Skiathos: a REALLY Green Island

[From our special Tourism issue – The Wonders of Greece]

In most parts of the world, including much of the United States, one can opt for 1) lush green landscape; or 2) predominantly warm, dry, and sunny days – but not both in the same place. But on the Greek island of Skiathos, you can truly have the best of both worlds.

Having grown up in New York City, summer trips upstate, to the Catskill Mountains, gave me a fill of green – true thick, lush, green landscape. But hardly any great beaches to speak of, and not enough sunny days, free of plans ruined by the rain.

Other summer trips, to Greece, brought me to plenty of great beaches, and without a cloud in the sky, let alone even a drop of rain falling from it. Nonetheless, I remember politely nodding when my relatives would point to the landscape and exclaim: “ti wraia prasinada – what beautiful greenery.”

Don’t get me wrong – I love Greece, have always loved vacationing there, and wouldn’t trade the glorious blue water and blue sky for anything. But while there are many flattering words I would use to describe Greece, “green” is certainly not one of them!

So as not to offend, I would keep my comments to myself, or share them exclusively with my friends and family who live in the United States. “This is NOT ‘prasinada,’ it’s not lush green, it’s stone-washed denim green, rocks, and hay.” Does it have a rugged beauty to it – like, say, the Arizona desert?  Sure. But it’s not a green beauty.

And then, it happened: the summer of 2005, when I found myself with enough time to take an extended Greek vacation. I bought a travel guide to the Greek islands, just so I could explore new ones, flipped it open, and could not believe my eyes: it was an incredible photograph of the beautiful blue Greek sea that I have come to know and love, yet it was surrounded by real, lush greenery – the Catskills kind, not the Greek kind.
“Wow! Great beaches AND lush greenery! The ‘surf and turf’ of vacation spots!” I thought to myself. “I don’t know where this place is, but I’m going,” I decided. And I did. Oh, the name of that place? Skiathos.

It is an island in the Northern Sporades – just a half hour flight from Athens. After having spent a few days in the sweltering Athens heat upon my arrival to Greece that year, I took a late evening flight to Skiathos and immediately got my second wind upon feeling the Skiathian island breeze.

I checked into my room at the Skiathos Palace situated atop the magnificent Koukounaries Beach – but don’t let the name fool you: though pricey compared to the “Rooms to Let” options, the cost is hardly bank-breaking. Too excited to sleep, I took a walk along the beach, captivated by the sweet aroma of my combined surroundings: a pine tree forest along the Aegean Sea.

Skiathos turned out to be everything I could have hoped for, and more. The food was excellent and reasonably priced. The beaches were what you might expect in Greece: outstanding. And what impressed me a great deal was the “Skiathites” – the Skiathos locals – who overall are a very friendly and polite bunch.

I was only there for a few days and didn’t rent a car. I could have made an entire vacation of it at the Palace, but decided to explore the rest of the island. Transportation (buses and taxis) was plentiful, and getting around the island was quite easy.

One place I didn’t get to go was Lalaria. A spectacular beach (from what I’ve seen in photos and heard from people who have been) accessible by boat. I had planned that trip for my last full day on the island, but it was unusually windy that day and the boats were not sailing there.

The bright side of that, of course, is – now I’ll have to go back! Hopefully, someday soon.