At the end of August we made it to the Mediterranean and discovered the perfect peaceful get-away-from-it-all Greek destination. Sleepy Alonissos, to the west of the busier islands of Skopelos and Skiathos – just a two hour ferry ride from Skiathos Town. We went on to stay for a week on beautiful Skiathos afterwards and you can read our blog here.
Our Villa was nestled in the olive groves above the bay of Agios Petros, half way up the east coast and only a 15 minute drive from the capital, Patitiri. From the pool we looked out over the bay below and at the uninhabited island of Peristera across the water. The beach was a two minute walk down through the olive groves below and we were usually alone on it – a beautifully quiet secluded beach with grey sand and pristine clear water, perfect for snorkelling. It was a three bedroom villa with pool, varied outdoor seating areas and a lovely dining area shaded by olive trees. Built by a local stonecutter family (and named appropriately) the stone work was handsome and full of local character.
The sailing harbour of Steni Vala was a 5 minute stroll beyond the beach, with its three tavernas and bar. We ate there a few times, mainly at Tassia’s, where we were only able to scratch the surface of the menu – the house speciality being the locally caught lobster with spaghetti. Seafood is abundant, not only lobster, but tuna, sword fish, prawns and sea bass. The fisherman stop on the quayside first thing in the morning to sell their catch, but if you can’t face getting up that early the fishmonger in Patitiri sells all the locally caught fish you could dream of to cook on the barbecue.
The beaches are both beautiful and peaceful and we tried out a few of them. Leftos Gialos is evocative of an exclusive Caribbean beach, with the wonderful restaurant Elionas, that serves the most delicious fresh calamari, just set back from the tranquil coconut umbrella studded strip. The striking Agios Dimitrios beach was a 10 minute drive from our villa, a unique concave beach jutting out into the Aegean, where we dozed on sun loungers next to the water until we woke up to catch sight of the rare monk seal swimming along the water line – apparently a local visitor named Billy. Other favourite beaches included Kokinokastro, with its red rocks along one side, and also the sandy spread of Chrisa Milia. There is lots of variety, and all of them a short drive away, however it was difficult to beat a quiet swim, first thing in the morning, from the deserted Agios Petros beach just below the house.
Alonissos is part of a Marine Park encompassing the water around several islands and the result is the clearest water you have ever seen in the Mediterranean. The diving is exceptional – we were incredibly fortunate to be one of the very few public visitors to the first ‘underwater museum’ in Greece: literally thousands of amphorae from a 500 BC cargo ship wreck. This spectacular display of two distinct kinds of amphorae is unique in that until it’s discovery it was thought that the Romans were the first to build ships of this size (150 tons). Our local guide was extremely knowledgeable and had spent fifteen years working on the wreck and campaigning for it to be made accessible to the public. It was extremely humbling to be in the presence of something that has changed what we know about maritime history. If all goes well then there are three other well preserved wrecks in the immediate vicinity that will be opened up also. We were in the capable hands of the excellent Ikion Diving team from Steni Vala and we also did other dives off the entrance to our bay, Agios Petros, and also along a wall off the island of Peristera.
N.B. We are restricted in the images we are allowed to show of the shipwreck site and yes, there was a free diver there (2nd image – French Ladies World Champion)
We visited the Old Town of Alonissos up on the hill above the modern capital Patitiri, where we caught sunset over Skopelos to the west. The old fortified ‘kastro’ is a warren of narrow alleyways which was abandoned as the capital in the 1960s after an earthquake. Now mostly rebuilt you can take your pick of cafes and restaurants with magnificent views out along the southern half of the island. Another day we drove up the coast a few miles to the tiny fishing port of Kalamakia where everyone assured us were the best seafood restaurants – we were definitely not disappointed with the lobster dishes. One thing we did miss doing was hiring a boat to explore by ourselves however being out on the dive boat a few times gave us a good flavour of the coast.
There are still several other stunning beaches and of course more delightful tavernas to try – including the small fishing harbour of Kalamakia, providing we can tear ourselves away from the pool terrace of our beautiful villa.
Everywhere we visited was peaceful and uncrowded – we would get a sun bed at the water’s edge and a table in prime position at every restaurant. We wondered if this was a direct effect of COVID but no, say all the locals, business may be a bit down, but Alonissos is pretty much always like this which remains its charm.
Alonissos combines well with the other two Sporades islands, if you have got time, and if peace and quiet is your priority then it is difficult to imagine a lovelier spot. This is not an island for those looking for a lively night out or a stream of must-see day trips – it’s genuinely a pretty unspoilt island. Either relaxing on the terrace & balcony, eating under the olive tree or swimming off deserted Agios Petros beach it really did feel to us like we were far from the madding crowd.
Talk to us about holidays to Alonissos, the Sporades or anywhere in Greece.