Skiathos, a beautiful Greek island in the Sporades, has become famous for being one of the filming locations for the movie ‘Mamma Mia.’
This gorgeous, verdant island may be small but it is blessed with a picturesque old town, plenty of unspoilt nature and some of the best beaches in Europe.
There’s enough things to do in Skiathos, Greece, to keep you happy for a two week holiday or more, even if you’re not a fan of the movie.
Skiathos – The Jewel of the Sporades
Like sparkling emerald jewels in the northwest Aegean Sea, the Sporades are Greece’s most verdant and green islands with authentic Greek charm, unspoilt nature and pine forests tumbling down the hills to meet beautiful white sandy beaches and clear turquoise shallow waters.
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The Sporades consist of 24 islands but only 4, Skiathos, Skopelos, Skyros and Alonnisos, are permanently inhabited.
Skiathos is the most developed and most visited island of the Sporades and is the easiest to access due to its international airport.
Skiathos is also the ideal gateway to exploring the rest of these idyllic Greek islands with easy daily boat trips to the neighboring islands.
Why I Love Skiathos
It’s home to the best beaches in Greece
At only 12 km long and 6 km wide, Skiathos may be a small island, but there are over 60 lovely sandy beaches to explore and plenty of things to do and reasons to visit Skiathos, Greece.
Skiathos’s sandy beaches are regarded as some of the very best in all of Greece. The South of the island is more developed and the beaches offer golden sand, sun loungers, beach bars, water sports and changing facilities.
Whereas the North is more wild, rugged and undeveloped, covered with pine trees instead of hotels and with hidden coves and long stretches of uncrowded beaches like Aselinos and Mandraki that you might even have all to yourself.
But hasn’t lost it’s traditional Greek charm
Skiathos Town is a pretty, traditional, Greek old town with blue and white buildings, historic cobbled narrow streets, stylish boutiques, an open air cinema with nightly showings of the Mamma Mia movie and harbour front cafes.
There’s plenty of accommodation and dining options on the beautiful island but Skiathos island still doesn’t feel too over-developed and hasn’t lost its authentic Greek charm.
The island is a lot less crowded and more affordable than more famous Greek islands like Santorini, Mykonos and Crete but still offers plenty of things to do and everything you might ever need for a lovely holiday.
The locals and other tourists are friendly and speak good English and Skiathos has become known as the Boomerang island as people fall in love and return year after year.
The Best Things to do in Skiathos, Greece
Relax on the Best Beaches in Skiathos
Boasting some of the best sandy beaches in Europe, it makes sense that relaxing on the beach is one of the most popular things to do in Skiathos.
With over 60 beautiful sandy beaches there is a beach to suit everyone in Skiathos whether you like your beaches buzzing with bars and water sports or whether you like to escape from it all and just relax immersed in nature.
So picking the best of the many beaches in Skiathos is really down to your preference. I can’t mention every beach in Skiathos in this quick guide, but here’s some of my favourites.
The very best beach in Skiathos is Koukounaries Beach. A lovely sandy beach with soft white sands and calm, clear waters backed by a pine forest, lake and nature reserve make for the perfect beach day.
There are a few low key beach bars along the sand and we enjoyed a Greek salad, carafe of Greek wine with our feet in the sand right on the sea front. Umbrellas, sun beds, toilets, showers and changing facilities are available.
More Beaches near Koukounaries
There’s quite a few fantastic beaches with walking distance of Koukournaries like Agia Eleni Beach, Banana Beach and Little Banana Beach.
Agia Eleni Beach is a small sandy beach close to Koukounaries beach that is also very beautiful and popular. Agia Eleni is also my favourite spot for sunset.
You can also walk from Koukounaries Beach over the hill and through the luxurious Elivi Resort to the crescent shaped Banana Beach and head over the rocks to Little Banana Beach – an official nudist beach.
Where to stay and how to get to Koukounaries
Koukounaries is situated at the South West end of the island 13 km from Skiathos town. It’s easily accessible by bus in about 30 minutes from the town and there’s a selection of hotels that make for a relaxing stay.
The Elivi Resort
The new 5 star Elivi Resort is undoubtedly the most stunning hotel in Koukounaries, and possibly the whole of Skiathos. This sprawling new luxury resort sits on the hillside overlooking four sandy beaches with high class restaurants, scenic gardens, sunset and sea view rooms and even private pool suites.
My absolute favourite beach in Skiathos was Lalaria Beach. The clear turquoise colour of the water was unlike anything I’ve seen before and the sparkling white pebbles, dramatic cliffs and the spectacular natural arch rising above the crystal clear sea really blew me away.
