Travel Guide to Alonissos

Alonissos is one of the islands of the Sporades chain that lie off mainland Greece’s east coast. Unlike its much noisier neighbour Skiathos, Alonissos has a tranquil, soporific atmosphere with lots of old-world Greek holiday charm.

It may have escaped the embrace of the package industry but signs of change are apparent as more visitors discover its many attractions.

Holiday hotels, apartments and villas have sprung up in the main resorts while newly surfaced roads offer easy access to even remote beaches.

With the surrounding waters part of a marine park, Alonissos boasts some of the cleanest swimming in the Mediterranean but boat trips to outlying islets can be curbed to protect endangered seal habitats.

Walkers have plenty to crow about with the very green, fertile and heavily wooded hills crossed by well-marked walking trails.

Regular daily ferries from Skiathos make Alonissos relatively easy to get to and the island often features in multi-resort breaks in holiday brochures.

If island tranquillity is the object, with ‘people watching’ from quiet tavernas, wandering wooded hills or taking small boats to near-deserted beaches then Alonissos has much to offer the holiday visitor.

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 Sandy beaches are in short supply on Alonissos. Most are small and steeped in stone while few have more than the basic facilities.

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 Most of the original island homes were buried in a 1965 earthquake and replaced with utilitarian breeze-block.

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 Walking trails run along the island backbone from one end of Alonissos to the other with terrific views along the way.

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 Nightlife is what brochures like to term ‘low key’ – little beyond sitting in a taverna and watching the splendid sunsets.

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 Taxi-boats sail from Patitiri during the high summer season to island beaches along the southern and eastern seashores.

Patitiri

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Patitiri Alonissos

The island’s main port at Patitiri is little more than a cement quayside and a couple of streets running inland up the steep hillside.

The harbour used to be lined with wine presses – ‘patitiri’ translates as wine press – and locals lived in the hillside village Chora above.

But an earthquake wrecked the hilltop homes and disease destroyed the vines. Villagers left the Chora to live in hastily built cement houses in Patitiri and nearby Votsi.

Some guide books write off the Patitiri’s drab buildings, but much has been done to hide the faults. Flowers, vines and coats of paint brighten up the shops, cafes and tavernas that now line the harbour.

A galaxy of small hotels totter on cliffs overlooking the bay and a few bars and cafes enjoy dramatic views from a cliffside footpath that snakes around the headland.

Beyond the harbour is a narrow stretch of coarse sand with access to through a line of tavernas. There are wooded hills on three sides and swimming in the shallow, rock-strewn waters.

Patitiri’s atmosphere is quiet, soporific even, and broken only by the regular arrival of hydrofoils emptying it daily cargo of visitors. A small free private museum and coffee shop on the road to the Chora has a traditional Alonissos house upstairs – well worth a visit.

Chora

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Palia Alonissos

Chora, otherwise known as Palia Alonissos, is perched on the hilltop above Patitiri and approached either by road or a walking trail from the port, now paved, lit and signposted.

Chora was the island capital until the 1965 earthquake forced villagers out, some forcibly. Derelict houses were snapped up for holiday homes and now Chora is abandoned for the winter.

Narrow streets and fortified stone houses, originally built to withstand attack from pirates, have been paved and prettified and it’s only purpose today is as a tourist draw.

At Chora’s highest point a series of small squares host cafe bars and tavernas that open up for the summer season offering impressive views over the whole island.

An old windmill and some preserved threshing floors are more interesting for their views than their architecture.

What to see

National Maritime Park

monk-sealThe National Maritime Park of Alonissos was the first to be founded in Greece and comprises Alonissos and six smaller islands as well as uninhabited rocky outcrops. The area is an important habitat for many species of fish, birds, reptiles and mammals including the Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus Monachus) which has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the rarest animals in Europe.

The Biological Station at Gerakas Bay, on the northern tip of the island, has been regarded as an embarrassing white elephant since the day it was completed in 1985 with a generous dollop of EC funds. The station has remained virtually unused, hosting just four official functions, on of which was its own opening ceremony.

Now the much-maligned building, which looks just like a holiday villa, may act a forward base for research and there are plans for a marine park centre in Gerakas itself. It took 25 years to get the park established and, after another 20 it still had no plan, no staff, no authority and, so some claim, no hope of success.

Offshore islets

peristeraAlonissos has a number of offshore islets that are a popular day-trip destination by boat. Set in the marine park and island nature reserves in their own right, some have restricted access to the public.

Peristera, the scarcely inhabited islet easily seen offshore on the east coast, was once joined to Alonissos and is graced with some nice sandy beaches that are usually empty.

The place is a popular haunt of barbecue boats in the high season and a cantina sets up on the main beach. Recently underwater archaeologists discovered an ancient wreck off the island.

