1. FIFO (fly in/fly out)
Skiathos is well-served by flights from Europe – London, Birmingham, Munich, Venice, Naples and Turin to name but a few and then Athens, multiple times a day. The approach across the bay is a little low, providing a fine view of the old town and port before the abrupt landing and full reverse throttle braking. Skiathos is shorter than Wellington airport and like Wellington, has water at both ends. When the temperatures are high, planes flying to Europe with a full load of passengers and bags have to hop to the mainland to top up the gas as they can’t get a full load into the air here.
The ferries, of which there are many each day, from traditional car carriers to Hellenic’s flying cats and hydrofoils, hold at the dock as the flights come in. Really, they’re that low.
However avid readers of this blog, who may have believed at some time that I had some travel planning skills, will find it absolutely bizarre that with all these flight options, we caught the ferry here from Athens. That’s what happens when you stick to your preferred Star Alliance partner I guess. You fail to realise that there’s a myriad of LCCs* out there flying everywhere. So, FIFO it!
2. Don’t stay in a resort
Get a AirBnB in the old town. Specifically, look for “Listen to the Waves” hosted by our friend Stathis. He gets a gold star in the hosting stakes, meeting us at the port and carrying our bag up the hill to the apartment. (I did suggest he might invest in a donkey!) He then took us on a short walk, showing us where the supermarket was and pointing out a few taverna recommendations. The apartment was cleaned and the sheets and towels changed every three days, (even on our last night) and one evening Stathis popped in with a tray of home prepared sardines and beer.
From our balcony, we watched the ferries come and go from the port and the myriad of day tour boats. We’ve even seen dolphins from our deck. The flat comes with a pair of high-power binoculars. Stathis tells us it’s so we can see what the people on the luxury yachts are drinking. But we know what he really means.
3. Go to the beach
Any beach. But first go to Koukounaires Beach. Rated as the third most beautiful beach in the world. Who rates these things? We all know that Whitehaven in the Whitsundays comes in as number one. But where is number two?
Ride the waves with Captain Nico’s high speed water taxi which will whisk you to Koukounaires in just 15 minutes. (For 5 euro pp each way.) Once there you’ll need a sun lounger and umbrella and the price of these are fixed by the local authority at 8 euro for two with the umbrella. But go early, in summertime even a beach as big as Koukounaires fills up.
4. Have a little envy
Of course there’s always someone with a bigger one that you. Doesn’t matter what it is. The old port in Skiathos is littered with motor yachts, real yachts and tinnies of every size. This one, the MV Sunday parked just outside our house. It’s available for charter if anyone’s interested. She’s 200ft long, sleeps 12, has a crew of 15, and currently, it will set you back 330,000 euros a week. That’s half a million bucks in our money. For a week! And then, as my good friend Wingo would say, there’s the tip.
5. Buy a little fixer-upper.
There’s quite a bit of property for sale on Skiathos. Right next door to us was this little dwelling which was available. I’m sure the real estate agent would be advertising it with sea views, in original condition, just perfect for the home handyman who could add value. (Comment Jeneen?)
6. Mama Mia – Here we go again!
Take a day trip from Skiathos. There’s heaps of them leaving the old port every morning and they’re very popular with the young people.
We took the AG Nikolas and visited Skopelos and Alonnios. Fans of Mamma Mia (the movie with Meryl Streep) will know that scene when they danced on the jetty was filmed in the old port in Skiathos, right under our noses, and much of the balance, across the water on Skopelos. So, this was a Mamma Mia themed day out.
We sailed (well, motored) past the Church of St John, (wedding scene) perched so high up on a bluff we could just make it out through squinted eyes; stopped in the port of Skopelos and wandered its tiny streets, weaved our way past the byzantine monastery on St Georges Island and stopped at Patitiri, the capital of Alonnios where we visited the old pirates’ village. We didn’t see any pirates. We did see dolphins, which was pretty cute, and after another stop for a swim, ended up at home at 7pm, sun-touched and happy.
7. Ride the local bus.
The extremely efficient local bus service leaves the Old Town every 15 minutes and takes about half an hour to make the trip to Koukounaires, which is the end of the line. Along the way it has 25 designated stops and you buy your tickets on board from a conductor. (2 euro pp for the whole journey.)
We became extremely fond of one conductor, a short, stocky guy with short black hair and his sunglasses perched on his head. He conducted his bus as if he was conducting an orchestra, moving people to empty seats, indicating that young people needed to stand if a yia-yia boarded, hopping out to put large items in the storage area under the bus and rejecting sweaty men without a shirt. He certainly took no shit from the Indians and we would have recommended him for a job anywhere.
Sometimes the local bus gets a little crowded, but there was only one time when we had to stand for the whole trip. Local bus stops at some fabulous beaches.
8. Adopt a pussy-cat
Long before I became a bookseller there was a luscious pictorial book called Cats of the Greek Islands. Clearly, judging by the number of cats here, it could well have been photographed on Skiathos.
But unlike the cats of Istanbul, skinny and hungry, who have reached plague proportions, the cats of Skiathos are well-fed and cared for, and can be found dozing in the sun at every turn.
9. And what else?
Eat out and eat often. Skiathos has a multitude of excellent restaurants. I have eaten lamb keflito so many times I’m starting to baa. Maggie has found a variety of vegetarian offerings but is on record as saying Russia had a better vegetarian offer than Greece.
A couple of our favourites are Taverna Sellini, just a few doors from where we live, Taverna Hellikon and Restaurant Palouki, both are behind the church square above the old port. The latter features a 5-year-old waitress. Sadly avoid La Cesa Famiglia di Pastai. As it’s name suggests it’s only pizza and pasta but they charge 10 euros for 1/2 litre of rough red, when the going rate is 4,80.
There are ATMs to spare and a multitude of little mini markets to buy your essential supplies. Although when I withdrew 500 euros from the ATM, I got slugged with a $30 fee (on top a crap rate!)
10. So what next?
This is probably the 5th time we’ve visited Greece. And we do love it. The first was for our honeymoon in Corfu, which for logistics reasons, was held a few weeks before our wedding. We visited a second time as we traveled from London to Sydney in 1981 and on that trip met our dear Spokane friends Tom and Robin, who have featured in these pages. Those were happy carefree days, Greece still had the drachma and was a cheap as chips. Since adopting the euro prices has risen, and now with a 24% GST/VAT, it’s far from inexpensive. But still great fun.
I’ll stop bothering you now for six months and when I next do, the temperature outside will be 30-40 degrees colder than it is today.
*Low Cost Carriers, but none we’ve ever heard of.