The Sporades Islands are some of the most beautiful Greek islands and lie scattered across the Aegean Sea, east of the Greek mainland and north-west of the island of Evia (Evboia). The Thessalian Sporades – to give them the correct title – are an archipelago of 24 islands and islets, of which four are permanently populated.
The name ‘sporades’ means ‘scattered ones’ and legend tells how they were created by one of the Greek gods when he threw a handful of coloured pebbles into the Aegean. The islands are green and leafy, with beautiful golden beaches and clear azure waters and they are the perfect place to go ‘island hopping’. The Sporades may have remained relatively unknown if it had not been for the 2008 blockbuster movie Mamma Mia!
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A Guide to Sporades Islands
Where are the Sporades
The Sporades are a collection of islands situated in the northwest Aegean just off the Greek mainland. They are located north of Athens and south of Thessaloniki, close to the island of Evia. The proximity of the Sporades to the mainland makes them an excellent destination for both tourists and Greek residents alike, and they’re just a short ferry ride away
How to get to the Sporades
How to get to Skiathos
Skiathos is one of the more well-connected Sporades islands as it not only has a sizeable ferry port but it also boasts an international airport too. Travellers can opt to take a ferry from Mantoudi in Evia or the port of Volos on the mainland, or take a connecting flight from Athens or Thessaloniki straight to Skiathos island.
The best way to get to the island of Skopelos is to take the ferry from the port of Volos, or from Mantodi in Evia or to fly into Skiathos and connect to Skopelos via ferry from there. While there are no direct flights or ferries from Athens to Skopelos, travellers can easily take a KTEL bus from Athens to Volos or Evia to connect with ferry transfer. Another option is travelling between the Sporades islands, hopping from Skiathos or Alonnisos to one of the two ports on the island (Glossa (Loutraki) or Skopelos Town).
How to get to Alonissos
Similarly to Skopelos, Alonissos can only be reached by ferry from Volos, Evia or one of the other Sporades islands (namely Skiathos as that is the island with the airport). The journeys from the mainland take around four hours, while the ferry crossing from Skiathos takes approximately two hours depending on the service.
How to get to Skyros
Unlike the other three Sporades islands, Skyros can only really be reached by ferry from the port of Kymi in Evia, with regular ferries taking just 1.5 hours from the east of Evia to Skyros port. Throughout the summer there tend to be 2-3 ferry services per day.
There are some seasonal local ferries between Skyros and Alonissos, but these are smaller services and are much less frequent. However, travellers can also reach Skyros by plane from Athens and Thessaloniki, with flights taking just 40 minutes.
The best way to check the ferry timetable and to book your tickets is through Ferryhopper. Click here to make your search.
How to travel around the Sporades
The easiest and most reliable way to travel around the Sporades islands is by ferry, with regular services travelling between the three main islands (Skiathos, Skopelos, and Alonissos) during the summer months. Skyros is a little more difficult to travel to from the other islands, but some smaller, less frequent services are available. Alternatively, as mentioned above, you can travel to Skyros from Kymi in Evia.
When on the islands, you’ll either want to hire a car or moped to get around, giving you the freedom and flexibility to explore.
The best time to visit the Sporades
As with most Greek islands, the best time to visit the Sporades islands is during late spring, summer and early autumn. Spring months offer mild days and lots of lovely wildflowers, while autumn days provide warm waters and beautiful sunsets. The summer months are, of course, the warmest and busiest, but unlike hugely popular islands like Mykonos and Santorini, the Sporades islands never get too busy.
The best known of the Sporades is Skiathos as it lies closest to the Greek mainland and also has an airport. It is a gorgeous island known for its beautiful beaches – there are more than 50 to enjoy! The golden sandy beaches on the southern side of the island are perfect for relaxing and the sea is lovely and calm – ideal for kayaking and stand up paddleboarding.
In contrast, the beaches on the northern side are windswept and deserted. Skiathos has plenty of good bars and a lively night scene. The island is easy to explore by bus or water taxi. Kastro is its oldest settlement that comprised of 300 tiny houses and 30 churches – all long abandoned.
- Visit the monastery of Evangelistria and buy some wine, honey or olive oil. It was here that the first modern Greek flag was sewn in 1807. The monastery has a little museum (€3 entrance)
- The beach at Lalaria on the north coast is only accessible by boat but is well worth visiting as it has several sea caves to explore.
- Hire a jeep to reach the beaches on the north coast including Elia, Agistros, and Megalos Aselinos and Krifi Ammos.
- Skiathos has beautiful natural scenery and what better way to enjoy it than with a hike.
- Have a go at water sports – Koukounaries and Kanapitsa beaches in the south have a good selection.
