Alonissos Island Sporades Greece

Alonissos has some of the cleanest water in the Aegean, but it's lacking in sandy beaches. There's only two really - Vythisma and Vrysitsa. The rest vary from rough to fine pebbles. There's a very limited bus service along the Hora-Patitiri-Steni Vala route, but kaikia run half-hourly from Patitiri north to Khryssi, Milia, Kokkinokastro, Steni Vala, Kalamakia and Ayios Dhimitrios, and south around the coast to Marpounda, Vythisma and Megalos Mourtias. Kaikia also sail occasionally to Livadhia and Peristera islet.

At Patitiri there's decent swimming from the rocks around the promontory to the north; pick your way along a hewn-out path past the hotels and you're there (ladder provided). To the north, above the headlands, Patitiri merges into two adjoining settlements, Roussoum Yialos and Votsi . For better beaches, you'll have to get in a boat or on a bike.

Chryssi Milia , the first good beach, has pine trees behind the sand and a taverna; there's a couple of new hotels on the hillside above, such as the posh Milia Bay (tel 04240/66 035, fax 66 037, milia-bay@forthnet.gr ; ?73 and upwards), and it can get crowded in summer. At Kokkinokastro , over the hill to the north, excavations have revealed the site of ancient Ikos and evidence of the oldest known prehistoric habitation in the Aegean. There's nothing much to see, but it's a beautiful spot with a good red-pebble beach, and, in July and August, a daytime bar.

STENI VALA , opposite the island of Peristera, a haven for the yachts and flotillas that comb the Sporades, has almost become a proper village, with two shops, several houses, a bar, rooms and five tavernas, one of which stays open more or less throughout the year. The Monk Seal Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre, housed in a small hut on the beach, can provide information and insight into the HSPMS's work. There's an unofficial campsite (tel 04240/65 258) in an olive grove by the harbour, a long pebble beach - Glyfa, where boats are repaired - and some stony beaches within reasonable walking distance in either direction. KALAMAKIA , to the north, also has a couple of tavernas and a few rooms.

If you want real solitude, Ayios Dhimitrios, Megali Ammos , and Yerakas (an old shepherds' village at the northernmost point of Alonissos) are possibilities. However, before committing yourself to a Robinson Crusoe existence, check it out by scooter or take one of the round-the-island trips available, and return the next day with enough food for your stay: there are no stores outside the port and Steni Vala. West of Patitiri, Marpounda features a large hotel and bungalow complex and a rather small beach. It's better to turn left after the campsite towards Megalos Mourtias , a pebble beach with several tavernas linked by dirt track with Palea Alonissos, 200m above. Vythisma , the lovely beach just before Megalos Mourtias, can only be reached by boat, the path here having been washed out. Further north, visible from Palea Alonissos, Vrysitsa is tucked into its own finger-like inlet. There's sand and a taverna, but little else.

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