Alonissos, tucked away deep within the Aegean Sea, is quietly hiding its compelling natural charm and miraculously untouched beaches as the third major member of the Sporades.
While the lure of islands within south Greece continues to pull in a vastly disproportionate amount of the country’s tourism industry, the Sporades have remained true to its eternal Greek culture even in the midst of natural and economic disaster. Made up of 24 different islands, only four of them permanently inhabited: Skiathos, Skopelos, Skyros and, of course, Alonissos. With tourism a precious commodity, the four can sometimes appear as bickering siblings left competing for the most desirable crown – not a bad issue to be left with. However, while Skiathos takes the early worm due to its size and airport location, and Skopelos continues to lure only the lazy drawn entirely by the fans of Piers Brosnan flick Mamma Mia!, the third of this trio of haven peninsula is Alonissos, where only the intrepid arrive.
On reflection, the idea of ‘bickering siblings’ may well be an injustice to the people of Alonissos, who are far too laid back to enter in such disagreement. The island ticks along at its own pace, the fish tavernas stay open late into the night and the village remains grateful for their existence following a devastating earthquake that shook the island to rubble in 1965. Since then, with a show of comradeship and ‘community spirit’, Alonissos has managed to combine the subtle welcoming of foreign tourism with their local courage to curate a quite unusually peaceful atmosphere. There’s more than a subtle sense of hidden oasis on this divine sanctuary, it’s the overwhelming belief that you’ve found the one place within this deep turquoise ocean that nobody else has thought to explore.
Split into a few areas of interest, Alonissos has Patiri (which is the port), Hora (the old village) and Steni Vala – a port used predominantly for sailors and holds within it some of the best fish restaurants on the island. Alonissos is littered with sub roads and dirt tracks leading down to the endless source of hidden beaches. Unlike other islands in the area, you won’t find glossy tourism guides and help centres, instead you’ll need to engage with the locals who will be more than happy to point you in the direction of their favourite spots.
Where to stay
With very few major hotels on the island, local entrepreneurs began turning some of the post-earthquake ruined buildings into traditional apartments, rooms, villas and boutique holiday destinations. While Patitri (the port) offers more in the shape of lively nightlife, it’s the old village that offered the biggest appeal for our accommodation. Here’s the best place to stay in the village:
Alfa Collection is a group of properties that offer the assurances and aesthetic of a traditional Greek setting but do so with an elegant modern twist. Architect Marily Tsaganou has built up quite the reputation in Alonissos and has become the sought after point of call for new buildings. Alfa Collection’s rooms, apartments and villas offers a different opportunity for guests at a varying price range. Luckily for us, we got to sample them all.
Armonia Rooms and mini pools
The newest of the trio of accommodations, Armonia rooms come with accompanying mini pools with a sea view. Built from scratch, Armonia is a 30 second walk to village restaurants and bars but set within a secluded area so privacy is assured.
The ‘Alfa Cafe’ serves breakfast in the morning and acts a quiet bar in the evening with local wines, ouzo, beers and cocktails – to which we duly obliged.
Althea is where it all began for Alfa Collection. The building was rebuilt from ruins left by the earthquake and has kept all its charm and history.
Located next to Armonia, the Althea Suites come with 360 degree view, a kitchen with all amenities and is a quaint throwback to a bygone era. If you’re looking for a traditional feel with a high-class atmosphere, Althea is the one.
Moving on to the more lavish of readers, if you’re after for a bit more seclusion or plan on visiting the island as part of a group or family, Anemolia Villas would be more than ideal. Luxury personified, Anemolia is three houses set close the the idyllic beach of Leftos Gialos and comes with a private pool and quite ludicrous views.
There’s almost too many to choose from here. Most beaches are accessible via concrete roads but, like most things, the best and ‘secret’ locations will be located down a dirt road.
Most of these are fine to drive down with a car but can become a bit tricky on a scooter so be careful.
Here’s a map with the locations of the best beaches:
Where to eat
In what might be the least surprising thing to learn from this article… the food in Alonissos is first-class. Like all Greek islands, the locals take huge pride in the food they serve. What’s nice about Alonissos however, is the feeling of friendship and the warmth from many restaurants here – how could it not feel local with the amount of grandmothers still working in the family run kitchens?
We’ve picked out a few of the best. Big shout out out Astrofegia Restaurant in the village – a family business situated next door to Armonia and Althea accommodation and set in the most picturesque of locations. Astrofegia is closing in on it’s 40th year of business and their popularity only continues to grow with every given summer.
Not forgetting Eleonas too, you’ll find those fish specialists located on Leftos Gialos beach which is arguably the most popular spot on the island and looks like this:
Here’s a map with some of the best food spots:
How to reach Alonissos:
Coming from the UK, the easiest thing is to fly to Skiathos, get a three-minute taxi to the port and then catch a cheap ferryboats to the island.
Flights also go to neighbouring city Volos and boats run from there but take much longer at around 4hrs 30min. Connection boats also link Alonissos to nearby Skopelos, Skiathos, Skyros, Evia, and to the Peninsula of Halkidiki. For ferry schedules, click here. Ferryhopper.com