Densely forested with pines and oaks, Alonissos is one of the lesser known islands of the northern Sporades. Being much quieter than neighboring Skiathos or Skopelos, it is a great destination for families seeking to get away from the crowds, even during high season.
The island is also located in Greece’s largest marine park; as a result its waters are some of the richest in terms of sea life, and its beaches and forests among the most pristine. Its ecological credits were further bolstered last year when it became the first Greek island to ban plastic bags.
Get into nature
With 14 marked hiking routes of varying difficulty, it’s an ideal destination for family hikes.
Boats and kayaks can also be rented so you can spend days exploring the magnificently clear waters around Alonissos and the neighboring uninhabited island of Peristera.
If you are particularly lucky you may even be accompanied by the dolphins that frequent the area, or catch a glimpse of the elusive and rare monk seal that breeds in the marine park’s sea caves.
Alonissos is not particularly famed for its sandy beaches, as rock and pebbles are its dominating coastal features. However there is no shortage of beautiful, child-friendly shores encroached by pine trees that provide shade and a summery chorus of buzzing cicadas.
Among the few organized and sandy beaches with several nearby tavernas is Chryssi Milia, (5km from Patitiri port) which is the most popular among families because of its shallow waters. Tzortzi Gialo (7km from Patitiri) is a shallow water pebble beach and has a taverna nearby. The pebbles on another child-friendly beach, Leftos Gialos (midway between Patitiri and Steni Vala) gleam white and contrast idyllically with the turquoise sea, which is probably why this organized beach is among the most popular on the island. Closest to Patiri is Megalos Mourtias, a pretty, but quite busy beach that’s sheltered and has several tavernas nearby, such as Megalos Mourtias which serves traditional home-style dishes.
If your kids love snorkeling, Tsoukalia is a unique spot for it. Although not the most remarkable at first glance, the beach is actually an archaeological site where ceramic wine pots (tsoukalia) were once produced in ancient times and again during the 20th century. Remains of broken pots still litter the sea-bed so a simple pair of swim goggles here is enough to turn kids into budding underwater archaeologists.
If you have older kids and want to combine your beach-going with a hike, visit Votsi, which is embraced by pines and has crystalline emerald waters. For a spot of Greek food with a creative twist, stop at Dendrolimano taverna, 5 minutes away in nearby Patitiri.
Strolls and dining
Although its popularity has recently been on the rise, Alonissos’ greatest charm of all – that it retains the air of a Greek island before the age of mass tourism, remains gloriously intact.
The main port of Patitiri is an ideal base for families offering all the key essentials – from varied kinds of accommodation and restaurants to international press outlets, pharmacies and stores selling beach gear. Here you can also rent cars or bikes, hop onto a boat to visit the Marine Park or book a round-the-island tour.
For a relaxed family dinner overlooking the moonlit sea, dine at Ostria which serves fresh, seasonal Mediterranean food from fresh shrimps to pizza. Meanwhile, if you want to learn about the island’s history, visit the Alonissos Museum and the Alonissos House for a look at what life was like on the island in times past. Tales of the real-life pirates once active in the region are bound to keep children captivated.
Alonissos does not have an airport, but you can fly to Skiathos (international flights also land here) and take the ferry boat (3 hours ), catamaran (90 mins) or Flying Dolphin (60 mins) to Alonissos.
Another way to reach Alonissos from Athens is to drive or take a bus to the port of Aghios Konstantinos (165 km) from where boats leave for the Sporades.
The other most favorable and more scenic destination for families is The Old town. Here you can rent traditional houses to stay in as well as rooms in hotels and bed and breakfasts. The town’s Venetian-inspired architecture painted in russet, white and gold shades, steep stairways and tranquil stone pathways are surrounded by buzzing nature – you are likely to see hawks circling high overhead and butterflies pollinating passion flowers.
Have breakfast with a panoramic view over valleys rolling down to the sea at Haiati, also known for its mouth-watering desserts. In the Old Town you will also find small stores and galleries, such as Gallery 5, run by Bente Keller, who wrote the island’s first walking guide, Alonissos On Foot, available in the shop.
Finally you can’t leave Alonissos without driving or taking a boat to eat in Steni Valla, a picturesque, tranquil harbor with a handful of tavernas. Arguably the best is Tassia’s Cooking, serving succulent crayfish pasta, sea samphire salad (a dish you will be hard pushed to find elsewhere), and other local delicacies. Delicate wafts of basil, jasmine and sea air complement the excellent food.