Lalaria Beach is a unique and unbelievably beautiful beach and it’s only accessible by boat which makes it even more special and uncrowded. There are also some sea caves located just before Lalaria.
We rented a boat and had this stunning beach all to ourselves, it was like discovering a deserted island, until a boat tour group showed up. There’s no beach bar or facilities here so bring a picnic!
Another of the most beautiful beaches is Vourvoulomis Beach, a naturally beautiful golden sandy beach nestled in the pine forest 8 km from Skiathos town with a younger and livelier vibe from the beach bars.
If you’re lucky you may even see swans on the beach and in the ocean. We saw them at Troulos and Vourvoulomis.
Beaches Close to Skiathos Town
Some of the main beaches in Skiathos include Megali Ammos Beach, the closest beach to the town but can get pretty crowded, and Agios Georgios Beach.
Other beaches to check out include Vassilias Beach, Achilades and Agia Paraskevi Beach. These are also lively and popular beaches busy with bars and water sports.
You can access most of the main beaches in the South by bus, but the most fun way is to use a water taxi transfer which run from the old port in Skiathos Town to the most popular beaches like Koukounaries, Agia Paraskevi, Achilades and Vassilias
Wander the Streets of Skiathos Town
Exploring the old town, the heart of the island, was another of my favourite things to do in Skiathos, Greece.
Just by wandering through the old town and getting lost in the maze of stairways and narrow back streets you will discover many delightful and picturesque blue and white buildings, lanes that overflow with colourful flowers, interesting boutiques, art galleries and cafes in which to soak up the relaxed island life atmosphere.
The old port is the jumping off point for the many boat tours that explore the neighbouring islands and also a lovely place to relax in one of the waterfront cafes.
Also make sure to explore the tiny Bourtzi Peninsula, a former Venetian fortress which lies between the new and old ports with lovely views, shady pine trees and a great café.
Visit Agios Nikolaos Church and The Papadiamantis House Museum
Climb up the winding steps through the old town to visit Agios Nikolaos Church and Clock Tower and take in the views over the town and the harbour.
Another thing to do in the town is to visit The Papadiamantis House Museum, the birthplace and home of Alexandros Papadiamantis, the renowned Greek novelist considered to be the father of modern Greek literature.
Enjoy Skiathos’s Nightlife
Skiathos Town is also the island’s nightlife hub with many bars, restaurants, cafes and shops situated on Papadiamantis Street, the main pedestalised street,
Start the evening at one of the excellent water front seafood restaurants on Paraliakos Street, watching the yachts and local fishermen before partying the night away in one of the nightclubs on the same street.
One of the most scenic places to eat is also located high above the town. The historic Windmill Restaurant is one of the oldest buildings on the island and offers beautiful views over Skiathos, especially at sunset.
If you’re on a budget grab a gyros from one of the stalls on Papadiamantis Street for only a couple of Euros and take advantage of the happy hour cocktail offers in the harbour front bars. My favourite places for cocktails were the bars on the steps of the streets heading up from the harbour.
See the Mamma Mia Filming Locations
I have to be honest, watching the movie really reignited my desire to visit a Greek island. So when I found out that ‘Kalokairi’ was actually Skiathos and Skopelos I started planning my own trip!
If you also liked the film then undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Skiathos is to visit the filming locations!
Even though a lot of the film, especially the interiors of the hotel, were actually filmed in Pinewood Studios in London, fans are sure to recognise some parts of the town from the movie, especially the old port and the steps up to Agios Nikolaos church and the clock tower where Sophie sent the letters off at the beginning of the film.
If you want to watch the movie again it’s shown daily in the outdoor cinema on Papadiamantis Street. Watching the movie under the stars and singing along is a fun way to spend an evening.
There’s also a few bakeries and ice cream parlours named after the movie, but thankfully the island hasn’t gotten too tacky by over capitalising on its connection with the film.
Some of the filming locations were on the neighboring island of Skopelos but luckily there are a couple of special Mamma Mia boat tours to take you there for a fun day trip.
Take the Mamma Mia Boat Trip Tour
Climbing up to the church is quite challenging but it’s a fun day out and you can sing along to the soundtrack on the boat. The locations you visit are beautiful and definitely one of the best things to do in Skiathos, even if you’re not a fan of the movie.
Check out this article for more about where in Greece Mamma Mia was filmed.
