Skyros isn’t the first island you think of for your holiday in Greece, but it does have a devoted following which comes back year after year. One of them, the diminutive Skyrian horse, looks like it might have escaped from the frieze of the Parthenon. This island in the southern Sporades is also famous for its diminutive carved furniture and painted ceramics. Fresh lobsters abound and are delicious, particularly in the local style, cooked in a bisque and served with spaghetti. Like hiking? Marked trails help you explore the island’s two faces: the rocky south, so beloved of the British poet, Rupert Brooke, and the pine-forested west. Plus, there are beaches for every taste and a main town that puts on its best every night for your holiday entertainment.
What to do on Skyros
The Skyrian horse
They can be found running wild on the central plateau and placidly foraging in farms and the story of their origin is intriguing. One theory is that they are descendants of the breed of horses used by the cavalries in Greece in the 5th century BC and another is that they are related to Scotland’s Shetland ponies. Your kids won’t be able to resist a ride on these exceptionally rare Lilliputian steeds.
Hora, a living museum
The main town is built on a hill topped by a castle, itself topped by the monastery of Saint George. Walk (there is no other way) around its narrow alleys where the whitewashed houses seamlessly merge with each other. With the smell the jasmine in the air, feel free to peer through open doors and windows of the living-rooms proudly decorated with colourful ceramics and finely carved wooden furniture. You can get a closer look in the Folk Art Museum, which also has a shop.
British poet Rupert Brooke died near Skyros during the First World War. Apart from his tomb, he is commemorated with a statue in a square at the north end of town, with a wonderful view of the sea and main beach. Once upon a time, there would have been numerous lookouts at spots like this to keep a weather eye out for pirates. Nowadays, all you’ll see are yachts and fishing-boats sailing the peaceful Aegean Sea.
Around the island in 80 minutes
For those who like a challenge, it’s possible to drive round the inhabited part of the island in less than 1½ hours. But why rush? Drive from the port towards Magazia, the large and popular sandy beach and then head inland to the forested part of the island. On the west coast, you’ll find lovely places to swim, such as Agios Petros, Kyra Panagia, Atsitsa, Agalipa and Agios Fokas, many of which also have terrific tavernas if you fancy a bite. On the final stretch before hitting the port of Linaria again, it’s worth stopping at the chapel of Agios Panteleimon for the spectacular view of the bay of Pefko and the uninhabited islands to the south.
After the beach
The main cobbled road through town from the lower square to the statue of Rupert Brooke comes alive at night. It is lined with shops selling souvenirs and examples of all that lovely pottery, wood-carving and colourful fabrics, as well as restaurants, cafes and bars which really get going when the shops close.
Hidden gems of Skyros
The stone mushroom
At the otherworldly seaside site of Pouria is an ancient quarry where you’ll see a weird rock formation, the stone mushroom.
Skyros has been famous for its plentiful lobsters since antiquity.
Full moon at Magazia
The great August full moon is at its most romantic from here, rising out of the sea. Marvel at it from the coastal pathway above the beach or from one of the seaside tavernas.