The Greek islands inspire poetry, just ask Lord Byron. Beautiful, serene and placid are just some of the adjectives that come to mind when thinking of this unique country – an assemblage of more than 200 individual islands. Among those, one of the standouts is Skiathos. Something of an anomaly in Greece, Skiathos is characterised by its forests of chestnuts and pines, alongside a cover of undulating olive groves.
This island has many draws. The water in its many shades of blue, the cliff-backed beaches and the rows of terracotta roofs are just the beginning. Soft sand like icing sugar and an international airport that attracts all the major names in aviation, make this little island in the northwest Aegean Sea a worthwhile destination.
With more than 50 turquoise-water beaches and a thrumming marina, Skiathos draws an international set. The Aegean Suites hotel, with its 20 low-rise suites blends with the surrounds. Boutique and with a strong family spirit, it stands as one of the island’s premiere properties. With endless Aegean views from every bedroom, you can practically hear the revving engines of motor boats as you place your bags down. The whitewashed walls, unobtrusive stone pathways and calm-coloured accents, give the property and intimate and welcoming feel.
Charming and Heaven suites offer open-air whirlpool tubs, but every room has a similar serene and clean design – white walls; soft furnishing in a combination of blues, greens and oranges; king-sized Hypnos-brand beds; and bathrooms stuffed with Greek-made Korres products. Art throughout is original to the hotel, a considered collection of up-and-coming Greek artists.
Both the pool and the hotel are adults only. And while in Greece there is strictly no such this as a private beach, there is a beautifully maintained section of caramel sand with sun beds, umbrellas and towel service, reserved only for hotel guests.
The scent of pine fills the air and wafts through the restaurant at mealtimes. The dining experience is attentive, white tablecloths and on Wednesdays there is live music throughout dinner. The evening menu is Mediterranean with a contemporary feel – the crispy-skinned seabass is a signature, as are the lamb cutlets, served with a creamy aubergine purée. And pre- or post-dinner drinks can be taken in the pool bar – which turns various hues of peachy pink as the sun sets. Breakfast is a typical Grecian buffet – teeming towers of fruit, bread and pastries, alongside made-to-order eggs.
The Aegean Suites is part of a Greek-owned boutique hospitality company, with a second property in Skiathos, one in Alonissos, Athens and Pilio. Family owned, the Santikos Collection properties have come to be synonymous with first-rate service, impeccable facilities and properties that are set in the most exquisite locations.
Laid-back and slightly father afield, Marpunta Resort in neighbouring island Alonissos is no less of a delight. The stunning hilltop property is built to mirror a traditional village, with its white-washed rooftops and winding cobbled pathways.
All charm, the property has two beaches – one narrow and one sandy, in addition to a well-sized pool. A pool with a view, it’s easy to wile away the day here. The only reason one would ever want to peel off a sun-bed would be to enjoy meal in one of the two on-site restaurants. Many guests here choose half- or full-board for their stay, and these are certainly temping offers. Food is prepared with warmth and care. Expect a menu with all the traditional Greek dishes, alongside a few more adventurous and international offerings. Local favourites, like tiropita and spanakopita and beautifully executed. Seafood here is the standout and tastes as if it was freshly caught that morning – and it often is. There is also a well-considered selection of local wines available.
Giddying views, endless sun and beaches for days, it is certainly no secret why Greece is firmly rooted as one of the top countries for a summer getaway. And the islands of Skiathos and Alonissos in particular prove fascinating, unpretentious and gladsome destinations.