Beyond Mamma Mia!: A Pocket Guide to the Sporades Islands, Greece

Beyond Mamma Mia!: A Pocket Guide to the Sporades Islands, Greece

Skip Santorini and fun-loving Mykonos in favour of a slow-living escape in Greece’s Sporades islands. Movie buffs might recognise the archipelago from hit musical Mamma Mia!, but we’re here to guide you to the rustic-luxe hotels, quaint tavernas and the beaches loved by locals.

you think of the Greek islands, the dramatic volcanic
landscapes of Santorini
or Mykonos‘s
wild party scene might be the first things to spring to mind. For a
rather different island experience, head north to discover the
Sporades islands, where pine forests and secluded coves (along with
the occasional monk seal) provide the backdrop for a slow-living

Getting a sense of déjà vu? The lush landscapes of the Sporades
(officially the Northern Sporades) might well look familiar – many
of the outdoor scenes in the hit musical movie Mamma Mia! were
filmed here, including at Kastani Beach on Skopelos and the Old
Port of Skiathos. Yet the beauty of the archipelago doesn’t stop
there: Skiathos, Skopelos, Alonissos and Skyros are decorated with
pristine coastlines and fragrant pine forests, though each has its
own distinctive charm too.


The only member of the island group to have an international
airport, Skiathos may well be the beginning of your island-hopping
odyssey. Beyond its transport credentials, Skiathos draws visitors
with more than 60 glorious beaches (including the golden sands of
Koukounaries), nearly 200km of hiking trails and the lively
nightlife of Skiathos Town.

How to get there: Skiathos Alexandros
Papadiamantis Airport receives year-round flights from Athens, as
well as flights from Thessaloniki and other European destinations
during the summer season. Pro tip: the runway at Skiathos is very
short, so be prepared for a sharp landing. Ferries and high-speed
boats run from Volos and Agios Konstantinos on the mainland (often
continuing on to Skopelos and Alonissos), along with Thessaloniki
during the summer (these routes are subject to change,

Stay: Try La Piscine Art Hotel for easy access to
Skiathos Town or Elivi Skiathos for a luxurious stay close to

Eat: Dine at Marmita in Skiathos Town or Under
the Pine Tree
behind Koukounaries. Agnadio, on the road towards the Evangelistria
Monastery, serves some of the finest Greek food on the island.

Drink: Head to Danny and Zoe’s Blind Dog in Skiathos Town for live
music or La Bussola for chilled vibes after a day at

Do: Hike from town to the Evangelistria
Monastery or the Kastro, the ancient fortified capital of Skiathos.
Anyone wanting a history fix will also enjoy exploring the remains
of the Venetian Bourtzi fortress, while the house-museum dedicated
to celebrated author Alexandros Papadiamantis offers an
introduction to one of the island’s most famous residents and a
Greek literary great.

Best beaches: Koukounaries Beach, backed by
lush pine forest and wetlands; idyllic Lalaria Beach with its
impressive rock formations, accessible only by boat from Skiathos
town; and Big Banana for a party atmosphere and watersports.


If you thought Skiathos was green, wait until you see Skopelos.
More than 50 per cent of the island, set to the east of Skiathos,
is covered by virgin pine forest, while olives, plums, almonds and
honey are all cultivated here. Charming Skopelos Town is packed
with characterful tavernas and bar options, while the island’s 70km
of coastline hosts tree-lined pebble, shingle and sandy

How to get there: Ferries and high-speed boats
run from Volos and Agios Konstantinos on the mainland and Skiathos,
along with Thessaloniki during the summer.

Stay: Natura Boutique Luxury Hotel for an idyllic
escape near the quaint Loutraki harbour or Aperanto Galazio for panoramic views and rustic
design, perched above Skopelos Town.

Eat: Head to To Rodi in Skopelos Town to
experience Greek cuisine in a flower-adorned courtyard or savour
the catch of the day at Flisvos in Loutraki.

Drink: Mercurius in Skopelos Town serves the best
cocktails on the island, while Vrachos is in a class of its own
when it comes to views over the town.

Do: Explore the labyrinthine streets of
Skopelos Town and admire the traditional houses in the hillside
village of Glossa towards the island’s northern tip. Hike the
well-marked trails up Mount Palouki, stopping to admire the
monasteries and small churches on the way, or make the climb up to
the Agios Ioannis chapel – standing majestically 100m above the
water – where the wedding scene in Mamma Mia! was filmed.

