This Secret Island In Greece Is A Tropical, Crowd-Free Paradise With So Much To Do

If this magical island doesn't make you feel like you just stepped into a fairytale book, it most certainly will have you reminiscing on the charismatic film "Mama Mia!" With quiet hamlets sprawled over rolling hillsides and a stunning backdrop of turquoise water never far from your line of sight, Alonissos is nothing short of a peaceful slice of paradise. The island's small population of just 3,500 and minimal tourist scene, even in the summer months, means visitors will enjoy an intimate and relaxing stay. April through November are the best times to travel to Alonissos, with plentiful sunshine and warmth. August, in particular, provides optimal conditions for basking in the clear, ocean waters.

Despite its reputation as an underrated Greek island destination, don't let that deter you. Alonissos secured the top spot as the "Best Lesser-Known Greek Island" in an article by The Times. As part of the Sporades island group tucked in the Northern Aegean Sea, reaching the island's shores requires a short ferry ride from Volos port, located near Athens. Rich pine forests, quaint cobblestone villages, and sparkling vanilla-hued beaches are some of the island's best highlights — if you don't count Alonissos's stunning cultural heritage. Dating back 100,000 years, some of the island's remaining structures suggest evidence of human life as early as the Bronze Age. During the 9th and 8th centuries, groves of olives and fields of vineyards began to flourish, setting the stage for a prospering agricultural community. The farming and production of olives is an industry that still thrives today on Alonissos.

How to spend an idyllic day on Alonissos

Fragments of history are strewn across the island in every direction as far as the eye can see. Crumbling churches, ancient watchtowers, and the remains of early settlements dapple the landscape. The center of life on Alonissos rests in the Hora (the main part of town), called Patitiri. Reflecting the island's history as a thriving viticulture scene, the name "Patitiri" even translates to "wine press." The collection of local taverns, coffee houses, and cafes is a sight to behold, as are the handmade cobblestone streets, uniting the town's square.

Known for its crystal-clear waters and white sand beaches, Agios Dimitrios and Chrisi Milia are two of the best spots to throw down a beach towel and soak up the sun. Chrisi Milia, in particular, is a picturesque stretch of sand lined with umbrellas. It's perfect for families and is sheltered from any potential (but rare) company wandering nearby. Alonissos is also the site of the National Marine Park, a flourishing underwater ecosystem that's home to several indigenous wildlife species, including the Monachus Mediterranean monk seal.

The people on Alonissos live a simple life, marked by days spent in the sunshine and fresh air. The rich agricultural terrain, flourishing highlands, and lush forested grounds create a captivating wilderness playground that's perfect for exploring the island on foot. The trail from Rahes to Patitiri along the southern part of the island is one of the most captivating journeys for wayfarers hoping to experience the island from a different perspective.

A culinary hot spot and an eco-friendly island

It wouldn't be a truly authentic trip to Alonissos without sampling some of the island's delectable and unparalleled cuisine. Fans of traditional Greek fare will be delighted when wandering the village's cobblestone streets, which are permeated by an irresistible aroma of fresh food in the making. Make sure to grab some Gyro while on the island — the local version of fast food. The combination of pita, veggies, and French fries is simple yet heavenly. It's no surprise that the local emphasis on Alonissos is seafood. Mussel salad and stewed octopus are staples, as is Moussaka — a blend of potatoes, eggplant, and ground meat. Regardless of which dish you choose for your entreé, it would be a shame not to finish off with keik me giaourti, a delicious honey cake with yogurt, or galaktoboureko, an irresistible custard-filled pastry. For the best of both worlds, skip the debate and order one of each!

According to the Greek Reporter, Alonissos is one of the most eco-friendly destinations in the world. Efforts to protect the natural environment led to the government passing a law that banned further use of plastic bags on the island. It's not just residents who are committed to preserving the land's natural heritage. A respectable percentage of tourists have stated their primary reason for choosing Alonissos as their destination was to immerse themselves in the local culture — an experience that would not be possible without a commitment to preserving the natural landscape.