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Take one of the boats, usually called excursion boats, that leave the harbour each morning, between 9 and 11 am, for a full-day excursion to Skopelos and Alonissos.

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Catch one of the larger, purpose-built boats - size of your vessel makes a big difference in rough seas. In bad weather smaller boats usually remain at anchor. In order to avoid seasickness, don't stay inside, focus on the horizon, get fresh air and breath deeply.

Skopelos is one of the most beautiful Aegean islands. It has two main towns. The capital and chief port, also named Skopelos, is a complex and delightful cobblestone maze stacked up against a hillside. The best way to arrive is by the sea, with the town revealed slowly as the boat pulls into the harbour. The houses are jammed together along narrow and oddly curving alleys, their windows capriciously placed, their balconies awash in flowers. The waterfront is lined with tavernas, cafes, tourist offices and boutiques. A stroll to the top of the town brings you to the oddly whitewashed ruins of the Venetian castle.

Glossa is the island's second town, a winding three kilometers up the hill from Loutraki, the small port with its thin pebble beach. It is another whitewashed delight and considerably quieter than the capital.

The rest of the island is rich in vegetation, with wind-swept pines growing down to secluded coves, wide beaches and terraced cliffs. The most popular beaches are all on the sheltered south-west coast.

Alonissos is one of the friendliest and least touristed islands in Greece. It is an island for the energetic, particularly for walkers, hikers, swimmers and snorkellers. The population, mostly farmers and fishermen, live almost exclusively in the fertile southern part of the island. In 1965 a violent earthquake destroyed the hilltop capital of Alonissos town (now called Old Alonissos or Chora). The entire population abandoned their homes and moved to the previously unimportant anchorage of Patitiri.

All boats dock at the almost circular mini-port of Patitiri, not the best introduction to the island. The flat-roofed concrete buildings are relieved only by a row of bars and near-identical restaurants along the waterfront. Not a picturesque place, but nevertheless has a very relaxed atmosphere. Boats may be hired at Patitiri to visit any of the surrounding small islands.

The best thing you can do is to walk up to Old Alonissos, a fine but steep fifty-minute walk via a donkey track - signposted on the left just outside Patitiri. Old Alonissos, a tranquil, picturesque place with lovely views, has a strange appearance. The village, reconstructed in the old style, is now full of expatriates and wealthy Germans and Britons who bought the derelict houses and renovated them. A growing community of artisans have set up a shop and their wares are exhibited in the little stores along the main path through the village. The Paraport taverna, at the top of old Alonissos village, has delicious food and probably the best view on the island.


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