Alonissos is one of the islands of the Sporades chain that lie off mainland Greece's east coast. Unlike its much noisier neighbour Skiathos, Alonissos has a tranquil, soporific atmosphere with lots of old-world Greek holiday charm.
It may have escaped the embrace of the package holiday industry but signs of change are apparent as more visitors discover its many attractions.
Holiday hotels, apartments and villas have sprung up in the main resorts while newly surfaced roads offer easy access to even remote beaches.
With the surrounding waters part of a marine park, Alonissos boasts some of the cleanest swimming in the Mediterranean, but boat trips to outlying islets can be curbed to protect endangered seal habitats.
Walkers have plenty to crow about with the very green, fertile and densely wooded hills crossed by well-marked walking trails.
Regular daily ferries from Skiathos make Alonissos relatively easy to get to and the island often features in multi-resort breaks in holiday brochures.
If island tranquillity is the object, with 'people watching' from quiet tavernas, wandering wooded hills or taking small boats to near-deserted beaches, then Alonissos has much to offer the holiday visitor.
Alonissos is rightly famous for its clean water, green landscape and beaches wrapped in pine trees. But the beaches are mostly stone, rock and shingle and many are difficult to reach down steep dirt tracks. The best beaches lie along the south-east coast with access off the island's only paved road. Only a handful have a substantial taverna and some have a summer cantina.
The island's main port at Patitiri is little more than a cement quayside and a couple of streets running inland up the steep hillside.
The harbour used to be lined with wine presses – 'patitiri' translates as wine press – and locals lived in the hillside village Chora above.
But an earthquake wrecked the hilltop homes and disease destroyed the vines. Villagers left the Chora to live in hastily built cement houses in Patitiri and nearby Votsi.
Some guidebooks write off the Patitiri's drab buildings, but much has been done to hide the faults. Flowers, vines and coats of paint brighten up the shops, cafes and tavernas that now line the harbour.
A galaxy of small hotels totter on cliffs overlooking the bay and a few bars and cafes enjoy dramatic views from a cliffside footpath that snakes around the headland.
Beyond the harbour is a narrow stretch of pebble with patches of coarse sand with access through a line of tavernas. There are wooded hills on three sides and good swimming to be had in the shallow, rock-strewn waters.
Patitiri's atmosphere is quiet, soporific even, and broken only by the regular arrival of hydrofoils emptying a daily cargo of visitors. A small free private museum and coffee shop on the road to the Chora has a traditional Alonissos house upstairs – well worth a visit.
Chora, otherwise known as Palia Alonissos, is perched on the hilltop above Patitiri and approached either by road or a walking trail from the port, now paved, lit and signposted.
Chora was the island capital until the 1965 earthquake forced villagers out, some forcibly. Derelict houses were snapped up for holiday homes and now Chora is abandoned for the winter.
Narrow streets and fortified stone houses, originally built to withstand attack from pirates, have been paved and prettified and it's only purpose today is a tourist draw.
At Chora's highest point a series of small squares host cafe bars and tavernas that open up for the summer season offering impressive views over the whole island.
An old windmill and some preserved threshing floors are more interesting for their views than their architecture.
Chora sits on a hill at the southern end of the island and several steep, narrow tracks lead down in almost every direction to small beaches and coves below. The trails can be challenging and the beaches are not always easy to find. Some tracks are very steep and require a scramble.
Gialia is reached along a track that branches north off the main road from Patitiri just outside Chora. The trail drops sharply into the small inlet at Ormos Gialia where a pretty windmill sits on the rocks overlooking a little sand and stone bay. There are no facilities.
Vrisitsa can be seen easily from the road out of Chora and sits in the next bay south of Gialia. A scramble down through scrub ends at a flat bed of coarse sand and shingle in a deep and steeply sided inlet. There are no facilities here.
Vythisma's beach of dark sand and shingle is reached from Patitiri on foot. A small car park marks the start of a very steep goat track that follows the line of the cliff. The path divides about half way down but either fork will lead to the beach.
