Island Hopping: the Sporades in 7 Days

Skiathos is home to a slew of popular beaches, many of which are well-equipped
Skiathos is home to a slew of popular beaches, many of which are well-equipped | Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash
Helen Iatrou

Calm sapphire waters, hillsides awash with pine trees and traditional stone-built villages make the Sporades islands a tempting choice for sailors yearning for a Greek getaway. Skiathos, Skopelos and Alonissos, in particular, are in close proximity, making island-hopping easy and enjoyable. Further afield, remote Skyros rewards those willing to make the journey over. Harness a softer version of summer’s northerly winds and explore this lush, laidback corner of the Aegean.

Cruise around the Sporades islands by hiring a boat through Dream Yacht Charter. Alternatively, charter a yacht for the day with SamBoat.

Day One: Skiathos

Despite its small size, Skiathos’ prime attraction is its 60-plus beaches. Among those closest to the island’s main town is subdued Agia Eleni beach, where you can stretch out on a sun lounger or try windsurfing. Explore further afield via 25 marked trails that cross the island through thick pine forests, across streams and past landmarks like early 19th-century Evangelistria monastery. Back in Skiathos Town, at its bustling port, prepare to spend your first night on the boat, but first take a walk around Bourtzi islet, where you might catch a live concert in summer. One of Skiathos’ most sought-after lunch locations is found here, at café-bar-restaurant Bourtzi.

The famous Skiathos bench perched overlooking the marina

Day Two: Skiathos to Panormos, Skopelos

From Skiathos, head east to Skopelos. Drop anchor in emerald-coloured Panormos Bay on the southwestern coast of Skopelos, where pine trees tiptoe almost to the water’s edge. Remains of archaic city walls can be seen atop a hill above the bay, which served as one of the island’s three fortified settlements. Just a 12-minute walk south, take a dip in the slim, natural harbour of Blo that’s so beloved of yachties. Legend has it that fearless she-pirate Adrina moored her ships in Panormos and Blo; locals have searched for her lost treasure ever since. Plums thrive on Skopelos, so make sure you sample savoury and sweet dishes made with the fluffy avgato variety.

Skopelos town and its elegant harbour are a must-see for sailors in the area

Day Three: Panormos to Agnondas and Skantzoura

Sail south to Agnondas, a tiny fishing port named after a triumphant ancient Olympian. Even in high winds, with the exception of westerlies, this location offers excellent protection. Swim in the crystalline sea, then savour pasta with local crayfish at Korali or limpet risotto at Pavlos, two of the best beachside tavernas in the area. From there, sail east to uninhabited Skantzoura islet, which forms part of Europe’s largest underwater park, the National Marine Park of Alonissos and the Northern Sporades. Spot Eleonora’s falcons and rare Audouin’s gulls. Anchor at Limani, where you can disembark and hike uphill to the ruins of an abandoned monastery.

Crayfish spaghetti is the must-try speciality at Korali Taverna

Day Four: Skantzoura to Kyra Panagia

Another islet within the park, Kyra Panagia features two extraordinary natural harbours. Byzantine seafarers anchored in Agios Petros, in the southwest. In the northeast, Planitis’ narrow entrance opens up to an impressively large bay. Anchoring and overnighting is permitted at both, so swim and snorkel freely, however, disembarkation is not. If you’re lucky, spot one of just 60 Mediterranean monk seals, a protected species – make sure to keep out of its way. Cuvier’s beaked whales and sperm whales have also been spotted in these waters. Drop the hook at Monastiri and walk to the stone-built Panagia Monastery, where monks reserve a warm welcome for visitors and may treat you to a glass of their own wine.

Sailors find it hard to resist the aquamarine waters of Kyra Panagia, off Karpathos

Day Five: Kyra Panagia to Steni Vala and Patitiri, Alonissos

Head south to Alonissos and your first stop, Steni Vala, a small harbour and fishing village on the sleepy island’s western coast. Take the dinghy to neighbouring Agios Petros beach for a swim surrounded by pines, olive groves and fig trees. At Tassia’s Cooking taverna, try Alonissos’ white alalunga tuna as sunset turns the sea a dusky pink. Further south is the island’s low-key capital Patitiri, where you can dock overnight at the port. The shallow waters of Chrysi Milia beach lie a short dinghy ride away. From the port, walk uphill to the beautifully-maintained, stone-built old town and pick up local sweets from the women’s agrotourism cooperative.

The amazing beach of Steni Vala is a must-visit on Alonnisos island

Day Six: Alonissos to Skopelos Town

Set sail for Skopelos once more, but this time your destination is its colourful main town on the southeastern coast, where you can dock at its well-sheltered harbour. At this listed settlement, neoclassical villas rub shoulders with traditional homes featuring wooden balconies, similar to those in mainland Pelion. Follow cobblestoned calderimia (paths) along which locals would gather resin from Aleppo pines that gave Greece’s classic retsina wine its distinctive taste. If you’d prefer to kick back at the island’s coolest beach bar, jump in the dinghy and motor north to pebble beach Glysteri. For breakfast, bet on the local spiral-shaped cheese pie and, for dinner, seek out grouper stifado casserole.

Glysteri Beach is up there with the finest in Skopelos

Day Seven: Skopelos Town to Glossa and Skiathos

On the final day of your Sporades adventure, sail around Skopelos’ northern tip and head south to Loutraki port on the western coast. Here, freshwater springs nurture countless olive, almond and plum trees spilling down the hillside. Take a taxi up to Glossa, a village built 300m (984ft) above the sea. Wander around steep flagstone streets, lined with two-storey terracotta-roofed Macedonian-styled sea captain’s houses. Pause for thick Greek coffee on its cosy square and keep an eye out for village women in traditional dress. For sweeping views of the Aegean that reach as far as Evia island, lunch at Agnanti restaurant, whose chef sources purple artichokes and other organic ingredients locally. From here, Skiathos port is a short sail west.

Explore the best of the Sporades islands by booking a sailing vacation with Dream Yacht Charter, or just rent a vessel for the day with SamBoat.

This is an updated rewrite of an article originally by Ethel Dilouambaka.

Glossa is a popular spot to wind down a Sporades boat tour

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