Skiathos is a tricky island to nail down. It’s touristy but also authentic. Busy but also quiet. Cosmopolitan but also old-fashioned. Full of Brits, but also very Greek.
I think it’s possible to have a hundred different holidays on Skiathos, depending on what you’re after.
Here are 7 things about my own Skiathos trip I loved, and 1 thing that I didn’t.
This is one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever clapped eyes on. There’s just something special about the atmosphere here, even though on paper it’s no different
The water seemed particularly clear, the sand particularly fine.
On my first visit, I was the only soul on the beach (admittedly it was very early in the season) and it was so completely peaceful it made me tear up at the beauty of it all.
THE SMELL OF PINES
Skiathos is one of the greenest and most densely forested islands in Greece. It’s a completely different feel to those hot and barren Cycladic islands.
I love the smell of pine, it evokes a kind of primal sense of serenity in me, so I’m a happy bunny on islands like this. Even in Skiathos Town there are pockets of pine to scent the air – around the Bourtzi, and the little rocky promontory off Plakes.
And Vromolimnos is one of the best smelling beaches I’ve been to – it smells of maritime pine, eucalyptus and sea mint.
BREAKFAST AT FOODIES
It became my morning routines to pop into the friendly cafe Foodies on Papadiamantis Street for breakfast.
I don’t know what they put in their fruit and yoghurt to make it so special (I think it might be the island honey) but once I tasted it I couldn’t start my day any other way.
WALKING IN MANDRAKI FOREST
This part of Skiathos is incredible – why aren’t they making more of a thing of it?
Skiathos has some of the most extensive, accessible and well-signposted walking trails in Greece. Mandraki Forest, just behind Koukounaries – is a unique biotope and a walker’s paradise. It has scenic coastal paths as well as wooded walks that take you to hidden beaches.
The area around Koukounaries is so green (and humid) that it feels almost tropical, particularly as the day creeps towards sunset the birds start piping up.
SWANS ON THE BEACH
Yes, you read that right – Skiathos has a resident population of black swans thanks to its nature reserves. You can usually spot them at Koukounaries beach, around the entrance to Lake Strofilia, or sometimes at Maratha and Troulos beaches.
It’s not just swans though – you’ll also see ducks and white geese on the beaches, and many other species in the wetlands areas.
SWIMMING IN THE CRYSTAL CLEAR WATER
Actually ‘swimming’ is probably the wrong word. I love to get in a refreshingly cool sea and bob around for a bit.
And the water here is heavenly.
Most of the beaches on the south coast are shallow and calm, the sun casting mesmerising reflections on the water. If you’re one of those people who like to be able to see the bottom then these beaches are for you.
All of those trees lend a beautiful green colour to the seas.
SOUVLAKI AT UNDER THE PINE TREE
To be honest I didn’t eat any life-altering Greek food on Skiathos (except the yoghurt). Not bad, but not the best. Perhaps I missed the good places (got any recommendations? send me your tips for next time). Then I finally stumbled upon Under the Pine Tree in Koukounaries.
It’s scenic (it is actually under a giant shady pine tree) and excellent value and does the grilled meat thing well. It’s also got a good range of salads for vegetarians. I could easily have spent another week in Koukounaries eating souvlaki here and hitting the trails.
AND 2 THINGS THAT I DIDN’T LOVE…
The issue of stray dogs and cats is by no means unique to Skiathos, it’s a problem in most Mediterranean countries. But there are some sorry looking characters in Skiathos Town.
Registered charity Skiathos Cat Welfare Association does great work looking after the cats. They run a neutering programme and have food boxes around town. But they’re about to be evicted – you can help out by making a donation.
They recommend not to feed the cats at tavernas or at your accommodation, but rather to take dry food and water and feed them somewhere quiet if possible.
You can also visit the dog shelter run by the Skiathos Dog Welfare Association which is inland from Troulos (you’ll need a car or to take a 30-minute walk uphill to get there).
This is common to islands that depend on package tourism, but the patronage of big tour operators over several decades has meant little incentive to update hotels.
Got to be honest, most of the beach resort towns have a slightly tatty and faded air that didn’t encourage me to linger once the sun had gone down.
Perhaps you don’t notice these things if you’ve been visiting for years. Hopefully, some improvements are on the way now that Greece is the other side of the economic crisis.
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