As an unapologetic fan of both Mamma Mia! films, I knew that a boat trip was on the cards when I booked my trip to Skiathos.
Skiathos Town is one of the filming locations for the first film – although it’s a little bit blink-and-you’ll-miss-it. A lot of the film was actually filmed in Pinewood Studios in London.
But there are a few more filming locations over on neighbouring island Skopelos – a mere hour away. Thankfully there are several Mamma Mia! themed boat trips available from Skiathos Town which will take you there.
I choose to go with Poseidon as it’s the only boat from Skiathos which stops at right by Agios Ioannis, the clifftop chapel made famous as the location of Sophie’s wedding at the end of the first film (if you take a different boat you’ll need to get an expensive taxi if you want to walk up to the chapel).
Itineraries may change according to the weather and the schedule, but here’s what we got up to when we set sail for the imaginary island of Kalokairi…
The boat leaves from the Old Port in Skiathos Town. This is actually one of the film locations – it’s where Sam and Harry arrive at the port and miss the ferry to Kalokairi (which is not a real island). Watch the film and you’ll briefly spy the blue-shuttered windows pictured above.
The boat left at 10 and I was advised to board at 9:30am to get a good spot on deck. I recommend going earlier though as there were plenty of people already on board by the time I got there (and this was early in the season so it wasn’t completely full).
FIRST STOP – MAMMA MIA CHURCH
The first stop is the best for Mamma Mia lovers. It took about 1 hour in good weather to reach Agios Ioannis (otherwise known as the Mamma Mia! church) from Skiathos Town.
Of course, the soundtrack is played as soon as you leave the harbour, and it was perfectly timed so that The Winner Takes It All was playing as we rounded the rocky cliff that is home to the Agios Ioannis chapel.
Cheesy but amazing.
Sadly the boat never quite comes alive with music a la Dancing Queen, though a few of us murmur along quite tunelessly.
The boat (pictured below) anchors at the beach next to the chapel. I’d say it was a 10-15 minute steep uphill walk. The path is fairly uneven and there were a few people on our trip who struggled, but most were fine. But it’s worth the effort for the view.
If you don’t want to walk up you can relax on the beach itself, which is beautiful – the water is an incredible shade of blue. There a small snack bar nearby too.
The chapel in real life is pretty tiny! You certainly couldn’t fit a wedding contingent in here.
The interior is very different from the one the film, which was a studio set based on the interior of Panagitsa tou Pirgou church in Skopelos Town.
SECOND STOP – SKOPELOS TOWN
Next the boat motored along the coast, past Amarantos (where Sophie reads Donna’s diary at the start of the film) and Glysteri (where they jump from the rocks in Our Last Summer) towards Skopelos Town for a lunch stop.
Skopelos Town was a delightful surprise.
There are no Mamma Mia locations in Skopelos Town itself. But it doesn’t matter because I can tell you – Skopelos Town has vibes.
It’s a gorgeous harbour with very chilled (if slightly chi-chi) atmosphere. I spied a brewery that plays jazz, immaculate streets with pretty coloured balconies, great shopping, homemade ice-cream, and a juice bar. Is this where the hipsters come in the summer?
I had a large plate of tomatokeftedes with a red pepper and cheese dip and a Fix whilst watching the ferries and plotting a return trip.
In fact, I almost did a Sophie and stayed.
THIRD STOP – BEACH
The third stop included on the tour depends on the day and also the weather.
The main Mamma Mia beach on Skopelos is Kastani. This is the where Lay All Your Love On Me and Does Your Mother Know were filmed. The jetty and beach bar no longer exist but you can still do your best Amanda Seyfried and writhe around on the beach in your swimsuit. Just be aware that the beach is pebbly rather than sandy.
We stopped at Milia, which is the next beach along the coast. It’s equally beautiful with incredible colours (particularly when the sun shines, or so I’m told as it was unfortunately forecast by the time we got there).
The beach itself at Milia wasn’t used as a location – possibly some shots were filmed between Milia and the nearby Dhasia islet but I’ve not managed to confirm this. I may be grasping at straws.
Whilst writing up this post I came across these amazing behind-the-scenes photos of filming on Skopelos which give you a great idea of how the scenery is used.
And that wrapped up the boat tour, and we headed back to Skiathos Town in time for a sundowner at Bourtzi.
All in all, it’s an enjoyable and relaxing day- as long as you don’t have expectations of visiting all the locations or of everything looking the same as in the film. I can also imagine it’s considerably less relaxing in July and August when the boats are completely packed.
The locations are all worth a visit in their own right, and non-Mamma Mia! lovers will be pleased to note that the soundtrack is only played once. The poor staff must be completely sick of it.
Fans should note that throughout the summer there’s also frequent showings of the first film at the open-air cinema on the Bourtzi.
Thankfully this is where the cheese ends. The only other reference I saw to the films was an ice-cream parlour named after the film, and a few places called Sophie’s Apartments (or similar).
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All images © The Mediterranean Traveller