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Published: July 29th 2015
The turquoise water and the reliable weather is the main reason people visit Skiathos
ABBA, turquoise water, picturesque towns and an insane airport
In June we went on a for us slightly unusual kind of trip - a package tour. Ake's mother turns 70 this year and she wanted to celebrate this by going abroad with the entire family for a week. The easiest way to arrange a trip for 8 people was to arrange everything in advance through a tour operator. This made even more sense since the plan was to stay in one hotel the entire week and make excursions and day trips from there.
After some deliberation we decided on going to the island Skiathos in Greece. Skiathos has been a tour destination for a long time. No surprise there since picture perfect villages, warm reliable weather and turquoise water tend to draw tourists. In resent years Skiathos' popularity has increased because the movie Mamma Mia! was recorded there and on the neighbouring island Skopelos.
When Pierce Brosnan was asked if he was interested in starring in Mamma Mia! he supposedly answered "You are asking me if I want to spend three weeks on a Greek island with Meryl Streep? Hell, yeah!".
This is the boat we took a tour with. Here moored at Lalaria Beach
We took this trip more as a relax-and-enjoy-trip than a sightseeing-trip. But although we relaxed more than we usually do when we are on the road we also did some sightseeing. There are plenty of interesting things to see on Skiathos and Skopelos.
There really is no way to avoid ABBA and the Mamma Mia! movie when visiting Skiathos. Even if you deliberately try to stay away from Mamma Mia! sights you would have to go into hiding somewhere to avoid hearing Dancing Queen or The Winner Takes It All. It isn't bad or annoying, unless you despise ABBA of course, we're only stating the fact that ABBA is big on Skiathos.
In the local movie theatre they play Mamma Mia! three evenings a week. We could only go on one of the screenings but decided not to. "Silly and touristy to see it here. Besides we've already seen it twice" we said. That was, to quote Julia Roberts, a "Big mistake! Big! Huge!". Ake's two nieces went and saw the movie and told the rest of us that it was more than just a screening of the movie. It was also
Emma enjoying the sun and the view
We took this trip more as a relax-and-enjoy-trip than a sightseeing-trip
a show with locals dancing in the theatre during the various songs and thus adding live performance bits to it.
We did do some other Mamma Mia! sightseeing though, but not anything organised. We saw the pier where Bill has moored his boat and meets Sam and Harry when they miss their ferry from Skiathos to Skopelos. Sam and Harry ended up going with Bill because there was no other ferry. In the movie Sam and Berry apparently had no idea that they could have walked 100 meters down and taken one of the countless tour boats shipping tourists between the two islands. But then again, going with Bill was probably more fun. I have from a good source that the actor playing Bill, Stellan Skarsgård, is a pretty nice fellow.
Well, Sam and Harry didn't take a tour to Skopelos but we did. We are happy we did because Skopelos Town was well worth visiting. Skiathos Town is picturesque with white houses and small narrow lanes creating a large maze. We thought Skiathos Town was the perfect Greek small town. Until we came to Skopelos Town that is because that was even better,
Skopelos Town was so beautiful and perfect that it looked too good. It looked like the town was created for the purpose of shooting films in it.
even more picture perfect. Skopelos Town was so beautiful and perfect that it looked too good. It looked like the town was created for the purpose of shooting films in it. That's how good it looked. We never managed to catch that in our photos though. It is one of those things that has to be experienced because photos just don't do it justice.
On the tour we also visited, Agios Ioannis chapel, the chapel where the exterior wedding scenes in Mamma Mia! are shot. Again, our photos don't do it justice.
The last stop on the tour was at a beach called Lalaria. Lalaria is special in several ways:
1 It can only be reached by boat
2 There is no sand there. The beach is all covered with pebbles from the size of a pea up to two fists
3 The water there is more clear than at most other beaches.
4 There is a natural "tunnel" there that you can swim through
Lalaria Beach was the best place we visited, on this trip to Greece, when it comes to swimming and snorkelling.
"The winner takes it all"
The church where the exterior wedding scenes in Mamma Mia are shot. Our photo doesn't do it justice.
On another day we rented a car and drove around the island. We wanted to see some of the lesser visited beaches, those you can't reach with the regular busses that run along the south coast, and some other places.
The highlight of that trip was Kastro, a former town now almost completely in ruins. Kastro was located on rocky narrow peninsula on the northern side of the island. Kastro was established as a settlement during a time when the Aegean Sea was a place where pirates and other ruthless people roamed. The inhabitants of Skiathos settled on this tiny bit of land because although it was not a hospitable place to live its setting was like a natural fortress which protected the village. So we guess that when the pirates came and anchored in the bay the people of Kastro was standing on the rocks high above them shouting "I fart in your general direction". Or at least they would if they had seen that scene
in Monty Python's movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
On our drive around the island we also visited a monastery named Evangelistas. There are several monasteries
Pier from Mamma Mia!
The pier where Bill had moored his boat and meets Sam and Harry when they miss their ferry from Skiathos to Skopelos.
...and the line from the movie goes
Sam: "Yeah, my sentiments exactly."
on Skiathos Island, we visited one other and skipped quite a few, but we heard that Evangelistas is one of the better since they have recently restored it.
Emma and I one day went on a tour on our own. We then stopped at an island called Tsougria. There is no permanent population on that island but we think it used to be populated because near the beach there were ruins after several buildings. One used to be a factory and another looked like it had been a home for one or more families in a not too distant past.
If you are into plane spotting Skiathos is a great destination. If you are not into plane spotting we can still recommend a visit to Skiathos airport on a day when there are plenty of aircrafts arriving and leaving.
Skiathos is a small and quite mountainous island. When they built the airstrip on the island they had to create new land by filling out a sound between Skiathos and another island. The runway is shorter than usual and it is therefore more difficult to land there. We have heard that to
White houses and small narrow lanes
Very picturesque white houses and small narrow lanes
be permitted to land on Skiathos airport you must have gone through special training because the plane really has to touch down right at the beginning of the runway to be able to stop in time and not continue out into the ocean.
On each end of the airport it is possible to stand and watch the planes land and take off. It is such a popular activity that they even have a restaurant at the southern end.
When you stand at the end of the airport when the planes land the aircrafts can be as low as 10 meters over your head. At the southern end they have even removed the fence and replaced it with rolls of barbed wire. If a plane comes in low it could otherwise get caught in the fence. Once a plane actually came in so low that several onlookers had to duck down. You can find a video clip on YouTube of that. Try to search for "Low landing Skiathos" or "Air Italy landing Skiathos" to see that.
It is equally intense when planes take off from the airport. They then have to start
Skopelos Town was so beautiful
Skopelos Town was so beautiful and perfect that it looked too good. It looked like the town was created for the purpose of shooting films in it. That's how good it looked.
very close to the edge of the airstrip and when they rev up the engines the jet blast is as strong as a hurricane. If you stand in the wrong spot you can hurt yourself.
There was one spectator who stood too close to an aircraft when it was about to take off. Ake is an evil person because he decided not to tell him that. Instead he took photos of the man when be stumbled off to take cover.
We have filmed several takeoffs and landings at Skiathos Airport. We have added them further down.
We enjoyed this trip to Skiathos very much and we are very grateful towards Ake's mother for making it happen. If it hadn't been for her wish to go abroad with all of us we would never had come up with the idea of making this a destination of ours.
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