Photo: www.discovergreece.com

If you ask someone in Greece to name the most eco-friendly island, they would most likely tell you it’s Alonnisos. Situated 40 kilometers south of the Pelion peninsula, Alonnisos belongs to the group of lush green islands called the Sporades, which lie idyllically in the Northern Aegean.

One the boat approaches the port of Patitiri on this relatively quiet island, you will be immediately be struck by the lush greenery, magical cliffs and transparent waters. This is an ecological haven that’s been claimed by monk seals, dolphins, wild goats and other rare species. It is home to the Natural Marine Park of Alonnisos, and boasts active centers for the Hellenic Society for the Study and Protection of the Monk Seal (MOM), both acting as a hub for environmental awareness and conservation.

Photo: www.discovergreece.com

The harbor town of Patitiri is considered the ‘modern’ town, built after a massive earthquake destroyed the older main town, Palia Alonnisos, in 1965. Luckily, the original village, also known as Palio Chorio, has been rebuilt and maintains its amazing traditional architecture. Little charming hotels and restaurants dot the village, along with colorful boutiques a couple of patisseries and coffee shops with some of the most amazing views. The new main town of Patitiri also has its attractions, such as the Alonnisos Museum, harbor tavernas, and a permanent exhibition for the Monk Seal initiative, MOM. Within walking distance is Rousoum Yialos with a crystal clear pebbly beach, featuring a couple of restaurants and coffee shops.

Apart from the two main towns there are a handful of sparsely populated settlements or villages that offer amazing seafood, beaches and attractions. Steni Vala is a quaint fishing village with a clear, calm beach surrounded by verdant hills. Apart from its lovely cafes and good food, there is the MOM station that takes care of sick seals and abandoned seal pups.

Overall the food on the island is delicious, especially the seafood, and a stop to the women’s cooperative at the edge of Patitiri is recommended for those who want home-baked cheese or spinach pies, plus some local almond sweets.

Photo: www.alonissos.gr

Beyond what you can see or taste there are little secrets around the island, numerous hiking paths to explore, unique fauna and flora, a few interesting landmarks and remains of ancient civilizations. At Agios Petros there is a sunken Byzantine ship dating from around 1200 AD, while remnants of a submerged ancient city can be found at the waters off the rock mass called Psathoura. An old yet strong lighthouse there is considered a landmark in Aegean waters.

Another uninhabited island called Gioura and in antiquity known as Gerontia is home to the important Cave of the Cyclops where many important artifacts from ancient times have been found. There’s also the island of Kyra Panagia (or Pelagos), known in ancient times as Euthyra or Efthyros, but named today after the monastery that was built on the eastern side of the island by monks from Mount Athos during Byzantine times. All these small islands are part of the Marine Park and will offer quiet, untouched beauty and rare excursions into a side of Greece that not many know.

 

 

 

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Location - Alonnisos

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If you like spotting different birds, you'll be happy to know that Alonissos has its fair share of winged creatures. These include Audouin's Gull (Larus audouinii) and white gull (Laruss cacchinans), as well as the Hieraetus fasciatus eagle, Eleonora's Falcon (Falco eleonorae), Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) and cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo).The rocks attract nesting birds such as Apus capus and Apus melba and Rock Nuthatch (Sitta neumayer). The landscape and flora also attract birds from the Sylvidae family, such as the Blackcap (Silvia articapilla) and the Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala).

This might be a relatively small island, but it has thriving culinary traditions and that will delight the gourmet enthusiast. Seafood is of course a major ingredient on the island's table, and a small fleet of fishermen supplies it daily with fresh fish. The quality is so good that it is sold for premium prices not only in Athens, but also in fish-loving Japan. Delicious options include sea bream, white bait, red mullet, swordfish, octopus, squid (kalamari) and prawns. Alonissos is also known for its lobster pasta as well as the high-quality tuna that will appear often on menus across the island. Octopus on charcoal, called Kakavia, is another must if you're into seafood.

Photo: divlaiko.files.wordpress.com

In the meantime, goats running around in the lush wilderness are producing decent amounts of milk, cheese and meat to cover the island's need to some extent. In summer you can buy cheese directly from the farmers at the harbour of Yerakas. One of the famous cheeses here is Mizithra, a sharp salty goat cheese that is sprinkled on pasta in Greece. Local produce grown on Alonnisos includes almonds, figs, grapes and olives, so if you come across these products and learn they were cultivated on the island, consider trying them.

Photo: www.lifo.gr

You must absolutely stop at the Ikos Women's Cooperative on the edge of Patitiri for a selection of gourmet delights. Homemade cheese pies (tiropita), custard pies (galaktoboureko), spinach pies (spanakopita), local almond cookies and many other goodies will have every visitor taking out his or her wallet. There are also preserved fruits in jars that the Greeks call Spoon Sweets, and the apricot comes highly recommended. Delicacies from pickled tuna to sun-dried herbs are also at the shop.

