Last updated on April 13th, 2018
Skopelos Island – Greece – introducing your next holiday destination
Are you still looking to book your summer holiday? Rest assured that more than half of holiday-makers book their summer break about 2-3 months in advance. If you have not made any plans yet, there is still time. Skopelos Island exceeds the expectations of nearly every visitor that decides to visit the ‘Greenest island of the Mediterranean’.
Go ahead, book your holiday in Skopelos and be amazed at what this island has to offer you
Skopelos island is part of the Aegean Sea archipelago, located between Skiathos and Alonissos. All three islands comprise the Sporades group of islands. In 2008, Skopelos became the epicentre of Hollywood, when its producers chose it as the main stage for the award-winning musical ‘Mamma Mia’. For over one month, Skopelos was the main hive of top Hollywood actors, producers and hundreds of other people (dancers, camera crew, official photographers, security, paparazzi).
The photographers involved in the making of this Musical captured thousands of breathtaking images of Skopelos Island that travelled throughout the world. These captures generated an international buzz, which was unprecedented for the island. This was only a glimpse of what was to follow once Mamma Mia was officially released.
Spoiler alert: Skopelos Island was not swamped with millions of tourists, lost its charm and everything transformed into Mamma Mia theme parks and Abba souvenirs
I know that most of us would think this would happen to a small island that entered the ‘Hollywood Realm’. That ..” the winner takes it all“, and that would be ..”our last summer“. In fact, most visitors discovered that the locals had hardly taken advantage of the huge benefits that a Musical such as Mamma Mia would offer. If Skopelos were somewhere like the US, it would already be occupied by “..dancing queens” and transformed into “Mamma Mia-Land“.
Instead, it absorbed most of the crazed impact in a very discreet manner. One could say that it was more like apathy than anything else. The municipality’s Tourism Board argued among its members about the best marketing campaigns using the Musical as the driving force. Plans that failed to materialise due to lack of funds and lack of marketing expertise. Looking back 10 years, however, since the making of the movie, nothing happened without reason.
A few cafe bars dedicated to Mamma Mia opened up the following year but closed a few months later. A lounge beach bar opened at ‘Kastani Beach’, where the famous beach scenes were filmed – this lasted for about 8 years. Some island tours dedicated to the sites of the movie started taking place a few years later. They only highlight some of the best locations Skopelos Island has to offer anyway. After all, you cannot miss a visit to the breathtaking chapel of ‘Agios Ioannis’, (aka the Mamma Mia chapel), during your holiday in Skopelos.
The stage lights got switched off, the Hollywood actors went home impressed with what Skopelos has to offer. Deep blue waters, pristine beaches, lush, verdant landscapes and some of the best Greek island architecture.
I do believe that Mamma Mia placed an unfazed Golden Star above the island of Skopelos in Google maps.
Many would argue against my belief and claim that a bigger influx of visitors arrives only to be wowed by the movies’ sites.This is not true since a more significant percentage of visitors have not even heard or seen the movie prior to setting foot on the island.
I work in the Tourism industry and often quote “Mamma Mia” when referring to the main sites used by the movie. More than half of them have not even seen the musical, and a smaller percentage don’t even know it was filmed in Skopelos. Similar cases can be seen in other Greek islands that were used as main stages for many Hollywood movie top hits. See Cephalonia and ‘Captain Koreli’s mandolin“. “Zorba the Greek” in Crete or “For your eyes only” the James Bond movie shot in surreal Meteora and many more classics. None of these places suffered due to the fame that has generously been offered as a side effect.
How to access Skopelos from the mainland
Unlike the neighbouring island of Skiathos, Skopelos does not have airport access. The lack of air transport can sometimes be a curse, but most of the times it can be a blessing. Arriving at Skopelos involves hopping onto a plane, landing at Skiathos airport and then hopping onto a passing ferry heading for Skopelos and Alonissos islands. As you have guessed, people don’t visit only for the ease of access. Travelling here can prove to be a little adventurous at times (see start and end of summer-season).
