Skiathos is the smallest but most cosmopolitan island of the Sporades group, located in the north-western Aegean; The island has only one settlement, Skiathos Town , which is the port and capital of Skiathos. The rest of the island consists in beautiful large beaches, churches, archaeological sites, many supermarkets, villas, restaurants and numerous huge hotel units.
Skiathos is ideal for those who love exciting night life, shopping, crowded beaches, great fun and entertainment; for the visitor seeking a traditional and "Greek" place to enjoy calm holidays, the other Sporades will be a better destination.
Skiathos has always been called by the same name since the pre-Hellenic period; it is supposed that this name was given to the island by the Pelasgians, its first inhabitants, because they were impressed by the great shadow (skia in Greek) of the many trees covering the island.
Dionysus was the god worshipped on the island and his cult name was "Skianthos".
After its first settlers, Skiathos was inhabited by Cretans and then by Mycenaeans, who also occupied the other Sporades. The fertility and the strategic position of the island attracted many invaders.
In the 7th-6th century BC, the inhabitants of Chalkis (today Halkida), in Euboe (Evia) colonized Skiathos; Vine and olive cultivation for which the island is now famous, was started by them. The Chalcidians also created the first fortified town in Skiathos.
During the Persian Wars, Skiathos was a great help to the Athenians and its harbour was used as a fleet base.
In 478 BC, the Athenian Delian League welcomed Skiathos as a member. After the Peloponnesian War (404 BC) Skiathos became officially autonomous and independent.
The Spartians tried to violate this by re-occupying the island but the Skiathians, helped by the Athenians, managed to throw them out and established peace and autonomy in their island for 40 years. But the years of prosperity in Skiathos ended when the Athenians transformed it in a military base against Philip II of Macedonia .
When the Macedonians took Skiathos, they installed a tyrant on the island where the democracy returned only in 341 BC. After the death of Alexander the Great, a succession of leader followed in the entire Greece and in Skiathos during which the Skiathians suffered very much. In 197 BC, Skiathos regained its democracy.
The Romans took Greece in 146 BC but they ceded some liberties to the Skiathians who lived peacefully in the Roman oblivion. In 88 BC, the king of Pontus , Mithriades VI burned and destroyed Skiathos in his war
against the Romans. In 42 BC, Skiathos went back under Athenian domination.
Many pirates' raids devastated the island during those years. After 221 AD, Skiathos went back under Roman authority. During these periods the town of the island grew and developed.
In 325 AD, Christianity appeared on Skiathos and the first church dedicated to the Holy Trinity was built in 530.
During the Byzantine period, Skiathos was part of the province of Thessaly and its bishop belonged to the Metropolis of Larissa.
In the 7th century, Saracen pirates devastated the Island of the Aegean Sea , and Skiathos did not escape the massacre.
In 1204 Crusaders took the territories of the Byzantine Empire as well as the Aegean Islands and Skiathos which they gave to the Venetians. Skiathos, as well as Skopelos, is ruled by the Ghisi brothers, with the help of Marco Sanudo ( Naxos ) against which they will fight later. The Venetian brothers built a castle on Skiathos known today as Bourtzi, located in the main port. The Ghisi remained rulers of Skiathos until 1276. Then other Venetians took the Island which stayed under their authority until the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Skiathians asked the Venetians to stay on their island to avoid Turkish domination, which they did until 1538.
In 1538, the Turk pirate Barbarossa captured Skiathos which came under the Ottoman domination. During the early years of the 19th century, the inhabitants of Skiathos started to develop ship building and exceeded in it. The War of Independence find them well prepared and the Skiathians took part in many revolutionary action against the Turks.
Kleftes (revolutionary brigands) and Armatoloi (local militias) sought refuge in Skiathos, among them was also the famous revolutionary hero Kolokotronis; the island was an active member of the Philiki Etairia (revolutionary secret organization) and became free in 1830 with the rest of Greece . After the revolution, the town of Kastro was abandoned and Skiathians moved to the port where the town expended. Boat building started again.
The Town of Skiathos was greatly damaged by German bombs during the Nazi occupation of Greece . On the 14th of September 1943, the Nazis sank a submarine drawing Skiathians heroes and on the 23rd of August 1944 they burn the island and executed seven young Skiathians; those dates are commemorate today and is one of the most important dates in the history of the island. In the years of the Nazi occupation, Kastro became a refuge for Greek revolutionaries, British, Australians and New Zealanders.
After the war, the economic and social life of Skiathos developed rapidly.
PLACES OF INTEREST
This is the only museum of Skiathos, located in the heart of the capital. The museum used to be the house of the Greek monk, poet and writer Alexandros Papadiamantis during the 19th century. This little museum exposes a small collection documenting about the life of this famous Skiathian. It is opened between 9 am and 1 pm and between 5 pm and 9 pm and closed on Monday. The square where it is located is really picturesque, surrounded by traditional renovated old mansions functioning as jewelleries or art galleries.
Around the middle of the 14th century, because of the continuous pirate raids, the people of Skiathos were forced to set up their city in Kastro, a peninsula on the northern part of the Island, which was a natural fortress. In order to strengthen this fortress they surrounded it with walls full of embrasures and cannons tumed to the land. These were very strong and tall.
Communication between the fortress and the land was done by means of a wooden mobile bridge, which joined the fortress gate with the hill that faced it. In case of emergency it was pulled towards the inside part of Kastro and as a result it did not allow enemies to enter. On top of the external gate there was a terrace with the essential "zematistra", (a skillet full of hot water to scald intruders).