Pelagos or Pelagonissi, is also sometimes called Kyra Panagia after the monastery that lies to the easy. It is a hilly islet with two deep bays.

Gioura is dramatically rocky with precipitous cliffs and is specially protected as its underwater caves are the main habitat of the Monk Seal. It also harbours a rare species of wild goat and a remarkably beautiful cave in the interior, reputed to be the original dwelling of the mythical Cyclops.

psathouraPsathoura is small and flat with the remains of an ancient city sunk beneath the waves to the east. In the north is a large lighthouse, built in the last century by the French.

Piperi, is normally closed to visitors as it is the most important habitat for the Monk Seal, Eleonara’s Falcon and several rare plants. Piperi has a precipitous rocky shoreline.

Skantzoura has a series of low hills on shores of white marble that create a dazzling azure seabed along the shoreline. There is an abandoned monastery at its centre.

Sporades Folklore Museum

folklore-museumLocated in Patitiri and is dedicated to the traditions of the island, the Folklore Museum of the Northern Sporades.

On display you will find ancient nautical maps, craftsman’s tools and a curious collection of pirate weapons.

Round off your visit to the museum with a stop in the delightful cafe upstairs, with a pleasant view of the harbor and walls decorated with works by local artists.

For accommodation, you can choose from a dozen hotels, from 1 to 3 stars, and as many guest houses; much wider choice for those who prefer to stay in an apartment, studio or holiday home.

Nightlife and entertainment

Although it is a small island, Alonissos offers a buzzing nightlife, mostly in the summer. The nightlife is mostly concentrated in the alleys of Pathiri, the largest center of the island, and obviously in old Alonissos (Chora).

Here you will find bars and disco bars, clubs with live music, international and even Greek. On the beaches there are also numerous clubs that host DJs with music until late at night.The entertainment of Alonissos is limited to clubs by the sea where you can have a drink and chat until one in the morning at the latest.

In Chora, the small village of the island, you can find small cafes and bars, or in Patitiri the port, where the evenings are spent relaxing between a drink and a serenade. Like at the Drunk Seal Cocktail Bar, where you can sip an ice cold drink by the sea. Read More

Walking on Alonissos

Alonissos has some excellent walks most branching off from the hilly backbone which offers extensive views of both sides of the island. Walking maps are on sale in Patitiri and on nearby Skiathos.

There is a good walk guide by Chris Browne ‘Alonissos through the souls (sic) of your feet’ from Travelleur

More walks can be found in ‘Alonissos on Foot’, in local shops, but some are quite outdated now. Online details of walking trails on Alonissos can be found at the Ivicourt website.

If you miss the bus up to to Chora there is a 30 minutes walk on the tarmac road or a 20 minute trek on a well-marked and paved path – quicker if you are heading downhill to Patitiri.

Places to stay

Alonissos is a small island and accommodation is limited, especially in the high season so better to not to turn up without an advance booking. Room owners do meet the ferry offering rooms to let and there is help at the island room-owners association office on the waterfront.

There are several small and medium size hotels in the port, most of them located on the hill overlooking the harbour but rooms here are usually booked well in advance. There are more apartments and rooms to let in Chora and also at Rousoum, Votsi, Steni-Vala and at Kalamakia.

Almost all visitors base themselves in Patitiri or Rousoum where there are the best facilities. Steni Vala is the main choice of visitors away from the main port. There are now plenty of rooms in the resort, some shopping and several good tavernas. New accommodation has been built near Geladias. but there is virtually northing north of there except a few rooms at the fishing hamlet of Kalamakia.

For those on a tight budget there are camping sites at Plakes, near Patitiri harbour (2424 065639) and also at Steni Vala (2424 065639). Read More:

Alonissos beatches

alonissos beachesThe beaches of Alonissos are almost all pebbly and not very large, with pine forests that seem to throw themselves directly into the sea. Some are equipped beaches, easy to reach and equipped with all services, others are remote and wild beaches with a solitary charm. One feature in common: they are bathed by a wonderful sea.

Along the east coast are concentrated most of the beaches of Alonissos.
The most beautiful beach in Alonissos for many is the enchanting Agios Dimitrios, located in the north of the east coast. It is a splendid peak-shaped pebble beach, partly free and partly equipped with deckchair and umbrella rental and a children’s play area.

Agios Dimitrios competes for the supremacy of the most beautiful beach in Alonisson with Kokkinokastro, an evocative setting in which sea and land seem to merge in an embrace. It is a very narrow mixed beach of sand and stones, dominated by a promontory of red granite which, reflecting itself in the sea, colors it with unusual colors.

Going north from Kokkinokastro towards Agios Dimitrios you will meet the beaches of Leftogialos, Gorgi Gialos, Steni Vala, Glyfa and Kalamakia.

