Located between the islands of Skiathos and Alonissos, SKOPELOS is the second largest of the Sporades island chain after Skyros.
Skopelos is virtually covered in forest, with 80% of the island cloaked in pine trees and there are several sleepy resorts scattered around the deeply indented shoreline.
Sandy beaches are relatively scarce on Skopelos; the north and east coasts are rugged with few resorts while, in the south and west, the hillsides slope more gently to the sea and there are several pleasant bays.
Olive and plum groves also help make up much of the lush, green interior of Skopelos where hillsides are dotted with the domes of churches and monasteries and there are many pleasant walks to be enjoyed.
Skopelos is popular with day-trippers escaping the crowds on nearby Skiathos and with those who prefer a quieter Greek island holiday retreat. Skopelos has for years attracted up-market travellers, helping to jack up prices but not as much as in overpriced Skiathos.
Skopelos doesn't have an airport but there are regular ferries from nearby Skiathos where the airport takes regular charter flights. It is a short ferry trip to Skopelos Town or to Loutraki, the island's other port.
The island has cashed in on the popularity of the hit musical movie 'Mamma Mia', starring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan, which features many location shots on Skopelos including the main beach scenes at Kastani.
Skopelos is much less well endowed with sandy beaches than its noisier neighbour Skiathos. Most beaches are stone and shingle and can be found along the south coast between Stafylos and Loutraki. They are served by the island bus which runs the runs the length of the island along the single main road though many still require a longish walk down a track from the nearest bus stop. Not all of them are pebble however. There is good sand to be found in the many near-deserted coves for those who hire a moped or are prepared to trek along more remote footpaths. Other beaches, especially those in the blustery north can only reached by boat - daily caiques go to the most popular spots. With fewer visitors overall, Skopelos beaches tend to be more tranquil and less crowded and the further you get from the capital the more peaceful they become.
SKOPELOS TOWN is picture postcard stuff with roofs of blue slate and red tile pitching down the slopes of the steep amphitheatre around the harbour. The focus of activity is on the long, tree-lined waterfront promenade lined with expensive restaurants, cocktail bars and tourist shops - all sheltered by plane and mulberry trees.
The northern end of Skopelos Town ends abruptly at a cliff wall where a row of chapels perch precariously above. Behind is a cobblestoned maze of streets that lead to the 13th century Venetian Kastro.
Now designated a preservation area, the streets claim to have more than 130 churches hidden among them. There are few shoddy concrete bunkers in Skopelos Town as the town escaped earthquake damage and wartime attacks by Nazis. Buildings are embellished with balconies, wrought iron trellises, brightly painted shutters and flowering plants.
Many of the Skopelos Town shops are stuffed with the usual tourist tat but there is a higher than average shelf space given to locally produced crafts including extremely beautiful ceramics and some nice wood carvings. There is also an small Museum of Folk Art, recently renovated.
The town's long, sand and shingle town beach may look inviting from a distance but closer inspection reveals it to be little more than a squalid, litter-strewn dump. Facing north against the prevailing summer wind, it attracts more than its fair share of flotsam. Rubbish regularly creeps round from the harbour, swept in by the current.
The water is very murky and not recommended for swimming unless you are both desperate to cool down and have all your inoculations are up to date. Sewage pipes that once ran straight into the harbour now extend out to sea but it is hardly a solution to the problem.
Fresh water from a covered culvert trickles into the sea. In the spring, many wading birds can be observed pecking their way through the debris and plastic. Nevertheless, in the high season, the beach is packed with holidaymakers - mainly Greeks.
The back of the beach at Skopelos Town, once a nice area for walks, has now been built up with several small hotels and apartments. There is another beach that is somewhat cleaner but it is very small and made up of stone and pebbles.
There is another small beach in the bay of Skopelos Town to the west at GLYFONERI. It is not much to look at though, just a narrow string of stone and shingle though it does have a very nice fish taverna above it.
Daily boat trips to GLYSTERI beach are widely advertised in Skopelos Town. The beach lies about 2km north of the port and can also be reached by road.
There is a small, stone and shingle beach set in a deep and secluded bay with a large taverna set back from the beach and sometimes a waterside cantina in the summer months.
