Should you wish for a change of scenery during your stay on Skopelos, or if you are the sort of person who likes to stay for a few days in several different destinations, the Sporades group of islands makes a perfect choice. The three best known islands of the group ie Skiathos, Skopelos and Alonissos all lay within very short distance of each other and are linked by speedy and frequent boat and hydrofoil services. That said, they each have a distinctive character and their very own charm.
Here is a brief summary of what to do and see on Alonissos and Skiathos:
Skiathos lies in the middle of the north western Aegean, to the west of Skopelos, and is probably the most cosmopolitan and well-known of the three main Sporades islands. Like Skopelos and Alonissos, the island is covered in pine forests and olive groves which reach down to the sea shore and the many beautiful beaches to be found on this island.
Skiathos town is built on the slopes of two hills and has the traditional island architecture of a port town, with much of the original architecture being replaced by more modern buildings. The main street, Papadiamanti, leads up from the port gates to the top of the town and is full of tourist shops, bars and restaurants, with the small peninsula of Bourtzi separating the commercial harbour from the old port with its line of café bars and tavernas.
Today, the main economy of the island is reliant on tourism with some islanders working with such products as oil, grapes, cereals, fruit and vegetables. Unfortunately, the main occupation of the past years – shipbuilding – has now disappeared and the famous “skaria” are now a thing of the past although there is a small shipyard still operating close to the port.
From Skopelos, Skiathos can be reached by car ferry, catamaran or hydrofoil which have a regular schedule backwards and forwards during the summer months. Once on the island, there is a good public transport with a regular bus service between the port and Koukonaries, calling at all the beaches on the way.
Alonissos is the smallest of the Northern Sporades islands and, in past times, was dependent on Skopelos, but is again covered in dense pine forests which appear to be suspended over the sea. Alonissos is probably the quietest of the three main islands and the least affected by the tourism industry.
The old capital of the island (Horio) was badly damaged in the earthquake of 1965, although some of the original houses have been preserved, some renovated and others abandoned. The new capital was located in the port of Pattitiri, the main arrival port to the island for visitors, where there is a variety of restaurants and café bars to be enjoyed, as well as the new museum of Alonissos.
This island has a number of good, sandy beaches as well as numerous small islets dotted around to explore, for example Kyra-Panayia with its monastery dating from the 16th century, Skantzoura – known for its fishing and Psathoura – the most northerly and famous for the ancient city submerged beneath the sea of the southern coast.
The area around Alonissos is dedicated as the National Maritime Park and is a highly significant breeding ground for a rare species of seal, the Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus monachus).
There are daily crossings to Alonissos from Skopelos either by Flying Dolphin, Flying Cat or Car Ferry, a journey which takes approximately 20 minutes. Excursion boats from Skopelos also visit Alonissos and the Marine Park, with some calling into the port of Pattitiri and visiting the old town.