Long and narrow and almost as verdantly green as Skopleos,
Skiathos and Skiros, Alonissos
is the least visited of the Sporades Greek Island Group. It is part of a small archipelago of nine islets. Naturally, the main mode of transportaion
is by boat.
Alonissos' land mass is 64 sq. km, with 64 km of coastline. Alonissos lies
35 nautical miles from Evia and 68 from Volos. The population
is around 3,000.
A fleet of water taxis serves the main beaches, with larger
boats sailing around Alonissos and further north to the deserted islands
of the Marine Park.
are pine forests and beautiful sandy beaches. Visitors in search
of peace and quiet, plenty of freedom to hike, fish and
swim will love Alonissos.
1965 a violent earthquake destroyed the main hilltop town,
called old Alonissos or Chora (pronounced hora). The quake produced the separated islets that now form the surrounding archipelago.
The waters and small
islets around Alonissos are the marine
preserve of the Mediterranean Monk Seal, Europe's
rarest animal. No sewage is allowed into the sea, resulting
in the cleanest waters in Greece. The rare Eleonora Falcon is also
to be seen occasionally flying overhead.
Monk seals live in sea-caves. They are shy and afraid of humans. Should you be lucky
enough to see one, make as little noise as possible and please leave
the animals alone. Greek fisherman used
to kill them on sight as competitors for fish, but they are protected now by Greek and international law.
Only abut 500 remain. About 30 live on the islet of Piperi where
visitors are forbidden unless on special eco-tour. Visit the offices
of the Hellenic Society for the Preservation of the Monk Seal (HSSPMS) in Patitri near the quay for more info. The main research center for the HSSPMS is at the far northern tip of the island near Gerakas.
Alonissos is the main location for eco-tourism in Greece, and its slow development means that it's eco-tourism done right.
main island has two roads, one from the port of Patitiri to the Old
Town and the other from Patitiri to the northern tip of the island,
with a side road branching off to Steni Vala and Aghios Dimitrios.
There are taxis
and bus service between Patitiri and the Old Town from June to September,
ranging from four buses daily to nine or twelve in the high season.
and motorcycles can be rented, but most transportaion
is by boat. Water taxis serve the main beaches, with larger
boats sailing around Alonissos and further north to the deserted islands
of the Marine Park. Hikers will enjoy following the old mule track down to the port.
islands best beaches are reachable by small boat or caique and most of them
have snack bars or tavernas in the summer.
Ancient Allonissos town (5th C
BC) is at Kokkino Kastro (Red Castle) and has a nice shingle beach just 25
minutes by caique. North of Patitri the first really nice beach is Chrysi Milia (Golden Apple) in a small cove surrounded by pines and three tavernas. The
best fishing and water sports are to be found further north at Kalamakia and
Steni Vala. Kalamakia and
Steni Vala have small pensions where rooms may be let. The next beach
north, Aghios Dimitrios boasts ruins of a Byzantine fountain and an ancient
settlement by the shore. Prehistoric animal fossils have been discovered at
nearby Megliamos beach which is lovely and usually deserted. The best diving
is to be found at Gerakas, an old sheperds village, and Hodros Kavos where divers can enjoy
unusual fish and underwater caves.
The towns are unspoiled by tourism. Most development is in Patitiri and Alonnisos. Remarkably, every house has a cesspit, so no sewage enters the sea. This regard for ecology has resulted in many benefits for Alonnisos.
Port of Patitiri Town
Post earthquake housing
projects of the government resulted in the new construction
of Patitiri, the island's bustling main port and only major town. Although of new construction, the town is fairly pleasant and islanders have
further beautified it with many plants and bouganvillea vines. There are very nice craft stores, for those inclined towards shopping.
Patitiri Town is the site of the Society for the Study and Protection of the Monk Seal where you can see some videos and learn more about these endangered animals.
beach is in Patitiri and a nicer one lies at Votsi a bit to the north.
Just to the south is Marpouta with the sunken remains of the Temple
of Asklepios the Healer, and the even nicer beaches of Megalos Mouritas and Vithisma.