Photo: alonissos.gr

In general, the restaurants and tavernas usually offer very good Greek fare and seafood, in addition to a local fried or baked cheese pie that looks like a huge ring. The food in Patitiri may be a bit more authentic than the more touristic Palia Alonnisos, but dining in Palia Alonnisos is also a must to feel its vibrancy, delight in the traditional architecture and experience the views from higher ground. There are tavernas on many beaches outside the main towns, such as on Rousoum beach very close to Patatiri, or farther away and delightfully authentic in the harbour of Votsi. A good day option is the lone restaurant overlooking the gorgeous sandy beach of Chrissi Milia. Steni Vala and Kalamakia with their handfuls of different seaside tavernas are great options to drive to.

Photo: www.lifo.gr

Sweeten your palate with a variety of sweets served here and there on the island. These include walnut pie (karidopita), amigdalota (almond biscuits), loukoumades (donut puffs topped with honey), rice pudding, hamalia, and others. Traditional bakeries and sweet shops will add to the choice.

Alonissos is full of old hiking paths that have been revived for the hiker's pleasure. Most are adequately documented, but efforts are needed to refresh the signage and clear some of the paths. The works of the Danish philhellene, Bente Keller, and her Greek husband Elias Tsoukanas must be acknowledged in their efforts to promote hiking on the island. Keller wrote the very informative book "Alonissos on Foot" about hiking on the island that can be bought from their art shop Gallery 5 on the upper edge of Palia Alonissos, a leisurely walk from the village's main square.

In the book, Keller highlights the varied landscape, scented herbs, dense pine woods, oaks, cedar, Arbutus strawberry trees and others, as well as the stunning views, local restaurant stops and beaches. "The beaches around Palia Alonnisos and Patitiri can be reached on foot within 15 to 45 minutes" she says. Keller outlines 13 different easy hikes around Palia Alonnisos from 25 minutes to 2.5 hours, followed by hikes that start from Patitiri and take anywhere from 15 minutes to 4 hours. The longest and most challenging hikes on the island, taking up to 7.5 hours, are detailed at the end of the book. Hikers should definitely buy it as soon as they land on the island.

Lastly, it is worth mentioning that hiking can also be enjoyed on the uninhabited islands of Kyra Panagia, Skantzoura and Peristera. Some tourist offices in the harbour of Patitiri may offer guided hikes.

International Academy of Classical Homeopathy

Headed by the esteemed Dr. Vithoulkas who has won awards for his dedication to homeopathy, the academy is housed in a lovely traditional building and trains students to become competent homeopaths in line with the principles of Dr. Samuel Hahnemann.

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You can divide the beaches on the island roughly as those on the southeast coast on those on the northeast one, and all are very different from one another (look at an Alonnisos map to get the idea). Some have a taverna or two offering food and drink, while others are totally isolated. Most beaches can be reached by car, while some can be reached by boat from Patitiri.

Photo: alonissos.gr

Agalou Lakka, Northwest

The last in a row of beaches on the northwest coast that can be reached by land. The difficult drive there is balanced by the beautiful scenery. This is a stony beach with a more rugged look beautiful in its own way, well-appreciated by adventurous nature lovers.

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Ayios Dimitrios, Southeast

Lies far away on the southeast coast, 15 km from Patitiri, past the fishing village of Steni Vala. This is the largest beach on the island and convex in shape forming a double beach, with a winter lake behind it that attracts migrating birds. Many consider it the best

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Chryssi Milia, Southeast

Chryssi Milia offers stunning views as you approach it and is one of the sandiest beaches on the island and ideal for children. There are chairs to rent and a good taverna under the shady trees above the beach that is ideal for lunch.

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Kokkinokastro, Southeast

Kokkinokastro is considered one of the most impressive mixed sand/pebble beaches on the island with red cliffs and lush pine trees. Sunsets here are fabulous and in the distance you will see the Two Brothers, which are two deserted islands.

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Leftos Yialos, Southeast

Leftos Yialos boasts a gravel-like white sand with a view of the Two Brothers (the two deserted islands across), with pine and olive trees not far away. Nearby are two tavernas with gardens that are great for a lunch break.

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Marpounta, Southeast

Marpounta is relatively close to Patitiri, lying on the southern-most tip of the island. It is considered an attractive sandy beach.

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Megalos Mourtias, Southeast

Megalos Mourtias is also just two kilometres from Palia Alonissos. It is a sandy beach with many flat stones, as well as several tavernas to enjoy a good meal. You can also snorkel here.

