Skiathos, the smallest of the Northern Sporades islands just off the magical Pelion peninsula on the mainland, has seen a surge in tourism-related development in recent decades and remains one of the most popular domestic and international holiday destinations. It is a lush pine-tree covered island with an extensive selection of beaches and a vibrant main town of sizeable and closely packed tile-roofed houses that stretch out along a cove divided in half by Bourtzi, a small verdant blob of land that was once the site of a Venetian fortress. The esplanade with its countless cafes and restaurants continues past the town in the general direction of the airport and Agios Georgios lagoon, an oasis of aquatic fauna, and then curves along a pine-covered peninsula. Skiathos’ main community is in equal parts traditional and modern, which means that besides being a family-oriented destination, the island has plenty of wine and dine options, and a lively nightlife scene. Out of town, during spring or some of the cooler summer days, the island’s pristine pine-covered central and northern regions make it ideal for long walks or cycling tours off the beaten track. Skiathos, like many other places in Greece, has had its fair share of forest fires, usually attributed to negligence or arson, but local groups are doing their best to preserve the island’s natural environment.
Kastro is Skiathos’ 14th century capital on its windy northern coast, a blend of splendid ruins and some restored churches perched above a beach. Closer to town and at the foot of the island’s highest peak is its most prominent monastery, the Evangelistrias, that includes a folklore museum. The first ever Greek flag was woven here during the 1821 Greek Revolution of Independence and there is also a library with rare 17th century manuscripts. The island’s forte is its beaches but during peak season, it is best to go the extra mile beyond the deck chair and beach bar zone. Otherwise, two obvious, family-oriented choices are Megali Ammos and Vromolimnos, the site of occasionally intense beach activity. Similarly dotted with umbrellas, and with water sports available in some are Koukounaries, Agia Eleni, Banana and Achladias. The shallow waters at Troulos make it ideal for children and more reserved swimmers. Lalaria beach has unforgettable turquoise waters and is one of the most beautiful in the country. Kastro, Kryfi Ammos, Megas Gialos and Mikri Asselinos are more on the quiet side and so far free from beach furniture and adrenaline-addled activities.