The Sporades: Your 2021 Guide to Greece’s Greenest Island Archipelago

The Sporades are a group of 24 stunning islands in the Northeastern Aegean. These are among the greenest islands in the Mediterranean – laden with dense pine forests, paradisiacal beaches reminiscent of desert islands, quaint villages, and a unique culture. 

Skiathos and Skopelos have soared in popularity in recent years, especially following the success of ¨Mamma Mia¨. However even so, the Sporades are often overlooked in favour of more popular and well known places in the Cyclades and the Ionian. 

One reason for this seems to be the fact that these little islands are not the easiest to get to. However, if you do make the effort to come here, you will be greeted with some of the most naturally beautiful places in all of Greece. 

The Sporades, Greece 

Skopelos, The Sporades
Skopelos, The Sporades

Of the 24 islands in the Sporades archipelago, only four are inhabited. Namely, those are Skyros, Skiathos, Skopelos, and Alonissos. 

The remaining 20 islands are rugged, dramatic, uninhabited paradises. It is possible to visit some of them if you have access to a boat. 

For instance, Tsougkrias is a popular day trip from Skiathos island during the summer months. Others are out of bounds and part of the protected Alonissos marine park. 

The Sporades are perfect for an island hopping adventure. It is a matter of personal preference. However you could opt to spend a few days on each island, or alternatively base yourself on one of them for one or two weeks and then take excursions out from there.

Skiathos Island

Skiathos, the Sporades

Little Skiathos is the most popular of the Sporades islands. It has a reputation for being something of a party island, but that is unfair. 

Despite Skiathos’ popularity, it is far from being an overly commercialised place. 

Skiathos is not so busy that it has lost the charm that attracted tourists in the first place. In fact, it is even known as the ¨boomerang island¨ on account of all of the people that fall so in love with Skiathos that they come back again and again each year. 

The island is just 7 miles long by 4 miles wide. Yet within that small area, you can find 60 gorgeous sandy beaches – ranging from family friendly coastlines with all the amenities, to secluded coves that ooze castaway vibes. 

Skiathos Highlights 

  • Tread one of the 26 hiking trails that weave through the dramatic scenery of the island

  • Marvel at the ethereal landscapes of Lalaria beach

  • Laze on the shores of Koukounaries beach – one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece

  • Enjoy home cooked Greek food in the quaint, cosy tavernas of Skiathos town

  • Visit the Holy Monastery of Evangelistria where the first Greek flag was ever flown

  • Hike to Kastro, the crumbling ruins of the former Skiathos capital 

Where to Stay in Skiathos 

Troulos, Skiathos
Troulos, Skiathos
  • Opt for absolute luxury and decadence at the Skiathos Mystery Residence

  • Enjoy luxury without the luxury price tag at The Atlas Hotel Skiathos

Skopelos Island 

The Sporades: Skopelos town at golden hour
The Sporades: Skopelos town at golden hour

Skopelos island was relatively unknown until it featured as the fictional island of Kalokairi in the Hollywood movie ¨Mamma Mia¨. It has no airport and is a little trickier to reach than Skiathos, which is why it may have fallen under the radar historically. 

Skopelos may well be one of the last sleepy Greek island idylls that remains somewhat unchanged by the influence of tourism. Skopelos town is recognised in Greece as being a ¨place of outstanding beauty¨. 

Its whitewashed houses cascade down the hilltops surrounding the port. Being greeted with the sight of this as you arrive on the island for the first time will take your breath away, regardless of how many Greek islands you have previously explored. 

While Skiathos’ beaches are sandy, most of the beaches on Skopelos are pebbled or rocky. This can be off putting for some. 

However, Skopelos has a higher concentration of secluded coves and rugged beaches that seldom see visitors, even in the height of summer. If you like to venture off the beaten path and escape the crowds, Skopelos might be just what you are looking for. 

