[Pretty Skiathos Town]
Imagine a busy town having only 18 taxis. Now imagine a busy island with only 18 taxis to ferry around all of it’s visitors. Welcome to Skiathos, Greece, which despite being a popular tourist destination, measures just seven miles long and four wide, with only one real main road from tip to tail. At its heart, it is a busy harbour port town with the shortest runway – possibly in the world? You’ll receive the warmest of welcomes at the airport, from either your tour operator’s rep or one of those 18 taxi drivers eager to convince you that it’s ‘ok that your luggage is fastened into the open boot’ because they ‘do it all the time’…
The short and narrow runway at Skiathos
There’s something immediately a little ‘old school’ about Skiathos, something that reminds me of holidays I went on as a child. It could be that being met by a rep is something I haven’t experienced for a while, but also, it has all the familiar charm of a quaint, slightly kooky, Mediterranean getaway.
There’s the ageing Greek men to be seen in and around the airport with their sun beaten skin, greying hair and thick dark eyebrows and moustaches, the sounds of the humming quad bikes and mopeds zipping along the curvy main (and only) Tarmac road, the multitude of secluded, coved beaches that sit alongside the twinkling azure blue sea, the big blue cloudless skies and never ending sunshine, the homely tavernas with generations of Greek families and tourists spilling out of them in equal amounts, the indeterminable number of cats on every corner, (see above), and the corner supermarkets with their abundance of neon lilos, rubber rings and buckets and spades waving in the breeze. Almost as soon as we arrive, holidaymakers are keen to tell us that they have been ‘coming back for years’. Everyone loves the place – and we were keen to find out exactly why…
Hotel: The Skiathos Princess Hotel, part of The Santikos Collection
Location: Paraskevi Beach, bus stop 16
Address: Skiathos island 37002, Agia Paraskevi, Greece
Nearest airport: Skiathos – the island has it’s very own, and you can get direct flights from the UK
Packages: Our trip was arranged via Classic Collection Holidays
Pool? Yes, one large family pool and one in the spa
Wi-Fi? Yes, in room and in communal areas – but the signal is poor. Ask for a booster to plug in in your room if you want to use the internet.
Perfect for: Families with young children, couples looking for a relaxing retreat, a chilled break with friends, a ‘baby moon’
FashCatherine credentials: The hotel is on one of the nicest, most peaceful beaches on the island, and it is just a few metres from the pool.
On Agia Paraskevi Platanias beach, where the Skiathos Princess is located
Greece is known for loving families and food – in equal amounts. My sister, Elizabeth, and I chose to visit when Elizabeth was nearly six months pregnant. A ‘baby moon’, if you like. Wherever we went, her bump was cooed over. We were fed so well, I almost always returned back to our room with a baby of my own – albeit a huge food baby.
The view from our hotel room – to the pool and beach – beautiful!
We stayed at the Skiathos Princess Hotel, a stay organised via tour operators Classic Collections. It was the start of the season, and we were met at the airport by an enthusiastic Dutch rep, called Jip. Jip, as it turned out, was working on an internship and had only just taken up his role. He initially confused us with ‘Rodney from Germany’ and nearly had us packed up and off on a boat heading to nearby Skopelos… Luckily, we pointed out that that ‘must be an error’, and, realising that we weren’t a German man, Jip directed us outside where we happily waited in the sunshine (while everyone else went off in big coach loads to their resorts), to be collected by one of the 18 taxis.
Fun fact: James Bond, aka Pierce Brosnan, was apparently guest of note at the Skiathos Princess Hotel. He stayed just along the corridor from our room, while filming Mamma Mia! on the nearby island of Skopelos. And Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn were guests while their own Skiathos island retreat was being refurbished. You can see why they would choose the hotel, with its modern decor, elegant pool area and location right on the beach.
The beach outside the hotel
Being on a beach in Skiathos is seemingly rare for a hotel. So, we couldn’t help but feel a little smug to be able to roll from beach to pool with such ease. It is listed as a five-star resort, with a choice of fairly modern rooms and suites, and a few extra large suites with private pools.
Our Deluxe Junior Premiere Suite (above and below) at the Skiathos Princess
There is a choice of five restaurants, two bars, in-room doing menu, the Harmony Spa and a kids’ club and creche. You can stay at the hotel on various board packages – I would recommend bed and breakfast and eating out in the town and at the local tavernas. This is what we did and we raved about the food, and recommended the tavernas we frequented, to anyone who would listen. More on our amazing food recommendations, further on…
We always managed to bag a sunbed both around the pool and on the beach – although you do have to get up early to get a front row beach bed. The beds are all super comfortable and will help induce that afternoon you will no doubt find yourself slipping into.
Activities at the Skiathos Princess mainly entail being horizontal… i.e lounging around on a well-placed sunbed on the beach or at the pool. It is so peaceful, you can while away hours reading books and magazines, listening to the house music drifting from the restaurant or pool bar.
There is a kids’ pool at one end, sectioned off by a short wall, so as we were travelling without children (this time), we stayed at the other end (near the bar), and didn’t notice any noise from the more family-suitable end at all. There were lots of kids and young babies at the hotel, but we hardly noticed them at all. Except when they were being cute at breakfast or paddling around in the sea. No complaints there.
The Skiathos Princess’ kids’ club (above) and creche has varying opening hours and programs, which can be discussed with the reception concierge. We loved the outside space for kids, which was a gated area, in the shade, with slides and games, and a tent with big pillows for a nice afternoon nap. There are babysitting service available, too.
