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Forget about the World Cup debacle and head to the island of Skopelos in Greece.

The dreamy beaches, blue skies and the heat make the Greek islands a great holiday destination. In the northern Aegean Sporades, a quick ferry ride away from Skiathos, the fragrant forested island of Skopelos feels like another world and has become internationally known thanks to one of our favourite movies!

Why go?

In addition to the fantastic weather, there’s the tasty Greek food, the history, culture and that holiday atmosphere you just can’t make up. But, most of all, Skopelos (which means ‘rocky’) is the island where Mamma Mia! was filmed as the fictional island of ‘Kalokairi’ so it’s a little piece of Hollywood too.

When is the best time to go?
The summer is its hottest, so try the shoulder seasons. Locals say the best time is May, June and September to avoid the crowds of tourists and get better deals. Another good time to visit is February when it’s carnival time. The whole island celebrates from around mid February to early March with parties, parades and traditional events.

Eating out…
Make a beeline for the island’s heart, the ancient port of Skopelos town. Typical whitewashed houses and churches are wedged in narrow higgledy piggeldy streets with the picturesque blue doors, blossoming bougainvillea and washing hanging out of windows.

The town is full of small restaurants, on the waterfront and also beyond in the main square, Platanos Square, where you can sample typical Greek dishes in the shade of a huge tree.

In Glossa don’t miss the Agnanti restaurant, founded in 1953 with amazing sea views and delicious traditional recipes. Try the tasty ’meze’, small dishes like taramosalata, dolmades (stuffed grapevine leaves) and the famous tatziki as well as the local delicacy: tyropita (feta wrapped in filo pastry) with a little local retsina, dry white wine served chilled.

For desert try the walnut cake or the local favourite: “avgato” a traditional sweet juicy yellow plums from the island.

If you’re renting a villa, what could be easier than a Greek salad with fresh feta cheese from the local store (once you’ve worked out their obscure opening hours)?

The best spot for a pre dinner drink and is Anemos – friendly service, the prime waterfront location and the cosy lounge sofas make it an ideal spot to relax. With a great selection of beers and local wines, it’s easy to become a regular!

Mamma Mia movie fans should try the Mamma Mia! Bar on the southern end of town, next to the life size grounded pirate ship turned restaurant. There are also several beach bars there on the sand which can be very romantic at night.

Another good spot is across the bay, looking back at the twinkling city lights, the Karyatis Cocktail Bar set on a pine-forest cliff is all about drinking and dancing. The friendly staff make a mean Mojito!

Shopping…
Skopelos Town is the place to browse the boutiques to bring home souvenirs. Jewellery shops, like Potoki offer gold and silver classic bracelets and more modern designs while Giannakopoulos’ harbour front boutique is all about handmade pieces, pearls and precious stones. There are also plenty of stores for beachwear like flip-flops, sarongs and other useful bits and pieces.

Pick up some local honey at Ambrosia, too, a bakery that has lots of local goodies, like plum croissants and honey doughnuts.

Rent a villa…
Follow in Pierce Brosnan’s footsteps and book your own villa. He stayed at the smart Metochi Villa overlooking Skopelos town just like the Villa Thea.

Built to the highest specifications, the villa combines all the best features of the island’s traditional designs with contemporary furnishings.
The swimming pool is surrounded by hardwood decking with a lawn spreading out beyond. Local stone has been used to great effect, both on the terrace walls and slate for the roof. The modern BBQ area is perfect for al fresco living and may well prove to be the most popular area of the house. On the ground floor a fully equipped kitchen, an open plan living and dining room open onto the terracing. Upstairs are three large bedrooms, two double bedrooms and a twin bedroom. There is a master bedroom with a shared balcony overlooking the fantastic sweep of the bay. A large bathroom which includes a washing machine, is shared by all three bedrooms. Traditionally built open beamed ceilings and wooden floors on the first floor complement the modern bedroom furniture and emphasise the thought that has gone into blending the classical with the contemporary.

Don’t miss…
At just 13 miles long, you can drive around the entire island in a matter of hours but there is plenty to see, and do – or not do!

Take in the natural beauty: the rugged landscape, sheer cliffs one one side, beautiful beaches on the other and enjoy that southern feel that comes with olive groves, orchards and vine plantations.

Prefer to stay put on the sand? Head to the beach at Limonari, where the Mamma Mia crew filmed (about 10km from Skopelos town) with its perfect sandy beach, clear water and tiny Taverna!

A few kilometres on you’ll find Kastani where the famous ‘flippers on the jetty’ scenes were shot, although the jetty was only temporary. The next beach along, Milia is the longest, a full 1km sandy beach where Tom Hanks and Jean Paul Gaultier have been spotted sunning themselves on their yachts. Seeing the island from the sea is a must so why not rent a speedboat for the day? The island is part of a Marine Park made for the local monk seals so you never know who you might see.

To stay closer to town, try Agios Glisteri just a few of kilometres away from the port. It’s also the location of the film’s ‘Villa Donna’ and the fictional tavern, though all there is left of it is the wooden sign.

On the northern end of the island, take some time to explore Glossa, the hilltop town that dates back to 400BC. It has great sea views and a handful of restaurants and shops and plenty of character. It’s also about half an hour away from the Agios Ioannis, the clifftop church that appears as the wedding chapel in Mamma Mia. Be warned – the steps are really steep!

The island is also home to 300 churches and chapels and beautiful monasteries. Take a drive up Mt Palouki to visit the monasteries high above Skopelos Town. Evangelistria founded in the 18th century is now occupied by nuns and boasts a 14th century gold alter screen while Metamorphosis is being renovated with just one monk in residence.

Another good trip is driving through the island’s central Mount Delfi (662m) home to the island’s honey bees. A dense forested mountain, with dirt tracks. Remember to book a 4×4 car!

In Skopelos itself, don’t miss a climb up to the ruins of the 13th century Venetian fortress.