Thassos is the most northerly of the Greek islands in the Aegean island group and it lies just off the Macedonian coast in the north-east of mainland Greece.
Fabulously wealthy in ancient times, thanks to significant deposits of gold and marble, Thassos nowadays lies outside the top league of Greek holiday islands, but it still has as much to offer the visitor.
An excellent coast road almost rings the whole island, providing easy access to the many sandy beaches that pepper the attractive coastline.
Strangely, Thassos fails to feature in many holiday brochures, so it is something of a hidden gem and spared the holiday crowds that mar some Greek islands.
The extensive pine trees that carpet most of Thassos have led to its being rightly dubbed the 'Emerald Isle' of Greece.
Beaches, mostly sandy, are dotted all around the coast with a wide variety on offer, from broad, deep beaches with plenty of facilities to small, idyllic hideaway coves.
Side roads branch inland to charming hill villages and extensive tracts of dense woodland, crisscrossed with walking trails.
Thassos may be off the main tourist trail but regular ferries from Keramouti are only a 10-minute ride from the airport at Kavala.
Thassos is favourite of families looking for a beach holiday with an authentic Greek flavour. Beaches are dotted all around the coast of this near-circular island and all are easily reached from a good coast road. The large bay at Golden Beach is the most popular target of package tour firms but good beaches are found all around the coast of Thassos. Limenaria, in the south, has four good beaches while less crowded resorts lie both east and west with good sands and beach facilities.
Thassos Town, known locally as Limenas, is the island's central town, but not its primary port which lies to the east at Ormos Prinou. Once split in two with a pretty port to the east and a cement wasteland to the west much has been done to widen its appeal.
The marble-laden lorries that once heaved through the town centre now go west and the new port has been re-paved and planted with attractive shrubs.
The prettiest part of Thassos Town is still the old port where a traffic ban paves the way for taverna tables and street stalls piled high with Thassos honey.
It still gets swamped with tourist-hungry tavernas but enjoys a warm, rustic atmosphere where the brightly painted fishing boats bob against quays strewn with fishing nets.
The beach lies east of the old harbour and it's long and deep. Tarted up now and then with lorry-loads of sand, it is still a delightful spot with shallow water and sunbeds.
Tavernas line the road behind the beach where attractive tamarisk trees also offer plenty of natural shade.
Limenas has several archaeological sites. The Agora, next to the revamped Archaeological Museum has impressive Roman foundations while an amphitheatre in the hills above hosts summer performances against a backdrop of fabulous views over the bay.
On the hill ridge above are well-restored city walls and the remains of an Acropolis, with temples to Apollo and Athena.
West of Thassos Town a coastal track leads to a string of small beach coves known collectively as Agios Vasilios. Each cove has a beach bar, taverna or small hotel; an attractive lure for those who want to stay close to town.
The more mountainous east coast of Thassos is covered in thick pine forest, liberally crisscrossed with hill tracks and fire breaks. The main road from Limenas cuts inland and rises steeply through tortuous bends to the hill villages of Panagia and Potamia before dropping down to Golden Beach (Chrisi Ammoudia) and Skala Potamias (Chrisi Akti). Mountain villages such as Panagia and Potamia are a big draw for both ad-hoc visitors and organised coach parties.
The sandy beach at Makryammos lies to the south-east of Thassos Town and looks delightful when approached by boat with steep, pine-clad hills sweeping down to the crescent bay of white sand. Closer inspection, however, reveals a few flaws.
An extensive chalet-cum-bungalow complex sits hidden in the wooded hillside and early rising campers will snap up the best beach spots leaving later day visitors to scratch for what's left.
Leaves from the surrounding trees coagulate into great black mounds, slumped like beached whales on the shoreline and attracting swarms of flies.
Makryammos is a good family beach of sharp white sand and shallow water. It's also a favourite target of day-trip boats which tie up at a breakwater.
Access from the main road above is through the holiday camp complex where 'Private Property' signs give the impression that Makryammos beach is private – ignore it.
The east road out of Limenas climbs steeply to the picturesque hill villages of Panagia (pronounced 'Panahia') and Potamis, or Potamia; both big tourist draws thanks to their woodland position above the coastal resorts of Skala Potamias and Golden Beach.
In Panagia village centre the cafes and tavernas cluster around a central fountain which gushes water from local springs. Paved streets head into the hills where there are several walking trails through wooded hillsides and valleys.
The more adventurous can tackle Mount Ipsarion which looms above at over 1,000 metres, the rest can enjoy the lush countryside and walks that offer exceptional views over the bay. Booklets with details of local treks are sold at shops in Limenas.
