There are many sights and activities on Skopelos to enjoy, but the main reason most people come is to relax in this beautiful unspoiled environment.
So many Greek Islands have been taken over by mass tourism (and cater for those who crave theme parks-extreme sports-golf courses etc) but Skopelos’ glory comes from its unique environment, its towns and its people.
Skopelos has been designated as a place of outstanding natural beauty and for very good reason, it is also known as “the island of green and blue”. The interior of the island is comprised of hundreds of square kilometres of virgin forest traversed by tracks and footpaths (monopati) which you can walk, ride or drive on for hours without seeing another soul.
The views revealed as you travel these roads are amazing but also change radically, seemingly with every corner you turn, giving you panoramas that are simply spectacular.
The high point of the island is Mt Delphi which reaches 684 metres – over 2,200 ft and although this is quite an elevation for an island of this size it is quite accessible. There is a driveable track which goes close by the summit and there is a monopati which goes up to it, circles the peak, and then returns. The island is covered in such tracks and paths idea for cycling and walking. There is a rent-a-bike on the road away from the port for those who wish to pedal, (Nicolas rent-a-bike +30 24240 23783) and for those who wish to have organised walking tours local ex-pat Heather Parsons runs such things www.skopelos-walks.com (she also publishes a walking guide).
Otherwise a good pair of shoes and a map will get you to some amazing places. A car is useful – the bus service is excellent – and taxi’s are cheap but a 4×4 is recommended for the mountain trails. Magic Cars are on +30 24240 23250 where Katarina and her family are very helpful.
Flora and Fauna
The woods are mainly of pine but many of the valleys have a rich diversity of broad-leafed trees especially walnut, sweet chestnut and holm oak. Chestnut is in fact the traditional wood used for building here but nowadays most of it comes from northern Greece. There is also a wonderful array of flowers on the island all year round, even in the depth of winter there are many wild blossoms appearing on a regular basis, from clematis in November through cyclamen in December to anemones in February. There is always something of interest, but it is the spring and early summer that brings the flora of Skopelos into its full glory
It is a paradise of flowers, everything from mundane, though beautiful, fields of poppies, through to many species of orchids, some of which I’m sure are unnamed. The bees take full advantage of this bounty and seemingly work all year round!
The fauna of the island is also fascinating and the amount of untouched land provides a perfect breeding ground for many animals, birds and insects which can be seen either accidentally or sought out by the keen observer. Skopelos has its own breed of wild goat, now confined to the nearby uninhabited islet of Gioura, and tree dwellers such as beech martins , also a kind of wild cat, white breasted hedgehogs etc but the real excitement is the European Monk Seal colony which exists in the marine park established off the east coast of the island www.mom.gr.
They are at the top of the critical list of endangered species and great efforts are being made to conserve this charming animal which everyone hopes will be successful. In the summer there are trips around the marine park in glass bottomed boats but of course sightings of the seals are not guaranteed. You are much more likely to spot dolphins though and the deep clear and untroubled waters of the park are often thronged with schools of dolphins, which you can spot from the land, but commonly follow the ferries and other boats.
Bird watchers will be fascinated by the variety of birds that Skopelos attracts but even the casual observer, who knows little about the subject, will delight in the sight of eagles swooping along the coast in search of food. The island is home to many raptors(hunting birds) including Honey Buzzards, Little Eagles, Vultures and Scops Owls and the habitats in the forested hill tops and deep gorges are ideal breeding grounds for them.
When you are walking through the hills on Skopelos you often feel as if you are alone apart from the animal life around you, a rare occurrence on our crowded continent and one to be treasured.