There is also a campsite at Glysteri in the nearby olive groves for those who prefer roughing it. The only drawback for those trying to escape the crowds are the fairly regular visits from caiques which drop off day trippers en route to the sea caves at nearby TRIPITI.
The more adventurous can head a little further north to the small bay at VATHIAS, wild and unkempt with a steep winding road down to a scrap of rock and shingle.
The narrow beach of stone and shingle at SARES has the distinction of being the first and the last beach everyone sees as they arrive at or leave Skopelos on the ferry.
Sares is located on the east side of the island around the headland from Skopelos Town, Sares means steep and it is certainly is with great grey cliffs looming over it.
A recent rock fall has made Sares beach virtually inaccessible unless you have a boat and there is not much to enjoy when you get there, just steep cliffs, stone and shingle. There are no facilities
The lovely beach at VELANIO is still a favourite with nudists though they now tend to stay at the far eastern end beyond a rocky outcrop that splits the beach in the middle. More public than pubic, Velanio is found at the end of the south road out of Skopelos town and about 5km away.
Velanio beach is approached a short climb over the headland at the end of Stafylos beach. Velanio beach is bigger, steeper and deeper than its more popular neighbour. It is a mixture of stone and shingle and the further along the south-facing beach you go, the stonier Velanio it gets. The waters here are very clean and clear, ideal for swimming.
Velanio often takes the overspill from the family beach at Stafylos but it takes around 15 minutes to walk down from the bus stop on the main road, along Stafylos beach and over the headland. It has only a small cantina that opens in high summer. Lines of sunbeds occupy the more popular end of the beach; naturists make do with laying their straw mats on the smooth white stones.
Velanio resort is said to take its name from old Roman baths 'valaneia' that were once reputedly sited here but locals say 'venanio' simply means acorn and dismiss the Roman link. There is a spring near the end of the beach. Pick your way through the naturists to get to it.
The island's main beach at STAFYLOS or STAFILOS is popular with families, but only because it is the nearest to Skopelos town - about 5km directly south out of the harbour.
Access to Stafylos is off the main road and 500m down a steep tarmac road to some ever steeper stone steps. Tavernas at the top and bottom of the hill are most welcome for those on foot. For those using cars and bikes there are good car parks.
The narrow strip of sand and shingle at Stafylos, mostly shingle, is attractive enough - basking beneath steep and high scrub-covered cliffs. Its popularity has grown recently and the sandy bits get snapped up early.
The steep cliffs behind can seem a little oppressive and the narrow Stafylos beach only allows for one or two rows of sunbeds that are put out in high summer. The water is shallow with stone underfoot so beach shoes are needed.
On the road above, near the bus stop, there are a couple of tavernas and parking for cars. Small hotels and apartments are dotted about the Stafylos hillsides.
A rocky limb that juts out to sea is home to the tomb of the former Cretan general Stafylos, who gives his name to Stafylos beach. Among the treasures unearthed at the tomb were a 15th century gold-plated sword which is now housed in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
The pleasant fishing harbour at AGNONDAS or AGNONTAS is enclosed by hills of lush pine forest. It's about 3km west of Stafylos and 8km south of Skopelos Town on the main south coast road.
Several shoreline tavernas back onto the beach at Agnondas providing good food, especially fresh fish, and they make the place a pleasant spot for that seashore meal - at rather lower prices than you can find in Skopelos Town.
There is a very narrow strip of sand and shingle in front to the tavernas. Agnondas beach shelves gently into the sea protected by the steep hills on either side of the bay so it is safe for children, although sea urchins are a nuisance.
Agnondas beach turns to stone and shingle as you head around the bay and there is plenty of shade from trees that come right down to the shoreline. There are no sunbeds.
There is a mini market and a small tourist kiosk opens in the summer. Several small hotels and apartments have appeared in recent years and there is a regular bus service.
On the main road between Agnondas and Stafylos is a new dirt track which branches though the forest leading to several secluded small coves at AMARANDOS or AMARANTOS where pines sweep right down to the water's edge offering privacy and shade.
This large crescent of white sand at LIMNONARI is considered one of the best beaches on the island. As a result, caiques used to drop in here regularly with their cargoes of sunbathers and, though the service has recently finished, it may well start up again.
