The Sporades lie close off Greece’s eastern coast, their hilly terrain betraying their status as extensions of Mount Pílio, right opposite on the mainland. The three northern islands, Skiáthos, Skópelos and Alónissos, are archetypal Aegean holiday venues, with wonderful beaches, lush vegetation and transparent sea; they’re all packed out in midsummer and close down almost entirely from October to April. Skýros, the fourth inhabited member of the group, lies well southeast, and is much more closely connected – both physically and historically – to Évvia than to its fellow Sporades. These two have less obvious attractions, and far fewer visitors.
Skiáthos, thanks to its international airport and extraordinary number of sandy beaches, is the busiest of the islands, though Skópelos, with its Mamma Mia! connections, extensive pine forests and idyllic pebble bays, is catching up fast. Alónissos, much quieter, more remote and less developed, lies at the heart of a National Marine Park, attracting more nature-lovers than night owls. Traditional Skýros sees fewer foreign visitors, partly because it’s much harder to reach, though plenty of domestic tourism means no shortage of facilities. Between Skýros and the mainland, Évvia (classical Euboea) extends for nearly 200km alongside central Greece. Although in spots one of the most dramatic of Greek islands, with forested mountains and rugged stretches of little-developed coast, its sheer size and proximity to the mainland means that it rarely has much of an island feel; mainlanders have holiday homes around numerous seaside resorts, but foreigners are very thin on the ground.
An indented coastline full of bays and coves to moor in, relatively steady winds and the clear waters of the National Marine Park, also make the northern Sporades, rightly, a magnet for yacht flotillas and charters. Many companies have bases in Skiáthos, in particular.