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Skopelos island news and views

Skopelos is the second largest Greek island in the Sporades island chain. Skopelos is virtually cloaked in pine trees with several sleepy resorts scattered around the indented shoreline. Sandy beaches are scarce on Skopelos but Its beautiful landscapes, dotted with olive and plum groves, are popular with up-market travellers and day-trippers from nearby islands.

Learning to sea kyak on a Skopelos holiday
Skopelos kayaks

Sea kayaking on a Skopelos holiday. Many people are looking for more in a Greek island holiday than lying on the beach and sipping cold beer in a taverna. Now a Skopelos holiday company Aegean Escapes is pulling in active holiday visitors with popular courses in sea kayaking. Holidays on Skopelos, with its uncrowded beaches, rugged cliffs, impressive sea caves and uninhabited offshore islets, is the perfect location for exploring on guided sea kayaking holidays. Aegean Escapes is based in the traditional hilltop village of Glossa, at the north end of Skopelos, overlooking the small fishing port of Loutraki. The UK owners escaped the trials of life in the Midlands about five years ago to sample life in this warm and welcoming Greek island village. Now their kayaking activity holidays have proved a real hit with visitors. Their Skopelos sea kayaking holidays run from April to November and include single-day trips, multi-day tours circumnavigating the island of Skopelos and even expeditions to the neighbouring islands. On a sea kayaking activity holiday in Skopelos you can and expect to see dolphins leaping from the Aegean, turtles taking it easy, awe inspiring sea caves and secret, deserted beaches. Beginners and children can join in the Paddle and Play sessions while more the more experienced can enjoy more demanding days out. All their Skopelos sea trips are led by British Canoe Union qualified coaches and including island hopping in the Skopelos marine conservation area. Equipment is designed to cope with a wide variety of sea conditions and is very carefully maintained. They have a selection of single and double seater kayaks, fitted with either rudders or skegs to help you go where you want – better than going round in circles! The kayaks are sit inside, stable and easy to paddle. Also provided on the sea kayak adventure holidays are kayak paddles, buoyancy aids, spray decks and dry bags. And it is not all work and no play. The is plenty of time on sea kayak holidays to relax on a beach or go snorkeling in the crystal clear waters around Skopelos . The coast of Skopelos is perfect for activity holidays in Greece with secret beaches, sea caves, tunnels and miles of rocks and cliffs. There are also small islands nearby inhabited by a plethora of nesting sea birds as well as hawks, buzzards and falcons. In spring and early summer you may be lucky enough to spot whales and even an occasional basking shark. Later in the season the tuna appear, usually signified by huge flocks of gulls. Aegean Escapes also provide all types of accommodation, from simple seafront apartments to splendid villas with private pools. Details of accommodation can be found on their website at aegeanescapes.com and for more details on their Skopelos activity holidays in Greece, see the Skopelos Tours page.