Just before Panagia, the road turns a sharp left and drops down to the northern end of Golden Beach. Those heading for Skala Potamias go Panagia to neighbouring Potamias.
Potamia, also called Potamis or Potamias, is quieter than Panagia mainly because the main road by-passes the village. It has a soporific air with a few small cafes on the narrow streets.
The Greek American artist Polygnotos Vagis was born in Potamias and a small museum devoted to his works is in the village.
Like Panagia, the Potamia area is a favourite for walkers, with many woodland paths up into the hills. Trails also lead down to the pleasing sands at Skala Potamia and Golden Beach, which lie about four kilometres away.
Excursion boats on the quayside at Limenas head out daily for the long, sandy bay at Golden Beach, or Chrysi Ammoudia to give it its proper Greek title.
Golden Beach is very long and deep, with low dunes and large areas of scrub stretched out over the broad, flat plain behind.
The beach sweeps right around a huge bay, with the hamlet of Chrisi Amoudia at the northern end, ostensibly the beach resort of Panagia, and Skala Potamias to the south, serving Potamia village.
The long sands narrow in the middle of the bay and disappear beneath rocks and shingle before emerging to the south. Both ends of the beach get relatively crowded while the centre remains empty.
A road runs along the back of the beach to serve the holiday apartments and occasional tavernas that lie scattered across the flat plain behind.
The southern end of Golden Beach opens out into a deep triangle of good white sand edged by a small harbour at the popular resort Skala Potamia, or Skala Potamias.
Some claim the sands at Skala Potamis are the best on Thassos, with its large beach of pale sand sliding gently into the shallow blue water. Others find the sand too 'gritty' for their taste and point out the lack of any natural shade.
Skala Potamias has undoubtedly grown very popular with British tour companies in recent years and there has been a spate of new apartment building as a result, although none of it too intrusive as many have been erected in the woodland plain behind the beach.
An arcade of tavernas and bars lines the back of the Skala Potamis beach, pleasant enough if you don't mind the holiday crowds.
The hamlet of Kinira is located on the east coast about 24 kilometres from Limenas and has two small beaches of white pebble called Loutro and Kinira and also the ruins of Byzantine baths and an early Christian basilica found nearby.
South over the headland is the beach at Paradiso, hidden in a beautiful cove and hedged by steep wooded hills. Visitors park under roadside trees at the northern end and follow the steep track down, or they opt to a more gradual gradient at the southern end.
Paradiso beach is deep and long with soft sand and a very shallow shoreline shelf into the sea. The offshore islet of Kinira adds interest and there's a taverna among the dunes at the back of the beach providing sunbeds and basic food and drink.
Sheer cliffs at the southern end offer some shade from the afternoon sun and trees encroach on the shallow dunes behind. Once a big favourite with naturists, the rising popularity of Paradiso has turned it into a family beach. Once serenely peaceful, Paradiso now attracts visitors in growing numbers.
The south coast of Thassos is a very popular holiday area, particularly around Limenaria and at Potos and Pefkari. Many prefer to base themselves in this part of Thassos as drives to local beaches tend to be shorter. The landscape is not as impressive as in the north of the island and fortunately, the area has now recovered from the effects of a series of devastating forest fires.
Once a secret gem, Alyki is now the target of a large number of daily visitors and a car park has been carved out of the cliff above to accommodate the day trip coaches.
Alyki has two small coves, set back-to-back of a narrow wooded promontory. The southern beach is a small crescent of fine sand at the end of a long and narrow inlet of shallow water. Half a dozen tavernas sit on a ridge behind nestled beneath shady trees.
Narrow tracks lead over the headland to the northern beach, a much smaller and stonier affair, but far less crowded and be jaw-droppingly wild on windy days when spectacular waves swell through the narrow entrance to the bay and pound onto the stony shore.
Between the two beaches are ancient marble quarries and a small archaeological site that includes a couple of early Christian basilicas. Visitors may note the Greek love affair with chain link fencing. Instead of polite notices to keep off the stones, there is 8 ft high rusty chain link fencing that wouldn't look out of place at an army camp. An irritating example of the Greek gift for official vandalism.
South of the monastery at Archangelos, the road winds around several headlands before dropping to a small coastal plain and an excellent sandy beach at Astris.
Easy to miss on the long straight road Astris is a long strip of golden sand bisected by a rock outcrop of rock where a ramshackle taverna stands among the trees.
A working boatyard stands behind trees at the northern end of the sands, which are soft and pale and shelve gently into the sea, making this an excellent beach for families with young children.
Relatively unknown and easy to miss, the beach at Astris rarely gets crowded and makes an ideal spot for those who prefer more peaceful surroundings. There is a small rough area for parking just off the road under the trees.
