The Best Things to Do in Skyros, Greece

The laid-back Greek island of Skyros has plenty of pretty views and historic sites to explore
The laid-back Greek island of Skyros has plenty of pretty views and historic sites to explore | © Stratos Giannikos / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Rebecca Speare-Cole
29 September 2021

Ferries from the port of Kymi on Greece’s east coast will take you to the fashionable, low-key island of Skyros – the largest of the Sporades. Relatively untouched by international tourists, the island is a mixture of secluded shimmering bays, laid-back towns and fascinating traditions. For those looking for a tranquil yet invigorating break, Skyros has an eclectic mix of things to do.

Hike up Mount Olympus

Natural Feature
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Skyros’ Mount Olympus isn’t the Mount Olympus – otherwise known as Mountain of the Gods – on mainland Greece. But with a bird’s-eye view of the Aegean Sea from its summit, this mountain in northern Skyros is worth visiting. Follow a circular route from the main town Hora through peaceful pine forests and up towards the peak. The entire trail is 12.7km (7.9mi) and takes five hours – but if you want a shorter trip, halve the hike by turning back to Hora after you’ve hit the summit.

Monastery of Saint George

Building, Monastery
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Monastery St. George of Skyros at Chora the main settlement and capital of the island of Skyros, in Sporades complex, central Greece, Aegean sea
© GERMAINE ALEXAKIS / Alamy Stock Photo
The Monastery of Saint George, tucked away within the walls of the Byzantine Castle above Skyros Town, was damaged in a 2001 earthquake but reopened to visitors in 2015. Spend the afternoon wandering around the monastery’s whitewashed buildings and paved courtyards, lined with exotic plants in big ceramic pots, before heading inside the Saint George church, where you can marvel at the valuable frescos and exquisite religious paintings. Don’t miss epic views of the town and ocean from the west-side balcony.

Head to the Byzantine Castle of Skyros

Archaeological site, Ruins, Historical Landmark
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Chora of Skyros island as seen from a nearby beach, Greece.
© Milan Gonda / Alamy Stock Photo
This Byzantine Castle sits at the highest point of Skyros Town. While only a fraction of the original fortifications remains, you can begin to imagine the stone castle in its former glory. From its walls, take in vistas of whitewashed box-shaped houses, golden beaches and the Aegean Sea. You can also dip into the Saint George Monastery, located within the castle walls, as you learn about some of Skyros’ most important history and snap photos from the epic viewpoints.

Scuba dive in the Aegean

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Whether you’re a complete beginner or an experienced deep-sea diver, Gorgonia Diving Centre, in the tiny settlement of Acherounes, will help you see the best of underwater Skyros. You’ll drift through quiet blue caves and past orange coral, play with sea turtles and explore the untouched reefs – spotting tiny nudibranchs, wiggling sea worms and kaleidoscopic fish. They’ll supply all of the necessary equipment needed.

Go horse riding at Appaloosa

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Pictures from Skyros Island in Greece
© Christos Chatzigiannis / Alamy Stock Photo
Skyros’ mountains are home to a rare breed of short ponies, treasured by locals. There’s a strict look but don’t touch policy with the Skyros ponies – instead visitors are encouraged to ride regular horses at the Appaloosa Horse Club, in the island’s northern hills. Explore the island’s wilderness on horseback, cantering over breezy hilltops, or sign up for the three-hour excursion to the beach – where you can gallop at golden hour before dismounting for a swim.

Enjoy a lazy day at Kalogria Beach

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Kalogria Beach, in the Kyra Panagia bay on Skyros’ northwest coast, is an idyllic spot, designed for whiling away hours under the sun. Get there in good time to nab a comfortable sunbed, complete with a straw umbrella, and make use of the changing cabins if needs be. Break from the rays only to feast on fresh Greek salads and pink wine from the Cooknara Beach Bar, a short way back from the beach.

Visit the Ethnological and Folklore Museum of Manos and Anastasia Faltaits

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Fascinated by folklore? Head to this museum, spread across the Faltaits family’s sprawling 19th-century mansion, which unravels mythology, folklore and lifestyle from various periods of Skyros’ long history. The multi-level labyrinth, just below Brooke Square in Skyros Town, showcases traditional local costumes, antique furniture, weapons, cooking pots, manuscripts, rare books and old photographs. Time it right and you can watch plays and concerts from the stone amphitheatre that’s still in action. Stop by the gift shop to pick up vibrant fabrics, bespoke ceramics and colourful prints.

Go back in time at the Archaeological Museum of Skyros

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Escape the scorching heat by wandering through this fascinating courtyard museum, which displays artefacts from the Early Helladic to the Roman occupation. The museum offers English-language leaflets, so you can read up on the island’s rich history as you cruise between glass cabinets full of Mycenaean pottery, Skyros jewellery and artefacts from the Bronze Age excavation at Palamari. You’ll be transported back in time with a recreation of a traditional Skyrian house interior with all its everyday tools and furniture.

Visit Brooke Square

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
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Brooke Square Skyros
© GERMAINE ALEXAKIS / Alamy Stock Photo
In the middle of Skyros Town stands a statue of British World War I poet Rupert Brooke, who died on a navy ship moored off the island in 1915. You can visit his remote hilltop grave in the south, but there’s also an impressive bronze statue in the paved area of Skyros Town called Brooke Square. The monument overlooks the sweeping coastline and whitewashed local houses, and is best photographed when glowing in twilight light.

Celebrate at carnival

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Every year over the last two weeks of February, locals dress in goat masks, hairy jackets and belts ladened with dozens of copper bells – and dance through the streets of Skyros Town. It is attended by few in-the-know foreigners, meaning it’s a truly unique opportunity to witness an authentic local ritual. Join the thongs of party-goers and strangely attired figures, clanking their bells in the light of blazing red flares.

These recommendations were updated on September 29, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh. This article is an updated version of a story created by Rebecca Speare-Cole

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