Undulating green countryside, some fine rural monasteries and a labyrinthine old town notwithstanding, the real business of Skiáthos is beaches: by far the best, if also the most oversubscribed, in the Sporades. There are over fifty strands (plus a few more on satellite islets), most with fine, pale sand, though still barely enough room for the legions of visitors; Italians and Greeks in summer, Brits and Scandinavians in spring and autumn. The main road along the south and southeast coasts serves an almost unbroken line of villas, hotels, minimarkets and restaurants; although they’ve not impinged much on Skiáthos’s natural beauty, they make it difficult to find anything particularly Greek here. But by hiking or using a 4WD vehicle, you can find relative solitude, refreshing vistas and charming medieval monuments in the island’s north.
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Skiáthos’s top ten beaches
Although almost all the island’s beaches are sandy, some of them are very narrow. On the south coast every one will have loungers and at least one bar or taverna, often pumping out loud music; most have watersports too. If you want to get away from it all, the harder to reach sands on the north coast offer more chance of escape. These (listed clockwise from town) are our favourites:
An islet in the bay opposite Skiáthos Town, with excursion boats shuttling back and forth from the old port three or four times daily. A favourite of locals, it has two spectacular sand beaches, each with a taverna.
The prettiest of the beaches on the Kalamáki peninsula, fine-sand Vromólimnos is a bit of a walk from bus stop 13, and hence a little quieter than many south-coast sands – it still has several cafés from which to enjoy the sunset views, though, and a busy water-ski operation.
Huge stretch of sand – at the end of the bus route – which is arguably the island’s finest beach, and certainly one of its busiest. Wooden walkways traverse the sand to a series of kantínas, there’s a harbour for excursion boats and every imaginable form of watersport including snorkelling and diving with Skiathos Diving, one of the island’s best outfits (skiathosdiving.gr). Behind the beach a small salt lake, Strofyliá, sits in the midst of a grove of pine trees – all of it a protected reserve. There’s horseriding, too, in the forested dunes to the north, with Skiathos Riding Centre (skiathos-horse-riding.gr).
Reached by a short track over the headland from bus stop 26 at Koukounariés, Big Banana is announced before you arrive by the thumping bass tracks from three competing beach bars. It’s beautifully sandy but absolutely packed, with a young crowd and a clubbing atmosphere, plus ski boats, kayaks, pedaloes and more.
In the next cove beyond Big Banana, this beach is almost entirely nudist yet still thoroughly commercialized, with a café and loungers occupying almost every centimetre. Like its neighbour, it is named not for the appendages on display but for its perfect yellow crescent of sand.
About 600m from bus stop 25 in Koukounariés, Ayía Eléni is a stunning, broad, sandy beach looking west towards the mountainous mainland. It is bigger and more family-oriented than the neighbouring Banana beaches, with a couple of beach bars and pedaloes and kayaks to rent.
Dunes and a protected pine forest back Mandhráki, a sandy beach with views of Mount Pílio and an exceptionally friendly snack bar serving souvláki, salads and omelettes. One of the island’s least developed, it is accessed either by a walking path from bus stop 23 in Koukounariés, or a driveable track that follows the coast round past Ayía Eléni beach.
From Troúlos village, a side-road leads 3.5km north through a lush valley to Megálos Asélinos, a large and exposed beach of gritty sand. There’s a big taverna where many excursion boats stop for lunch, but it’s a lovely, unspoilt spot at the end of the day when they’ve all headed home.
A small cove set steeply below Kástro, Kástro can be very crowded in the middle of the day when the tour boats arrive, but is delightful early or late – though it loses the sun early. There’s a wonderfully ramshackle snack bar with a shower of cold river water.
Famous beach nestling near the northernmost point of Skiáthos, and only accessible by taxi- or excursion-boat from town. With steep cliffs rising behind a white-pebble shore and an artistic natural arch, it’s undeniably beautiful; three sea-grottoes just east rate a stop on most round-the-island trips.