There are few things in life that I enjoy more than island hopping in Greece. I love the organised chaos as a huge ferry arrives, trucks reversing, motorbikes revving, tourists milling, crewmen shouting and then the silence that suddenly falls as everyone is swept off towards the horizon.
There are around two hundred Greek islands to visit and every one of them has something unique to offer. No other country in the world has scattered its treasures so abundantly around itself.
So far I’ve managed only about 30 of them, but this year I added three more to the tally by visiting the Sporades archipelago. Skiathos is easily reached – there are direct flights from Gatwick and Manchester – and makes for a good starting point. The island is famous for its superb beaches. Scenes from the film, Mamma Mia!, were shot here – which also adds to its allure.
Sadly though, I did not quite fall in love with Skiathos. From the moment I arrived, I got the sense that I was being exploited. Perhaps it was the surly taxi driver who picked me up at the airport and demanded €17 for a five-minute drive to my hotel, the over-abundance of tourist tat in the main town or the hotel itself (Aegean Suites Hotel), expensive to begin with, but charging me five times the market price for a glass of cold water!
A bus runs the full length of the island and you won’t find a lovelier beach in Greece than Koukounaries – although unfortunately there are hundreds of people who agree. I’ve never been one for packed out beach bars, pedalos and pounding music so I hired a motorbike to follow the rough tracks on the north coast. It was worth it. The beaches here aren’t easy to reach but they’re totally unspoilt, a reminder of what Skiathos must once have been like.
Skiathos Town is loud, crowded and almost ruthlessly dedicated to tourism. But there are some surprises too. I climbed up from the pretty…