Best beaches: The longest beach on the island,
Milia’s stretch of sand and pebbles is also regarded as the most
beautiful. Film fans, though, will undoubtedly want to visit the
pine-backed Kastani Beach of Mamma Mia! fame.


A living embodiment of the widely held truth that good things
come in small packages, Alonissos may be just 14km long and 4km
wide but compels with its secluded coves, hilltop Old Town (or
Chora) and awe-inspiring marine life. Along with six smaller
surrounding islets, the island forms part of the National Marine
Park of Alonissos – home to the rare Mediterranean monk seal. The
first marine park established in Greece and currently the largest
in Europe, it is also a haven for divers thanks not least to the
2020 opening of the site of an ancient shipwreck off the islet of
Peristera, dating back to around 425 BCE.

How to get there: Ferries and high-speed boats
link the island with Volos and Agios Konstantinos on the mainland
and Skiathos, along with Thessaloniki during the summer.

Stay: Find your Zen with minimalist design and
breathtaking island views at Althea Armonia Suites in the Old Town or go
green at the Ikion Eco Boutique Hotel a short walk from
Rousoum Gialos Beach and the port of Patitiri.

Eat: You can’t beat dinner under the vines and
the warm welcome at Taverna Astrofegia in the Old Town or taking in the
hustle and bustle of the village (along with bouzouki playing by
owner Nectarios) from one of the street tables at Kastro. Enjoy
refined takes on Mediterranean cuisine and stellar views at Thea
(also in the Old Town) or linger over freshly baked pies and
innovative salads at chic taverna and beach bar Eleonas
(Leftos Gialos Beach).

Drink: Though nightlife in Alonissos is
generally low key, late-night drinks at the Drunk Seal in Patitiri
are always a good time. In the Old Town, check out live Greek music
at Hayati or cocktails in the courtyard at Piperi.

Do: Walk the traditional old donkey path from
Patitiri to Alonissos’s Old Town and visit the fishing villages of
Steni Vala and Kalamakia for a true taste of slow island life.

Best beaches: Anyone in search of sand and
shallow waters will want to head to Chrisi Milia Beach, while the
horseshoe-shaped Agios Dimitrios Beach towards the island’s north
is considered by many to be Alonissos’s most beautiful. Charming
Megalos Mourtias is easily accessible from the Old Town and backed
by a duo of excellent tavernas, while the pristine white stones of
Leftos Gialos and adjacent Eleonas beach bar offer a stylish but
relaxed beach vibe.


The somewhat estranged brother of this island family, Skyros is
the southernmost (and largest) of the group. Less developed than
the others, the island’s northern half has the familiar pine
forests common to its siblings, while the southern half offers a
wild and slightly severe beauty in its rocky and relatively barren
landscape. Visitors are spellbound by the sugar-cube-esque white,
flat-roofed houses of the Chora, but families with children will be
particularly delighted by both the golden sandy beaches and the
chance to spot the local miniature Skyrian horses, reminiscent of
Shetland ponies.

How to get there: Flights run to Skyros from
Athens and Thessaloniki, along with ferries from Kymi on the island
of Evia.

Stay: Combine proximity to Magazia Beach with
whitewashed architecture and colourful gardens at Perigiali or opt for exceptional self-catering
accommodation at Anemonisia Deluxe Apartments.

Eat: Sample fresh seafood at Istories Tou Barba
at Magazia Beach or Asimenos by Aspous Beach, but leave room to try
the thin ladopita pie with local cheese at Mouries, not far from
Kalamitsa Beach.

Drink: Start your evening with waterside
cocktails at Ammoudia on Molos Beach or take in the views at
Kavos Lounge Café, set on the steep cliff overlooking
the island’s port.

Do: Visit the resident herds at the Skyros Island
Horse Trust
or Mouries Farm before delving into local folklore
at the Faltaits
. To go even further back in time, make a beeline for the
Byzantine castle or the archaeological site at the bronze-age city
of Palamari or, to experience a piece of living heritage, plan your
visit ahead of Easter to attend the vibrant pre-Lenten Skyros
Carnival. Wellness seekers will love Skyros Centre, which offers
yoga, art and writing retreats.

Best beaches: The most popular beaches on
Skyros are the sandy stretches of Magazia and Molos, while Agios
Petros, a shingle beach backed by cedar trees and sand dunes,
offers a more tranquil escape.

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