Looking for summer holiday inspiration? Vicky Smith heads to the Greek island of Skiathos for sunny skies, crystal waters, a picturesque town with cobbled streets and, most importantly, plenty of taramasalata
Photography: Christos Drazos Photography © Santikos Collection
The lowdown on Skiathos
Before I visited Skiathos – a dazzlingly pretty Greek island around four hours’ flight from London – I conjured up visions of lying under sunny skies next to crystal-clear water with a glass of something cold, an endless supply of taramasalata and Pierce Brosnan wandering along humming Fernando.
While the last part didn’t actually happen while I was there (although this is where Mamma Mia! was filmed, so you can’t write it off completely), my first visit to this idyllic island provided plenty of the rest. In fact, when it comes to short-haul holidaying with plenty of sun, scenery and fish-based dips, within my first couple of hours on Skiathos, I came to the conclusion that you won’t find anywhere better.
I conjured up visions of lying under sunny skies next with a glass of something cold, an endless supply of taramasalata and Pierce Brosnan wandering along humming Fernando
Firstly, those sunny skies and crystal waters. They are abundant. It’s a relatively small place – just seven miles long and four miles wide – but it is perfectly formed, with 60 or so beaches to explore on its 27km of coastline, most of which are sandy. Inland, you’ll find pine woods, and the scent of the lofty dark green trees carries on the island’s warm sea breeze.
Away from the woods and beaches, Skiathos town is a picturesque muddle of cobbled streets flanked by fuchsia bougainvillea and buildings so white they look like they’re glowing against the deep blue sky. And while there’s plenty of the usual tourist shops around (yes I did by a beaded anklet and no, I don’t have any regrets), there are lots of higher-end stores stocked with local olive oils, honey, jewellery and pottery, too.
What to Eat and drink
The town is, naturally, home to lots and lots of places to eat, the best of which we found a little away from the main drag on the quieter end of the seafront overlooking some rather impressive yachts. Bustling waiters brought seemingly never-ending rounds of Greek salad, fried aubergine and courgettes, filo pastry oozing with cheese, grilled squid, octopus, gigantic prawns, and hefty lamb shanks in feta-studded gravy.
There’s not a lot that goes on here during the winter months, so as soon as the season starts – around mid-May, running until the start of October, when the airport closes – a real holiday spirit abounds, not only among those visiting for a break but also those who work here, many of whom relocate to the island from other parts of Greece for the summer.
The Borzoi is a million miles away from the more tourist-orientated seafront offerings and worth the extra 10-minute stroll
This means that when it comes to nightlife, there’s a good mix of those who are in situ for a short while, and those who call the island home for longer, resulting in a nicely balanced tourist-to-local ratio.
Those in the know stray away from the waterfront at night and into the winding backstreets of Skiathos town to the likes of The Borzoi, an upmarket, open-air bar where the vibe is laid-back, the patrons are glamorous, and elderflower and prosecco spritzes come in glasses as big as your head.
It’s a million miles away from the more tourist-orientated seafront offerings and worth the extra 10-minute stroll. That said, Skiathos stalwarts such as the Rock n Roll bar shouldn’t be missed if you’re after a dose of lively nightlife – full of summer holiday frivolity, this bustling bar/club makes for a night of fun-filled people watching against a booming soundtrack that’s as eclectic as the clientele.
Where to Stay
In terms of places to stay, there’s plenty of choice on Skiathos, and at the higher end of the scale sits the five-star, family-run Skiathos Princess, where the feel is laid-back luxury meets local charm.
Rooms are enormous, modern and airy, and well-appointed with huge balconies or private gardens and plunge pools, so you don’t actually have to leave your own little area if you don’t really want to, but make your way down to the golden sand on the pretty private beach and you can go paddleboarding or order drinks to your sun lounger while looking out over the sparkling Aegean sea.
Come the evening, sundowners are taken on stylish open-air terraces, and there are five restaurants serving superb food. Dine on the sand surrounded by fairy lights and stars, or in the beachside upscale tavern-esque restaurant, where again, seafood, lamb and cheese are the stars of the show, as well as local wine, super chilled and the perfect way to cool down in Skiathos’s humid evening air.
There’s everything else that you associate with five-star holidaying, too – perfectly manicured grounds, a spa and impeccable service, but because it’s family-owned, none of it comes across as flashy or in-your-face. And at under 20 euros for a bottle of rose made from grapes grown on the family’s own vineyards, you can totally go for it without worrying about the credit card bill.
For younger guests, there’s a kids’ club with loads of activities and beach games, and excursions can be arranged too, while for adult holidaymakers there’s plenty on offer, from watersports and boat trips – where it’s quite likely you’ll spot some dolphins – to art classes on the beach. Does it get much more idyllic than that?
Oh, and they do a cracking taramasalata too.
Classic Collection Holidays (0800 047 1064) offers seven nights at Skiathos Princess from £929 per person in May. Price based on two adults sharing a club, garden room on a bed and breakfast basis and includes return flights from London Gatwick (other UK departure airports available) and private transfers.