Limnonari can be reached down a steep tarmac road, well signposted off the main road and about 9km from Skopelos Town with a small car park at the end of the beach. Walkers can be dropped off by bus at Alikias but it's a long and steep walk down to the beach.
Two waterside tavernas offer the basics There are studios and apartments now backing Limnonari beach and sunbeds are on offer outside the tavernas. The long, wide beach at Limnonari is of sharp white sand and it can shelve steeply into the water in places.
Bathers must beware though. There is a sloping slab of slippy rock that runs the length of Limnonari beach. It keeps the water crystal clear but forces bathers to slide in and out of the water on their backsides. Not elegant but it works.
The stones are so white it can be almost blinding at midday and the underwater reflections can turn the sea at Limnonari a dazzling turquoise.
As the name suggests, PANORMOS is a beach with a view. The road threads through pine trees to a magnificent wide, sheltered bay riddled with small and secluded inlets reached by paths over the rocks, or by wading or swimming through the water along the shoreline.
The beach at Panormos is ideal for swimming; no sand anywhere but plenty of pebbles and they shelve pretty sharply into the sea. The sea also tends to be colder in this area than other Skopelos beaches.
Access is directly off the main road and there is plenty of parking space. Buses and taxis also call in from Skopelos Town - about 12km away.
There are several lively tavernas along the Panormos shore offering ranks of sunbeds. There are also a few shops and a couple of mini markets to serve the growing numbers of hotels and apartments that have sprung up in the area. Panormos was once the site of an ancient city and sections of old wall can still be seen.
Walks through the woods west of Panormos and towards Milia will take you the area known as ADRINA or ADRINES where there are many small and isolated coves of shingle, often deserted and enclosed by pines.
Land beside a hotel has been sold off and is now fenced, preventing access from the road. The only access now is a footpath from the northern end of Panormos beach or by boat.
MILIA is considered by many to be the most beautiful beach on Skopelos. The holiday visitor is greeted by a three silver swathes of tree-lined pebble and sand with crystal clear waters and a large taverna sited behind the main central beach.
To the south of Milia is a long, deep swathe of white stone and pebble, backed by groves of bamboo. A beach bar opens in the summer offering sunbeds and watersports. Large slabs of rock lie underwater along the Mila shoreline. Mila beach is far too big to get crowded but those seeking more solitude can find small coves even further south.
In the centre of Mila beach is an attractive rocky outcrop, great for snorkeling, with sunbeds dotted around the tiny inlets and a shady summer cantina on the headland rock above. To the north is another swathe of stone.
Milia lies north of Panormos, over the headland, about 14km south-west of Skopelos Town and a similar distance east from Glossa, the island's second largest village. Access ito Milia is down a tarmac road off the main road and there is a small car park with more parking in the roadside taverna.
Out to sea there is the small, pine clad island of Dasia which can easily be reached by boat.
A kilometre or so north of Milia brings you to the splendid beach of KASTANI. One of the island's sandiest beaches, Kastani was used for beach scenes in the hit musical movie of Mamma Mia.
The approach is down a steep, pine cloaked and heavily rutted dirt track and there is not much room to turn at the bottom so take car with the car. A beach cantina sometimes springs up in the summer but there are no other facilities.
Kastani is a pretty bay of fine, sharp sand with rocks at either end. The pines roll right down to the shore so there is some natural shade.
A small jetty appeared briefly but it was only a mock-up, built for the movie set of Mamma Mia and has since, like the film crews and movie stars, vanished leaving no trace of their activities except a war of words with neighbouring Skiathos over which island features most in the movie - it is Skopelos and this beach in particular.
Further along the coast north of Milia are several more coves, all quite difficult to get to, being away from the main road and usually visited by those who have hired a boat. All are stone and shingle and their main attraction lies is in their peace and seclusion.
The best are just north of Kastani at NERAKI and FTELIA, each side of a small and attractive bay, and further north EKATOPENINDARI and eventually HOVOLO which is on the outskirts of Elios.
Eleos means mercy and ELIOS is where the island's patron saint Reginus is believed to have delivered his flock from a fearsome dragon. The beach is a scruffy, unkempt straggle of stone and scrub and this part of the island is intermittently affected by deep, earthy rumblings.
The rather unsightly village was slapped up after the 1965 earthquake dislodged the hillside village of old Klima further up the coast. No matter what people say about the ugliness of the village (and when it will ever be finished), it has to be said that the large beach is pretty poor, with little to recommend it.
