Greece is our favorite European country. No other country on the old continent has such diverse landscapes and outstanding hospitality. That’s why we moved here in 2018. Since we live in Athens, we travel frequently to the Cycladic Islands. So far, we had the privilege of visiting Santorini, Mykonos, Paros, Syros, Sifnos and Serifos. Though different to each other, they all have similar whitewashed houses and scarce vegetation. Last summer we wanted to explore something different. That’s why we took a train to Volos and a boat to Skiathos and Skopelos Islands in the Sporades. We loved both of them!
Skiathos or Skopelos
- 1 Skiathos or Skopelos
- 2 Skiathos Island
- 3 Skopelos Island
- 4 How to Get to Skiathos and Skopelos
Let’s make a quick comparison of the two islands. Skiathos is just 80 km from Volos. Skopelos is a bit further away, some 110 km from Volos. Skiathos has an area of roughly 50 km2. Skopelos is almost double the size, 96 km2. However, Skiathos is slightly more populated, hosting 6600 people, versus 5000 on Skopelos. Skiathos is much more crowded and famous for its loud nightlife. That said, due to the pandemic, it is now much more relaxed than it used to be. Skopelos, on the other hand, is more laid back with a nicer capital city. In Skiathos, all beaches are sandy, while Skopelos hosts only pebbled beaches.
If You Have to Choose
Without a doubt, visit both islands if you can. That said, we believe that you need at least five days to visit both Skiathos and Skopelos. Rushing through both beauties makes no sense. This is an experience, not a race! To us, Skiathos is slightly more attractive, so we advise you to spend 3 days there and 2 in Skopelos. If you are short of time and have only 3-4 days, you must choose Skiathos or Skopelos. No worries, both are winning choices. Choose Skiathos if you are into fabulous sandy beaches and great hotels. Go to Skopelos if a laid-back atmosphere and beautiful architecture are more you. If you are lucky and have more than a week, consider visiting another nearby island. There is no wrong choice: Alonnisos, Skyros, and Euboea are all great options.
Skiathos has played an important role in the modern history of Greece. The 18th century Evangelistria Monastery was a hiding place for prominent leaders of the Greek Independence War. Moreover, the first flag of Modern Greece was created here in 1807. The island’s geography is slightly mountainous, though there are no peaks over 500 meters. Skiathos’ coast is adorned with inlets, capes, and peninsulas. Close to the southwestern corner of the island, the sea penetrates the land forming a kind of sea lagoon, called Koukounaries Lagoon. The space between the lagoon and the sea is a protected natural area of extraordinary beauty. The majority of Skiathos’ 60 beaches are sandy.
Skiathos Town is the only real settlement on the island. Moreover, it is the largest town in the Sporades. It covers the small peninsula close to the easternmost tip of the island. The lively town is packed with cafés, bars, and restaurants that cater mostly to foreign tourism. The city center lies right next to the busy port. Its main artery is the pedestrian Papadiamanti Street. The oldest area of the city is on the south, with gorgeous views of the island. The town’s biggest attractions are the Venetian fortress of Bourtzi, the Agios Nikolaos Church, the Cathedral of the Three Hierarchs, and the Papadiamantis Museum.
Best Beaches in Skiathos
Koukounaries is undoubtedly one of the best beaches in Skiathos. In fact, according to many, it is one of the nicest beaches in all of Greece! The gorgeous golden sandy beach stretches for over 700 meters, surrounded by hills and pine tree forests. Bars and restaurants with loud music line most of Koukounaries and stay open until late hours. The nearby Banana Beach is smaller, more relaxed, though still a bit noisy. On the other hand, Little Banana, the only nudist beach on Skiathos is an oasis of peace. Both are perfect for sunset watching.
