There are hundreds of Greek islands, from the uber-trendy Mykanos to beautiful Santorini, but I have fallen for a small, quiet little island named Skopelos. It may be one of the best kept secrets in the Sporades.
Because there isn’t an airport on Skopelos, it’s naturally less touristy, and more remote. While it’s comfortable for tourists (and perfect for honeymooners) it is still authentic Greece. This gorgeous island is known as the green island, and that’s just one thing I love about it.
The beaches here are more rock than traditional white sand, but that’s not what makes the Skopelos coastline special; it’s the plethora of small, cove beaches. I couldn’t imagine a better place for a couple on a romantic getaway. With the gorgeous rocks that jut out all around the island, you can literally get up, pack a bag, and claim your own private beach for the day. Perfect for topless sunbathing (a norm here) or just soaking up the sun.
Restaurants here are so different than in the U.S. I waited tables for many years, so the guilt of taking up someone’s table all day just to use the free WiFi will probably always be with me. But the whole culture here is much more laid back. No one gives you a dirty look if you plop down and pull out your computer. No one values you based solely on how much money you spend. I’ve sat for over 5 hours without ordering anything more than a single coffee and the owners still greet me like I’m their best customer whenever they see me. In fact, when you’re using a taverna as your office, half the time they don’t even let you pay for the coffee. Guests are treated like friends.
If I had to sum up Greek food in 3 words they would be fish, salad & cheese. All things I happen to find delicious, especially with a healthy dose of olive oil (often made right on the island). My favorite thing here is probably the calamari made with baby squid (I know, and I’m really sorry, baby squid, but you taste delicious). You can’t go wrong with octopus or mussels in white wine. The pork with plums & orange sauce is to die for. If you’re in the mood for something light but substantial, a Greek salad will do you nicely. Fresh peppers, onions, cucumbers, & tomatoes usually grown in a local garden, drizzled with olive oil and topped with locally made feta cheese. I know, I should have pictures of all these things, but I just get too excited about eating, and most of the time the food is half gone by the time I remember I’m supposed to be taking pictures. I’ll work on this, I promise. 🙂
Originating in Volos, tsipouro meze is one of my favorite things I’ve discovered in Greece. Tsipouro is a pomace brandy made from grapes that comes in tiny clear bottles. There is a version with anise, similar to Ouzo, and mercifully a version without, for those of us who aren’t black licorice fans (and prefer to remain hangover-free the next day). Meze literally means tiny plates. Along with the bottles of tsipouro (drank with water, over ice) guests are served round after round of small plates with different foods that everyone samples – fish, greens, octopus in wine sauce, fried squid, salad, beans, stuffed zucchini. No two tsipouro meze experiences will be the same. You could return to the same tsipouradiko restaurant 3 times in a row and eat different things each night. In fact, you should expect this, because tsipouradikos are judged on the variety of their food.
What I love about tsipouro meze is the hedonistic aspect of it. It’s all about enjoyment – food, drink & socializing. The point is to share, interact, and relish the company you’re with. Greeks will usually eat and drink at the same time, because the point is not to get too drunk; it’s to enjoy the good things in life. If you’re lucky, someone will show up with a guitar, another with a mandolin, and you’ll be treated to live Greek music while you dine. You can find restaurants of this kind in Athens and Thessaloniki, but the best place to experience this unique way of dining is in Volos or the Sporades isles.
Undoubtedly the best part about living on Skopelos for 6 weeks has been the people. It’s an eclectic mix of people born either on the island or in Volos, ex-pats, and tourists who seem to keep returning year after year. They all have one thing in common: the love Skopelos and they want to make sure you enjoy it as well. They are warm, open and generous. They invite you for boat rides or dinners. They remember you when you go back to their restaurant the next day. They welcome you into their home.
I could definitely get used to the laid back lifestyle on the Greek islands. It’s a life of sun and sea; of good food, good wine, and good company. It’s not uncommon to see Greeks and tourists alike enjoying a long lunch and a bottle of wine that may or may not last most of the afternoon. I’m already scheming about how to find someone to sail me around the islands for a summer in one of the many sailboats.
There were a few things I didn’t love about Skopelos, like the fact that every WiFi signal seems to be connected, so when one goes down they all do.
I also have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the water. On one hand it’s very clean and clear. In many places you can see down at least 30 feet and watch fish swim underneath you. There’s no trash floating around as I have seen at other beaches. It’s a perfect temperature. But it’s really salty. The Aegean is one of the saltiest anywhere. This doesn’t really bother the people who live here (to be fair, it probably wouldn’t bother anyone who goes in an ocean regularly), but personally I haven’t been able to get over the taste of it.
However, considering everything I loved about this little island, I’ll definitely be back. Next time I will bring my special someone with me and we’ll go claim one of those private little cove beaches for ourselves. 😉