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EXOTIC SKIATHOS

Even though it covers an area of just 48km2, this islandhas one of the most impressive coastlines in Greece,with more than 60 beaches – some providing a varietyof amenities and others entirely untouched by development– most of which enjoy the shade from pines grovesthat reach right to the edge of the crystalline waters ofthe Aegean.

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WHAT TO SEE

The Alexandros Papadiamantis Museum (Papadiamantis Square)is a two-storey residence built in 1860 in the typical island style andtransformed into a museum dedicated to the influential author ofThe Murderess – it was also his home. The ground floor containsold and new editions, as well as a few manuscripts in the writer’shand, while the floor above showcases authentic family heirlooms,traditional furniture and memorabilia. A relatively new arrival, SkiathitikoSpiti (Polytechniou) is a traditional two-storey house from1910 that serves as a museum of antiques and objects that illustratethe island’s history and the lives of its residents in bygone times.Centrepieces include a wrought iron bed with traditional wovensilk bedding, colourful rugs and throws, a loom and traditional costumes.A walk out to the Bourtzi – a small outcrop connected tothe port by a narrow strip of land – is a must, as this is where you’llfind the interesting Skiathos Museum of Maritime and CulturalTradition. Housed in an old primary school, it also has an open-airtheatre for summer performances and an attractive café.Inside the main town, the Plakes district is simply beautifulthanks to its collection of old traditional houses, picturesque lanesand pretty gardens. About 4 kilometres north of the port, the EvangelistriaMonastery, founded in 1794, has an interesting churchbut also four small museums: one that is dedicated to ecclesiasticalheritage, with icons and church heirlooms; another on folk traditions,housed in the monastery’s former oil press; the HistoricalMuseum, with interesting material on the Balkan Wars; and theMuseum of Musical Instruments, containing exhibits from differentparts of the world. There is a monastery shop selling a rangeof sweet fruit preserves, wine and honey produced by the monks,and a traditional café right next door.A walk around the Castle is a must as it provides a glimpse intothe island’s medieval past. The castle contains four churches and thethe island’s medieval past. The castle contains four churches and theremains of a number of houses. The battlements are still standing,as is a section of the wall and a gate complete with a murder hole –an opening permitting the castle’s defenders to pour scorching oildown on attackers.

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THE BEST FOOD

Sophisticated dishes featuring great ingredients and robust flavoursdefine the menu at Marmita (30 Evangelistrias, tel. 24270-21.701),whose open-air dining area is a beautiful garden shaded by treesand bougainvillea. Order the refreshing salad of sea fennel, cherrytomatoes, marinated onions and aged anthotyro cheese, followedby the delicious goat with fennel and wild greens, or the delicatecod steamed with mussels and vegetables. There are more than 60wines to choose from on a list focused on Greek wines and nativevarieties. Next door, the same team presents Artesanal (Miaouli,tel. 24270-22.270), specialising in food cooked in a wood-fired ovenusing traditional techniques. In a pretty courtyard with mulberrytrees, amid retro furnishings and low lighting, you’ll find savourypies, lahmacun and pizzas, as well as dishes like roasted goat withpotatoes, and a number of vegetarian options like the meat-freemoussaka.Exantas (tel. 24270-24.035) on Megali Ammos Beach just westof town is also very good, serving creative yet beautifully executedGreek food on a pretty veranda at the water’s edge. Highlights includethe roasted calamari with broad beans and Lefkada salami;the gilt-head bream fillet with a soup of Kozani saffron and herbs;and the gamopilafo risotto made with shredded lamb and sun-driedtomatoes. The wine list is also good.Karnagio (New Port, tel. 24270-22.868) has been given a seriousboost this year, as acclaimed chef Angelos Bakopoulos hascome on board, presenting a menu of inspired seafood dishes likehis shrimp tartare, tuna tataki with thyme and teriyaki sauce, andthe amberjack with egg-lemon sauce. Basilikos (Evangelistrias, tel.24270-21.022) is also making strides, serving modern Greek foodin a romantic courtyard decorated in earthy tones. The freshnessof the ingredients features in dishes like the mushroom fricassee,the butter beans with spinach and feta, and the Skiathos cheesebread-roll with a light cucumber jus.Amfiliki (tel. 24270-22.839), a family taverna run by ChristosKaloyiannis, is one of the few places in Skiathos where you canstill get good traditional local dishes like the tomato-stewed fish(grouper or ray) or the lobster with courgette in tomato sauce. Itis a vintage gem, beautifully located on the end of Megali Ammosbeach with a veranda that affords an amazing view. The food is alsogreat at Kalo Pigadi (tel. 24270-23.112), another family-run establishment,with tables arranged on a deck on the sidewalk. This one,however, specialises in meze like the squid with courgette, crispyshrimp fritters, wholesome grilled sardines and lightly seared freshtuna from the nearby island of Alonissos.On a panoramic spot looking out over the airport, Agnantio (tel.24270-22.016) is also known for its good Greek cuisine with smallcreative twists. Menu highlights include the stuffed cabbage leavesand the sea bass cooked with raisins and rosemary.One of the island’s best-kept secrets is a small eatery on DiamantiBeach, which is named after the location but is better known as Paolo’s (tel. 6986-811.012). Great dishes, such as grilled sardinesas Paolo’s (tel. 6986-811.012). Great dishes, such as grilled sardineswith parsley or the calamari with chili and lime, are served at tablesset out on the sand under the shade of a sheet of camouflage netting.You can reach the beach by boat from the watersports centrein neighbouring Vromolimnos Bay, and the restaurant stays openuntil sundown.