You can drive right up to the beach and there are sunbeds and showers in high summer. The village above and behind has a few tavernas and mini markets.
There are also several shingle coves along this part of the coast, most notably to the south at Hovolo, though access is not very easy. To the north dirt tracks run down off the main road for several kilometres to small, peaceful shingle coves at KARKADZOUNA, KALYVES, AMENOPETRA and DAFNI with Kalyves and Amenopetra, separated by a small headland, considered to be the best. The approaches however are down steep and difficult dirt tracks and are unlikely to attract any but the most adventurous.
Before climbing the hillside to the mountain village of Glossa, the main road passes through the village of KLIMA. Klima is actually two villages PALIO KLIMA and NEO KLIMA although the whole area is now usually referred to, somewhat confusingly, as Elios/Klima.
The 1965 earthquake on Skopelos forced most villagers out of their homes on the hillside and into shelters that were built at Elios to the south. Many of the once derelict houses have since been snapped up by mainland Greeks and foreigners. They were sold at knockdown prices and rebuilt as holiday homes.
This means that many of the houses in the area are left untended and untenanted for most of the year. As a result the village fails to live up to expectations. It is either absent, or far too full, of foreigners.
Both circumstances make for a dormitory village without much heart. Nevertheless, since the homes have been restored or rebuilt it is now a pretty enough place to visit and there are some spectacular views over the bay. There is a small shingle cove at KOSTA.
LOUTRAKI is the small and pretty port for the village of Glossa and the second harbour on Skopelos, but the first port of call for ferries from Skiathos and the mainland.
It is a quiet fishing village which has kept to its traditional ways and does not have the commercialism you find in the main port of Skopelos Town.
Loutraki gets the late morning sun and has beautiful sunsets. There are many cafes and restaurants in the village and two fish tavernas. Hotels and rooms for rent are numerous in Loutraki as there is little accommodation in Glossa aside from vacation villas.
There are beaches nearby, the largest is located right behind the pier. If you prefer there are quiet coves within walking distance. Loutraki was known as Selinounda in ancient times and there are ruins all around the area, such as Roman baths, remains of Athena's temple and a market place. The church is also built on the remains of an old temple.
Report by Karen Wenzek
When I visited I found an unkempt pebble beach at a dull, fishing port that mainly serves a ferry stop for visitors to the much prettier village of Glossa perched high on the hill above.
There is a long, drab cement quay, a scruffy collection of houses and some imposing cliffs behind. Not many people stay here, preferring the more attractive village of Glossa on the hillside above.
Those that do can find secluded coves along the coastline. The most notable one is along a coastal path south to a small shingle and rock beach at KATALAKOU and at GLYSTRA to the north.
The other main tourist town of Skopelos is a picturesque hillside village of 1,200 people and views to die for. There are ruins in GLOSSA dating from 400 BC as well as Byzantine walls to poke about in.
The traditional village way of life has so far managed to stand fast against the annual and ever growing influx of visitors and the place oozes charm, unlike the drab port of Loutraki below.
The houses in Glossa are mostly two storey with wooden balconies and the fields are full of plum and almond trees. Several dirt roads lead out of the port village to provide lovely walks to nearby sights of interest.
There is the ugly monastery of Agios Ioannis which perches high on rocks overlooking a small cove, the monastery of the Agion Taxiarchon, built on the remains of a 7th century Byzantine church and the Gourouni Cape which has a lighthouse.
Other roads and tracks lead down to deserted beaches. On the northwest coast are MYRTIA and KOUTRIA, while to the east there are pebble coves to be found at PERIVOLI, PETHAMENI, HONDROGIORGI, KERAMOTO, MAVRAKI and SPILIA.
Like all remote north coast beaches they are prone to collect debris and rubbish. Many are difficult to find and only Spilia and Perivoli have roads leading to them.
Pethameni is at the bottom of a steep and precipitous path but has small beach and some good snorkeling. Hondrogiorgi has easier access and so is popular with locals at weekends.
At Spilia there is a cave and a chapel built on a spectacular headland above a double coved beach. The headland was created when the cliffs collapsed into the sea and the chapel featured strongly in the hit movie musical Mamma Mia.