Scratching the Surface of Skyros

18 May

Skopelos Town held on to us for longer than we planned. But I can think of few better places to have to linger. We loved it!

Storm clouds over Skopelos Town

Storm clouds over Skopelos Town

The forecast of high winds came to pass & on Monday night it blew hard. The forecast for Tuesday was still a bit iffy, with different online weather sites contradicting one another (again!) After a pretty sleepless night, we decided to wait a day before heading south to Skyros.

We’d hoped to be able to visit more of the islands in the Northern Sporades, I particularly wanted to see Alonnisos. But weather and schedules take priority and we were keen to get across to the east side of the Aegean by now. We’ll save Alonnisos and the islands that we missed for another trip.

Leaving Skopelos.   Not us, but the new ferry, PROTEUS. Listing to starboard a little.

Leaving Skopelos.
Not us but the new ferry, PROTEUS.
Listing to starboard a little.

On Wednesday we left bright and early for the 40-mile trip to Skyros. What little wind there was was in the wrong direction so it was another motor sail.

Skyros is considered to be part of the Northern Sporades archipelago. Yet, while the main group of islands nestle together not far from the mainland coast, Skyros is a lonely outpost in the windy Aegean, directly in the path of themeltemi. There is only one harbour and few safe anchorages. Because of this, it is usually off the itinerary of flotillas and most charter yachts.

Linaria Port

Linaria Port

We headed for the tiny harbour, Linaria. We had been told in Skopelos that improvements had been made in the harbour, but still we weren’t prepared for the sheer efficiency and warm welcome that we received.

We were met on the quay by Kyriakos, who handed us a pristine mooring line and helped take our mooring lines ashore. Once we were settled in, he explained that the port provide free water, electricity and wifi for all visiting yachts. The only stipulation is that boat owners contact the port police and pay harbour dues at the normal national rate: for us this was €16 for 2 nights. The improvements have been initiated by the Skyros Port Fund in a bid to give the best possible representation of the port and the island to visitors. Kyriakos is the president of the Port Committee and works in a voluntary role and the fund also employs a manager, Yiorgos.

The costs of the electricity, water & wifi (and the soon-to-be completed toilet & shower facility) are borne by the shop owners and fishermen of Linaria. The quay area is impeccably clean, with an impressive range of recycling and waste disposal facilities. There are also notice boards giving all sorts of information about the island, including phone numbers for car & scooter rental. It was really heartening, when so many places that we visit bear the visible (and less visible) signs of recession, to find a community who are taking such positive steps to fight back.

We’d originally planned to stay one night on Skyros because the forecast for crossing to Limnos was more favourable on Thursday. Kyriakos, however, quickly persuaded us that we couldn’t leave the island without exploring a little further than the main village, or hora, a bus ride away.

The buses on Skyros are infrequent and wouldn’t really have given us much of a chance to see anything. The solution – hire a scooter 🙂

Skyros is an island divided in two by a narrow waist. The south is barren and rugged: the north is greener, yet both are wild.

We stuck to the north, driving anti-clockwise around the coast. Our first stop was the hora, where most of the population live. Here the houses tumble down the side of a steep pinnacle, the white cubist style a reminder that you’re getting closer to the Cyclades.

The tiny alleyways were tranquility epitomised. Although we thought we were alone, a glance up or to the side would reveal someone quietly going about their day. A woman washing her front door step, an elderly man just sitting contemplating or neighbours sharing the latest gossip in hushed tones, but with hands waving animatedly.

After a restorative coffee, we headed off on our trusty steed (aka a sewing machine with wheels!). It wasn’t a long journey but the overwhelming impression is of an untamed wilderness, but with its own beauty. We’d hoped to find somewhere to stop for a bite to eat along the way, but there was nothing open. In fact, once we were on the west side of the island, we almost didn’t see a soul, bar a young farmer on his tractor who gave us a cheery wave….and this fellow who we met crossing the road. 😀 😀 😀

Our first wild tortoise sighting...brilliant!

Our first wild tortoise sighting…brilliant!

Skyros is a wild, untamed island. The people are proud but incredibly friendly. Tourism is low-key: it is particularly known for the Skyros Centre that offers alternative, holistic-style holidays. But it’s a place that needs effort to get to. I’m so glad that we did make the effort and I feel privileged to have visited at this time of year when we really felt that we had the island to ourselves.


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