As vacation destinations go, the island of Skyros tends to fly largely under the radar, with many fewer visitors each year than some of the more well-known Greek islands. But what this remote, sparsely-populated island lacks in crowds, it makes up for in the areas of charm, history and hospitality.
Located in the Aegean Sea, Skyros is the largest and remotest member of the Sporades chain; around 3,000 residents call the 86 square-mile island their year-round home. Because it has not experienced the same tourism boom as its northern neighbors, the island has preserved much of its centuries-old culture and traditions. Villagers know their neighbors and come together for weddings, festivals and other celebrations in the town square, and many don’t even bother locking the doors to their whitewashed cubic homes.
The southern half of the island is largely barren, with few tourist attractions apart from the tomb of famed British poet Rupert Brooke, which sits in a peaceful olive grove and is inscribed with Brooke’s most famous sonnet, “The Soldier.”
By contrast, northern Skyros contains the island’s largest villages, including capital city Skyros town (alternately called Chora), as well as most of its hotels, restaurants and museums. The beaches are stunning and secluded—ideal for visitors seeking a tranquil, private refuge from fast-paced daily life. History buffs should plan a visit to the archaeological museum, where artifacts from recent excavations of an early Bronze Age settlement are on display. Active tourists have plenty of options for recreation, including diving, windsurfing, fishing, hiking and more.
Best Time to Visit Skyros
As with most of the other Greek islands, the best time to visit Skyros is late spring through early fall, when the weather is ideal for swimming, sunbathing and exploring the island. The island generally gets little rain, with most of its annual precipitation falling in the winter months. The weather in July and August tends to be hot and humid, but the strong northern winds that blow across the island provide a welcome cooling effect.
Summer is also the busiest season for tourism in Skyros, which means resorts, hotels, restaurants and other attractions will be open and ready for business; some close for the season in late October or early November and don’t reopen until April or May. However, because Skyros is still relatively undiscovered by international travelers, crowds are manageable even during peak season.
Getting to Skyros
Skyros operates a small airport about two miles north of Skyros town, which receives only domestic flights from Athens and Thessaloniki. No charter flights or direct international flights provide service to Skyros.
Ferries to Skyros are surprisingly limited, departing only from the tiny port town of Kymi on the east coast of Euboea island. KTEL buses run daily from Athens to Kymi via Chalki; travelers can then catch the ferry operated by Skyros Shipping Company to reach Skyros. Ferries run several times daily during high season, and the trip takes about 90 minutes.
Places to Stay in Skyros
- Ammos Hotel: This boutique hotel in Magazia on Skyros’ east coast is open from April to October, offering guests luxurious beachfront accommodations in a sleek, modern setting. While each of the 21 spacious rooms, suites and maisonettes is decorated in its own style, all include high ceilings, soft beds and plenty of natural light with garden or sea views. Its shimmering pool is surrounded by comfortable lounge chairs and umbrellas, and a poolside bar serves light meals and snacks, sodas, coffee and adult beverages. A sumptuous daily breakfast buffet features a rotating menu of freshly-baked bread and savory pies, pastries, fruit, cereal and more, all made with organic ingredients on-site.
- Hydroussa Hotel: Also located at Magazia beach, the Hydroussa Hotel offers magnificent views of the bright-blue Aegean Sea. All 22 non-smoking rooms feature sea views, air conditioning, TV and refrigerator, although free Wi-Fi is available only in the hotel lobby. The hotel property backs up to the sandy shores of Magazia beach, and an emerald-green oceanfront lawn lined with lounge chairs is an ideal spot for relaxation any time of day.
- Aegean Apartments: These family-sized apartments offer plenty of space, with a bedroom, living room, sleeper sofa, fully-equipped kitchen and covered balcony. The units are located less than a quarter mile from the beach and the port, with easy access to supermarkets, souvenir shops, cafés and tavernas.
- Anemnesia Apartments: This family-run business offers unforgettable hospitality and plush accommodations, with each apartment and maisonette equipped with a private courtyard, full kitchen, living room, bedroom, dining area and laundry facilities, as well as free Wi-Fi, private parking and soundproof windows for total privacy.
- George Studios: This modestly-sized modern hotel includes eight large double rooms and three executive rooms with loft bedrooms. The property is located within walking distance of Molos beach and the commercial center of Skyros town, and guests enjoy free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, satellite TV, private balconies, refrigerators and microwaves in every room.
- Dioni Hotel: Comprised of four autonomous Skyrian houses, the Dioni property contains 17 generously-sized guest apartments with fully-equipped kitchens and private verandas with views of the pool, gardens or sea. Flat-screen TVs, air conditioning, free Wi-Fi and a small onsite football field are just a few of the other amenities included in each stay.
- Nefeli Hotel: This modern four-star hotel prides itself on its use of eco-friendly décor in its rooms and common areas, which are bright, airy and attractive. The five-building complex includes standard, superior and executive rooms with luxurious amenities, such as marble and crystal accents, jacuzzi tubs, plasma TVs, fireplaces and private verandas with excellent views of central Skyros town.
How Long to Stay in Skyros
Though Skyros is somewhat remote and relatively undiscovered, it offers plenty of opportunities for recreation, entertainment and relaxation. Give yourself at least a couple of days to explore Skyros town and the other villages and a few more for relaxing on the beach, sailing around the island and diving in the crystal-clear waters of the Aegean.
Getting Around Skyros
For a small island, Skyros has a well-organized public transportation system. Routes originate from Skyros town and run to Linaria, Magazia, Aherounes and the airport. Fare is around three euros per trip.
Taxis are available in Skyros town and Linaria as well as the airport, but this method of travel will cost you: about 20 euros for a trip from Skyros town to Linaria.