Inland is the village of Astris, noted for its tiny stone built and slate-roofed houses, some of which are available to rent.
Marble slabs slope down to the medium-sized beach from the roadside car park at the beautiful resort of Psili Ammos. This was once a peaceful spot but nowadays tends to get very busy.
A deep arc of rich, golden sand has a couple of tavernas behind, one of which decked out to resemble a cowboy ranch and belts out pop music all day while the other is quiet and more traditional.
Good sand and beach facilities make Psili Ammos a popular beach for families. The sand, however, dips very sharply into the sea and children must be watched. The steep beach can bring in big waves and there are powerful underwater currents.
This beautiful spot is a favourite of watersports enthusiasts who love the howl of their jet skis and a dive centre sits on the hill. Family crowds make Psili Ammos is a busy, noisy beach in the high season.
Cushioned cane chairs have sprouted up along the seafront at the popular tourist resort of Potos where more than 30 tavernas, cafes and bars line the short seawall above a narrow strip of sand.
Rush frond sun umbrellas cover the beach where waiter bar service is available to those who can nab a sun lounger. If you like a busy up-market beach, then Potos is about as good as it gets on Thassos.
The crescent of good sand turns to shingle at the harbour end. The beach shelves steeply in parts so children must be watched.
Popularity pushes up the prices but the cafes are colourful and comfortable while the many boats pulled onto the beach near the harbour add even more colour.
The village is a maze of back streets full of shops and cafes. Cars are forced to a crawl in the narrow, crowded streets, so visitors park on the main road and walk to the beach.
To the south of Potos is Ossegromos Beach, small and little visited, where a short stretch of sharp, white sand is surrounded by trees.
Paddle boats, surfboards and jet skis are prominently parked on the manicured white sands – clues, if they are needed, to the popularity of the beach resort at Pefkari.
Gently shelving sand and shallow water makes this an ideal spot for families with children while the nearby headland offers splendid cliffside walks.
Tavernas and cafes line both sides of the shady, quiet lane that runs along the back of Pefkari beach – the busy main road bypasses the village altogether.
The beach is long and deep with soft white sand that is kept very clean by the taverna owners. There are masses of sunbeds and a wide range of watersports on offer.
A sizeable neighbouring hotel complex ensures that Pefkari beach stays densely crowded in the high season.
Metalia beach lies just east of the big south coast resort of Limenaria. It has a small beach bar and an abandoned World War Two factory, with derelict smelting chimneys as a backdrop.
It sounds dreadful but Metalia is a quiet and attractive beach and certainly different. So much so that some rate this among the best beaches on Thassos.
Metalia is a notably quieter alternative to Limenaria and worth exploring if you are staying in the area.
Limenaria is the second biggest resort on the island after Limenas. A long waterfront promenade is backed by dozens of tavernas, bars, cafes and shops.
The west end of the promenade is lined with large boulders and a scruffy, narrow beach. The eastern end has a small arc of pleasant sand overlooked by a busy road and a small, square-shaped harbour full of fishing boats.
Limenaria cannot shake off a dowdy atmosphere although many speak highly of the restaurants and this is a good base for a holiday with several excellent beaches nearby.
Hillside mansions built by German mining bosses at the turn of the century add some character to what is a fairly humdrum resort.
Tourists tend to use Limenaria as a base to explore the south of Thassos and there are pleasant walks in the pine-carpeted hills.
Trypiti, sometimes spelt Tripiti, lies to the west of Limenaria, about two kilometres from the resort and well marked from the main road.
There is no village here, just a long, deep and sandy beach that's handy for those staying in Limenaria and an improvement on the relatively poor town beaches.
The sands sweep right around a huge bay with a dirt track behind for much of its length where cars can be parked just about anywhere. Beach bars at both ends serve up the basic.
To the west are a small sea cave and shallow pool that children can enjoy, although it shelves deeply inside the cave and waves come crashing on windy days.
The sand also shelves rather steeply into the sea and there are gobs of seaweed now and then but Trypiti is still a big pleasant beach with sunbeds at both ends, near the beach bars.
The west coast of Thassos the island is much flatter than the east, with rolling farmland and small inland hamlets. The road has fewer bends and resorts are easy to reach. Beaches may not be as good those in the east but there are some very pleasant resorts on this part of the coast. Less crowded and less tainted by tourism it offers an attractive addition to Thassos island's offerings.
Skala Maries is an isolated resort that, despite an attractive setting, comes with a flyblown, end-of-earth atmosphere. Set in a deep crescent of a bay the resort climbs a small hill overlooking the sands.
The beach is a scruffy, unkempt crescent of sand and scrub with the occasional rotting hulk of a boat resting amongst the weeds and large cement lorries occasionally parked along the road.