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Mikros Mourtias, Southeast

Mikros Mourtias lies below Palia Alonnisos and can be reached by a donkey path. You will find pines, herbs and olive trees on your way. Offering a mix of stone and sand, this is also a good beach to do some snorkelling.

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Milia, Southeast

Milia is a beautiful stony beach almost hidden within a thick pine forest. It is situated 3.5 km from Patitiri and 5.5 km from Palia Alonnisos.

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Rousoum, Southeast

Rousoum is a few minutes’ walk from Patitiri with a couple of traditional tavernas and a relaxing coffee shop facing the water. This is a great beach if you just have half a day and don’t want to stray too far from Patitiri.

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Tourkoneri, Northwest

Tourkoneri is a nice small bay among pine woods that allows you to swim to neighbouring bays. There are interesting rock formations that come out of the water here. The beach is 5 km from Patitiri and you have to walk down the last part.

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Tzortzi Yialos, Southeast

Tzortzi Yialos and its bay boast one of the most idyllic views near hills, pines, olive trees and a handful of cypresses. Located 6 km from Patitiri, it is pebbly at the beginning and sandy once you’re in. There is one taverna at the beach.

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Vithisma, Southeast

Vithisma on the southern side of the island is a small quiet bay with pebbles and black sand. It’s very clean and considered a lovely bay that not many know about.

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Yialia, Northwest

Yialia beach is pebbly and rocky beach in a bay with a beautiful renovated windmill at its edge, which used to mill wheat in the olden days. You can get there by an earth road from the main road between Palia Alonnisos and Patitiri. The nearby beach of Vrisitsa is a beautiful one with black sand and stone slabs.

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There's only one archaeological site on the island. It boasts remains of an ancient factory from the 4th century BC which produced amphorae (ancient Greek pots). The site is relatively a virgin one so there are stil pieces of amphorae around. Some of the handles of these broken pots feature the name Ikion, which derives from the old name of Alonissos (Ikos).

Photo: alonnisos.net

These pots were used for wine which was exported as far as the Crimean peninsula, in addition to Athens, Pella and Alexandria. Efforts are underway to preserve the factory at Tsoukala and transform it into an organized site. Please refrain from taking any pottery pieces with you but do visit the site to get an idea of the island's important history in winemaking.

The island of Gioura (or Gerontia in ancient times) is home to the Cyclops cave, adorned with multicoloured stalagmites and stalactites. This is the largest cave in the Sporades islands and leads to an area that is 40x50 wide, with a height of 15 meters. Finds from the cave include objects not only from the Classical and Roman eras, but from the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods as well. This has shed light on the fishing and hunting habits of the period. Gioura is also home to a rare, protected species of wild goat known as Apra hircus aegagrus.

Photo: anaskafi.blogspot.com

There are several small and big churches dotting the landscape, and many are secluded. On the northside of the island, between the old town and Patitiri you will find many churches such as Profitis Ilias, Agios Fanourios, Metamorfosi, Agios Andreas, Taxiarches, Panagia sto Vouno (Our lady in the mountain). In the old town check out Kimisi Theotokou.

Photo: GoldenBest

Agioi Anargiri

Thessaly & Sporades / Alonnisos
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Agios Konstantinos

Thessaly & Sporades / Alonnisos
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Agios Yiorgios

Thessaly & Sporades / Alonnisos
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Kyra Panagia

Thessaly & Sporades / Alonnisos
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The small volcanic uninhabited island of Psathoura has a lighthouse built in 1895 that is 28.9 meters high, one of the tallest in the Aegean. It flashes once every 10 seconds. The remains of an ancient city lie underwater beside the island.

Photo: Irk

Museum of Alonnisos

Thessaly & Sporades / Alonnisos
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Alonnisos is one of the greenest islands in Greece with fabulous Mediterranean diversity. The most common are coniferous trees with a strong green color, followed by holly or kermes oaks, small bushy trees that are quite different from European oaks. The Arbutus or strawberry tree is also common on the island, bearing small bell-shaped flowers and berry-shaped fruit (not strawberries!).

Apart from the trees, different flowers and plants bloom on the island all year round. Winter flowers include the crocus and anemone. The latter boasts large blue or pink flowers and serrated leaves, except in hidden ravines without sunlight where it becomes small and white, more like the Northern Europe variety.

The oxalis blossoms in the begging of the year and creates yellow carpets that attract many a bee. A stranger flower is the bell shaped Targ-Tozz which grows below olive trees and boasts bright green leaves. The tree heather with tiny bell-shaped flowers is also on show in early spring, followed by the dark pink blossoms of the Judas tree which is abundant on the island and feels right at home here.

By April a cornucopia of flowers transforms Alonissos into a veritable botanical garden, including rock roses with pink or yellow flowers, Ophrys Mammosa orchids, Pyramidal orchids, pink Italian gladiolas, senna bladder flowers and many more.

