Holidays to Skopelos showcase some of the most unspoiled scenery in the Aegean. This island is draped in virgin pinewoods and fringed by sandy bays.
This mountainous isle in the north Aegean Sea is really unspoiled. Inland, olive groves, orchards and pine forests are honeycombed with scenic walking trails. And along the coast, beaches come in every shape and form, from pebbly bays with mountain views, to cliff-framed coves that can only be reached by boat.
The island’s capital, Skopelos Town, lets you take it easy by day, and let your hair down at night. The town is bracketed by pea-green hills, and full of faded white cottages that tumble down to the waterfront. Kastro, which is the name of the town’s old quarter, is set up high on the hilltop. Follow the stepped alleyways up to its Venetian castle, and the sea views stretch out for miles. Come nightfall, the whole city springs into life, with people spilling out of the tiny bars and restaurants.
Stafilos and Glossa
Head south from Skopelos Town, and you’ll stumble upon the village of Stafilos. It’s nestled in the middle of a valley, and the whole place is blanketed in pine trees. As for what’s here, there’s simply a scattering of bougainvillea-smothered shops and houses, which huddle around a sandy bay. Glossa, in the north-west of the island, offers the best window into the Greece of yesterday. This picturesque hamlet is packed with rainbow-coloured window shutters and Venetian towers that march down to the sea.
Things to See and Do in Skopelos
North and south
Skopelos doesn’t specialise in one type of beach – it’s got the works. The coastline here is a medley of pebbly coves, sandy bays and rocky shores. You’ll find some of the best stretches of sand along the south and west coasts, although they tend to get busy in the summer. If you’re after a bit more space, try to lesser-visited north coast.
The big beach
Stafilos Beach really pulls in the crowds. Scalloped deep into the island’s southern shore, this horseshoe-shaped bay boasts soft golden sands and shallow waters. It’s backed by pine trees, and there’s a lovely taverna above the sand, which serves up Greek food and views across the bay.
The secret beach
The beach of Velanio is hidden just beyond Stafilos’ pine-covered headland. It’s a pretty, sandy stretch that’s sheltered from the wind by high limestone cliffs. Plus, because it’s nicely tucked away, it’s really peaceful. If you’re bringing the children here, it’s worth knowing that part of the beach is reserved for naturists.
Skopelos lacks the designer names you’ll find in some of the bigger Greek islands, but in the capital, Skopelos Town, there are a string of independent boutiques selling the likes of cocktail dresses, leather luggage sets, and gold and silver jewellery. The real buy here, though, is art. Studios sell statement pieces and, while the prices are high, the works are one-offs, so you can be sure you’re taking home something unique.
Stafilos’ stores are so pretty, it’s tempting to just stand outside and look at them. But delve inside these bougainvillea-covered buildings and you’ll find strappy jewelled sandals, vintage-style woven handbags, and racks of silver bracelets moulded into Byzantine designs. Most of the jewellery shops have workshops onsite, so you can get things engraved.
Traditional mementos are a steal in Skopelos Town. Both the old town and the waterfront area play host to shops selling the likes of hand-stitched tablecloths and the island’s signature black amphora bowls. For local produce, head for the town of Glasso, where the shop shelves are stocked with gift jars of syrup-soaked Skopeliot fruit, and pots of honey collected from the island’s beehives. There’s an olive press in the town, too, where you can get olive oil+ at really low prices.
In the villages outside Skopelos Town, sundown usually means wind-down. You’ll find a few cosy ouzeries in Stifalos, but the music tends to drift from jukeboxes rather than DJ decks. If you’re after a bite to eat, the restaurants in the hillside settlement of Glossa offer up some of the best views on the island. Book a table at one of the tavernas in the port just below the village, and you’ll be able to see the island of Skiathos across the water.
Skopelos Town is home to a clutch of sophisticated bars and clubs. The best of the bunch freckle the old town, and they tend to showcase live jazz and blues music as opposed to more commercial chart songs. You’ll also hear a lot of rembetika – Greek folk music – in these parts. And wherever rembetika plays, a packed house usually follows.
This dish often referred to as cheese pie – although it’s a bit different from the kind of pies you get back home. It’s essentially a deep-fried spiral of pastry, which is stuffed with feta cheese. It’s absolutely huge – usually filling the entire plate – so it’s a good idea to share if you’re not feeling that hungry. Try the spinach version for one of your five a day.
Astakos giouvestsi is a fresh lobster dish. Lots of the harbour-front restaurants on the island will have it chalked onto their specials boards. It’s normally baked with orzo pasta, a type of short-cut macaroni shaped like a grain of rice, and finished with plenty of basil.
Gemistoi achinoi, otherwise known as stuffed sea urchins, are really popular here. They tend to be served as a starter, and come with anything from diced tomatoes and bell peppers to spicy gyro meat. In some of the fine dining restaurants, they’re paired with fancy ingredients like quails eggs.
These miniature fried dough balls are the perfect accompaniment to coffee or hot chocolate. You’ll find them in most cafés on the island, as well as on the street stalls that line up along the roadside. They’re served warm, and drizzled in either honey or cinnamon-flavoured syrup.
Word on the street is that this strong distilled spirit was first produced by Greek Orthodox monks back in the 14th century, using the residue left over from the wine-making process. It’s served in shot glass, and contains about 45 per cent alcohol, so you won’t want to knock too many back.