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Even if you don’t recognize the name Skopelos, if you like “Mamma Mia!” you’re well-acquainted with the island. Skopelos doubles as Kalokairi, the island in the first “Mamma Mia!” movie starring Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried. The 37-square-mile island is in the Aegean Sea off the coast of mainland Greece and is part of the Sporades island group.
Kalokairi is a made-up name used in the movie and it has nothing to do with Skopelos itself. Kalokairi translates to “summer” in Greek so just about any Greek island could technically be called a “summer island.”
Even if you have no interest in “Mamma Mia!,” Skopelos should be on your travel list. It is a relatively unspoiled island catering to British and Greek tourists. It’s considered an expensive island by Greek standards, definitely not catering to the backpacker crowd. Since the first “Mamma Mia!” movie, the island has seen a bit of a surge in tourism. Before it “became” Kalokairi, it was a favorite island for Greeks to visit for vacations. There are many small hotels on Skopelos, and you can also rent villas or apartments.
History of Skopelos
Originally called Peparethus, Skopelos was colonized in the Late Bronze Age by Cretans. They began growing wine grapes on the island and over time the island garnered a reputation in Ancient Greece for quality wines. The name Skopelos comes from a legend naming Staphylus, a son of the Greek god Dionysus whose name translates to grape, the island’s founder.
For centuries agriculture was a key driver of Skopelos’s economy but now the island relies almost entirely on the tourism industry. There are some locally-produced foods you can try, however, including olive oil, feta, cheese pie, and honey.
What to Do and See in Skopelos
Beyond relaxing on one of the beaches and enjoying the island’s beautiful architecture, adventure seekers can take to one of the many mountains. Delphi Mountain tops out at 2,234 feet (681 meters) and offers sweeping views of the island and surrounding sea. Alternatively, Mount Palouki is the site of several monasteries and is an excellent place to go birding.
“Mamma Mia!” fans will surely want to hunt down some iconic filming locations. For a dramatic photo opportunity head to the Chapel of St. John (Agios Ioannis chapel), where they filmed the wedding procession. A climb up the rock path will take you to a small, cliffside chapel with stunning views of the sea
Dining in Skopelos
Restaurants on Skopelos tend to feature fresh-caught seafood traditionally prepared, but you can also expect plenty of meat and the local specialty of cheese pie. Most restaurants are located in Skopelos town and along the larger beaches. While a vast majority of restaurants offer Greek and Mediterranean fare, there are a few Italian restaurants. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to pay a visit to the beach bar featured in “Mamma Mia.” The bar was built on Kastani beach for the film along with a jetty and both were removed after filming wrapped.
Events in Skopelos
The patron saint of Skopelos, Agios Reginos, has a feast day on Feb. 25. The Loizia Festival in August is a popular cultural event, with concerts, the music of Loizos, theater, dance, storytelling, food, and more.
In the past, Skopelos has also held a photographic exhibit in July; the Prune Festival in August; and a free, September wine event in the town of Glossa. During the Wine Festival, organized by the Cultural Society of Glossa, visitors are offered free wine. The celebrating and the dancing lasts till the early hours of the morning.
Another annual event, the International Film Festival for Youth, takes place in summer in the town of Skopelos and features cinema workshops and film screenings.
Skopelos has no airport, so visitors need to fly to Skiathos, where some other scenes in the original “Mamma Mia” were shot, and then take about an hour-long ferry ride to Skopelos. That’s the quickest route.
You can also drive up the coast from Athens on the fast, good National Highway. Or cruise down the coast from Thessaloniki and then take a ferry to Skiathos from Agios Constantinos, and then go on to Skopelos. There are other ferry options available, especially in summer.
By DETRACI REGULA for tripsavvy