Different herbs start making appearances in spring such as wild sage, while in June and July you can enjoy the sight of thyme blossoms with pink flowers, as well as oregano in July.

The fall rewards visitors with flowering heather bushes, cyclamens and Etruscan honeysuckle which by then bears small orange berries. These are but a sample of Alonnisos' natural bounty.

Lastly, the winding rocky gorge of Kastanorema on the northeast corner of the island is a haven for marble trees (Montpellier), maple trees and stone oaks. Watch out for the colour of the maple leaves in November when they turn into a beautiful orange.

Other noteworthy trees and shrubs on Alonnisos and surrounding islands include the lentisk (mastic), flowering phillyrea plants, the rhamnus (buckthorn), the Phoenician juniper and the rare tree Amelanchier chelmea.

Photo: Júlio Reis

The Phrygana or garrigue bush is also common and consists of many species. Then there are the 'chasmophytes', plants that live in rock fissures, which are very interesting as they boast several endemic flower species such as Linum gyranium, Campanula reiseri, Arenana phitosiana and others.

Lastly, worth mentioning are the beds of the seaweed Poseidonia oceanicae under water, very important for supporting organisms in the marine ecosystem.

 

Alonnisos is known for the Mediterranean monk seal Monachus Monachus that swims around its water. The monk seal is also one of the most endangered animal species in Europe, making its presence on the island even more precious. Only 400-500 are said to survive today, with two thirds of them estimated to be in Greece, particularly in the Marine Park of Alonnisos.

Apart from the Mediterranean monk seal, the waters around Alonnisos are known for several species of dolphin and whale. The former include the common dolphin, striped dolphin and bottle nose dolphin, while the latter include the sperm whale, cuvier's beaked whale and long-finned pilot whale. Overall the whole area is an important habitat for about 300 species of fish, including the Mediterranean moray (Muraena helena), Bluefish tuna, Dusky perch (Serranus Gigas) and two-banded sea bream (Diplodas vulgaris). Also worth mentioning is the presence of red coral, making the sea around Alonnisos a unique one in Greece.

Photo: alonissos-park.gr

Apart from the Mediterranean monk seal, the waters around Alonnisos are known for several species of dolphin and whale. The former include the common dolphin, striped dolphin and bottle nose dolphin, while the latter include the sperm whale, cuvier's beaked whale and long-finned pilot whale. Overall the whole area is an important habitat for about 300 species of fish, including the Mediterranean moray (Muraena helena), Bluefish tuna, Dusky perch (Serranus Gigas) and two-banded sea bream (Diplodas vulgaris). Also worth mentioning is the presence of red coral, making the sea around Alonnisos a unique one in Greece.

In the skies over Alonnisos there are around 80 species of birds that can appear, from Eleonora's Falcon to the Rock Nuthatch and Sardinian Warbler. Check out the section on birdwatching for more.

Lastly, on land you will find many strange reptiles and mammals, like the Apra hircus aegagrus wild goat on the small islet of Gioura, considered a rare species. Here is a look at what other land creatures you could find in the Northern Sporades:

  • Spur-thighed tortoise or Greek tortoise (testudo Graeca)
  • Marginated tortoise (testudo marginata)
  • Bogenfinger gecko (Cyrtodactylus kotchyi)
  • Skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii)
  • Erhard's wall lizard (podarcis erhardii)
  • Skyros wall lizard (podarcis gaigeae)
  • Balkan green lizard (lacerta trilineata)
  • Caspian Whipsnake (Dolichophis caspius)
  • Four-lined snake (Elaphe quatrolineata)
  • European ratsnake (Zamenis situla)
  • Wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus)
  • Southern white-breasted hedgehog (Erinaceus concolor)

There is a sad story connected to winemaking on Alonnisos, whose economy was stoked by lush vineyards and quality wines since ancient times, up to the early 1960s.

The problems started in the early 1950s when a devastating crop disease called Phylloxera destroyed the whole island's vineyards in less than a decade. Because the soil was heavily infected, there was no immediate solution, causing many people to abandon the island and move elsewhere. The massive earthquake in 1965 added the downfall and destroyed the island's main village (Palia Alonnisos).

Yet despite these mishaps there is some ray of hope as some individuals have reintroduced the vine to their plots, and if you're lucky you may be offered a glass of home-grown wine by a taverna-owner in the outlying regions of the island. Ask around, keep your fingers crossed, and you will be rewarded with some good local wine.

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Ikion Eco Boutique Hotel 3 *

Thessaly & Sporades / Alonnisos
Book with booking.com

Ikion Eco Boutique Hotel 3 *

Thessaly & Sporades / Alonnisos
Book with booking.com

Ikion Eco Boutique Hotel 3 *

Thessaly & Sporades / Alonnisos
Book with booking.com

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