Alonissos Town or Hora
Old Alonissos or Hora (Chora), 5 km west of Patriti still retains period architectural
remnants of pre-quake days. The ruins of its Venetian castle are
still visible. The towns walls were originally built by the Byzantines
and subsequently restored by the Venetians.
Hora is reachable by paved
road or on foot by donkey path which passes through nut orchards. You're rewarded for the steep climb by
scenic views far above the sea. Sunsets are often particularly lovely.
Heading back down from Hora, a 20 minute walk will bring you to
sandy Vrisitsa beach. An hour's hike from Hora is the wonderful Bay of Ormos
Drinking and Dining
Amenities are basic but good and seafood
delicacies such as lobster, are plentiful and reasonable.
There is limited late night entertainment and music.
Name changes and earthquakes have complicated history here. Modern Alonissos is not ancient Halonnesos, but actually had the name Ikos. After independence, there was a too-rushed effort to restore place names, and things got a bit confused. Some scholars say the ancient Halonnesos must have been tiny Psathoura where a submerge city lies offshore.
Creten Prince Staphylos planted the first vines here. They later made Ikos famous. In the 1950's Alonissos' wine industry
and grapefruit orchards were wiped out by disease and many islanders
were forced to seek work in Athens.
Those left today are primarily
shepherds, fisherman and in the tourism industry during season.
Nine-tenths of Alonissos' roads
have not been rebuilt, making it a hiker's paradise.
a few of Hora's original inhabitants remain. Many Germans
and Britons saw a golden opportunity to buy after the wine industry crashed and bought and restored
old residences. This was all when power and running water were
prohibited by the Greek junta as part of their forced removal
of the inhabitants. Utilities have since been restored, of course.
The earliest Paleolithic finds
in the entire Aegean (100,000 to 33,000 BC) have been discovered on
the island opposite Kokkinokastro and are on display in the Volos Museum
on mainland Greece. The island bore other names too; Chelidromea and Diadromia in addition to the more recent Liodromia.
Rulers have changed over the years. Halonnesos was the object of rivalry between Phillip
of Macedon and Athens which had a naval base there in the 4th C BC.
In 42 BC, the Romans gave it to Athens again only to lose it to the
pirate Sostratos. At some point the Halonnesos lost all importance and
with the help of the sea, its location faded from all memory. This lull into obscurity probably aided Alonissos in becoming the eco-tourism leader in Greece today, because it slowed down development and growth.
The Surrounding Archepelago
Because the small islets surrounding Alonissos are so beautiful they have become popular
as flotilla destinations and for private yachts.
of Peristera is covered by olive trees, has plenty of
sandy beaches and a ruined castle. Peristera is a mirror image of the east coast of Alonissos, and it's easy to see how the quake separated to two land areas.
of Psathora has one of the largest lighthouses in Greece. Due to its submerged ruins and sunken volcano, Psathora is postulated to be the island of the Sirens in Homer's Odyssey as well
as ancient Halonnesos. Caiques only go to Psathoura every ten days.
of Kyra Panagia is 2 to 3 hours by boat from Patitiri.
It once had two monasteries but is now home to goats and the occasional sheperd. Kyra Panagia is owned by Mt. Athos. It is beautiful and heavily wooded with sandy
beaches. A sunken Byzantine ship, its hold once filled with ceramics, lays in the
waters of the port of Aghios Petros. The islet also has a stalactite cave
thought to be residence of the one-eyed Cyclops of ancient myth.
Verdant Skantzoura island also has a monastery founded by Mt. Athos. Fishermen enjoy this islet with its many caves and coves.
hares run wild among the ruins of a 7th Century church.
On Gioura (ancient Geronta) a rare breed of goat related to the African Ibex skips from
rock to rock among the remains of classical and Roman ruins. Gioura
has an even better Cyclops cave. In the cave, caution is advised as well as sensible
boots and a flashlight! You must get island guardians to unlock the gates to see the Cyclops cave and its stalactites.
Piperi is home to a small but stable
monk seal population and the Elonora falcon! This island is prohibited without
special permission. It is at the north end of the National Marine Park.