Walk on its old paths, swim at the green beaches, get lost in the cobbled streets of Palio Chorio and experience its warm hospitality...
Text - Photos: Ioanna Paravalou
Alonissos is the island which brings peace and tranquility to the senses. The mixed fragrance of resin, oregano and thyme is spread in the air, urging you to take deep breaths from the time you step on the island... The nature is richly embellished with golden beaches, emerald waters, windy bays and dense forests with pine and olive trees, which lean over the sea, having their shower from the waves. Alonissos together with Skiathos and Skopelos, the two nearby islands, belongs to the Northern Sporades and has its own way to enchant the traveler who is looking for the "mingling" of the mountain and the sea.
If you want to feel the "soul" and its particular charm of this island, you must have strong legs and an open heart...
- Stroll along the uphill cobbled streets of Old Alonissos (or Palio Chorio), which stands high on the hill overlooking from its supreme position the endless blue and enjoy the most magnificent sunset...
- Walk down the old paths, starting from the top (from Palio Chorio) and ending at a beach, to dive in its crystal clear waters...
- Make a day trip by boat and visit Alonissos - Northern Sporades Marine Park, where Mediterranean monk seals (Monachus – Monachus) are housed...
- Try the traditional strifti (shaped like a snail) cheese pie and pastries and enjoy the special lobster pasta that you will remember for a lifetime...
Typical houses with wooden balconies, painted in bold colors.
Let's get to know each other better
The boat from Agios Konstantinos or from Volos arrives in the afternoon on the island. Therefore, our first "appointment", is closed at its port, Patitiri, which is the current capital of Alonissos. Vivid and bustling, the harbor gathers the nightlife of the island, as there are, besides the shops, the most taverns, cafes and bars. It has its name of the wine-presses that existed here, when the island produced its famous red wine. If you come in the morning for shopping, it is worth visiting the Folklore Museum and the Mediterranean monk seal Information Center. From the Women's Cooperative of the island, you can buy spoon sweets, aromatic herbs and other local delicacies.
Tzortzis Gialos, the picturesque harbor of Alonissos.
To the north of the port, you find the settlements of Roussoum Gialos and Votsi, where you can swim or eat fresh fish and seafood in the taverns by the sea. Most of the island is covered with dense pinewood and olives. As we could read, its ancient name was Ikos. Alonnisos was called the nearby island of Kyra-Panagia, while in Byzantine times was called Liodromia.
On the uphill alleys of Old Alonissos.
In a three kilometers distance from the harbor, we reach the unique Alonissos Town, which is built high up and enjoys a wonderful view. They call it Old Alonissos, Old Village (Palio Chorio) or Liodromia. For years it remained deserted and silent after the great earthquake of 1965, with only companion the powerful winds that "strolled through" its cobblestone streets with the ruined houses and remnants from the old days ... Capital of the island became its port, Patitiri (in 1978). In recent years, at first foreigners have begun to restore the houses and now the freshly white painted cobblestones are filled with travelers who are looking for the authentic beauty of the place. In the picturesque cafes you can drink your coffee, enjoying the wonderful view. On the 15th of August a big festival is held with live music, dancing, food and plenty of wine (if you are on the island this day, do not miss it).
Walk on foot to Old Alonissos...
Cars have no place in a traditional settlement. That's why you must park them in the big square under the pine trees (at the entrance of the village) and start walking, feeling the charm of the village ... Uphill cobblestone streets, ruins of medieval fortifications and beautiful houses with wooden balconies, painted in all shades of the sea, with roofs of slate or tile, make up an unbelievable backdrop. In the picturesque taverns that place the coffee tables outside on the main road, you can relax enjoying good food and local snacks.
Walking through the narrow, freshly painted alleys of Old Alonissos, you discover corners like this.
There are tourist shops and corners full of elegance and art in its alleys. The view from the narrow openings of the walls is fantastic! When the atmosphere is clear, you can distinguish the coasts of Evia and Pelion and the islets of Sporades and Mount Athos. Without any doubt, the best time to be there is in the evening. So if you come in the afternoon, you will enjoy an amazing sunset! From here, many hiking trails lead to beautiful beaches. You can also visit the Byzantine chapel of Agioi Anargyroi walking through an unforgettable route (or by car if you cannot cope) to enjoy one of the most enchanting sunsets of your life!
The taverns spread their tables out... in the cobbled streets of Old Alonissos.
Discovering its secrets...
Alonissos is famous all over the world for its therapeutic herbs which have contributed to the development of traditional medicine. Continuing the tradition, the International Academy of Classical Homeopathy, is hosted here. The island is also well-known since the ancient times for its fine wines.
Psathoura: Exotic colors of the waters and white sand.
In order to approach the many and beautiful beaches, you can choose between three ways of transportation: by car, by boat or on foot. Many hiking trails begin from Chora (Old Alonissos) and Patitiri (the harbor), following a particularly interesting route full of images and perfumes, that lead to quiet beaches with blue-green, clear waters. Others with pebbles and others with fine, white sand and shallow waters. The beaches of Alonissos are one better than the other. Chrysi Milia, Agios Dimitrios, Megalos and Mikros Mourtias, Kokkinokastro, Leftos Gialos, Marpounta, Megali Ammos, Yialia, Agalou Lakka are some of them … You can also swim at the wonderful waters of the islands Psathoura and Peristera (in the bay below the Monastery of Kyra-Panagia).
