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Skiathos island news and views

Skiathos is one of the Sporades group of island off the east coast of mainland Greece. Skiathos is a very compact island but boasts many large, deep, sandy beaches strung along its south coastline. Skiathos is a very popular holiday island with Brits, Germans and Scandinavians. The closely packed beaches, sandy and safe, make Skiathos great for family holidays.

lalaria beach skiathos
More tacky tourism

Not satisfied with being one of the most popular holiday islands in Greece, hotel operators on Skiathos have launched heavy promotions in the UK and other European countries. Consultants have been hired to promote holiday in Skiathos in target markets of the UK, Germany and Scandinavia this year. In the pipeline are free trips for tour companies and journalists, stalls at travel shows, fashion shoots and deals for celebrity endorsements. And it's not just the European market that are being targeted. Skiathos hoteliers are plan Easter package deals for the Greek market as well as radio advertising, online media offers and themed holiday packages. You have to wonder why. Skiathos is already swamped with holidaymakers each year. The island boasts some of the best sand beaches in the Greek islands, but most are now packed end-to-end with sunbeds. The single road that links the beaches along the south coast is a virtual line of back-to-back hotels and tavernas, mostly owned and run by mainland Greeks. What Greek character the island once had has been overwhelmed by cosmopolitan consumerism and many regard Skiathos as a prime example of a Greek island that went belly up to tacky tourism year ago. Nevertheless, hotel owners are confident there is more money to be made from the ever growing tourists that stream from the island airport. President of the Skiathos Hoteliers Union, Makis Koukoulakis said the aim is 'maximizing the visibility of Skiathos in established markets in order to extend the tourist season and open up to new markets.' Skiathos did suffer problems this summer with many tourists cancelling holidays in the wake of capital controls and political turmoil in Athens. The island's biggest tourism markets are the UK, Scandinavia and Italy with up to 70% of these being return visitors. Skiathos has little to offer apart from the holiday staples of sunshine, sandy beaches and endless clubs and bars. It is why it tends to favour the cheaper end of the holiday market with cut-price packages and all-inclusive hotel deals. More discerning visitors tend to opt for the nearby islands of Skopelos and Alonissos and a more authentic Greek island holiday experience,

skiathos airport landing
Skiathos holiday upset

A British couple hoping for a memorable holiday in Skiathos returned to the UK with nothing but bad memories and a bill for a sea-view apartment they never even got to stay in. Skiathos is popular island which seems to appeal particularly to the British holidaymaker. Miles of golden sand, almost sixty beaches in total, and shallow bays have made it an ideal place for families and couples wanting a relaxing break. Ken and Dorothy Marlow from Sunderland, were all set to enjoy the delights of this island having spent weeks planning their perfect getaway, leafing through the beautiful pictures in Thomas Cook's glossy brochures. Eventually they decided on 14 nights at the Belvedere Hotel, a popular choice on the island. Having made their decision, they were disappointed to be told by tour operator Thomas Cook that the hotel was fully booked up. The sales rep then offered the couple a bungalow for an additional £580, explaining that they would have to pay a premium as the building would be under-occupied. Having read the brochure from cover to cover, Mr Marlow was confident that Belvedere was the place they wanted to be, so agreed to pay the additional charge. The couple agreed that it would be nice to have somewhere larger to 'spread out', and decided the experience would be well worth the extra cash. In total the holiday which started off around £1,118 came to just under £2,000. On arrival at the Belvedere Hotel & Bungalows at Achladies, Mr and Mrs Marlow were shocked to discover that not only were the Bungalows now not available, there were double rooms in abundance and they were duly marched into the hotel instead. "This, of course, was what we had wanted all along" commented Mr Marlow, "but a holiday that should have cost £1,118 cost me, somehow, £1,696.86, meaning I was overcharged by £578.86." Following the couple's return to England, they immediately contacted a representative at Thomas Cook to get a refund for the Bungalow they never got to stay in. Assuming this would be a routine procedure, Mr Marlow happily waited on the phone, before being told that a refund wouldn't be possible. Despite Thomas Cook agreeing that the brochure was misleading, they refused to refund the cost of an apartment which the couple didn't really want, and were never able to even stay in. This is when the Marlow's contacted their local paper. In our opinion this is always a good step for disgruntled travellers. Even the largest of companies will have a PR team who are determined to uphold a positive image of their company. Once the media starts snapping at ankles, those with a legitimate grievance are often quickly appeased. This is what finally happened with the Marlows, especially when the Daily Mail online ran the story in full within it's dedicated travel section. Thomas Cook suddenly seemed incredibly keen to help, and not only refunded the Marlows, but rounded up the refund to £700.00. It seems a shame that often companies only react to requests for refunds, when customers contact a media outlet or an ombudsman. Thomas Cook commented that that the difference between what Mr Marlow was charged and what he should have been charged had been fully refunded, and had occurred due to a data problem between themselves and the Belvedere Hotel & Bungalows at Achladies. Whatever a 'data problem' actually is, it seems to be a growing problem, with numerous holidaymakers complaining of additional charges, and a disparity between what appears in the brochure and what actually exists in reality. We recommend reading comments from likeminded travellers on the web. A quick search on Google Images can give one a much more accurate picture of a hotel or apartment. Savvy travellers with good IT skills may be able to avoid disappointment with a little bit of online detective work. However, it is arguable whether this would have helped the Marlows in this case.

