What to do in Skyros, Greece's craft heartland
Skyros may be less well-known than its island group counterparts of Skiathos and Skopelos, but it’s beating its own path as an artisanal hotspot for local arts.
In the Sporades island group north of Athens, Skyros is a vision of deep-blue bays bordered by pine trees, with a string of chic, laid-back, whitewashed villages. Famously the last home for the endangered Skyrian horse, a miniature Greek breed that roams in the mountains, the island is also unique for its thriving artisanal tradition, stretching back to the Byzantine era. Here’s how visitors can tap into it.
Learn from a Skyrian artisan
“Skyros is known all over Greece for its rich tradition in the arts of ceramics, woodcarving and embroidery,” says Chrysanthi Zygogianni, who organises crafts-focused courses with local artisans, as well as informal visits to workshops in Skyros Town. “These pieces were used both as utensils and as decorative elements for the interior architecture of Skyrian houses,” she adds.
Today, Skyrian craftspeople run workshops as a way for tourists to discover these popular local arts. “Important for their artistic value, rarity and historical origin, the objects are a lively documentation of the island’s tradition,” says Chrysanthi. A tailor-made three-day course costs from around £80 per person.
Wander around Skyros Town
The island’s living artisanal scene can be experienced on a stroll through the tangled, white-walled streets of the capital, Skyros Town, which cascades down the hillside from a now-restored kastro (fortress) of Byzantine and Venetian origins. From ceramicists and embroiderers to watercolour painters and woodworkers, this is where most of the island’s artisans have their workshops and sell their pieces to people who pop in for a chat.
At the town’s Archaeological Museum, the full-sized interior of a local Skyrian house is on show, complete with a richly carved wooden dividing screen called a boulmes, traditional embroidery around the hearth and a typical fabric-covered, low-rise sofa bed called a krevatsoula. Within the kastro, duck into the Monastery of Agios Georgios to see its series of intricate frescoes.
Explore the Manos & Anastasia Faltaïts Museum
An art-filled 19th-century mansion is the setting for this unmissable gallery. Fiercely devoted to preserving the island’s traditions, the Manos & Anastasia Faltaïts Museum was founded in the 1960s by the Greek artist and author Manos Faltaïts; you’ll spot some of his paintings on the walls as you explore the rambling complex, which showcases everything from hand-crafted Skyrian ceramics to locally made textiles.
Where to stay
Just a few feet away from sparkling Magazia beach, Perigiali Hotel has Skyros-inspired rooms with local embroidery, fresh island-produce breakfasts and a seawater pool set among bougainvillea-filled gardens. From £50, B&B.
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