They visit Skopelos because of its character. The authenticity maintained throughout the decades. The more relaxed atmosphere. The lack of 5-star all-inclusive resorts and teenage-crazed nightlife.
There are several ways you can reach Skopelos. As mentioned above, the most direct would be to get a charter flight to Skiathos and then catch the next available ferry passing from Skiathos. Here is a good source of available charter flights from most European countries that fly into Skiathos.
If a charter flight is not available, you can easily fly into Athens. This way you will end up saving too since it is usually less expensive than a charter flight. If you find yourselves in Athens for a day or two, you can get some great tips on what to do and see for a long weekend or less here.
Your ferry ride from Skiathos lasts about 45 minutes to 1-hour, (depending on whether you embark on a high-speed vessel or a conventional ferry boat). If you do take the slower boat, I would definitely recommend that you find a comfortable spot on deck instead of the cushy interiors. The passage along the mesmerising north shoreline of this island will reward you.
You will witness just how green Skopelos Island is. How the deep blue Aegean Sea meets the green pines and weather-beaten shrubs. The countless coves that make up this often forbidding, north-east shore.
A glimpse into the main town of Skopelos Island
The first sight of Skopelos town as the ferry approaches its bay, is enough to take your breath away. Build amphitheatrically, the town appears to embrace you as soon as you enter the port. The Venetian castle rests on top, guardian of this place for hundreds of years. The red roof tiles of its houses create a warm and calming contrast with the white, blue and green colours sprawled all around you.
Losing yourself in the maze of cobblestone streets is the best way to see and discover Skopelos town. It offers many picture-perfect corners for the amateurs and the professional photographers alike. Countless chapels and churches, (365 in the whole island), each with its own distinct architecture. In almost every corner you take, the bougainvillaea and jasmine trees will greet you, create a beautiful display.
The waterfront area offers a lot of great places to do some people watch. Sit at either a modern café with plush armchairs or go for the more traditional approach; the old-fashioned ‘Kafeneon’ where the ‘ol boys enjoy their Greek coffee or ouzo. You can still have a conversation with them even if you don’t speak a word of Greek.
If you are an early riser, I strongly advise you to witness the spectacular sunrise as it climbs over Mt. Palouki. You can see the beautiful hues of yellow, orange and fiery red interchange in the sky even if you sit at a cafe by the port.
In the evenings the port area of Skopelos town transforms into a lively place. Both locals and visitors wine and dine in the many tavernas and restaurants. A lot of places host some really talented Greek musicians that play live music complimenting your dining experience.
The sleepy towns in the north-west side of Skopelos Island
Elios is the first town you will pass through along the coastal road. What this quaint town lacks in authentic character, it more than makes up for with its pretty marina and the sandy beachfront. The few waterfront tavernas and cafés offer magnificent sunrise views.
Glossa town is the biggest town after Skopelos. It rests on the north-west corner of Skopelos island and is perched high up on the hills. Its houses retain much of the same character with Skopelos town.
Whitewashed and with red roof tiles they seem to cling on to the mountain slope. They look as though they’ve been sprinkled as a topping by an experienced chef while elaborating on a healthy dish.
Wandering among the tiny streets of Glossa one can easily get lost. The panoramic views towards the Aegean and the amazing sunsets will reward you no matter how many you have witnessed before.
Exploring the town of Glossa will feel like you have been swept off your feet and plunged into a strange time warp. The locals here have decided to live at their own pace and chose to live in another era altogether. This impression never fails to escape me when I visit, despite the fact I was born and raised just over the other side of Skopelos Island. It is a welcoming change regardless. One you will surely appreciate, coming from a big urban environment.
The beaches of Skopelos Island
If you are thinking of golden sand shores and tropical style seas and palm trees, you will be disappointed with Skopelos. The Aegean Sea is not known for its Caribbean style beaches.
