SKYROS ISLAND

chilled, sunny, magical

The island’s long history goes far beyond the reach of memory. Recent archeological finds at Palamari, near Atsitsa, have uncovered a well-fortified village dating back to the early Bronze Age (2800 BC). Artifacts from the site are on display at the local archeological museum.

Achilles, the hero of the Trojan war, spent his early years on the island, and Athenian hero Theseus, the man who slew the dreaded Minotaur of Crete, died there. King Lycomedes’ palace on top of the village hill was built in pre-Homerian times, rebuilt by the Byzantines and then again by the Venetians. The Byzantine monastery of Saint George, built on the ruins of an ancient temple, is still intact. So are many old traditions, including the island’s mesmerising goat festival which, rooted in Olympian Greece, draws visitors from all over the world.Rupert Brooke, the English poet, is buried in a tranquil olive grove on the southern part of the island, that ‘corner of a foreign field that is forever England’.

The old village’s white cubic-style houses are shaded by grapevines waving gracefully in the glittering sunlight. In its square, the villagers, tempered by lingering memories of millennia, still seem to watch with curiosity the visitors from their future. Yet Skyros is a wonderful mixture of tradition and global trends. Doors are left unlocked, children play out until late and weddings and special events are celebrated by the entire community. On the other hand, young men drink whisky at cool, funky bars and young women are as fashion-conscious as their counterparts in London’s West End.

The island lives in more than one century at once. 

‘Celebrity Dream Homes: My perfect spot would be the Greek island of Skyros, where the poet Rupert Brooke died. It’s a place where at night you can dance and party on the beach, as only the Greeks know how, and still be awake to speak to the sunrise. The smell of warm pine trees, the sunlight on the sea; very different from the place I’ve just been living.’ Peter Owen Jones, The Daily Telegraph

‘I have now been in Skyros five times... Each visit is coloured by the memories of previous visits, so that my time on Skyros is a weave of past and present. Here is the pine-backed beach where Patricia and Pippa and Kate and I, after a hot, four-hour walk across the island, threw off our clothes and ran yelling into the water. Here is the bench where Ian and I sat at dawn and watched a fat orange sun hoist itself out of the ocean, a fishing boat motoring towards it as if dispatched by some primitive king to find out what it was made of. Here is the precipitous path that my up-for-anything 91-year-old student Hugh braved so that he too could swim off the nude beach... Skyros has taught me that travel is like love: as you get older, the appeal of newness wears thin. There is something richer, more layered, and ultimately more beautiful, about knowledge acquired over time.’ Susan Elderkin, Financial Times

‘Winding streets, friendly locals and a buzzing nightlife.’ Nicole Waring, Evening Times, Glasgow