Renting a car or moped gives tourists the greatest freedom for exploring the island and setting their own agenda. Small cars rent for 50 to 70 euros per day, while mopeds and motorcycles are about 25 euros per day.
Things to Do on Skyros
Byzantine Castle and Monastery of Agios Georgios
This remains of this once-mighty stone fortress sit upon the highest point in Skyros town, and while the walls have crumbled over the centuries, the foundational architecture remains intact. The castle was built during the Byzantine era to defend the island against pirates and other invaders. An impressive marble lion is embedded in the wall over the main entrance
Within the exterior walls is the Monastery of Agios Georgios, originally built in the mid-13th century and expanded in 1602, when the main church and bell tower were completed. It was renovated in 2001 after a powerful earthquake caused severe damage to the structure. The church contains impressive frescoes and a carved wooden iconostasis, and the balcony on its west side provides a bird’s-eye view of the town below.
At the Archaeological Museum in Skyros town, visitors can view artifacts such as Geometric-era pottery, coins and jewelry recovered from an ancient cemetery in Magazia. The museum also contains a folklore exhibit with a traditional Skyrian house equipped with authentic tools, furniture and other items.
Skyros is known for its rare breed of ponies, introduced to the island by the Athenians in the 8th century B.C. Found only on Skyros, the diminutive ponies have evolved over the centuries with small bodies and heads, wide-set eyes, long manes and narrow shoulders. Thanks to their excellent endurance, the ponies are said to have been used during the military campaigns of Alexander the Great. Once abundant in the island’s southern region, the ponies’ number has dwindled to just a few hundred today, and there are several nonprofit organizations dedicated to the preservation of the species. Visitors can see the ponies up close at the Skyrian Horse Conservation Center at Mouries Farm.
About midway between Skyros town and Atsitsa, Palamari remains an active excavation site for archaeologists on the island. Throughout the last century, numerous artifacts from the ancient Neolithic settlement have been discovered, many of which are on display at the Archaeological Museum.
Grave of Rupert Brooke
Renowned British poet Rupert Brooke, who died on Skyros in 1915 while fighting in the First World War, is buried on the south side of the island. His tomb sits in a peaceful olive grove and features an inscription of his poem “The Soldier.”
- Aherounes: About six miles west of Skyros town, the mountain views, soft sands and calm seas at Aherounes beach make the location popular with locals and tourists alike. Multiple cafés and snack bars are available to fuel hungry beachgoers for a full day of swimming and sport. If you’re interested in giving scuba diving a try, Gorgonia Diving offers courses and equipment rentals from its Aherounes shop.
- Agios Petros: Agios Petros stands out for its white sand dunes, jagged rock formations and abundant cedar trees that grow along the pebbled shoreline.
- Magazia: This half-mile stretch of beach is a 10-minute walk downhill from Skyros town. Its dark sands become quite crowded during peak season, as do the nearby beachfront cafes and tavernas.
- Molos: Lined with hotels, resorts and restaurants, Molos is easily the most developed beach on the island, and its fine sand and clear waters add to its appeal. Molos is one of the best locations on the island for viewing the vibrant hues of the Aegean sunset.
Due to its remote location, undeveloped character and small population, the level of light pollution on Skyros is virtually zero, making it easy to see thousands of night stars that are invisible in more developed parts of the world. When the weather is clear, you can even see the Milky Way with the naked eye.
Places to Eat in Skyros
Best Breakfast: Manna
This friendly, no-frills café relies on mostly local ingredients to create high-quality breakfast dishes, coffee and sweets all day. Try the omelet with Skyrian cheese, ladopita (Greek pie) with honey and nuts, freshly-baked paximadi (traditional Cretan bread) and savory kefetedakia (meatballs). Finish off your meal with a slice of moist homemade cake.
Best Lunch: Asimenos
The chef here is a fisherman by trade, so expect to sample some of the freshest seafood in town during your visit. Diners can even select a fish from the case to be grilled to perfection moments later. In addition to popular seafood entrees like grilled octopus and calamari, check out the saganaki (grilled local cheese), choriatiki salad and tart lemon meringue dessert.
Best Dinner: Ammos Veranda
Located at the Ammos Hotel, Veranda offers a refined menu with a mix of modern and traditional Mediterranean cuisine, served alongside panoramic views of the Byzantine Castle and Aegean Sea. Standout dishes include tiropitaria (Greek pie) with tomato marmalade, fava with caramelized onions, fish soup featuring the local catch of the day and eggplant with fresh tomato and feta. For a memorable finale, try the house profiterole or a dessert cocktail.
Best Dessert: Faltaina’s Sweets
This bustling sweet shop features the cherished recipes of the owner’s mother and grandmother, with a tempting mix of traditional Greek pastries, tarts, cakes, puddings, eclairs and even ice cream. In addition to classic flavors, the shop experiments with innovative ingredients and combinations, such as whole lemons, olives and buffalo milk.
Top Photo Spots in Skyros
- The cobblestone streets of Skyros town, with their whitewashed architecture and jewel-toned doors
- Monastery of St. George, offering incredible views from its perch above Skyros town
- Chapel of Agios Nikolaos, a church built inside a massive boulder near Molos beach
- The “stone mushroom,” part of the unusual rock formations at Pouria
- The enormous August full moon at Magazia beach
- Bronze statue of Rupert Brooke in Skyros town’s Poetry Square, set against the backdrop of the sparkling blue Aegean Sea
- Sunset at Ktima Atsitsa café on Atitsatsa Bay
With its stunning beaches, historic treasures and warm hospitality, this remote island in the Aegean Sea offers a classic Greek getaway without the crowds and high prices of its more familiar neighbors. Plan your visit to Skyros before the secret gets out!