Holidays to Alonissos will have you thinking you’re in the tropics – the sea’s that clear. You’ll get a huge dose of relaxation, too, thanks to the medley of laidback villages and back-to-nature things to do.
Alonissos’ largest village is home to a good-looking harbour, a clutch of traditional taverns and fewer than 2,000 locals – so there’s a very comfortable feel to this place. It comes backed by a forest of pine trees, with whitewashed houses spilling down the hillside to a petite pebble beach. It got its name from the island’s original wine presses – patitiria. The village is also the transport hub – if you’re after a ferry, a bus or a taxi, this is where you’ll find it.
A nature hotspot
The island’s part of a National Marine Park, which focuses on protecting the fragile local ecosystem – rare species like red coral and eleonora’s falcons call this part of the Aegean home. The local superstars are endangered Mediterranean monk seals – the rarest in the world. You’ll be extremely lucky if you catch a glimpse of one, as they live in sea caves. There’s an information centre in Patitiri, where you can learn more about the seal colony and the conservation efforts to protect them.
Keen walkers will be in their element – there’s a maze of trails to trek all over the island. One’s an old mule path that leads from Patitiri to Chora – the island’s original capital. The residents abandoned the village after an earthquake struck in 1965. Up here, you’ll be treated to plenty of photo-worthy views. On a clear day you can see as far as Mount Athos, on the mainland.
Daily ferries set off from Patitiri to Skiathos, with some calling in at Skopelos – of Mamma Mia! fame – on the way. The trip takes a couple of hours, so you’re in fairly easy daytrip territory. In Skiathos Town, you’ll find a medley of cocktail bars and golden-sand beaches, along with a time-stamped old quarter. Make a beeline for the tree-dusted Bourtzi – it’s a tiny peninsula that used to be a fort.
Things to See and Do in Alonissos
It’s a mostly pebbly situation beach-wise. The north coast’s home to a bevy of rocky bays, while the south lines up more sheltered coves. Many can be difficult to get to but, on the plus side, this means calm atmospheres and untouched scenery are the order of the day. For a left-field option, head to Kokkinokastro – its a mix of sand and shingle that’s been turned a deep reddish hue by the cliffs above.
The big beach
The horseshoe-shaped curve of Agios Dimitrios begins on a slender, pine tree-sprinkled peninsula, which juts out into the turquoise sea. Model-good looks and far-reaching views of Vassiliko – a neighbouring island – make it a top spot for taking holiday photos. It’s around 25 minutes’ drive from Patitiri, and comes with a couple of friendly sandside taverns.
The secret beach
Vithisma’s one of Alonissos’ rare sandy offerings, sat in a protected bay around 10 minutes’ drive from Patitiri. You’ll need to navigate your way down a craggy hillside to reach it, but the rewards are worth the trek. Panoramic views and calm shallows are the calling cards.
Bargain BuysLocal products such as honey, soap and olive oil are readily available in the old town. Cooking fans can stock up on jars of the wild herbs grown on the island – like thyme and oregano.
Mid-Range BuysColoured candles and silk scarves are popular keepsakes in the local shops. At the Marine Park information centre, you can help the local monk seal population by picking up souvenirs, as all the profits go straight to the conservation effort.
Designer BuysIn Patitiri, you’ll find silver and gold jewellery and trinkets made by Greek designers. Everything from earrings to sculptures line the walls of the local boutiques. In Chora, one-off art prints are on offer.
Laidback eveningsWatch the sun set from a tavern in the old village of Chora. It’s on a hilltop, so the sea views are second to none. You won’t find much in the way of evening entertainment, but if you’re a fan of laidback live music to go with your sundowner, it’s just the ticket.
Lively eveningsLate-night bars and clubs are few and far between in Alonissos, but Patitiri has a great option for those looking to dance ‘til dawn – or at least until after midnight. In Drunk Seal, a waterfront bar, you’ll find rainbow-coloured cocktails and a DJ playing music until the small hours.
Alonissos’ speciality used to be wine, but after an infestation wiped out most of the island’s vineyards a few decades ago, the locals changed tack. Today, the blue fin tuna products made in Alonissos are considered to be some of the world’s best.
Sugar fans will have no complaints. Fouskakia – dough balls fried in olive oil – originate from Skopelos, but you’ll find plenty on offer in Alonissos’ villages. For something a little different, try hamalia. These triangle-shaped filled sweets are made with almonds, honey and water extracted from lemon tree flowers.
Lobster pasta, calamari and a Greek delicacy called kakavia – AKA fish stew – are all familiar faces on meze menus across the island. In fact, the seafood’s so good, even far-off countries like Japan come calling for Alonissos’ catches.
Goats graze all across the island and produce excellent milk, meaning the cheese pie – a local favourite – around these parts is extra creamy. For dessert, walnut pie steps up to the plate. The Greek name for it’s karidopita, and it’s usually served with ice-cream.
Family-run bakeries have poped up all over Alonissos – particularly in Patitiri and Chora – so you’re never far from a cup of traditional Greek coffee. As well as the standard breads and pies, you’ll find a huge selection of local options, like sweet baklava and spinach-filled spanakopita.
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Marpunta majors in holidays off the beaten track. This pint-sized village on the south coast of Alonissos is small, but perfectly formed. It’s tucked in the middle of two crescent bays of dove-grey pebbles. Plus, its tree-covered surroundings mean you’re perfectly placed for hikes. This rural village can boast about its secluded location, but it’s also only a five-minute drive from the island’s capital – Patitiri – where tavernas dish out all the traditional meze you can eat.
Patitiri’s the island’s capital, but if you’re expecting similar scenes to buzzy Athens, Zante Town and Chora, think again. This charming town’s set in a diamond-clear bay, on the slopes of the pine-blanketed hills in the south of Alonissos. Wander along its etch-a-sketch streets and you’ll spot sugar cube houses with flower-clad balconies, which add to the small-town vibe. The pocket-sized beach is the jewel in Patitiri’s crown – it’s a pebbly number and shelves into jade-green water.
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