There are two bases for your Sporades yacht charter; the main base is Skiathos but there are also a few yachts available from Loutraki on Skopelos.
For bareboat charter, the main challenge for UK sailors is getting to Skiathos as direct UK flights are on Fridays and charters are the usual Saturday start. So your options are:
- Take a direct Friday flight, spend a night ashore, and resign yourself to losing some or all of the last day of your sailing.
- Fly to Athens on Saturday and take an internal flight to Skiathos. Note these internal flights fill early but seem less prone to delays than charter flights.
- Fly to Athens and take the combined bus & ferry trip, arranged by Alkyon Travel. You are advised to book in advance as there are only 2 departures each day , one early morning, a second in the afternoon. Alkyon’s website is here: www.alkyontravel.gr
- Skiathos Town
Skiathos is an international holiday resort popular with everyone from chic Italians to backpackers, all drawn by the huge number of stunning beaches. The town is the only major settlement on the island but provides all a holidaymaker needs, from ice creams and sun cream to mini markets, bars and restaurants. It’s all done in a civilised manner – you can dance the night away in Skiathos, but this is no Faliraki.
Probably the least well cared for visitors are yachtsmen. The harbour gets packed at weekends and cries out for another pontoon (or two). A toilet and shower block would also save reliance on the obliging nearby cafes.
The current town is not as old as you may think. In the 16th century the island was over run by pirates. The population retreated to the Kastro (castle) who’s ruins can still be visited on the north tip of the island. It was several hundred years before they moved back with major rebuilding of the town in the 19th century and the town became a ship building centre. However, many of these buildings were destroyed by the retreating Germans in 1944 in return for the islands resistance.
You can pass several happy hours wandering the streets of Skiathos, especially at sunset when local artists often set up on the quay. A diversity of restaurants will proved everything from quality cuisine to Gyros (Greek fast food).
For anyone fancying some diving, there is usually at least one operators providing scuba trips from the quay. In the town centre you’ll find the Museum of Papadiamantis, a famous Greek scholar and poet, who hailed from the island. There is reputedly still a small shipwright just north of town, still building traditional wooden caiques (confirmation or otherwise appreciated).
The other attractions are out of town but accessible by public transport or you can hire a scooter. The Kastro contains old cannons and 4 restored churches, including some fine frescoes. There are several monasteries, of which the most visited is the Monastery of Panagia Evaggelistria, a couple of miles from town. This has a varied museum which includes a folklore wing and a photographic study of the Balkan wars.
Of course there are also the beaches – over 60 of them. However, some of these you can visit by yacht, including the best, at Koukounaries.
For all the souvenirs and plastic beach toys I still like Skiathos – it’s not ashamed to be what it is; a tourist town. However, I fear for its future with some local beaches now listed in travel guides with names like Big Banana and Small Banana (the nudist beach)! rather than their Greek names. I hope it doesn’t slide too far down market. Get there soon in case it does.
- Directions: Skiathos Yacht Charter Base
Skiathos yacht charter base is at the north end of the town harbour. The airport is just over a mile away and the easiest way to get between the two is to take a taxi. I have known people walk it, but there’s no pavement.
Most of the charter yachts are on a floating pontoon which will be immediately visible as soon as the taxi reaches the sea front.
If you arrive by ferry, this will berth at the south end of the harbour. It’s about 400m walk to the other end of the harbour where the yachts are.
- Loutraki / Glossa
As ferry ports go, Loutraki must be one of the prettiest in Greece. It’s a popular stop for yachtsmen and holiday makers from Skiathos seeking a more Greek experience. Some, distracted by the beach, miss the real attraction; the village of Glossa which sits on the hill overlooking the harbour. Here, amongst the narrow alleys and whitewashed houses is where the locals live, one suspects much as they have for generations.
There are several tavernas and a supermarket around the harbour. The ferry service isn’t very intensive but it’s worth holding off mooring whilst they’re entering or leaving the harbour. Note there is also a charter company based here so the harbour can be busy at weekends with yachts being turned around. There’s also a flotilla that visits but only once a fortnight.
Aside from the long pebble beach, there are the ruins of some Roman baths and of the ancient city of Selinounda, the latter dating back to 4th century BC. If that leaves you too tired to walk up the hill to Glossa, there is a bus service. You might want to take a torch if you’re thinking of walking back down the hill after dark.
This is where you’ll find the better tavernas. There are some great views to be had too, especially as the sun sets over Skiathos. Other than the Monastery of Taxiarhes set amongst the pines, there aren’t really any sites. It’s more a place just to relax and absorb the atmosphere.
So in Loutraki and Glossa, you’re really getting two rather different destinations in one. Definitely a place I wouldn’t miss.
- Directions: Loutraki Yacht Charter Base
If you’re flying in to Skiathos, you can take the ferry over to Loutraki. The ferry quay in Skiathos is at the south end of the harbour. It’s only 5 minutes taxi ride from the Airport. Alternatively, your charter company may offer to pick you up by water taxi from Skiathos.
If you’re arriving via the combined bus and ferry service from Athens, the ferries call at Loutraki after Skiathos, so you can book right through.
About Skiathos Airport
When booking direct flights to Skiathos, you may sometimes notice that even after allowing for the UK/Greece time difference (2 hours), the flights home is sometimes considerably longer than the outward trip. This is because the runway at Skiathos is relatively short and larger planes cannot take off with a full fuel load. This means a refuelling stop is necessary on the way home.
The airport has a couple of other quirks which can affect your memories of your Sporades yacht charter. There is very little standing room for planes to off load and embark passengers. This means any technical problem on a plane that has arrived can create knock on chaos with following arrivals and departures.
At such times, delays can stack up and as the terminal building is small, queues form outside the building. Be aware that the reps usually organise separate queues for each plane. So don’t just join the end of the first queue you see – it may be for a later departure. Your queue may be somewhere inside the building!