- For great views of the perfect sunset, head for Ayia Eleni beach.
Check here: The best Beaches in Skiathos Island.
Skopelos is one of the prettiest islands and has stunning panoramic views over the azure Aegean. The island is said to be the greenest in Greece with pine trees, olive groves, plum orchards, almond trees and undulating vineyards.
Its towns and villages have white-washed buildings with red-tiled roofs. Skopelos is a paradise for nature lovers as it has such rich wildlife and there are 360 churches, monasteries and convents to explore including 11th century Ayios Athanasios – the oldest.
The island has the largest population, but enjoys a slower pace of life, making it ideal for couples and families. It gained worldwide fame when its beaches and the tiny chapel of Agios Ioannis Kastri (with its 200 rock-cut steps) was filmed for Mamma Mia. Since then, more visitors have come to the island, but the islanders have been very careful to ensure that it retains its natural beauty.
- Admire the architecture in Skopelos town and its numerous churches. Many of the residents were fishermen so the churches were where the women prayed for their safe return.
- The best beaches are on the west of the island – Panormos which has white sand and is in a sheltered cove.
- Pretend you are starring in Mamma Mia and dance on Kastani beach, which was featured in the film!
- Have fun sea kayaking.
- Enjoy a mini shipbuilding course! Shipbuilding was the island’s main industry until the arrival of tourism in the 1970s.
- Try the traditional pie of Skopelos at Michalis Pie shop in Skopelos Town.
Much of this lovely island is covered with pine forests that fill the air with their distinctive fragrance and there is an extensive network of walking trails for those keen to explore. Alonnisos is one of the quietest islands, so is the perfect choice for those seeking peace and tranquillity.
It is a really beautiful island with olive groves, apricot orchids and honeysuckle. The island lies in the heart of a National Marine Park, so its beaches are clean white pebble beaches with amazingly clear water which is rich in marine life.
The marine park was created in 1992 and is the largest in Europe as it covers 2,260 square kilometres. The marine park protects the Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachos monachos) and many different sea birds. It is not unusual to see three species of dolphins and rare sea birds and occasionally, the shy Monk Seal which lives on the island’s beaches.
Alonnisos Town stands on a hill overlooking the Aegean. The main harbour is at Patitiri, with the pebble beach of Rossoum Yalos close by.
- The natural beauty of the island makes it perfect for hikers.
- Take a boat trip out to the National Marine Park. The park is in two sections and section A is accessible to the public with the chance to see dolphins and migrating whales as well as various sea birds.
- Enjoy diving on shipwrecks in the crystal clear waters The newest wreck to be discovered is Peristera, which dates from 400 BC.
- The Traditional House Museum in Patiri is the largest privately-owned museum in the Aegean and well worth a visit.
- When in Alonissos Town, pop into the Women’s Institute shop for an amazing selection of traditional fruit conserves and other foods to buy.
- Hop on a boat for an excursion to one of the nearby islets such as Kyra Panayia where there is a restored 10th-century monastery.
Skyros is the most southerly island and the largest in the Sporades. The island has villages of white-washed houses tumbling down hillsides, pretty countryside, glistening bays and in the north, fragrant pine forests. The island is sprinkled with 300 churches and most of these are now privately owned. Skyros is situated in the central Aegean and was a naval base for centuries because of its strategic position.
Skyros has a week of carnival celebrations – Apokreas – which take place each Spring, immediately before the start of the 40 days of the Greek Orthodox Lent and these are great fun. There is the chance to enjoy yoga and windsurfing on the island. Interestingly, the island is home to the institute of Holistic Studies that researches alternative therapies. Its main town is known as the ‘Chora’ and is a maze of white-washed houses once guarded by the Byzantine fortress.
- Enjoy good water sports – especially scuba diving.
- Explore the island’s 13th century castle.
- Visit the Bronze Age settlement, Byzantine monastery and Venetian dungeon.
- Plan a hike in search of the Skyrian horse and to see Eleanora’s Falcons soaring above you.
And the smaller islands….
There are numerous boat trips available visiting some of the uninhabited islands in the archipelago including Kyra Panayia, Peristera and Goura. On this island an endemic breed of goat lives. A popular place to see on Goura is Cyclops’s cave with its beautiful stalagmites and stalactites.
Other islands include Skantzoura which is an important natural reserve for seagulls and Tsougria where there is a medieval castle. In contrast, there are no trips available to the island of Piperi as it lies in the middle of the National Marine Park and is a strictly protected area as it is the main breeding area for the Mediterranean Monk Seal and Raptors and has 33 different bird species.
It is amazing how special each island and islet in the Sporades archipelago is….