Its distance from industry and marine traffic has kept the seas around Skopelos among the cleanest and clearest, in Greece. Island geology has produced both sandy beaches such as the long strand at Kastani and pebble such as Panormos, although even the pebble beaches quickly shelve into sand. The waters off its estimated sixty-seven miles of beaches, some of which are only accessible by boat, with dense forest rising above low white limestone cliffs, have earned it the nickname of the “green on blue” island. Its many bays, coves and open-sea beaches attract swimmers, divers and sailors, aboard both modest and opulent craft, throughout the season and some hardy islander even swim daily year-round.
Parts of the island interior are still untrod by humans, but its renovated network of kalderimi, stone-laid footpaths, is opening up its forests, mountains and hidden valleys in remote areas once only accessible by donkey or four-wheel-drive. A short stroll or hike can take you into breathtaking wilderness in just minutes.
While recent decades have seen many changes, life here is still measured by its main crops of plums, almonds and olives, although a phylloxera outbreak in the 1940s destroyed many of the island vineyards. Its three main fishing fleets at Skopelos, Elios and Loutraki, supply almost all the island’s fish and its beekeepers its deservedly famous honey. Its reputation as a shipbuilder for the War of Independence in the 1820s has declined, but carpentry, fine and domestic, remains a strong tradition. While some younger islanders leave for education or careers, many also choose to remain or return.
Skopelos was inhabited as early as the Neolithic age, founded, in myth, by Staphylos, son of Dionysus and Ariadne, who named it Peparethos, and who named the bay and modern settlement of Stafilos, where relics from the Minoans era were discovered in the 1936s. Its less godly early settlers were probably explorers from Crete, bringing vines and other crops with them.
The island shares the region’s history of centuries of settlement by Macedonians, Romans, the Byzantine Empire, Venice, the Ottoman Empire and the declaration of the First Hellenic Republic in 1832. It was occupied by Axis forces in the Second World War and , since 1944 , has been part of Magnesia in the administrative region of Thessaly. It is a matrilineal society, with a population of just under five thousand and many customs and festivals unique to the island.
Its architecture, of tall and narrow stone houses, with wooden balconies and roofs of grey Pelion slate, was awarded the status of Traditional Settlement of Outstanding Beauty status in 1978 and the island has over three hundred Byzantine churches. Source: www.skopelos.gr