Among these the most beautiful is probably Leftogialos, an expanse of small white stones bathed by an extraordinary blue sea and framed by a row of trees. Kalamakia beach is famous for its taverns that offer succulent dishes based on fresh fish.

If instead of going north you go south you will find the beaches of Milià and Chrisi Milià. The latter is one of the few sandy beaches on the island and one of the most popular. Due to its shallow waters and calm waters it is also suitable for families with small children and inexperienced swimmers. Read more:

Moving around Alonissos

alonissos-getting aroundThere are now about 45 kilometres of paved roads on Alonissos providing decent road or track access to most of the island’s beaches.

A main road threads through the middle of the island linking Patitiri, Votsi and Gerakas. A crossroads at Tsolia Lakka, in the middle of the island, connects Agios Petros, Steni Vala, Kalamakia and Agios Dimitrios.

There are tracks off both these roads leading to other beaches. In the north there is a forest dirt track off the main road at Kourti Lakka (just north of Votsi) that passes through several hamlets and ends at Agallou Lakka. Car hire firms can be found in the main port but none are cheap.

There is a bus service up to Chora from the port that runs mid June to September. From Chora, a less regular service heads north-east to fishing village at Steni Vala. Tickets are sold on the bus and it’s a good idea to have the correct fare ready.

There are four taxi drivers operating on Alonissos. The taxi rank is in the main port opposite the Alykon Hotel, next to the bus stop. Note that fares may double for early morning trips or on public holidays.

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Getting there

Flight and ferry times do not always coincide so many holiday visitors will factor in an overnight stay in Skiathos Town.

Ferries call in at Skopelos on the way to Alonissos and the journey time usually takes about 90 minutes.

Hydrofoils to Alonissos from Thessaloniki generally depart in the morning, so if your flight arrives in the evening you must take into account a one night stay in the city.

Getting to Alonissos requires a little more effort than other Greek islands: there is no airport on the island and ferries are less frequent than other more famous destinations. Precisely this being remote is one of the reasons for the great charm of Alonissos.

Ferries to Alonissos do not depart from the port of Piraeus but from that of Agios Kostantinos, which can be reached from Athens airport by direct bus. The duration of the transfer from the airport to the port is approximately two and a half hours; same duration for the sea crossing from Agios Kostantinos to Alonissos.

It is also possible to take a bus from Thessaloniki to the port of Volos and from there embark on a ferry to Alonissos, but it is a somewhat inconvenient solution that with all the changes will significantly increase the duration of your trip

Travel by air

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There was once a rather optimistic plan to build an airport on Alonissos island and the project was actually started in the mid 1980s.

The plans proved over-ambitious however and the scheme was eventually abandoned.

Package flight visitors to Alonissos land at nearby Skiathos Airport (JSI), officially called Alexandros Papadiamantis International), and passengers hop on one of the regular hydrofoils or ferries that run from Skiathos to ports at Skopelos and then on to Alonissos.

The port at Skiathos is only about three kilometres from the airport, recently extended, which takes charter flights throughout the summer including many direct flights from the UK each summer.

Daily domestic flights arrive from Athens (journey time about 20 minutes) with Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines.

Alonissos Ferries

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With no airport, daily ferries and hydrofoils from mainland Volos and Agios Konstantinos via the islands of Skopelos and Skiathos link Alonissos to the outside world.

The trip from Agios Konstantinos takes about four hours and from Volos another 30 minutes.

Most ferry services are operated by Hellenic Seaways and there are usually three sailings daily to Skopelos and Skiathos and Agios Konstantinis and 13 sailings weekly to Volos.

It takes three and a half hours to sail to Agios Konstantinis or Volos, about 60 minutes to Skopelos and 90 minutes to Skiathos.

Faster passenger only sailings from both Agios Konstantinos and Volos are operated by Aegean Flying Dolphins via Skiathos and Skopelos with a journey time of two and a half hours.

Anes Ferries also operates the Proteus car ferry from Volos to Alonissos daily, calling in at Skiathos and Skopelos.

Ferries also sail from Kymi on Evia a couple of times a week and hydrofoils head for Thessaloniki around four times a week.

On Alonissos itself taxi-boats sail from Patitiri to island beaches along the eastern seashore and, given the state of some of the roads, this can be a better bet than a hired car.

Taxi-boats tend not to circulate until June when they leave from the port every day between 10.30 and 11am, returning at around 5pm. Get tickets from the kiosk on the main harbour front. There are daily boats to Agios Dimitrios, Chrisi Milia, Kalamaki, Milia and to Steni Vala.

Four larger excursion boats – Gorgona, Odyssey, Planitis and Stella offer trips to islets in the local marine park. Boats leave Patitiri 10.30 – 11am to Peristera and to the east coast beaches on Alonissos. Other boats head out for islets at Skantzoura, Kria Panagia and Psathoura.