lalaria beach skiathos
Skiathos beach fine warning

It's probably the best-known beach on the Greek holiday island of Skiathos and it features regularly in tourist brochures and magazine articles on vacations in Greece. But picking up a white pebble to take home as a souvenir of Lalaria could trigger a hefty fine. Authorities on Skiathos have threatened to impose fines of up to €1,000 for people who pocket the famous white pebbles. A popular target of tourist boat trips, the white pebble beach of Lalaria on Skiathos is a photogenic wonderland where clear blue waters crash onto a shore of steeply banked pure white pebbles. But the thousands of Skiathos holiday day trippers who flock to Lalaria Beach each year are taking their toll on the spectacular landscape. Now geologists fear that the continued loss of white stones from the beautiful beach may cause permanent damage to the scenery. The Cultural Association of Skiathos has posted warning notices along the beach warning visitors not to take any white pebbles as souvenirs of their visit. And tourists are warned that they could face fines of €400 to €1,000 for ignoring the ban. A statement by the cultural association claims that irreversible damage may already have been done to the white pebble beach at Lalaria. A spokesman said: "The landscape has been largely altered and now the situation is irreversible. During summer the beach empties of pebbles as everyone is collecting them instead of enjoying the scenery. This can no longer continue." But it is not just the visiting holiday tourists who are at fault here. Over the years, many Greeks have poached pebbles from the beach to decorate their homes and many backyards on Skiathos will have mosaics of stone taken from Lalaria enhance the homes. The Skiathos beach of Lalaria can only be reached from the sea and is famed the world over for its brilliant white pebbles, clear turquoise waters and spectacular rocky arches. Sun-bleached pebbles and white underwater marble slabs combine to create a dazzling aquamarine seashore that attracts thousands each holiday season. Although a very beautiful spot, boat trip visitors will usually find Lalaria crowded other tourists. Almost every excursion boat on the island offers trips here and scores of visitors arrive hourly to walk on the beach. Boats usually anchor here for one to two hours before heading off to visit nearby caves and to visit the nearby Kastro.

skiathos airport landing
Skiathos airport upgrade

Runway being extended to Xanemos beach. Visitors flying in and out of the holiday island of Skiathos may find the experience a little less taxing now that work is well under way on extending the island runway. Thousands of tonnes of soil are being shipped to the beach near Xanemos to extend the island airport runway by 110 metres to create more runway for Skiathos flights. Trucks are shifting earth seven days a week in a bid to get the new island runway ready in time for the 2014 holiday season on Skiathos. When complete it will being a sigh of relief to regular Skiathos holiday visitors who have braved the notorious landing and take-off on the island's very short runway. Incoming plans fly in low over the Skiathos Town harbour to touch down, slamming on brakes and throwing engines into reverse thrust to avoid toppling off the end of the runway and onto the island's Xanemos beach. It is an even bigger problem for tourists leaving Skiathos as the runway is too short to allow holiday plans to take off with a full load of fuel, necessitating an extra stop at Thessaloniki to take on enough fuel to fly holiday Britons back home. The land must be built up be several metres to extend the Skiathos runway with must of the earth being transported from land to the west of the runway. The area of hillside being dug out will create hard standing for up to 10 aircraft to park up near the Skiathos terminal as well as a new taxiway. The work has not gone without its problems. A popular taverna on the road from Skiathos Town to Xanemos has become almost stranded by operations. But the latest work should mean not only safer landing and takeoff but a faster turnaround time for aircraft and shorter journey times home for Brits on holiday on Skiathos.

Lalaria Beach on Skiathos
Skiathos beach win

Skiathos wins poll of top ten Greek Island beaches. UK holidaymakers have voted for their ten best beaches in the Greek Islands in a poll carried out by travel website Tripadvisor. Skiathos came top of the poll in the Travellers' Choice 2012 Beach Destinations awards for the top ten beach destinations in Greece. The Greek holiday island of Skiathos may be small but it boasts around 60 beaches. The wide sandy bay at Koukounaries was voted the best beach on Skiathos for its great swimming, watersports and lively tavernas while others given a mention by UK holiday visitors were Lalaria, Little Banana, Vromolimnos and Nostos. Mykonos ranked second in the poll with the south coast beaches getting top marks for their beach party atmosphere, watersports and stylish nightlife with the quieter beaches at Panormos and Elia having special appeal. Third in the vote was Corfu, a perennial UK favourite, with busy beaches in the east and more sedate ones in the west featuring strongly in the poll. Corfu beaches at Paleokastritsa, Sidari and Arillas are picked out on the Tripadvisor website. Other Greek islands featuring in the top ten list were Rhodes, where holiday beaches at Lindos, Faliraki and Pefkos are highlighted. In Lindos there are a trio of beaches to choose from, two quieter beaches Pallas and St Pauls's Bay and the main Lindos beach at Megali Paralia. Faliraki has a world famous reputation as a beach party hotspot but it is quieter now than it used to be and the long stretch of sand is now a big favourite with families. The beach resort at Pefkos is described as 'serene, perfect for families with young children'. Two beaches on Zante also feature in the top ten Greek Island beach list. Kalamaki gets praise for the dark golden beaches, the variety of restaurants, and the friendliness of the locals while Tsilivi picks up votes for a 'mashup of awe-inspiring history and contemporary holiday culture'. And finally a couple of beaches on Crete make it to the top ten. Malia is praised for its wild nightlife and music scene, while the laid-back beach resort of Stalis is popular with UK travellers.

