Skopelos: Where Forests Meet the Aegean
When most people envision the Greek Islands, they don’t picture Skopelos; they picture the volcanic landscapes of islands like Santorini. Albeit beautiful, these islands offer little in terms of nature beyond their beaches and olive groves.
However, the Northern Sporades islands are drenched in greenery. On the golden sand beaches of Skopelos, the ocean breeze mixes with the scent of the forest floor from the island’s mountainous inland. Nature permeates every aspect of Skopelos, from the wildflower honey to the pine-scented white wine.
A slightly more off-the-radar island, Skopelos has the same stunning beaches as the best of the Greek islands but set against a lush mountainous backdrop. Surrounded by the rocky cliffs, the beaches here have a dramatic, wild feel. Skopelos has two mountains over 1,600 feet which, besides offering stunning views, make the island a favorite for hikers.
Some may know the island as the home of the Mamma Mia! Cathedral, a small white church situated on the top of a mini-mountain that juts out over the sea.
Even though quite a few years have passed since the debut of the 2008 film, you’ll still find tour companies offering Mamma Mia! tours to all the movie’s film locations. Yet, the island is far from a hokey tourist destination. If anything, the tours only add to the quirk of Skopelos, an island that feels charmingly stuck in the past.
Where is Skopelos?
There are 24 islands in the Northern Sporades island group, but only four are permanently inhabited: Alonnisos, Skiathos, Skopelos, and Skyros. They lie off the Central-Eastern coast of mainland Greece, due north of Athens.
How to Get to Skopelos:
The neighboring island, Skiathos, has an airport from which you are only a 20-minute ferry to Glossa or an hour and a half ferry to Skopelos town. The mainland city of Volos also has an airport. From Volos, the ferry will take about 3-4 hours to Skopelos.
(Both Volos and Skiathos have direct flights from London and Athens!)
Local Specialities of Skopelos
The massive signs over Skopelos’ mini-markets typically read something like: “Coffee, Cheese pies, and Cigarettes.” Which is also what you’ll usually find in the hands of most locals here before noon!
In addition to the infamous Skopelos cheese pie, other local specialties include the pine-flavored retsina wine, olive oil, and honey.
- Honey: Skopelos pine honey derived from conifer trees and flower honey from the nectar of fruit trees and wildflowers. It’s also best enjoyed over fresh Greek yogurt.
- Cheese Pies: These consist of fried spirals of cheese-stuffed phyllo dough. Michalis Pie shop in Skopelos Town has some of the best you’ll find on the island.
- Spoon Sweets: A popular homemade treat on Skopelos, spoon sweets are usually given after a meal or as a welcome at guesthouses on Skopelos. They’re mouthfuls of fruit or nuts preserved in a sweet syrup. Rose, almond, and sour cherry are island favorites.
Wine from Skopelos
According to legend, a son of Dionysis (the Greek god of wine) first discovered Skopelos. The island’s name was derived from his son, Staphylos, the Greek word for ‘grape.’ The island has a long history as a wine-producing region and the most famous wine you’ll find here is the Retsina.
If you love the fresh scent of the forest floor that permeates Skopelos, you’ll adore the local wine specialty, Retsina.
The wine is infused with pine resin during fermentation, resulting in an earthy white wine. Greeks prefer to drink Retsina served ice cold on hot summer days with flavorful meals.
Where to Go on Skopelos
Skopelos is a big island. Renting a car in the best way to explore on your own time.
If you don’t want to deal with a rental, a bus network runs between the different areas of the island. The island also has two main ports, located on either side, where the ferries make stops. You can use the ferry to get yourself from Glossa diagonally across the island to Skopelos Port and vice versa.
The main two port cities have very different vibes. Here’s a look at each:
The steep hillside of Glossa is home to many boutique hotels and guest houses with panoramic views, set in beautiful nature. Glossa is a favorite place to spend a few nights for seclusion amid local culture after arriving by ferry.
Skopelos Town is the main center of the island for locals and tourists alike. The center of the city has the winding, stone-laid pedestrian alleyways, filled with souvenir stores, traditional restaurants, and gyros-to-go. In particular, you’ll find handmade leather sandals in all shapes, colors, and sizes in the tiny shops.
A short drive up the tall mountains outside of Skopelos Town, you’ll find present-day monasteries. Pay them a visit to be greeted with the smiling faces of the residents and some of the best views on the island.
Insider Tip: Finikas Restaurant in Skopelos Town is the best food you’ll find on the island and just might be one of the best restaurants in all of Greece!
The Mamma Mia! Cathedral
The view from the cliffside Church of Agios Ioannis Kastri–also known as the cathedral from the Mamma Mia! movie–is worth the hour-long climb to the top.
The beach at the base of the cliff is also one of the most beautiful on the island. You can cool off after the hike by jumping in the neon blue waters or simply admire the cathedral from the sand!
You can’t go wrong with the beaches on Skopelos. Everywhere you go the water is warm, crystal-clear, and the beaches range from picturesque white pebbles to golden sands. Panormos Lipererani is one of the widest and most popular beaches. Stafilos Beach is a perfect cove, surrounded on three sides by the evergreen pines.
Mamma Mia! lovers will also enjoy visiting Paralia Kastani, one of the most popular and recognizable beaches from the movie.
Skopelos Dive Center, with two locations on the island, takes divers to visit shipwrecks, caves, reefs, and over 15 other sites in the waters around Skopelos.
Their Panormos Bay dive center is located in the Adrina Beach Hotel, one of the best places to stay on the island.
Do like the locals do and enjoy Tsipouro at the beachside cafes. They’ll bring you a bottle of the ouzo-like spirit, either with or without anise, along with a bucket of ice and a jug of water to dilute your drink. The drink will be served with a selection of small plates to share, perfect for a late afternoon snack.