem to always return to the UK direct.
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