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FOR COFFEE AND DRINKS

Bourtzi, on the promontory of the same name, has an absolutelyenchanting veranda that’s surrounded by pine trees and bathed inthe energy of the sun, wind and sea. It serves good coffee, breakfast(omelettes and plakopita, or fried bread, with galotyri cheese andhoney) as well as an all-day tapas menu. The tradition of the oldstylecafé is the inspiration at Nostalgos (Papadiamanti Square),with its bougainvillea-draped facade and a garden. Enjoy a glassof ouzo and a few simple meze dishes at the round metal kafeneiotables set beneath the shade of a huge pine. At Ergon (Papadiamanti),you’ll find coffee from Athens’ TAF roastery and brunch with aselection of egg dishes (try the poached eggs served on a koulouri,or sesame-seed bread ring, with a yoghurt and olive oil dressing).Once night falls, almost everyone heads to “Maxilares,” a partof the old port unofficially named after the large cushions that asuccession of small bars have placed on the cobbled steps leading upthe hill with a view to the sea. A short walk from here, the Old PortHouse (28 Nikotsara) is a wonderful pub run by David and Libby,who have successfully managed to blend Irish and Aegean decorativemotifs. Good cocktails and live music can be found at Tesla(12 Mitropolitou Ananiou), where Vangelis Alexiou and PerpetouaSaltaferidi perform pop, rock and jazz classics every night. The nextstop must be Borzoi (42 Papadiamanti), a legendary nightclub thathas been around since 1977, housed in an early 20th-century oliveoil mill – the press and millstone are the decorative centrepieces. Itnow functions as a club-restaurant (with a menu created by MichalisNourloglou and Sofia Hatzieleftheriou), with a lovely garden anda reputation for good cocktails. A legend across the Aegean, andamong only a handful of bars that have retained their original decor,Kentavros (3 Polytechniou) has been around, nearly unchanged,since 1978, playing jazz and rock and serving a range of drinks.

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WHAT TO BUY

Most of the island’s retail activity is concentrated on and aroundPapadiamanti Street, where you’ll find stores selling clothing andGreek designer wares. Among the best of these are the boutiqueEfimeris, with its elegant display window, the newly opened Lalaro,Arkos, and the very hip Archipelagos, which also hosts showsby Greek artists. Behind the National Bank, Jivaeri is owned byCroatian artist Asia Bresan-Saltaferidi, who paints mermaids ondriftwood. For clever design items that make up the new waveof Greek souvenirs, head to Saita (13 Symeonos) or Mikrokosmos(26 Nikotsara). For bags, sandals and jewellery designed byKitty Galani, try Ammos by Kitty (Laskou & 6 Syngrou), and forhand-painted pashminas by Despina Mitzelou, look for Marianna’sJewels and Art.Skiathos’ signature sweet is hamalia – a lightly fried pastrysprinkled with icing sugar and stuffed with walnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg,cloves and honey; the best version is produced by the localwomen’s association, which has an outlet in the old port. Also keepan eye out for wine by Parissis, the only winery on the island, atselected restaurants and at Koutseris’ mini-market on PapadiamantiStreet, as well as for honey from the organic Skiathos Bee Farm.