Agia Paraskevi Beach
Agia Paraskevi is another magnificent sandy beach, halfway between Koukounaries and Skiathos Town. Again it’s a long and wide beach made of fine golden sand. The abundance of hotels and restaurants in the proximity gives it a less secluded feel. The beach itself is not that noisy, as there are only a few bars directly on it. Some 200 meters eastwards we find much smaller Kolios Beach, with only 2 little tavernas. Further southeast, there is another nice sandy beach, Vromolimnos. Vromolimnos Wetland, next to the beach, is a smaller version of Koukonaries Lagoon.
As mentioned above, there are more than 60 sandy beaches all over Skiathos. While you can stay on most beaches on the southern coast, those on the north are only accessible by car or boat. Lalaria is the only beach in Skiathos surrounded by rocks. The beach is so secluded that you can only reach it by boat. Since we are not huge fans of organized excursions we prefer beaches on the southern side of the island. Troulos is another popular beach reachable by public transport. Kanapitsa and Achladies are closer to the town, while Megali Ammos serves as the public beach of Skiathos Town.
Where to Stay in Skiathos
When visiting a beach destination we always recommend staying directly on the beach. After all, falling asleep with the sound of waves is priceless. In Skiathos, it’s not easy to find a hotel directly on the beach. Since there are few options, these tend to be a bit overpriced. Your best bet is Princess Resort, one of Skiathos’ best luxury hotels. Located on the western edge of Agia Paraskevi Beach, it offers rooms with direct sea views, a large garden, and a swimming pool. If you want to stay near Koukounaries as we did, we recommend Aelia Studios. The superb private lodging consists of individual apartments with kitchenettes and balconies with great views. If you want to be near Skiathos Town, consider staying on Megali Ammos beach. We suggest Tomato Beach Hotel. They treated us like kings!
Check out our detailed post on where to stay in Skiathos.
Skiathos Hiking Routes
There is only one transit road on the island, the one that connects Skiathos Town and Koukounaries. We don’t recommend walking by that road, as there are mostly no sidewalks. Nevertheless, all other roads on Skiathos are much less crowded and there are also many hiking paths. In the Koukounaries area, we strongly suggest taking a walk around the lagoon and the attached forest. Supposedly it is a bird sanctuary, although we didn’t see many birds. The hikes to both Banana beaches and the Agia Eleni are nice too. The adventurous should consider hiking towards the Mandraki or Elia beaches on the north. If you have a car, drive to Aselinos Beach, and from there hike east along the coast to Kehria Beach. This is the island’s most scenic hiking path.
Skopelos is the largest and the second most visited island in the Sporades. Up until 2007 (when the famous movie Mamma Mia was filmed here), it was a sleepy island. Since then, the number of tourists increased exponentially, though it’s still considerably more peaceful than its western neighbor. Dense pine forests cover most of the island, and there are two mountain peaks over 500 meters: Delphi and Palouki. Its capital, Skopelos Town, is one of the nicest towns in this part of Greece. Despite its bigger size, Skopelos hosts fewer beaches than Skiathos. All of them are made of small pebbles.
Skopelos Town, or Chora, is the capital of the island and its largest settlement. Due to the abundance of historical houses the town was declared a Traditional Settlement of Outstanding Beauty. Many houses were built according to the so-called Macedonian type; others are typical neoclassical mansions. The town’s most important landmark is the Venetian Fortress or Castro. It was built in the 13th century on a hill overlooking the town. Other interesting sites include the Church of the Virgin Mary, the Folklore Museum, and the Vakratsa House Museum. The whole town is one large pedestrian area.
Best Beaches in Skopelos
Panormos and Milia Beaches
Panormos is the most popular beach on Skopelos Island. It is at the end of a small bay on the island’s western coast. Several bars and restaurants dot this long pebble beach. Close to Panormos, north of the bay, there are several small private beaches collectively known as Adrines. Further north, across the Dassia Island, we find Milia, one of the best beaches in Skopelos. Tall hills with dense vegetation surround this beautiful beach. Though some call it the island’s only sandy beach, it includes a mixture of sand and small pebbles. North of Milia, Kastani is another lovely beach, albeit much smaller.
