Skyros is the largest of the Sporades Islands. It has a land
mass of 210 sq. km and a coastline of 130 km. Skyros lies only 24 nautical miles
from Evia. It has a population of about 3,000.
The island has retained
much of its traditional character and has not sold out for the tourist euro. Skyros
offers something for everyone including good beaches, lovely coves, caves,
hiking and nightlife.
This is one of the most beautiful
islands of the Mediterranean. Its Northern part has rolling tracts of farm
land and pine forests. The mid section of the island, a narrow waistline, is where most of the population is concentrated. The southern section of Skyros is barren and rocky.
A child can look one of the free ranging tiny ponies, Pikermies, right in the eye. They roam freely on the rocky southern end of the island.
Only ten minutes walk from Skyros Town, the sandy beaches of Magazia and Molos offer good swimming, and many of the islands accommodations and bars cluster here. The nude beach is Papa Ta Chomata. Ormos Achilli has a new yacht marina and beach. Generally, the beaches on the northern end of the island are more pleasant than those on the rocky southern end.
The small port of
Linaria and Skyros Town (or Chóra) are the main settlements.
The island almost
seems to belong in the Cyclades especially Skyros Town and its architecture.
White houses are stacked along the steep streets. The furnishing of the islander's dwellings are ornate and hand crafted. The small houses are remarkable for their use of space. They feature conical fireplaces with little seat-ledges.
Skyros Town as two museums: Archaeological Museum with Myceanaean and Roman artifacts, and Faltaits Museum of Folklore, featuring the superb collection of Skyrian ethnologist Manos Faltaits. The Faltaits museum has a large collection of domestic items, double-headed eagles, costumes and some of the crockery that has always fascinated the Skyriots. The island's rich traditions include ceramics, wood carving, copper and embroidery, all found in the Folklore Museum and also proudly displayed in private homes on the island.
Traditional Skyros crafts are taught in a variety of classes at the new Skyros Centre in Skyros Town.
In mid-September, Skyros town hosts a half-marathon followed by a concert.
Drinking and Dining
You can get traditional Greek and Skyrian dishes in several places. Dishes made with goat's meat or goat's milk can be found. You'll also find seafood, chicken, yogurt, and regional wines.
There are several bars with a busy nightlife scene that includes lots of music and dance.
Skyros is a long sea journey from Athens and connections from nearby Kymi on Evia were limited for years. This accounts for the undisturbed tradtional lifestyle still found on Skyros. There is an airport now, but the island retains its distinctive charm. You may still see older residents in the traditional baggy blue trousers, black caps or long headscarves.
The pre-Lenten Carnival features three characters: the old man in goat costume, the Frank (foreigner), and the Korela, a man dressed as a woman. The three perform the goat dance, or Horos tou Tragou. The young men in goat masks, hairy jackets and jangling copper goat bells dance down the streets of Skyros Town. They are followed by the Frank, dressed in a ragged outfit and blowing a conch shell to scare the children. Each of the men in goat masks has a partner, a man dressed as a bride but also in a goat mask. The revelry includes singing, dancing, performances, recitations, plus lots of eating and drinking. Everyone dresses up in fancy clothes and joins in the fun.
The Carnival traces its roots back to the Dionysian goat worship festivals of pagan times. Goats have been an important part of Skyros' history. Skyros is known for its goat meat and goat milk even today.
The cross-dressing dancers have a long history on the island as well. According to legend, Skyros was the hiding place for the boy Achilles. King Lykomides of Skyros raised him as a girl in an attempt to circumvent a prophecy about the Trojan War. Odysseus discovered the secret, however, and took Achilles off to Troy where he distinguished himself in battle.
You'll see a double-headed eagle motif in the local art. This harks back to the time when Theseus was buried on Skyros. His spirit was seen at Marathon so the Delphic oracle sent the Athenians to Skyros to bring Theseus' bones to Athens. The grave on Skyros was revealed by a she-eagle. During Byzantine times, a much-resented upper class lived in Skyros, which lead to the double-headed eagle motif.
More recently, the poet Rupert Brooke was laid to rest on Skyros during World War I. His grave is at Tris Boukes, at the southernmost point of Skyros.