More Things to do in Skiathos
Go on a boat trip or island hopping
One of the highlights of a visit to Skiathos is the range of boat trips from the old port that can whisk you off for a fun day out to explore the many islands nearby, soak up the views from the boat and enjoy snorkelling and swimming in the crystal clear waters of the Aegean Sea – it’s like a mini island hopping adventure!
You can take a boat tour to explore the coastline of Skiathos stopping off at Koukounaries and Lalaria, seeing the sea caves and kastro (castle) as well as visiting the tiny uninhabited islands and nature reserves of Arkos and Tsougkrias. Check out the different sailing trips and book online here
There are also boats and ferries departing from the port to the neighbouring islands of Skopelos and Alonnisos and the Greek mainland.
Or rent your own boat for a day!
If you prefer the freedom of exploring the island’s hidden gems independently then you can even rent a boat and be a captain for the day! It’s easy and fun to drive the boat and you don’t even need a boat license to rent the smaller motor boats.
We rented a boat from GR Boat Rental and after a quick training session had the best day exploring the whole island, stopping off wherever we wanted, having a picnic on the boat and even seeing dolphins!
Experience Plane Spotting at Skiathos Airport
You might not expect to see tiny Skiathos Airport on a list of the best things to do in Skiathos but plane spotting has become a major attraction in Skiathos.
The airport is walking distance from the town and offers a unique opportunity for plane spotters to get super close to the airplanes as they take off and land – something that you can only experience in Skiathos and Saint Martin in the Caribbean.
It’s incredible, and a little scary, how close the planes get to the onlookers and the road. There’s only a couple of flights as day so check the flight schedule before you go to the watching area at the town end of the runway. There’s even a café set up for plane spotters with a flight board.
Skiathos’s unspoilt nature and 197km long hiking trail network make it a popular place for hiking – the perfect way to explore the wild natural landscape of the island.
You can hike to uncrowded beaches, like Mandraki Beach on the rugged North side of the island or up to the island’s peaks for amazing views across the Mediterranean.
One of the most rewarding hikes is to the ancient ruins of Skiathos Castle, known locally as the kastro. This medieval castle is perched high up on a cliff side on the Northern tip of the island and dates back to the 14th century when it was built to protect the island from pirates and invading forces. There’s not much left of the castle now but the views are still spectacular.
There’s also the option for guided horseback riding tours for a unique way to explore the island.
Visit the Evangelistria monastery
Built in 1794 by a group of monks the serene and beautiful Evangelistria Monastery is one of the most historic places to visit in Skiathos.
Situated on a hill surrounded by pine forests the monastery has a super peaceful setting and a special energy. You can take the bus, drive up or even hike to the Monastery.
An interesting fact about Evangelistria Monastery is that the very first Greek Flag was woven and blessed here! There’s also a cute shop and café with lots of produce made by the monks.
Where to Stay in Skiathos
The most convenient place to stay on the island is in Skiathos Town itself, but there are also hotels and resorts on all the main beaches and I enjoyed the experience of staying at both Koukounaries beach and in the town.
By staying in town you can easily wander the charming streets of the old town, take a boat tour from the old port, and enjoy the biggest selection of accommodation, dining, shopping and nightlife.
Megali Ammos, the nearest main beach to Skiathos Town, is less than 10 minutes away by bus and you can explore a different beach every day by using the handy bus that runs along the coast.
Skiathos Luxury Living
We stayed at Skiathos Luxury Living and loved our spacious mezzanine apartment suite. I couldn’t get enough of the stunning views over the old town and the sea from the balcony and pool and loved watching the ferries and planes.
The location was unbeatable, just a few minutes walk to the harbour or main town yet still peaceful enough to ensure a quiet nights sleep. Check prices, availability and reviews here.
How to get to Skiathos
Getting to Skiathos, Greece is easy and fun whether you arrive by air or by boat.
The island has a small airport which makes visiting Skiathos easy. Skiathos Alexandros Papadiamantis Airport (JSI) receives daily flights from Athens as well as international flights from other places in Europe like the UK, Germany and Scandinavia.
The best way to reach Skiathos by ferry is from mainland Greece is from the port of Volos in Thessaly. The ferry takes 1.5 – 3 hours and you can book it here.
Skiathos is also connected by ferry to Athens (Piraeus), Thessaloniki, Agios Konstantinos, Evia and other islands of the Sporades.
Getting around Skiathos is made easy with the island’s bus route, but it’s limited to the more developed South of the island. You can also rent scooters, quad bikes or a car to explore the whole island independently.
I hope you found my suggestions for things to do in Skiathos useful. Anything I’ve missed out? Let me know in the comments.