There were about 300 houses and 22 churches. Today just one church remains “Christos sto Kastro” and the ruins of a few others. Part of the defence wall facing the main island also remain. There are also a couple of restored private houses.
The view from the peak of the cliff is fantastic. One can look over to the mainland and see the north end of Skopelos. One can also look down at the pebbled beach just down from the old town.
You can go by boat or to walk from Skiathos town about 4 hours or to drive but also then it is necessary to walk the last bit to the old town.
MONASTERY OF EVAGELISTRIA
This is the only functioning monastery in Skiathos, located under the peak of Mount Karafiltzanaka, 5 kilometres north of Skiathos Town and surrounded by a luxurious vegetation. It was built by monks on the ruins of the older monastery of Evangelismos. It is post-Byzantine and has a cruciform catholicon with three domes and two narthexes, an inner narthex and an exonarthex. In the sanctuary are beautiful frescoes and a magnificent carved wood iconostasis.
The Monastery of Evangelistria has three chapels: Agios Dimitrios, Zoodochos Pigi and the Timios Prodromos (Saint John the Baptist).
The library of the monastery contains various important books and documents and the museum houses the relic of a saint martyred during Ottoman rule, sacred vessels, ecclesiastical objects and post-Byzantine icons.
This monastery has a great importance in Skiathian and Greek history for it was the place were revolutionary fighters against the Turks came to hide, where some of them took the oak of freedom and where the first Greek flag was made.
Every August 15, this historic monastery celebrates the Epitaph (burial) of the Virgin.
THE MONASTERY OF THE DORMITION OF THE VIRGIN
This monastery is located east of Mount Karafiltzanaka , 8 kilometres from the town. It was built in 1540 according to Mount Athos style, restored in 1738 and collapsed in the 19th century. The cruciform main church has been preserved which have wall paintings dating from 1745 and beautiful icons on the carved wood 18th century templon.
MONASTERY OF PANAGHIA KOUNISTRA
This post-Byzantine monastery is dedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin and is located just above Troulos.
It was built in 1655 and the legend says that, during this period, a monk found the icon of the Virgin (Panaghia Kounistra) hanging from a tree and put it in the monastery which expended with the fame of the miraculous icon.
The icon is now housed in the Cathedral of Skiathos, in the capital and is the patron of the island; her feast day is on the 21st of November.
THE CATHEDRAL OF THE TREIS IERARCHES (The three bishops)
This cathedral is interesting because of its architecture which defers of the classical post-Byzantine and Byzantine churches and monasteries usually found in Greece and because it is housing the miraculous icon of the Panaghia Kounistra or Eikonistra, patron of Skiathos, beautiful carved wooden icon screen and a large metal circle bearing icons of the apostles and prophets, under which, in Kastro, medieval weddings were performed.
At the western end of the island about 13 km from Skiathos town.
Koukounaries ("Pine Trees") is the most famous beach of the island and it is considered one of the best beaches in Greece . The beach is a protected habitat, because of its beauty, but it is this beauty that attracts too many visitors daily in the summer. Still there are quiet corners, even during the busiest summer afternoons. The beach is about 3 km in length and there a number of facilities and food outlets near it.
About 3 km from Skiathos town.
A family beach that can get overcrowded, especially on Sundays. Achladies ("Pear Trees") is conveniently very close to Skiathos town.
About 14 km from Skiathos town.
A small sandy beach, close to Koukounaries, with a beach bar and a tavern. Actually there are two beaches: large Banana and small Banana. The latter is smaller, just few minutes walk from the former, and favored by nudists.
About 14 km from Skiathos town.
A very nice, sandy, isolated beach; one of the island's best swimming spots. Access, which is only by foot, is a little bit difficult, thus its name, which is the Greek word for "hidden". Ideal for diving and water sports.
About 8 km from Skiathos town.
A rather small beach and also one of the quietest of the beaches that lie near Skiathos town.
On Skiathos island's west coast, about 10 km from Skiathos Town.
One of the nicest beaches on an island full of nice beaches. Accessible by boat or drive on a dirt road.
About 7 km from Skiathos town.
A very nice family beach, close to the town of Skiathos .
About 5 km from Skiathos town. A nice family beach, close to Skiathos town, that can get too crowded, especially on the weekend. The beach features a variety of water sports and beach bars that have loud music during the day.
In northern Skiathos, accessible only by boat.
One of the best beaches in Greece , Lalaria is accessible by boat and is a definite must-see in Skiathos. You can catch a caique from Skiathos Town and make a tour of northern Skiathos, one of whose stops is Lalaria beach.
17 km from Skiathos town.
The best beach on the northwest side of the island. The condition of the paved road leading to the beach is not optimal. From here you can easily reach the famous castle of Skiathos , which lied about 4 km further down the road.
About 7 klm from Skiathos town.
An excellent isolated beach, not too far from Skiathos town. Access is only through a path which leads to the beach after a 20-minute walk. There is a tavern on the beach.
About 2 km east from Skiathos town.
A nice beach, very close to the airport and not too far from Skiathos town. Xanemos is ideal for windsurfing and water sports.
About 14 km west from Skiathos town.
A quiet sandy beach with a nice tavern and beach bar.
About 15 km from Skiathos town.
An excellent isolated beach with a beach bar, not too far from the Monastery of Panagia Kounistra. Access is by boat or drive on a dirt road.
About 5 km west of Skiathos town.
A very nice beach that is usually not too crowded. To reach it you need to walk about 500 metres from the road. The nearby restaurants serve excellent Greek food and seafood.