If you've always dreamed of going to an unspoiled Greek island with a traditional way of life and without mass tourism, Skyros is it. There's a magic aura to Skyros and it radiates with authenticity, from the old sandal-maker in the main town to the unique stone houses on the way to Chora's mountaintop.
Geographically, this is a very interesting island as it was once two separate islands with two very different landscapes. Today, while it may be one island joined by a windy, sandy strip that's 4km long, a look at the map will reveal the two different sides: the mountainous, arid and rocky south that reminds one of the Cycladic islands, and the greener, more fertile wooded north that is closer to the Sporadic group of islands.
Maybe because of this dichotomy, beautiful and strange phenomena surround Skyros in many ways. This is the island of small sizes where animals such as the Skyrian horse, wildflowers and even people tend to be smaller than their counterparts elsewhere in Greece. The strange phenomenon is even more interesting when considering the smaller satellite island of Diavati, which boasts the opposite phenomenon of gigantism: both wildlife and fauna there have exhibited much larger varieties than similar species elsewhere in the world. Foreign experts have been flocking to these two islands to unravel their secrets, but nature works in strange ways and is keeping quiet about its Skyrian wonders for now. Skyros and its surrounding islands offer a wild variety of fragrant herbs and some very rare flowers, as well as some of the best Greek honey available.
Beyond the magical, visitors will find the people of Skyros very friendly, helpful and hospitable. And then there's the magical main town of Skyros, also known as Chora. Its cobblestone streets are filled with traditional shops, restaurants and modest nightspots that entertain the mostly Greeks from other parts of the country who flock there in summer. Among the white houses you will find some more traditional yet majestic stone-built homes, reflecting the true architecture and style that is unique on the Sporades.
There's also an intriguing culinary side to explore on this island. For those with a healthy appetite, a delicious cuisine awaits visitors, from the famous Lobster Spaghetti of Linaria to the home-cooked food of Chora's tavernas and seafood specialties of family restaurants. Several beaches have local tavernas offering fresh seafood from the catch of the day, in addition to a succulent variety of dishes such as pumpkin pies, edible fresh greens and shellfish fritters (agalipokeftedes).
Speaking of beaches, Skyros boasts some of the cleanest on this side of the Mediterranean. Apart from Magazia and Molos near the main town, there are numerous quiet beaches to be discovered, such as Aspous, Acherounes, Kalamitsa, Pefkos, Agios Fokas, Atsitsa, Kira Panagia, Agios Petros, Agalipa and Girismata. Very interesting and of amazing beauty as well are the seaside caves on the eastern coastline of the island, accessible by boat from different ports. Hiking opportunities to secluded beaches and through the forests are plentiful.
There's also an old castle on top of the hill and a monastery (both currently under repair), and the view from there towards the beach is stunning. A little lower is Brooks Square, honoring a British poet who asked to be buried on the island. Worth visiting off Brooks Square is the rich archaeological museum of Skyros and the nearby Faltaits museum which will both shed light on the island's amazing past and culture.
A description of Skyros wouldn't be complete without a mention of its famed carnival with Dionysian overtones, disguised figures and outstanding costumes. The carnival will delight with its dances, outdoor theatre and enchanting rituals. Also very interesting are the numerous religious feasts throughout the year, each sponsored by a different small church. After church services of these religious feasts, in true Greek-Orthodox style, expect lots of traditional dancing coupled with special food and drink.
Lastly, a small word about the quaint port of Linaria (the main port of Skyros town, 10 km away), in case you decide to come by boat. Apart from the great fish taverns and nearby beaches, the port authorities have worked hard to be environmentally friendly, providing sewage collection and sea pollution control services. There are tanks for collecting used mineral oils, used cooking oil, fuel residues, bilge water and different other recycling services. Bravo Linaria Harbour!
In sum, with lovely beaches, sumptuous food, rich celebrations and an authentic non-tourist feel, Skyros has a lot of secrets and hidden treasures for such a small island. It should not be missed!