Stafilos and Velanio Beaches
Stafilos is the second most popular beach on Skopelos. It is on the island’s southeast corner, by the main road. The village of Stafilos is a bunch of houses by the road, a step away from the beach. Two peninsulas surround the beach, a small one on the west and a large one with an archeological site on the east. Behind the latter, we find Velanio beach, Skopelos’ only nudist beach. Again, it is a long strip of pebble beach, with lush green hills all around. There is only one bar on Stafilos, while there are no facilities on Velario Beach. The whole area has a very relaxed and natural feel.
Other beaches on Skopelos are not as nearly as beautiful. That said, Skopelos Town has a relatively nice beach, perfect to relax after a long day of sightseeing. The island’s second-largest town, Glossa, hosts a small beach by its port settlement of Loutraki. The planned town of Nea Klima has an urban beach, just like the Agnondas, on the south. Close to Agnondas, Limnonari is another beautiful beach surrounded by nature. Finally, the small beach close to the chapel where Mamma Mia was filmed is called Agios Ioannis.
Where to Stay in Skopelos
In Skopelos, we also recommend staying on the beach. There aren’t many options, especially if you are looking for a little bit of class. Without a doubt, the best choices are the two resorts next to Panormou, Adrina Beach Hotel, and Adrina Resort and Spa. Both are wonderful hotels with private beaches. The latter offers more luxury including a superb spa. Since you can’t stay directly on Stafilos beach, we suggest choosing one of the nearby hotels. Stafylos Suites & Boutique Hotel is probably the best option. Additionally, we recommend spending at least a day or two in the capital. We stayed at Akti Fine Rooms and loved everything about it.
Skopelos Hiking Routes
In Skopelos, there are hiking routes for all tastes and experience levels. Culture lovers will certainly enjoy walking along the old trail that connects the town of Skopelos with the Palouki Mountain. The route offers outstanding views and a couple of old monasteries. The most interesting ones are the Evangelistria, Timios Prodromos and Agia Varvara Monasteries. From Glossa, there are two nice hiking trails. The first one goes toward the opposite side of the island near Keramot Beach. The second one connects Loutraki to the old town of Klima.
How to Get to Skiathos and Skopelos
Volos to Skiathos and Skopelos by Ferry
The most convenient way of getting to both islands is by ferry from the port city of Volos. Several companies cover the route and they vary in speed, comfort, and price. We use Ferryhopper to check prices and book our ferry tickets across Greece. From Volos to Skiathos the boat ride lasts between 1h45m and 2h15m depending on the ship. Unlike Skiathos, which only has one port, Skopelos hosts three ports. Most boats arrive at Glossa and Skopelos Town, but some boats also stop in Agnontas. From Volos to Glossa it’s between 2h10m and 3h15m. The journey from Volos to Skopelos Town is a bit longer and takes from 2h45m to 4h10m.
Skiathos and Skopelos from Other Islands
In summer there boats connect the two islands with other destinations in Greece. Due to the current situation, these routes may be affected, so again we recommend checking Ferryhopper for the latest info. Two popular summer routes are Skiathos to the port of Mantoudi on Euboea Island, and Skiathos to Agios Konstantinos on the mainland. Finally, you can also reach Alonissos from both Skiathos and Skopelos. It is a perfect destination for a peaceful holiday.
Flying to Skiathos
Finally, you can also fly to the islands. The only airport in the Sporades is on Skiathos Island. There are direct flights to Skiathos International Airport from Athens throughout the year. In summer, there are flights from many European destinations, including London, Milan, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Vienna. Additionally, you can fly to Volos and take a ferry from there. A ferry from Skiathos to Skopelos town usually takes between 50m and 1h25m. However from Glossa it only takes between 15m and 30m. In summer, you can also travel from Skiathos to Skopelos by water taxi.