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WHERE TO SWIM

South of the island’s main town, you’ll find a succession of greatfamily-friendly beaches that get very busy in peak season. Theseare Megali Ammos, followed by Vassilias and then Kanapitsa Bay,where several businesses have opened bars and set up loungersand beach umbrellas near the water along a sandy stretch of smallcoves such as Sklithri, Tzaneria and Kanapitsa. At Cape Kalamaki,Vromolimnos has fine sand and a special beauty, as well as water-skiing facilities and the Porto Paradiso beach bar. There’s alsoa speedboat service here to take you to the tropical paradise of DiamantiBeach – and its famed eatery. Next in line is the tranquil andsandy Maratha and then Koukounaries, an iconic beach, thanksin large part to the huge pine forest that surrounds it. The sand isgolden and the beach has watersports facilities and other services.Further along, at the newly built Elivi Hotel (in the building of theformer Xenia), Ampelakia Beach offers luxurious loungers and youcan order cocktails and snacks from the hotel’s beach bar. As you head to the west, you’ll come across Banana Beach, an impressivehead to the west, you’ll come across Banana Beach, an impressivespot once known for its young crowd and loud music but now morechilled out, which offers loungers and the boho Nest pool bar andrestaurant. Right next to it, Small Banana is an alluring spot whichhas a beach bar called Black Bird.Heading north, the splendid sandy beach of Agia Eleni has apretty chapel and a reputation for gorgeous sunsets. There’s alsoa dirt road here which leads through the pine forest to the beachof Vromolimnos, where you’ll find Maria’s snack bar. Then there’sXerxi-Mandraki, an impressive sheltered bay with a sandy beachand basic facilities, followed by Elia, a large bay with what is one ofthe best beaches on the island. There are loungers, beach umbrellasand a beach bar with an amazing view. The third bay in this row isAngistros, a wide sandy stretch, popular with nudists, with crystal-clear water. Big Aselinos is quite exposed to the elements, butit has coarser sand that doesn’t get blown around easily. It also hasan interesting 17th-century monastery called Panagia Kounistra. Ashort dirt path leds to Small Aselinos, a gorgeous beach, completewith beach bar, while Lygaries has trees stretching down almostto the shore. Kechria, which is next, is popular, mainly thanks tothe Tarsanas beach bar (also known as Argyris’), which has rustic wooden tables, great meze dishes, and loungers set out under thewooden tables, great meze dishes, and loungers set out under theolive trees. The next beach is Kastro, on the island’s northernmosttip. Here, you’ll find dark pebbles, beautiful water and a lovely caféin an old stone building with a bamboo-shaded veranda.Skiathos’ northeastern beaches can only be reached by sea(with tour boats leaving daily from the port). Lalaria Beach, perhapsthe most popular of these, is renowned for its rock archwayand deep turquoise water. Lechouni Beach is on a small shelteredbay tucked between steep rock sides; it has a wild beauty, as doesneighbouring Megas Gialos, which has sand and deep, clear water.The islet of Tsougria, which is also on the tour boats’ itinerary,has three pretty beaches: the main one, with golden sand and pineand olive trees providing shade; the one next to that, which can bedistinguished by the ruins of an abandoned olive mill; and Kefalakia,a small strip of sand stretching out into the water. The Churchof Agios Floros is a significant architectural monument, designedin the early 1960s by Alexandros Vogiatzis. Next to Tsougria, there’sthe islet of Repi, with an impressive lighthouse from 1914, and thenthe islet of Arkos, with its exotic beach and bar, as well as an impressivelylarge sand dune that’s perfect for sandboarding.

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ALTERNATIVE ACTIVITIES

Skiathos has 25 walking routes, stretching to 197 kilometres in total, with trails of varying difficulty levels that offer themselves for trekking excursions lasting from one to six hours. Ortwin Widmann (tel. 6972-705.416), author of “Skiathos: Hiking in the Aegean Paradise,” is the source for tours and tips. Among the coolest experiences on the island are the Luxury yacht tours organised by Haris Tsopelas (tel. 6976- 292001)

 

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