Did I really want to spend 2.5 hours on a bus traversing the coastline of Greece, then another 5 hours on a ferry, just to reach the reputed beautiful island of Alonissos in the Northern Sporades? “Yes” my Greek friend assured me, “you do.”
And so, at 06:00 on a morning in early July, I find myself boarding said bus to take me on a journey, hugging the coastline from Athens to Agios Konstantinos where I enter the waiting ferry. 5 hours seems to pass very quickly when you have such beautiful views around you: endless blue skies, not a cloud in sight, seagulls swooping alongside – not to mention the hilarity of watching the Greek families all do battle with each other for a table: mum, dad, aunt, uncle, grandmother (dressed in black) and about 4 children ranging from 4 years to teens.
I alight in Patitiri, the small port town. It’s only July and yet Greece is undergoing a heat wave this week: temperatures are around 40ºC.
Days are spent swimming in the local cove and taking the bus to Chora – the mountainous town once destroyed by the 1965 earthquake. Scared, many residents simply left their homes and settled elsewhere. Eating dinner at a table placed in the town square, I marvelled at the beauty of these stone houses, some restored to their former glory, others left untouched and abandoned yet still glamorous in their ruined way.
The best was saved until last: a day trip with a local fisherman on his boat. Alonissos is famous for her Monachus-Monachus, or “Mediterranean Monk Seals”, hence much of the island is a National Marine Park. True to their name, Monk Seals are rare to spot and the day of our excursion was no exception. This lead to no disappointment, however, as half an hour into the trip the engine is cut and Dimitrios, our fisherman and guide, tells us to look Starboard at the bow. All 10 of us rush to the front, dangerously tipping the Steni Vala sideways. About 6 bottle nose dolphins are heading our way! Dimitrios re-starts the Steni Vala and idles slowly along whilst the dolphins frolic in the wake. With a smile plastered on my face, upon reaching our first beach I jump from the stern into the crystal clear waters of the Med and do some frolicking myself.
Many of Alonissos’s beaches are only accessible by boat, making her a less touristy option than many of the other Greek islands. One final stop at our boat’s namesake, the fishing village of Steni Vala for freshly caught octopus completed a magical adventure.
And so, do you really want to spend 7 hours on a journey from Athens to a remote island? Yes, you really do.

R Hall

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