With autumn underway, a hot weathered, blue-skied escape is most needed, especially when met with consecutive days of cloud and a forecast that tease the possibility of showers. Having reached this time of year, I feel a longing to return to the Greek island of Skiathos, which I visited for the first time this summer.
The island, which lies in the Aegean Sea, has its own airport featuring a famously small runway, with barely a border between the sea and the landing strip. The descent into Skiathos is simply breath-taking, with views of the glassy turquoise water, island peaks, and villas tucked in amongst Mediterranean flora. Landing itself is an experience, as due to the small runway the plane brakes as soon it touches the ground, resulting in a violent backward jolt into your seat, which is both terrifying and exhilarating.
Skiathos is everything you’d hope for in a Greek island, with rustic white buildings, narrow uneven streets, and restaurants at every corner. The town has two ports, differentiated as the ‘old’ and ‘new’ port, both offering sailing trips and cruises. The old port certainly holds the most charm, as the buildings are staggered up the rock side, providing a beautiful backdrop when arriving into the town by boat. Once on shore, there is a spectacular view of distant islands hazily silhouetted across the water on the horizon. While Skiathos Town is no Malia, the town has a vibrant nightlife filled with waterside bars and a variety of restaurants, most offering discounts in the early evening.
The food in Skiathos is exquisite, and if you’re a lover of Greek cuisine, you will certainly not be disappointed, as olives, souvlaki, and moussaka are readily available in most places. Seafood takes up a large portion of the menu in Skiathos, with squid, prawns, and locally caught shellfish featured in most restaurants. The squid I tasted in Skiathos is the best I have ever had, so it’s definitely worth a try, especially if you’ve never eaten squid before. Italian food is surprisingly popular in Skiathos too, so it’s not unusual to see pizza and pasta places dotted among the other restaurants, which is a welcomed change if Greek food is not to your liking.
Mamma Mia! was briefly filmed in Skiathos’ old port, with most locations shot on the neighbouring island Skopelos. Yet, this doesn’t stop Skiathos from playing on its link to the much-loved, much-despised musical. There are several ‘Mamma Mia!’ cruises on offer, with the opportunity to see iconic locations from the film. If Mamma Mia! isn’t to your taste, however, then I highly recommend doing another boat trip on your stay, as it will give you the chance to see places only accessible by water.
I went on an all-day yacht trip called ‘Sail the Day’, which was my favourite part of the holiday and something I can’t wait to do again. The trip gives you the opportunity to see four islands: Arkos, Dasia Skopelou, Skopelos, and Tsougria Island, with the option to snorkel in a cave on Dasia. At each location, you can jump off the boat and swim to the shore to visit isolated beaches. The trip also includes a three-course meal, with a Greek antipasto platter, fresh seafood caught on the trip, and a mound of mushroom spaghetti with goats’ cheese. There were only eight of us on the yacht, and we each had the chance to steer and navigate, which was a lot more difficult than I had anticipated.
Whilst in Skiathos, I stayed in an area called Kanapitsa, which is south of the main town and is easily accessible by water taxi or the local bus. I really enjoyed staying in Kanapitsa, as it has its own beach with water brilliant for snorkelling, and there are many water sports available which I took advantage of. I also got the water taxi to Tsougria Island twice from Kanapitsa after being introduced to it on the yacht trip, and I never wanted to stop going back as the beach there is simply stunning.
For culture seekers, there is much to see in Skiathos, starting with the Agios Nikolaos Church and Clock Tower above the rooftops in the centre of the town. The church is very much traditionally Greek, with walls adorned with biblical portraits and a candle stand which is continuously lit. Further afield, there is a running monastery open to visitors on the island and is accessible by car, and there are ruins of the fourteenth-century town Old Kastro, which can be accessed by boat or jeep.
I had such a brilliant time in Skiathos, and I can’t wait to go back and explore more parts of the island I didn’t have time to see before. So, if you find yourself absent-mindedly browsing holidays for the summer whilst the cold lingers on outside, do consider Skiathos; it certainly won’t disappoint you.
– by Emma Hookway