Our bumpy landing left us a little shaken when we arrived at the Greek island of Skiathos on a cool, wet, windy afternoon in late September. Skiathos has a short summer season and, as we soon found out, by the end of the first week of October, most of Skiathos shuts for winter.
The town of Skiathos is only a few kilometres from the airport and either a taxi or pre-arranged transport is the only way to get to town. Bourtzi Boutique Hotel right in the centre of Skiathos was our island home for the next eight days. The hunky Yiannis and his gregarious brother Dimitri welcomed us to their family hotel. Bourtzi is ten years old but looks brand new. Everything is spotlessly clean and attention to detail by all staff members makes this place a stand out choice.
Each morning we were treated to a sumptuous buffet-style breakfast and we began our evenings with drinks in the hotel’s ultra-modern bar. The brothers were punctilious in getting it right and did everything possible to make our stay comfortable and enjoyable, beginning with a room upgrade then suggesting great places to eat and explore and also by helping us arrange a hire car at a reasonable price. You will need to book very early in the busy summer high season as this hotel is not only very centrally located but also, by reputation, the most popular accommodation on the island. Our stay at this well run, hospitable establishment was one of our best during our 2 month journey around Greece and Croatia.
Skiathos is popular with gay travelers seeking a summer vacation, especially those from the UK and Italy. The only gay bar in town is De Facto Bar. Owner Christina makes everyone feel very welcome.
The bar, established in 1998, is the gay meeting place after the beach and people have been returning the same time year after year.
De Facto Bar is small, cosy and has a very friendly atmosphere, where everyone is sociable and the Queen’s dress-up corner helps to give the shy ones, or the not so shy, a prop or two to get their night underway. The delicious drinks are reasonably priced and Christina doubles as host and DJ. The bar opens until late in the high season and surprisingly Christina tries to keep the bar open as long as possible in the off season.
Skiathos has more than 50 beaches with Big Banana and Little Banana beaches being the most gay friendly. Little Banana is also the nude option. Getting to the beaches is easy. Options are the local bus, (go to Stop 26) water taxi (5€), or hire a car. Driving is very easy and Banana Beach is only 12 kilometres from town. There is some walking to do when you get to the signs for Banana Beach. Parking is available up on the headland overlooking the Banana Beaches during the high season.
When we arrived at Banana Beach in early October, there were no cars, the beach taverna was closed and there wasn’t a soul on the beach. Some would say perfect. Big Banana is a pretty, sandy beach about five hundred metres, surrounding a small cove. In summer the beach is organised and the taverna open and highly popular.
We made our way around the rocks to the right to find Little Banana Beach where there was a parade of nudists. Fellow travellers told us that just a week or so before this beach had been packed with people. The gay section is on the far right of the beach. Little Banana is one of the best nude beaches we have been to (which is a big call) in this part of the world.
It is a tiny piece of paradise with its yellow sand, clean, pristine water hosting a variety of tiny, colourful fish. The beach is ‘organised’ with a taverna in summer, but it was locked up tight during our late pilgrimage. Both beaches are beautiful and relaxing and depending on the time of the season, a comfortable and enjoyable visit to Skiathos will largely depend on how many people are around.
Skiathos town is a small place and Yiannis told us “everything is within 350 metres from the centre of town”. An easy walk to the new port (right) and the old port (left) and there are yachts available for day hire and plenty of tourist boats leaving for other islands, including the popular Mamma Mia Island (Skopelos) which can be visited on day excursions.
The waterfront restaurants were still fairly busy and our favourite was Ta Psaradika, a small, very traditional place with wooden tables, blue chairs and blue and white checked tablecloths. We enjoyed eating fresh grilled sardines and squid and a colourful Greek salad. Listening to the Greek music in the background and the aroma of freshly grilled seafood meant there was no mistake, we had again arrived in Greece.
Dividing the two ports is Bourtzi peninsula which once served as a fort and was built back in 1207. On our visit, the restaurant which is now housed in the old fortress was the perfect place to have lunch and a frappe, sitting under the enormous shady pine trees looking out to the Aegean and watching the planes manoeuvre their bumpy arrival path.
Back from the port is a labyrinth of winding cobblestone streets ducking in around small old buildings, some from the 14th century. Here there are many restaurants offering traditional Greek fare like homemade moussaka, braised rabbit, fresh grilled seafood, slow cooked lamb and local wines.
Some of our favourite eating places in town were Marmita and Basilikos. Both were outstanding, serving traditional Greek cuisine, using slow cooking techniques and traditional island recipes. Ergon, in the main street, is a more modern option and offers a selection of treats from all over Greece.
For a stunning Italian feast don’t miss Lolita’s overlooking the new port. By our last night many restaurants had either closed or were about to close and we were pleased we had not left our visit any later in the season.
The island is very small (12 kilometres by 4.5 kilometres) so it doesn’t take very long to see the whole place. One excursion we found worthwhile was a trip to Evangelistria Monastery in the hills above the town. A calm garden sanctuary surrounds historic structures, featuring a fascinating museum and a quaint curio shop, reminiscent of a movie set.
Another option is the dog shelter which rates as one of the best things to do in Skiathos. Check out the details on their website but taking a dog for a morning walk might just be the rejuvenating tonic your heart and soul requires. We didn’t make it this time but it’s high on our list for our next visit.
When To Go
We were rewarded during our last few days with delightful, warm temperatures after a four day downpour. We spent most of our time at Little Banana Beach perfecting our summer tan, although the water temperature was rapidly cooling down. On a return visit to this island we would choose the last two weeks of June or the first two weeks of September as suggested by our hotel hosts who believe these to be the very best weeks for a pleasurable Skiathos holiday.
We have travelled extensively through the fascinating mainland and the magnificent islands of Greece and each place has its unique charm. There is one common denominator and that is the characteristic hospitality of this welcoming country. We found Skiathos just as receptive and, even at the very end of the busy season, the locals greeted us like long lost family members. This is also an island blessed with stunning beaches and great food so if it’s a relaxing, indulgent, short break you are looking for, Skiathos is high on our list of recommendations.