I had never even considered Skyros as a holiday destination. It’s not in the Cyclades, it’s not even one of the more famous islands in the Sporades which it belongs to. Until recently the only way to get there was via ferry from Evia, which isn’t the most straightforward of drives if Athens is your starting point. A few years ago Aegean started a new route, making Skyros perfect for a long weekend getaway. Very reasonably priced, at around €40 each way, the half hour flight is the perfect way to get here.
From the moment we landed, we were happy we made the trip. Everyone we met was laid back and genuinely polite, not bending over backwards to put on a fake smile just because the tourist plane had arrived. The short drive to the main settlements of Magazia and Chora helped further set the mood. This is not a place overtaken by tourism. A lovely combination of trees, hills, sea views and cute Cycladic looking buildings: not much to complain about really.
We stayed at a lovely family-run, boutique hotel offering great rooms, sea views, a pool and above all a warm welcome, in Magazia. One of those places where modern design doesn’t take anything away from traditional Greek values like filoxenia. If you’re feeling really lazy, there is a beach at the end of the path the hotel is on, a few cute tavernas and cafes too. We were here on a proper foodie mission though and boy did Skyros not disappoint. Over the next few days we enjoyed some of the best food we’ve tried anywhere in Greece; food which was also very reasonably priced and served in salt of the earth establishments, making you feel right at home.
Skyros is known for its miniature horses, their wood carving tradition, but above all their lobster pasta. Heaven on a plate is served in many of the restaurants here (during the months when lobsters can actually be harvested) but Stelios’ fish taverna in Gyrismata is one of the best. Great staff, sea views, even the world’s friendliest German shepherd set the scene for an amazing meal. Everything we ate, from the prawns, the pies to the salad were top notch. That’s until the lobster arrived of course. Don’t moan about it taking about 40mins to prepare, it’s worth every minute. We were also told that during the summer months (we visited in early June, before the season was in full swing), you can take a boat to one of the many cute nearby island beaches and have the lobster pasta made for you on board. A whole other experience of course but Stelios would be hard to beat in any case.
Skyros may not have the famous beaches you see in most travel supplements but there are plenty of options, many of which are without a sun lounger or beach bar in sight. Pefko is one of the most well known as the tree-lined hills surrounding it and the amazing green/blue waters give it a real lagoon feel. Hire a car and drive around. There are many cute bays to discover but we won’t mention all the names here. Our friends in Skyros won’t be pleased if we gave away all their secrets away in one go!
The main village is the Chora, which like on most Greek islands is built on a hill. It looks really cute as you drive in from the airport and there are some amazing views to be enjoyed from Brook square. Head towards the main square though to get a real feel of the place. Lined with cafes, it is a meeting place for young and old. Don’t expect party vibes here but if you like the feeling of being in a real village and enjoy people watching, this is the place for you. The Chora also has a number of great food options along the main street: simple tavernas offering honest Greek food, from grilled meats to basic ‘kafenio’ menus. You won’t be disappointed by the quality of the ingredients or the prices. There are also a couple of old school ice cream parlours to take care of those cravings after a long dinner and a glass or two of wine.
Make sure you switch off when you arrive. Just take notice of the island’s rhythms and join in. Drive to the beach or take a boat trip, walk around the Chora in the early evening, meet the little horses at Mouries’ farm or take in the sunset at Brook square. Oh and eat and then eat again. Forget about dieting when you’re in Skyros. Start your day off with a traditional Greek breakfast at your hotel (Ammos and Nefeli are known for them) or get some yummy pies in the Chora and then work up an appetite for your main meal, whenever that may be. No rush, it is Skyros after all.
This article was first published in Australian newspaper Neos Kosmos on September 5th 2015. Reproduced with kind permission, all rights reserved.