Yes, I know, you’ve probably seen this title splashed around before, but I guarantee you,
Skopelos deserves your attention. Skopelos is a Greek island in the Western Aegean Sea and is one of several islands which comprise the Northern Sporades island cluster.
This little group of islands lay east of the Pelion peninsula on the mainland, and north of the island of Euboea. It is part of the Thessaly region. Apart from its attractive geological location (it is next door to Skiathos, famously dubbed ‘Party island or ‘Mykonos 2’), and fertile beauty, Skopelos is truly an island with it all. And this is not a biased opinion, even though both my parents are from Skopelos, I can’t call myself a ‘local’, as I wasn’t born there, however I have seen the island through the eyes of a local.
It has the lush pine forests of a tropical island with the attractions and crystal-clear water you’d expect of a bustling beachside town.
The island was made famous in 2008 when it appeared in the ABBA musical Mamma Mia!
The movie was a hit, with the sequel released in 2018. Most of the scenes in the movie
were filmed in and around the island. In the movie, the island is called ‘Kalokairi’ (which also means ‘Summer’ in Greek).
Kalokairi is Skopelos in real life.
Some notable locations the movie was shot were Glisteri, Kastani, Agnondas and Stafylos.
Glisteri was used as the filming location in Mama Mia! where Sophie leaves for her wedding. Additionally, a cliff on this same peninsula was used for the cliff jumping scene with Sophie and her potential fathers, and the cast picnicked on a beach south of Agnondas which is just off Stafylos Road.
The movie really became a poster for Greek Travel, with Skopelos gaining a major tourism boost. People flocked to the island to find the gorgeous locations that really made the movie a hit.
The locals recommend the following attractions if you visit Skopelos:
- Agios Ioannis Church (St. John’s Church), which is featured in the film. If you aren’t
scared of heights, I highly suggest braving the 110 steps which are carved into the rock and which will lead you to the top. The view is simply breathtaking and well worth the sweat (and tears)!. The tiny church has become famous all over the world, as it was the setting for Sophie’s wedding in the “Mamma Mia!” movie. Allow plenty of time at the top to take in the scenery and take lots of photos.
- Panormos Beach. As a local, this beach does it for me. The sandy beach is enclosed in a stunning bay and consists of two small islets, surrounded by typical Skopelos forest. The water is so clear that you can see straight to the bottom for miles. Think of the Maldives, surrounded by lush forest. That’s Panormos. You can sit here in a deck chair all day and just relax. No entertainment needed. Panormos is located 12 km north-west of Skopelos Town.
- Hovolo Beach. “It has everything” according to the locals. It’s the ‘secret beach’, as
it’s remote, quiet, picturesque and full of all kinds of rocks to climb and jump from. It has the clearest, mesmerizing blue water in all the beaches of Skopelos, so much so that you’ll forget where you are. This beach is famous amongst locals for its secluded location, and requires a hike with closed shoes to reach. Not as popular as the other beaches, but pure bliss if privacy is your thing.
- Kastani Beach. Probably Skopelos’ most famous beach, made popular by being
nicknamed the ‘Mamma Mia’ beach. The scenes in the movie where Sophie and Sky sing ‘Lay All Your Love on Me’ and the scene where they say farewell to Donna and Sophie’s dads were both filmed here. Kastani beach is different as it has softer white sand, not as rocky as the other beaches, probably because of how busy it is during peak season with all the tourists stomping around! You can expect to wait 30-60 minutes to get a beach spot at Kastani. It is located 15 km west of Skopelos Town
- Agios Riginos Monastery. This amazing monastery (no longer inhabited) rests in the
hills above Skopelos Town and is dedicated to the island’s patron saint. Alive in the 4th century, St Riginos was the first bishop of Skopelos and was martyred in 362 under the orders of the Roman Emperor Julian. His sarcophagus is in the monastery’s beautiful courtyard. The current building is from 1728 but is on top of a Byzantine monastery going back much further. If you’re here on the 25th of February, you’ll witness a mass pilgrimage to the monastery, also attended by worshippers from Alonissos and Skiathos – a site you’ll never forget.
- Sendoukia Carved Graves. There are four graves here, located near the crest of
Mount Kyra. They are roughly 2.5 metres in length and partially covered with big slabs of slate that have been turned over as a sign that the graves were plundered long ago. The large sheets of bare rock have signs of human intervention in the form of ancient graves cut from the stone. The age of the graves is not known, but scientists say they are most likely from Roman or early-Christian times. You get an ancient feeling here. Kyra is also known for its pure mountain spring water, while the Monastery of Efstathios is a brief walk down the slope from the graves. The other big draw is the incredibly clear view of Alonissos, seen from over the strait. The best time to hike to the location is first thing in the morning, before sunrise. Witnessing the sunrise from Sendoukia is otherworldly.
- Boat trip to the neighbouring island of Alonissos. Probably the best day you’ll have
on your holiday! Alonissos is the home of Greece’s Only Marine Park, the National Marine Park of Alonissos and the Northern Sporades. This highly restricted area is the breeding ground of the rare monk seal, which is a challenge to locate and get a view of since there are only about 600 left in the world. However, dolphins and beautiful turtles abound plentifully. The boat takes you to otherwise inaccessible Islands. (You can only reach them by boat). Swim in caves and snorkel all day long. I highly recommend this day cruise, Milto and Lena will take you on an adventure you’ll never forget!As you can see, Skopelos isn’t an island that you can just spend a day in. You need at least 3 days to get everything in. The island may appear smаll, but there is so much to do!The local cuisine is incredible on the taste buds. Make sure you try the pork dish with plums, sea urchin salad, and the famous Skopelos pie with milk, cheese and onions. You’ll soon find out that Skopelos islаnd has much mоrе tο offer than just the locations of the scenes that Mamma Mia were shot!This article is dedicated to my beautiful Yiayia Despina Asterou, proud native of Skopelos.
Despina passed away in August of 2018.
May she rest in Peace and may her memory be everlasting!