You can book outside of the hotel activities via the concierge, including boat tours and day trips. We would highly recommend a trip to Skopelos – the nearby island where Mamma Mia! was filmed, but don’t even think about getting on a boat when there is a storm in the air – like we did… Being on a boat in a storm is never fun, so book through a hotel recommended tour operator. Luckily, summer days in Greece are usually cloud-free. Although, have a look at some of the incredible photo opportunities it provided…
The chapel, seen behind us, which featured in Mamma Mia!
You may (read: you definitely will) hear a lot of Mamma Mia! music drifting through the air all over Skiathos Town, due to the close proximity of Skopelos, and also because some scenes were filmed in Skiathos too. Like the bit where Sophie posts the letters to her ‘dads’? That’s at the Agios Nikolaos town clock tower, pictured below.
Embrace the musical interlude by going to the Skiathos Town open air cinema, (above) which shows the film three times a week in peak season. As well as encouraging you to sing along, there is a cool bar serving drinks and popcorn, and appearances from locals on the stage who act out bits of the film.
Climbing up to the clock tower…
Skiathos Town itself is small but perfectly formed. Think, a maze of cobbled streets, whitewashed buildings, blue window shutters, lots and lots of small, family-run restaurants, a picturesque harbour and more cats than people.
The town is built backwards from the harbour, which winds around the town front. Worth a visit is the Bourtzi Cultural Centre on a mound between the old and new harbours (above) – there is a great tapas restaurant here, with good cheesecake. Plus, it has a toilet with a fantastic view across the bay!
Skaithos is perhaps best known for its beautiful beaches. I had heard that Skiathos was renowned for being the place to party in the ’60s; it’s charming yet glamorous coastline and sparkling harbour nightlife to match attracting the glitterati of the day. Indeed, it still does attract the rich and famous, with its crystal clear surrounding sea, sandy beaches (over 60 of them) surely being a massive draw for celebs including Kate Moss et al. Also, the coastline begs for chartered yachts to sail it. Most of the beaches, all on the northern side, can only be accessed off road or by boat. You can access the southern beaches by road, by hiring a car or quad, taking the bus or the aforementioned taxis.
The bus runs from Skiathos Town all the way to the other side of the island to Koukanaries beach, pictured above. It runs until around 11pm and costs just 1 Euro 60 for a single trip. Not that I suppose the aforementioned Kurt and Goldie, would need to take a bus.
We loved the beach our hotel was on – peaceful, clean, crystal water, pictured above – but it is worth catching the easy bus from outside the hotel to a few of the ones along the route. Our favourite of the ones we visited was Koukounaires, previously mentioned, which is a long stretch of sandy beach with pretty views. Banana Beach is the most famous, with a nudist beach at one end, but the tavernas weren’t open there yet and we found it a bit overrated. It’s a bit of a trek, and discovering it had no toilets after walking with a pregnant woman in tow to get there, was not the most fun.
On arrival, it is worth having a chat with the concierge to get a feel for the local area (Agia Paraskevi) and where to eat. Although, with Skiathos not being huge, you will definitely get your bearings pretty quickly.
I would recommend trying the local tavernas, all family-run. We thoroughly enjoyed every meal we had. All were delicious and totally Instagram-worthy, if that floats your boat. My top two recommendations to eat around the hotel are the below, although, all tavernas around the hotel are inviting and high quality.
Mesostrato restaurant, pictured above – We went here twice, and ate large portions of pork souvlaki, (pictured below) Greek salad, baklava and home cooked potatoes (really really good chips).
Kipos taverna, pictured below – A new taverna on the Agia Paraskevi Skiathos scene, this place is very, very pretty. The giant portions we chose were of tzatziki and pitta, beef stew, spinach with proscuitto, cashew nuts and balsamic glaze.
Other great places to eat in Skiathos:
Panorama Pizza hilltop restaurant, pictured below – Take a taxi from the hotel up here. This is one place not to be missed when staying in Skiathos. The food is good, the welcome is friendly and just look at the view…
Scuna restaurant, pictured below – A sea front restaurant in the heart of Skiathos Town. We ate some of the freshest food we had, including baked feta cheese with honey, while in Skiathos in this beautifully located restaurant.
Ergon Greek deli + cuisine, pictured below – In the heart of Skiathos Town, on the ‘main road’, sits Ergon deli, which is one of the new wave of boutique style, ‘trendy’ restaurants. It reminded us of something that might pop up in London, and to our surprise, we found out that there is indeed one on Regent Street! Don’t be put off by the fact that there is more than one of these, the food is incredible. You’ll find pulled pork gyros wraps, the BEST hummus, and the freshest pesto pasta in town.
So, why do people keep returning to Skiathos?
Amazing, fresh food, pristine beaches, a compact size with beach and mountainous areas to explore, and a local bus to transport you between them and the quaint island town… There seems to be a hundred reasons to come back.
Inbetween our day trips and serious beach/pool time, we didn’t even have time in our week’s trip to venture up to the mountains – where we had heard there is a great dog rescue centre where you can volunteer to walk the dogs, plus lots of pretty monasteries. And, we have yet to explore the northern coastline by boat and/or quad bike, which is where the even more beautiful beach are said to be. I don’t see how the water could be more crystal clear or the beaches more inviting, but once Elizabeth’s baby is here, and old enough (i.e. this time next year), we are going to be booking a trip to return with our quad bike-driving boyfriends. Just call us the boomerang kids.
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The stay reviewed in this article, in June 2016, was supported by Classic Collection Holidays and The Skiathos Princess Hotel.