Skopelos is not only the largest island, but it is also the capital of the Sporades Island chain. Its charms are many and varied: firstly the /chora/ or main town of Skopelos, is considered by many to be one of the prettiest harbour side towns in the Greek islands. It is built amphitheatrically around a natural, perfect, simi-circular harbour. Dating back several centuries, it is protected by a preservation order, and so has managed to retain its old world charm.
Entering the harbour by sea reveals the striking Byzantine churches which crown the sheer cliffs protecting the town. It is well worth spending time to explore its labyrinthine maze of narrow, stepped streets to admire the mostly Venetian architecture. As you wander through the colourful, flower-filled backstreets of town, the houses are charming and beautifully kept and around nearly every bend is an enchanting little chapel. No matter how small these chapels may be, the interior of each one is exquisite and unique. The island is famous for its numerous churches, Skopelos Town has more than 120 churches; the island, over 360 churches, chapels and monasteries.
As we head down nearer the waterfront to the towns' centre, one finds small neighbourhood utility shops such as markets, hardware and dry cleaners right alongside the good selection of quality tourist shops on offer. This gives the town the feeling of a living, working community with a heartbeat still focused on ordinary life outside of tourism. The shopping district spills down naturally to the harbourfront and boasts many shops producing locally made products. A good variety of pottery, jewellery and lace can be found, much of which is hand made by local artists in unique and beautiful designs.
The picturesque harbourfront is lined with mulberry and ancient plane trees which provide shade from the summer sun to the numerous tavernas, bars and cafes. Food varies in its quality and taste, but in general Skopelos boasts a number of excellent tavernas and restaurants. Several tavernas, particularly in the old harbour area, have traditional home-cooked meals where the proprietors prefer the tradition of inviting guests into the kitchen for an examination of the dishes on offer.
The waterfront becomes a lively hub of activity during the high season months. The evening brings out horse-drawn carriages with their well-dressed drivers, street vendors selling everything from corn and nuts to sponges and handmade costume jewellery. You can have your portrait painted, hair braided or skin tattooed by the varied and colourful characters who circuit the Greek islands to ply their trade. The waterfront is closed to all traffic in the evenings and often there is music, dances and local festivals.
The busy harbour itself is another story and it is fascinating to watch the intricate ballet of the huge ferry boats as they enter and dance around the tiny fishing boats to moor their bulky forms. These ships are the life link to the islands and carry all of the supplies for everyday living to stock the homes, shops and restaurants. Alternatively, the high speed Flying Catamarans, which are fairly new to the Sporades, create a comfortable and efficient system of carrying locals and visitors to and from the islands. Definitely, the harbourfront is the best place to sit back, relax and let the world go by whist enjoying a meal or drink. Morning, afternoon or evening, there is always an interesting sight to watch and become intrigued in.
Heading out of town, one discovers the wonders of the exceptional nature and pristine beaches that make Skopelos a true gem of the Greek islands. There is a wide selection of beaches from which to choose, whatever your taste. The majority of the beaches are situated along the southern coast, which are accessible by bus, car or moped along the islands' one main road. A hired boat on the southern coastline is a great option for those looking for real privacy. With the freedom to cruise wherever the mood strikes, you have the opportunity to find tiny sandy coves lapped by turquoise sea, which likely will be shared with just a few seagulls.