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Holidays, history and the sea - an introduction to Alonissos

THE ISLAND OF ALONISSOS

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Alonissos is the furthest east of the three main inhabited Sporades Islands and perhaps because of this more isolated position, it is also the quietest.

Despite its diminutive size, at just 14km long and 4km wide, Alonissos has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to beaches, most of which are to be found along the more secluded east coast and around the southern tip.

The main port of entry to Alonissos is Patitiri on the southeast coast, and from here it is just a few kilometres to the island’s historic capital, Alonissos Town or Chora. Perched in an impressive hill-top position, Chora was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1965. Residents moved out to more modern housing in Patitiri but soon the old town filled up again, this time with Germans and English seeking a simpler way of life. They bought houses, restored them and lived as the locals had done for thousands of years, without electricity or running water. Gradually, over the decades more and more of the town came back to life and today Chora is an absolutely charming village that is well worth a visit, not least for its fabulous 360-degree panoramas. If it’s not too hot and you like a good walk, there is an old path that takes you there directly from Patitiri.

Despite its diminutive size, at just 14km long and 4km wide, Alonissos has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to beaches, most of which are to be found along the more secluded east coast and around the southern tip.

After the earthquake, Patitiri became the capital of the island and thanks to this status and its port, it is the busiest place on the island. The word “busy” in the context of Alonissos island, however, has very laid-back connotations, and Patitiri is a welcoming and friendly place to visit and have lunch or dinner.

Other villages on Alonissos include Steni Vala, about half way up the east coast. Until fairly recently, this charming fishing village with seafront tavernas and views of Peristera island was accessible only by sea, though now a road through the pine woods connects it to Patitiri. A couple of kilometres further north is Kalamakia, the northernmost inhabited settlement on the island.

The western coast of Alonissos is more rugged than its eastern counterpart and is largely uninhabited. Impressive cliffs plunge into the sea and there are some idyllic bays and beaches here too. The only problem - though this is not a problem if you enjoy a day on a boat - is that these are generally only accessible by sea.

Keen walkers are well served on Alonissos, thanks to a good variety of paths and tracks that criss-cross the island. Much of the southern part of the island is given over to and pine and oak woods and farmland (mainly olive groves and fruit orchards). In the wilder, uninhabited north, a thick carpet of fragrant Mediterranean maquis dominates the scenery. In several areas hills rise to nearly 500m above sea level, particularly, though not exclusively, along the west coast. It is rare to bump into anyone while trekking across the island, and the sea views, the peace and unspoilt character of the surrounding countryside make walking excursions an extremely pleasant proposition.

Alonissos, its surrounding waters and minor islands, including Peristera, Kyra Panagia, Gioura, Psathoura, Piperi and Skantzoura, form the Alonissos Marine Park, the largest of its kind in Europe. Established in 1992, its 2,250km2 is home to a fascinating variety of flora, fauna, marine life (including Mediterranean monk seals), archaeological ruins and unspoilt natural beauty.

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