A magical sailing exploration of fairy-tale islands, pirate lairs and a national marine park.
There is perhaps no better way to see the northern Sporades than via a leisurely sailing trip through the turquoise waters of this cluster of small islands located in the northwestern Aegean.
We set off from the port of Skiathos, where chartered boats ferry tourists to and from the island’s beaches throughout the day, and Mamma Mia (the Hollywood hit filmed in the Sporades) is regularly shown in the outdoor cinema.
We unfurl our sails and a light breeze carries us off towards the remote islets of Kyra-Panaghia, Psathoura and Skantzoura. Here a National Marine Park has been established to protect the pristine area that is a breeding ground for the endangered Monk Seal (Monachus monachus).
In contrast to the Cyclades which are regularly buffeted by strong northerly ‘Meltemi’ winds in the summer, the waters around the islands Skiathos, Skopelos and Alonissos (particularly on the southern side) tend to offer a much gentler sailing experience, ideal for families with young children and groups of less experienced seafarers. Skippers can also be hired to captain rented sailboats for those with little or no experience.
Rocks and Caves, Oh My!
The famous Lalaria beach on the northern tip of Skiathos, features dramatic vertical stone structures and perfectly round white pebbles, lending the water glorious colors. However the coast here must be approached with caution (and only when the weather is calm) as large rocks lurk on the seabed which local fishermen say shift after big storms.
Easier destinations to reach by sailboat are the nearby uninhabited islands of Tsougria and Arkos, the latter featuring a taverna on the sand.
The Sporades and particularly Alonissos were key bases for pirates right up to the Greek Revolution in the 19th century, and the seabed around them is filled with hundreds of known and perhaps yet-to-be-discovered shipwrecks.
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