Skiathos Palace Hotel
Skiathos award

Skiathos Palace hotel gets green award. The beach holiday hotel Skiathos Palace, in Koukounaries Skiathos, has picked up a top international award for its green credentials. The 550-bed hotel which overlooks one of the world's best known holiday beaches at Koukounaries in Skiathos has lifted a 'Green Key' award from the Greek Society for the Protection of Nature (EEPF). The Green Key award is granted for eco-friendly hotels and covers environmental management and education as well as energy consumption, water use, waste handling and the use of environmentally friendly products as well as foods and drinks. The Maratha beach next to the hotel has also picked up its first Blue Flag this year. The beach is organized and managed by the Skiathos Palace. The Blue Flag is granted to beaches that pass a total of 32 tests on water quality, environmental education-information-management and protection as well as beach cleanliness and safety for swimmers and visitors.

Mermaid and fisherman
Artist Themis Tsironis

Many years ago I used to visit the island of Skiathos quite regularly. I don't go so often now as the island has become rather too popular and cosmopolitan for my taste. Even then the locals were complaining at how the Athenian mainlanders were taking over Skiathos. Nowadays the taverna owners are more likely to be Albanian or Russian rather than Greek. Things got so bad that even a McDonald's appeared briefly in Skiathos Town. Anyway, in earlier days the streets of Skiathos Town has many odd arts and crafts shops – again unlike the tatty tourist trinket shops that run the length of Papadiamantis Street these days. While rummaging around in one such shop, some rather attractive picture postcards took my eye. The postcards were of paintings by a Greek folk artist called Themis Tsironis and quite wonderful painting they were – mainly of scenes from Greek life, notably fishermen and boats, and of Greek history, notably Cretan, and mythology. Many of the originals had been painted on wood and the painting was crudely direct with vivid colours roughly drawn in that typical naive folk art style that remind me of the paintings and drawing of children. Pictured here is 'Fisherman and Mermaid' painted on wood in 1978. Another gripping painting is 'Sant People' from 1982, again painted on wood and depicting Greek figures in a large crowd, from ancient philosophers to wartime resistance fighters. I have sought high and low to find out more on this artist, even ringing up experts in the National Art Gallery and Alexander Soutzos Museum in Athens but no one appears to know much about him. Searches on the internet have uncovered more paintings but nothing on the artist himself. I would be grateful if anyone could tell me more about the artist and his works. Most of all I would love to own an original.

Holiday plane landing at Skiathos
Skiathos runway

Skiathos holiday runway a scary sight. Flying into the Greek holiday island of Skiathos may herald the start of your Greek island holiday is definitely not for the faint of heart. Pilots bank around to hit Skiathos island runway from the south and passengers on the right side of the aeroplane can catch a brief glimpse the runway. Skiathos is one of the most popular destinations for Greek island holidays and thousands fly in each year. The Skiathos airport runway is laid across a very narrow neck of land between two heavily wooded hills. There is nothing at either end of the short runway but the deep blue of the Mediterranean sea. Aeroplanes glide in across Skiathos Town bay and passengers sitting left-side will see holidaymakers sitting in the tavernas and cafes that line the shore. Passengers are warned to expect plenty of noise when the wheels hit the concrete and, as aircraft touches down, the engines are thrown screaming into reverse. This is because the runway is only just long enough to take fully loaded charter planes and the pilots don't have long to stop. The alternative is to overshoot and drop off the end of the runway and into the sea. No need to worry though. Skiathos airport, although tiny, has an unblemished record. As does the holiday island of Skiathos itself, which is now one of the most popular holiday destinations in the Greek islands. Nevertheless the arrival can be unnerving, especially if you are not fond of flying. Unfortunately it is even worse when you leave. Fully fuelled aeroplanes are too heavy to take off on the short runway so they must leave with fuel tanks virtually empty. Pilots line up at the end of the runway and rev up until the engines can stand no more before releasing the brakes and shooting off like rockets. The near empty tanks require that they land a few minutes later at Thessaloniki on the mainland to take on enough fuel to fly home.