A week’s sailing into Greek Sporades Islands

It’s been our third year sailing the Greek islands, but it is the first time we visit the Sporades. Sporades is a lovely group of 24 islands located to the east of central mainland Greece. Just 4 of those islands are inhabited though – Alonnisos, Skiathos, Skopelos and Syros.
‘Sporades’ means ‘scattered islands (from the word ‘sporadic’).

Unlike the Cyclades we have sailed to so far, all Sporades islands are very green, and have numerous bays. They are also more populated than the Sporades, and some of them (Skiathos, Alonissos) are even too touristic and noisy.

Our first stop from the trip (excluding a quick layover in Thassos, which was on our way from Kavala to Sporades) was Alonissos. Among the 4 inhabited Sporades islands this one is farthest to the East, and considered least touristy from all, though we saw huge crowds coming and going away on ferries and bigger boats. Most signs and restaurant menus were also written in Italian, and also the locals spoke mostly Italian and not English, so suppose many Italians enjoy the quietness of the island.

The island doesn’t offer much sightseeing, but its houses are quite pleasant, full of flowers and fruit trees. You won’t see here the palms of the Cyclades, but rather lots of grape, fig and plum trees, in addition to the standard citrus trees.

As usual for Greek islands, the main street is the one located along the sea, and this is where the stores and souvenir shops go. In an awful noon heat, we had to stroll quite a lot to find an open grocery shop – most shops are closed between 2 and 6 pm.

We replenished our provisions, had a delicious lunch in one of the numerous tavernas along the port, and headed to some of the bays around. In the expectedly hot climate of the islands, it’s best to go in the open and windy sea than sweat on the land.

Skiathos is the most popular Sporades island among the tourists, and a really ‘party’ island. Skiathos city, the main city on the island, is literally flooded with restaurants and bars, making it a bit unattractive for adorers of quiet unspoilt places like our crew. Still, we enjoyed a stroll among abundantly colored cafes and souvenir shops of all kinds, located, as usual, in the huge marina street. The choice of a taverna for dinner was difficult as usual, with numerous tavernas scattered on the inside streets of the island.

With morning heat coming over, we quickly took off for a trip around the island. Among the bays and beaches we visited was also a quick view of the ‘most beautiful beach in the Aegean sea’ (according to the boat pilot) – Koukounaries. ‘Quick’ – because we couldn’t stand the loud music and the sight of huge crowds sweating on the narrow stripe of the beach. OK – everyone has a different understanding of ‘holiday’ and ‘relax’, I admit.

Skopelos was the third and last island we visited, but a real beauty. It’s larger than Skiathos, but not as popular among tourists (a fact we really enjoyed). Skopelos is famous among many for its church, featured in Mamma Mia movie. The church is perched on a small rock, and may be reached via stairs. Many people go there, but it’s not a boat-friendly place so we checked it out from the sea only.
I liked much better Skopelos city though – a paradise in the Sporades, and a place definitely worth visiting (it’s easily reachable via ferries from the mainland). The city has 123 shrines, mostly opening during specific holidays, but what charmed me was the colors – of the houses, of the flowers, of house decorations. Unlike the Cyclades, where you see mainly white and different nuances of blue, here the pink, yellow and green windows and doors are something usual. Interesting wall and house decorations surprise you here and there, and cafes under big, shady trees, all of them with wireless internet, completed this idyllic landscape.

A real place to relax and enjoy, I place I would want to go back again.

How about the crisis in Greece? (one may wonder). There doesn’t seem to be such. Or at least we didn’t notice any change in the calm and positive attitude of Greeks towards life and visitors. Creece is as peaceful as ever, and still a great vacation place.

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