Go to the Greek Islands!

Tucked away in the Mediterranean, above Thessaloniki, the second largest city of Greece, are the the Ionian islands of Northern Greece.

They’re not given much attention, which maybe owes to the fact that we only hear of the Athens, and the more famous Mykonos and Santorini, but as someone who visited the the Northern Island of Skiathos this June, it’s worth mentioning that an experience in the Greek Islands will not disappoint you.was far from disappointing.

The people are pleasant, the weather is lovely and the beaches are breathtaking. Two friends and I chose the stunning Island of Skiathos, which we reached after an overnight stop in Thessaloniki, Greek style, a scenic bus ride and boat journey.

There are islands, which are slightly easier difficult to get to, but it was worth the wait. We stepped off off from the boat to be greeted by the glistening waters of the Agean Sea and the traditional white houses stacked up behind each other. It’s your poster card image of Greece is staring back at you, larger and only more beautiful. Make sure you’re equipped with a camera.

Despite the language barrier, you can make your way around with the locals of Skiathos who were are always happy to converse in whatever English they know, learn about where tourists are from, guide you to your hotel and impart all their information on the where-to-go’s and what-to-do’s.

Skiathos is a small island, as are most Greek islands and so it doesn’t take too long to familiarise yourself with the routes to the few nightclubs, spot the street where all the good bars or pick out the good restaurants.

Gorge on Greek food and soak up the sun:
There are two things you shouldn’t miss out on if you go to a Greek Island. The first is the food. Among the many fun facts you will learn, one is that Greek salad does not have lettuce, or any leaves – just a lot juicy olives, tomatoes, cucumbers and the claim to fame olive oil topped with a fat block of creamy feta cheese.

But that’s just for starters. If you love seafood, there’s obviously no better place to have it than on an island. If you love meat then you will find Kebab platters, Souvlakis, Gyros galore. For vegetarians there are plenty of dishes that involve feta (baked feta, or tiropita, which are small and delicious chesse cheese pies) and you can always (and must) gorge on tzatziki with every meal – a yogurt-based dip with cucumbers and olive oil and sometimes mint.
It’s an endless array of flavours and there’s something to fill everyone’s belly. And you are bound to fill yours should you venture out here.

The second thing is the sun. Naturally summer time is the best to visit these places. When we went in the off-peak season of early June, it was warming up and we made sure to take advantage of this. Skies were light till about 8, and this time only gets later as the summer kicks in and the number of tourists goes up. Make sure you spend plenty of time outdoors soaking up this sun, because it gives you a chance to really sit back and absorb the beauty of these islands. Which lies in the beaches.

Beautiful beach adventures:
We took a boat ride that ventured to some of the most gorgeous beaches near the island. ; Skiathos has around 60 of them itself. You will find yourself ooh-ing and aah-ing at every second as you stare out at the sea and watch it change it’s colours giving way to dark blues, turquoises and aquamarines — if there’s another shade of blue that you know, it’s probably there.

We went to beaches of Lalarias and Castros, which are near Skiathos, but most Greek islands will have this boat-ride option. And if you’re a beach buff, and a sucker for beautiful sceneries you cannot miss out on this.
There are all kinds of beaches — ones with tiny white and grey pebbles, and bright blue waters, or the more rocky and mossy coves where the waters are deeper shades of greenish-blue and the sands are a richer shade of grey, which almost appear silver in the sun.

While our venturing off the island ended here, there are more places you can visit nearby if you’re in Skiathos and if you’re not too much of the a laid back traveller. The island of Skopjelos, the sister island of Skiathos is a boat ride away. And this is where Mamma Mia was shot. So you can only imagine how beautiful this island is, though I cannot speak for it myself.

If you’re the more laid back travelertravelling to relax, wanting to sip a cocktail by the beach and sunbathe while reading a magazine, this is definitely the right place for you. Though small and a bit less commercial than the islands you might have heard of, the city of Skiathos was buzzing at night with lots of quaint open-air restaurants and some more loud and bustling bars to entertain you. It was a great six days.

Go to the Greek Islands!
If you plan to go to Skiathos or any of it’s Northern sister Islands, you will have to stop in Thessaloniki, and take a bus upto the port town of Volos and a boat ride from there. Thessaloniki is a 3-hour flight from London and not too expensive if you look into RyanAir. It is also a 6 hour drive from Athens, a 3-hour express train, or a 30 minute flight, if you plan to stop in the capital city.
But my advice is simple and clear: Skiathos or not, Go to the Greek Islands!

-Saanya Gulati