A large number of derelict and semi-built houses adds nothing to the general air of neglect – a pity as the setting is so fine.
Skala Kalirachis is a considerable harbour with a couple of small scraps of sand at either end. A wide concrete road runs the length of the quayside backed by houses and apartments and ending at the northern end in a handkerchief of scruffy sand and shingle, hemmed in by a high concrete wall.
To the south of Skala Kalirachis is another small scrap of sand on the other side of the jetty, a little more substantial this time with a few sunbeds but not a great deal more inviting than the other.
Skala Sotiros, sometimes called Skala Sotirou, has a surprisingly pleasant beach located down a side street branch off the main road through the village.
The village is little more than a ribbon of houses strung along the main busy road but the beach has a good stretch of sand sprinkled with sunbeds near the short jetty in front of the main taverna.
The southern end of the beach quickly turns to shingle and stone but there is a good swathe of sand at the northern end and the water here is sheltered and shallow.
Dasyllio Prinou, or Dasyllios Prinos, is the name now given to the whole area and includes a long beach backed by several resort hotels as well as an extensive camping site.
It can be approached from Skala Sotiros or by turning left at the port in Skala Prinou and following the narrow coast road through the woods and around the headland.
This has grown very popular with holiday companies in recent years and there are a now some smart hotels.
Dasyllio Prinou stretches from the main port of Skala Prinou for two kilometres south with a 300-space camping site that is the biggest on Thassos and has facilities that include showers and toilets.
The land around Dasyllio Prinou is heavily wooded, with about 250 varieties of trees recorded here. But then, Dasyllio is the Greek name for little forest and the trees reach right down to the shore and the very long and sandy beach.
Travel brochures increasingly tout Skala Prinou as a first-rate beach resort but they are describing the whole Dasyllio area. Skala Prinou, or Skala Prinos, is just a place to catch a ferry.
It may be an excellent base for exploring the rest of the island but it is, in fact, little more than a bus and ferry stop.
That said, recent efforts have been made to smarten the place up with new paving and roads as well as a clutch of cafes, tavernas and shops to catch the passing ferry trade.
Also on the plus side is a long, narrow beach that stretches north with a shallow sloping bay backed by a line of trees but the beach is scruffy sand and stone and not particularly attractive.
Recently 'discovered' by package tour operators, the beach resort of Skala Rachonis, or Skala Rahoni seems to get more popular with holiday visitors every year.
A good long stretch of beach in Skala Rachonis itself is complemented by another good sandy strip that lies about two kilometres to the north.
The ribbon of narrow sand marches south from an attractive, small harbour. It's backed by several apartments and villas, some of which come right down to the shore. The beach is also dotted with small stands of pine for some good natural shade.
Although very popular this is still very much a laid-back resort with just a few tavernas and cafes. Horse riding is on offer at the nearby at Pine Tree Paddock – look for the yellow signs on the main road.
Just north of Skala Rachonis is Pachis Beach, a long stretch of golden sand backed by many tamarisk trees with plenty of parking. A small hotel sits on the road and a dirt track leads down to the beach.
There are a couple of ample tavernas and some beach bars which unfortunately bid to out-decibel each other with techno thump. Many visitors opt for the other end of the beach where there is no noise, the best of the sand, and a pleasant cantina under the trees.
The sand here is soft and golden and it's fairly shallow offshore and suitable for families with children. Tamarisk trees and pines provide plenty of good natural shade.
Over the headland to the north is a tiny beach of Glyferoni at the head of a small bay and best reached from the main road down an unmarked path. It has no facilities.
The road from Pachis follows the coast around the headland before turning south-east and back towards Thassos Town. It passes a few small beaches. One is called Perasama which has small sandy cove with a summer beach cantina. There are tiny patches of sand at Papalimani and Agia Irini on either side a rocky headland.
The road eventually reaches Glyfada where there is a quiet sand strip in front of a shoe box hotel. It is only a short walk from Limenas but the road is steeply uphill.
It's unfortunate to see such a plain hotel – a square box of white cement – so close to the beach. The sands are pleasant enough, although somewhat narrow in places. The trees offer plenty of shade and there are facilities and parking at the hotel.
A small but splendid tree-lined beach lies below the hotel at Nysteri, just outside Thassos and a kilometre east from Glyfada. The hotel caters mainly for Germans and has a small outdoor terrace bar overlooking the beach.
There is plenty of parking on a large patch of ground off the main road at the eastern end of the beach where a rough track leads down through woodland to the shore.
Nysteri has a beautiful sandy beach with shallow water and sunbeds laid out by the hotel and some changing cubicles. Trees behind the sands offer plenty of shade and a small cantina opens in the woods during the high season.