If you have never walked bare-footed on pebbles and soft, clean shingles you don’t know what you’re missing. It is a great experience to leave the beach without having sand everywhere. The deep blue water has such a rejuvenating effect yet it leaves you relaxed. It has such clarity that you can easily spot fish and see the entire bottom of the sea without even snorkelling.
There are some coves and beaches on the east side (Glisteri, Perivoliou) that are worth exploring on a calm day. The chances of you being alone are quite high, especially at the beginning and towards the end of the summer season.
Most of the beaches are located on the west side of Skopelos. The weather is calmer and the winds more forgiving on this side. Some of the beaches dotted along this coastal road are:
Stafylos and Velanio (the 2nd is also an official nudist beach).
Agnondas – one of the prettiest bays with emerald green and blue waters.
Limnonari – sand lovers can show off via their Instagram feeds here.
Panormos – the biggest bay on the island. A picture-perfect example of what the Aegean Sea is all about. A jaw-dropping scenery that takes my breath away every time I approach it.
Milia – the longest beach on the island with some great snorkelling areas.
If you do have the luxury of time, you should definitely rent a motorboat (no license required), from Panormos beach and explore some of the hidden coves along the north-west side. The chances of you finding a small beach or tiny cove all to yourselves are very high.
Sunset lovers get ready: this whole side of Skopelos Island is perfect to get some stunning shots. Try watching it from a different beach every day. Some of my favourite spots are Agnondas, Panormos and Milia.
Where to stay in Skopelos Island
Although quite small compared to other islands, Skopelos does offer an impressive choice of accommodation. If you usually opt-in for a hotel room, you need to try something different for your visit here. Skopelos has surfaced on the radar lately as the island to indulge in villa rentals.
With so many choices around, how do you choose the best property for the best possible price?
There are so many booking sites, all competing with each other and offering best prices. Making claims that your money is secure only with them! So much so, that we completely forgot it’s always best to contact the owners directly. Your chances of getting a better deal directly with the owner are much higher – let alone commissions saved for both parties.
You can check out our family run business that consists of two country villas, that combine everything you may need for your holiday. Read “The top 5 reasons to choose our villas vs a hotel for your holiday” and see how you can have the best of both stunning country sights as well as panoramic sea views.
TIME FOR SOME TRIVIA
The award-winning photographer that placed Skopelos Island in Hollywood’s Hall of Fame – the untold story
If there is one person to whom Skopelos owes much of this fame, this would unquestionably be the photographer Vangelis. Born and raised on the island, his passion for photography made him into a highly successful, international wedding photographer. He was bold in his photography techniques from an early stage of his career. He captured Skopelos in a highly artistic, often surreal frame of mind.
Vangelis became a pioneer with the mesmerising helicopter shots from across the island. His images quickly made it to the press and many international Tourism Exhibition campaigns the local municipality attended. These striking shots of Skopelos and the aerial views of this incredibly green island attracted much attention.
One such occasion was when he was contacted by the Mamma Mia movie production company, scouting for film locations. Shortly after the first contact, they visited Skopelos and were shown around to many beautiful sights by Vangelis. The scouts quickly realised the potential of the island. His pictures perfectly depicted the scenes Hollywood needed to film Mamma Mia.
Their project was kept a secret even during their visit to Skopelos. Before long, however, and much to everyone’s surprise, the big news about a Hollywood movie filmed on the island hit the locals like a hurricane. I’m uncertain even to this day if many locals know this story about Vangelis. The time and effort he dedicated to bringing Meryl Streep, Pears Brosnan and many other Hollywood stars to Skopelos.
He was the only Greek photographer (outside the production company), granted official permission by the Hollywood producers to photograph the actors and behind the scenes.
You can see his beautiful work on Wedding Photography from Santorini Island and across the globe by visiting his website – Vangelis Photography.
More Mamma Mia Trivia
According to IMBD, in December 2008, this movie became the highest grossing film of all time in the UK, smashing the previous record set by the Titanic (1997) and only Avatar (2009) beat that record.
Did you know that Skopelos Island was named as “Kalokairi Island” (Summer Island), in “Mamma Mia”?