The Sporades: Places to Explore

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Skyros

Even among these unique isles, Skyros stands out. Its rugged terrain looks like a Dodecanese island, and its spectacularly sited main town—occupied on and off for the last 3,300 years and haunted by mythical ghosts—looks Cycladic. It has military bases, and an airport with periodic connections to Athens, yet it remains the most difficult ferry connection in the Sporades. With nothing between it and Lesbos, off the coast of Turkey, its nearest neighbor is the town of Kimi, on the east coast of Evia.

Surprisingly beguiling, this southernmost of the Sporades is the largest (209 square km [81 square mi]). A narrow, flat isthmus connects Skyros's two almost-equal parts, whose names reflect their characters—Meri or Imero ("tame") for the north, and Vouno (literally, "mountain," meaning tough or stony) for the south. The heavily populated north is virtually all farmland and forests. The southern half of the island is forbidding, barren, and mountainous, with Mt. Kochilas its highest peak (2,598 feet). Its western coast is outlined with coves and deep bays dotted with a series of islets.

Until Greece won independence in 1831, the population of Skyros squeezed sardine-fashion into the area under the castle on the inland face of the rock. Not a single house was visible from the sea. Though the islanders could survey any movement in the Aegean for miles, they kept a low profile, living in dread of the pirates based at Treis Boukes bay on Vouno.

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