Skopelos Highlights

Hovolo beach, Skopelos
Hovolo beach, Skopelos
  • Climb the 200 steps to Agios Ioannis Kastri – the clifftop church made famous by Mamma Mia

  • Revel in the dramatic scenery and hike from Glossa to Palio Klima

  • Discover the rugged beaches of Hovolo and Armenopetra close to Neo Klima

  • Spend a day in the peaceful natural bay of Stafylos beach

  • Hike to the monasteries in the hills of Palouki above Skopelos town

  • Sip a strong Greek coffee at Swell coffee shop overlooking the waterfront. 

Where to Stay in Skopelos 

Glossa, Skopelos
Glossa, Skopelos
  • Book a room at Mando Beachfront – the property with some of the best coastal views on the island

  • For a cosy guesthouse with excellent panoramic views, choose Thea Home hotel 

Alonissos Island 

Patitiri, Alonissos

Little Alonissos is one of the more remote of the Sporades islands. It is home to just 2700 people, the majority of whom live in the portside town of Patitiri. 

Aside from Patitiri and the nearby village of Votsi, Alonissos is essentially one large national park. Here, weather-worn foot paths lead you to woodland churches, forgotten monasteries, and isolated beaches. From October, Alonissos practically becomes a ghost town. 

Alonissos, like much of Greece, has links with Greek mythology. The legend states that it was here where the ship ¨Argo¨ sailed to Troy. This same boat was also used by Jason on his quest to find the golden fleece. 

Alonissos is increasing in popularity as a destination for scuba diving. Seemingly every other building by the seafront in Patitiri is a diving centre. Beneath the surfaces of the water here you will find shipwrecks, rare marine and plant life, and submerged archaeological ruins.

Alonissos Highlights 

  • Have a coffee and brunch among locals at the Black Cat in Patitiri

  • Follow the old donkey trail from Patitiri to the ¨Chora¨ – the island´s old capital

  • Sample the local delicacies – Alonissos tuna fish, stuffed squid, lobster spaghetti, etc

  • Rent a boat and sail to the nearby islands of Peristera, Piperi and Papous

  • Relax at Spartines, Chrisi Milia, Tzortzi Gialos, Leftos Gialos and other Alonissos beaches

Where to Stay in Alonissos

  • Angelos Design Suites  is a gorgeous, recently renovated property with Bohemian suites and some of the best views in Patitiri 

Skyros Island 

Skyros is the largest and least touristically developed of the Sporades archipelago. Its location makes it a little trickier to get to if you are trying to island hop to all of the islands of this region. 

Whereas Skiathos, Skopelos, and Alonissos await just off the coast of Volos, Skyros is the southernmost of the four. It awaits in closer proximity to Evia, than to its Sporades counterparts. 

Skyros does not see a lot of tourism, beside the occasional Greek domestic travellers that stop by in the summer. The main town on Skyros, like on most Greek islands, is known as the ¨Chora¨. 

The town cascades down a hilltop, in a way that makes it appear as the Greek version of the Amalfi Coast. At the top of the hill you can find a medieval castle, and the Monastery of Saint George, Protector of the island. 

Skyros Highlights 

  • Swim in the translucent waters of the peaceful Atsitsa bay

  • Browse interesting artefacts recovered from the island at the Skyros Folklore Museum

  • Visit a pony farm and learn about the famous Skyrian ponies (short horses) that have lived on the island since ancient times

  • Stop for coffee at one of the charming medieval coffee shops in the Chora

  • Check out the interesting independent stores and shop for traditional Greek products and souvenirs

  • Hike to the Church of Agios Nikolaos at Molos beach – a peculiar church carved into a rock

Where to Stay in Skyros 

  • Skyros Ammos hotel offers affordable luxury with sea views, an outdoor pool, and yoga

  • Perigiali Hotel is a three-star property decorated in quintessentially Greek shades of blue and white 

Parting Words 

Do you have any additional questions or queries about planning a trip to the Sporades? I have been living in Greece since 2017. I spent eight months in the Sporades in 2020/21.

Drop me a comment below if you need anything and I will get back to you ASAP. Safe travels! 

Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer and Blogger based in Athens, Greece. She writes for numerous high profile travel publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, Matador Network, The Times of Israel and The Huffington Post.

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