Kastani beach on Skopelos
Skopelos Mamma Mia

Skopelos holidays still cash in on Mamma Mia. It had to happen I suppose, but the wonder is it has lasted so long. Visitors on a Skopelos holiday can still hardly escape the Greek island's links with the hit musical movie 'Mamma Mia'. Released in 2008, the romantic comedy musical was mostly filmed on the Greek island of Skopelos and, obviously, the locals cashed in on what became the UK's highest grossing film ever. Years later, Skopelos is still making the most of the ABBA-based musical with local travel agents Madro Travel leading the way with Skopelos island tours based on the film. The top selling tour is a Skopelos island cruise on board the 'Odyssey' which visits many of the Mamma Mia movie locations. Some of the most beautiful areas of Skopelos where chosen to shoot the Mamma Mia movie scenes when film crews descended on Skopelos in 2007. Universal Pictures and Play Tone Productions combed the Mediterranean area for suitable sites before settling on the island of Skopelos, with its inviting coastline. Skopelos holiday resorts that feature in the boat cruise include Amarantos and Agnontas. Amarantos was called the 'three trees' location for the scenes where movie heroine Sophie is seen reading her mother's diary and has a picnic with her trio of candidate fathers. Donna's Villa at Anarantos is a private home and cannot be visited. The Skopelos holiday boat tour also takes in both Milia and Kastani beaches. Milia did not feature in the movie but this was the main base for film crews and their equipment. Milia beach was where breakfast meetings were held for the 230-strong crew on location. Kastani Beach, however, featured very strongly in the Mamma Mia movie. The jetty and Donna's bar were built here for some of the movie's best-loved moments and it's where the Abba songs 'Does your mother know you are out' and 'Lay all your love on me' were filmed. Kastani beach is one of the best on Skopelos and known for its tranquillity and serene beauty. Both the beach bar and jetty have gone but the memorable backdrops remain. Top on the boat tour's list though is the tiny chapel of Agios Ioannis, located in the remote north-east of Skopelos. You can stand on the spot where Meryl Streep sang 'The winner takes it all' before running up the steps to the church, as she did, although you may find the steps rather steep. The famous wedding scene in Mamma Mia was shot here over four days, although the chapel interior in the movie was not the original one. Any visitor will see that the real chapel is far too small. If you want to see the church interior on which the studio-filmed setting was based, you should visit the Church Panayitsa tou Pirgou in Skopelos Town. Other Skopelos resorts that featured in the films are Milia Beach, with Dhasia islet in the background, where the three fathers sang 'Our last summer' and the place where the boat 'Jason' – featured in the song 'Money, money, money' – was moored in the pretty beach harbour of Agnontas. Of course, the Skopelos holiday visitor can find all these memorable places without a tour guide but they will need a jeep and a map as many are quite remote. For those that don't like boats, Madro Travel offers an overland tour. Giorgos Drossou co-ordinated transportation during filming, so he knows what he's doing and he leads the Mamma Mia tours of Skopelos. film.12(Mamma Mia) is the highest grossing musical film ever worldwide and is the third highest-grossing musical film in the US. On its release, the DVD became the fastest-selling of all time in the UK and sold 1,669,084 copies on its first day. By 2009 it had become the biggest selling DVD ever in the UK, with over 5 million copies sold.

Skopelos plums
Skopelos plums

Skopelos holiday island of plums. Skopelos is one of my favourite Greek holiday island hideaways. It was unfortunate that one of its best the beaches was used for so much filming in the hit movie musical Mamma Mia. Hardly surprising that the island has cashed in on the connection and that the notoriety has brought in the crowds. Nevertheless, I have visited Skopelos beaches many times and will continue to do so. I think Skopelos is one of the most beautiful in the Greek islands. There is no airport on Skopelos so arrival is by ferry at either of the island's two main ports of Skopelos Town or, on the other site of the island at Loutraki, beneath the hill village of Glossa. As well as the usual holiday delights of sandy beaches and soporific coves Skopelos is also known as the plum island and plums have been a cash crop on Skopelos island for many years. Citrus groves are found all over the island and there are at least eight different varieties of plum trees growing here and Skopelos plums are harvested from mid-June to mid-September. Although there are eight plum varieties grown on Skopelos but there are three that stand out : the black, red and yellow. The blue/black plum is a French variety, Azania, which flourishes on Skopelos. It is very sweet and it's eaten as fresh fruit through the summer or used for jam-making. The Skopelos black plum is also dried in special kilns to produce Skopelos prunes and these are stored in cotton bags for use over the winter. There are several Skopelos island dishes that include plums. Chicken and pork dishes are often stuffed with black prunes. The plums or prunes can also be used in meat 'stifado' dishes for extra flavour. The island speciality 'pork with plums' is found in many Skopelos tavernas. The red plum of Skopelos has a sour tang. I am not sure of the variety but this plum is often used in recipes as an alternative to lemon or vinegar. The red plums are usually dried in the sun to make a tangy tasting prune that is also often included in local dishes – notably lentil and prune soup and fish stew in the oven with red prunes. They may also be pressed and a red jelly is made from the juice. Black and red Skopelos plums can be cooked together with baked fish and are both often used together in recipes that contain potatoes and tomatoes. Yellow plums are even sweeter than the black but they don't keep very well so they are often harvested before they ripen and the yellow plums are used to make sweet jams and plum preserve. You can find many plum products dried and sold as sweets in confectionery shops on Skopelos. Bakers and patisseries usually offer plum sweets, dried prunes, plum pies and plum cakes, croissants with plums filling and, of course, home-made plum jam.