The boat anchored in the harbor of Kyra-Panagia and we walked uphill to see the monastery.
If you want to eat lobster, kakavia and Alonissos`s cheese pie, you must come to the most picturesque harbors of the island, Steni Vala, both shelter and base for the boats and the fishing boats that supply the coastal taverns daily with fresh fish and seafood. As we go downhill, the view towards the windless bay and the sea pass between the islands of Alonnisos and Peristera, enchants us. Continuing further north on the motorway, we will reach the beach of Agios Dimitrios with its crystal clear waters. It is, of course, worthwhile to drive up to Gerakas, the northernmost point of the island, which is about 20 km from Patitiri.
Routes on foot...
If you are "lovers" of hiking, in Alonissos you will discover your own paradise. This island invites you to walk and to experience its unknown beauty. Most of the routes start from Old Alonissos (Chora or Old Village) or from Patitiri (the harbor) and reach to a beach (in 15 to 45 minutes) where you can swim. Following the old paths and the stone cobbled paths, walking through shady forests or shrubby areas, overlooking the sea or the island all the time, it is an unforgettable experience.
To avoid the hot sun, it is preferable to start your trips early in the morning or in the afternoon. Of course, you must not forget the necessary things (hat, water, sports shoes, glasses, long pants to avoid scratching from the thorns of the bushes...).
1. One of the most beautiful routes is the one that starts from the pine-covered square of the village and goes downhill, in about half an hour, to the beach of Megalos Mourtias. First you cross the village and then walking downhill on the winding streets, you reach the beautiful beach with the turquoise waters. The sea is shallow for several meters with a sandy sea bed. The edges of the beach are closed by steep cliffs. At the back of the beach there is an olive grove where you can rest in the shade. There are, of course, taverns for those who are hungry ... If you do not have the courage to go back on foot, you can take one of the boats to go to the harbor (Patitiri) and from there by the local bus or by taxi you reach at Chora.
2. Other ideas for hiking are: a) from Patitiri to Old Alonissos, in one and half hours, taking an old path, b) from Chora to the beach of Mikros Mourtias, in one hour with return, c) to the beach Vithisma, in one hour and twenty minutes with return, d) to Vrysitsa and to Gialia beach, in about one hour with return.
Beach Yialia, with its wonderful colors...
3. A small but very beautiful route (about 30 minutes) will bring you from Old Alonissos to the chapel of Ai-Giannis through dense trees and from there to Agios Taxiarhis. Part of this route follows the ridge of the hill and has a magnificent view of the sea.
4. To enjoy the unforgettable sunset of Alonissos, you will walk about 45 minutes from Chora, in order to reach the far side of Mount Kalovoulo, with the most spectacular view to the west and the most powerful sunset.
A tip: To be safe on the routes, it is recommended to contact the municipality and to be informed about the guides who can lead you to the paths of the island. Look also at the bookstores of the island for the very informative book regarding the island`s trails and beaches: "Alonissos on foot" by Bente Keller and Elias Tsoukanas. You may find it very useful.
Marine caves are revealed on the daily voyage to the Alonissos Marine Park.
By boat in the Marine Park
We will not go away from the island, of course, without visiting the Marine Park of Alonnisos - Northern Sporades. Among the islands located in Alonnisos`s north east, we distinguish Peristera, Kyra-Panagia, Skantzoura, Pepper, Psathoura and Dio Atherfi. The whole maritime area of the Nothern Sporades has been declared "National Marine Park" since 1986, as it is an excellent habitat with rich flora and fauna, in which rare animal species live, many of them threatened by extinction, such as the Mediterranean Monk Seal, Mavropetritis (Eleonora`s falcon), the Audouin`s gull, the Wild goat of Giaros, etc.
The Mediterranean Monk Seal finds shelter in Alonissos - Northern Sporades Marine Park.
On your boat trip you will be joined by cheerful dolphins and if you are lucky, you may see the Mediterranean monk seal. The boats stop at the islet of Kyra Panagia, where you will walk on foot up to the Monastery of Kyra Panagia, which is at the top of it (so do not forget your sports shoes, hat and water.) The path is uphill, and the landscape is dry and with low vegetation, so the sun hits hard, but the tranquillity that you will feel when you reach at the shady courtyard of the monastery with the chapel in the centre, will compensate you for any fatigue.
The chapel of Kyra-Panagia.
You will go for swimming at Psathoura with the incredible waters. In the afternoon, on the way back, you will see the blue sea caves and you will relax with good food at a seaside tavern.
What to eat: Lobster, grilled fish and kakavia. Strifti cheese pie, meat pie, dairy pie, xinotiri cheese, goat meat cooked with lemon or tomatoes or in the oven, galotiri cheese, fouskakia (a type of donuts) and chamalia, the almond pastries of Alonissos the best of which are made from the women`s Agricultural Cooperative.
How are we going to continue our evening entertainment? We will go down to Patitiri or to Palio Chorio for a drink in an atmospheric bar with good music and view at the moon shining above the sea... Thinking of anything better?