The left track requires a tricky scramble down a very steep slope, the right path is more precipitous, but some steps make the going easier. Most visitors prefer the boat from Patitiri harbour. The beach boasts some windsurfing in the high season. Many consider this the best beach on the island and some say it is the only one with sand but there are other sandy beaches on Alonissos.
Mourtias has a delightful small quay at the northern end of a little cove of shingle and stone. Trees at the back offer some natural shade and there is good swimming among the rocks. A trio of tavernas offers plenty of refreshment.
Marpouenta is the most popular of the beaches around Chora thanks to easier access. Crowds cram the small coarse sand and shingle bay and early arrivals get the best spots. Flat rocks beyond at Plakes offer sunbathing sites, and a campsite called Camping Rocks has a small cafe and toilets.
Rousoum Yialos lies just north of Patitiri on the way to the village of Votsi. It's a pleasing little place, mainly taking overspill from nearby Patitiri which is about 10 minutes away on foot.
The steeply banked shingle and pebble beach can get crowded in the afternoons. Apartments and villas lie behind the beach which is edged by a low stone wall.
Rocks at the southern end add interest and it has an attractive little harbour to the north. A trio of shady tavernas lines the back of the beach which, being south facing, gets full sun most of the day.
The more adventurous will seek out a small pebble beach at Spartines that is reached on foot or by boat. A track through a roadside depot just before the junction to Milia leads down through woods to the secluded beach. There are no facilities there.
God's gift to travel brochure designers, the tiny beach at Votsi has celebrated visual appeal and quickly gets the Nikons clicking.
Actually two small bays, it's the northerly one that wins the photographic prizes. A narrow stone and shingle beach cowers beneath a towering vertiginous cliff looking out over water so singularly clear that boat shadows play on the sandy sea bottom far out into the bay.
Access is down a short, but steep, rough track. Both narrow and short, with a sheer cliff behind, it only takes a few visitors feel quite crowded. There are no facilities here.
A pity that such a jewel is encases in the drab sprawl of ugly suburban housing of Votsi village. The homes were thrown up quickly to house earthquake victims ousted from Chora but have since become permanent residences. The locals do their best with what are basic concrete bunkers.
Visitors who venture along the northern headland above the beach are rewarded with delightful views, a decent taverna and some lovely woodland walks.
Fine sand makes a rare appearance at Chrysi Milia beyond the headland north of Votsi where pines trees line the seashore.
The descent is down a long and winding track through pine woods which seems to be leading nowhere until it hits the shore.
The flat beach has with soft sand gently sloping into a clear turquoise sea and rocky pools at the far end. Facilities come in the shape of a ramshackle summer cantina under nearby trees.
The beach soon fills up though, even in the low season, and late-arriving taxi-boat passengers may have to search to find an acceptable spot to settle down.
Mila, just opposite Chrisi Milia, has a less interesting stone and shingle beach, although it is in a beautiful location.
The bay at Kokkinokastro has an arresting red cliff promontory (it gives the beach its name) at the end of a white pebble strand.
Access requires climb down a narrow gully at the end of a steep goat track where winter rains carve deep ruts into the path.
Remarkably, a beach taverna pops up in high summer. Exactly how is a mystery but provisions are shipped in by boat.
Nearby archaeological excavations have unearthed the site of ancient Ikos with evidence of the oldest known prehistoric habitation in the Aegean, but there is not a great deal to see.
The beach is long and the water shallow and the islet of Vrachos lies offshore. Ugly cement blocks have been dumped at one end of the beach; their only function appears to be to spoil the view.
Nearby is a pleasant pebble stretch at Tzortzi Gialos with shallow water and a beach cantina in the summer.
Leftos Yialos is a couple of bays north of Kokkinokastro but less easy to find. Access is down a steep track from the main road.
The beach of white pebble enjoys a lovely setting, just a small south facing scoop of stone backed by pine trees that tumble right down to the shore to give plenty of shade.
A couple of tavernas will stay open late for those who like to linger in the clear turquoise waters with a late swim. A few sun loungers get scattered along the shore and there are boats for hire.
The tiny fishing port of Steni Vala is little more than a quayside lined with tavernas, a shop and a bar – but the setting is idyllic.
The approach from the south is spectacular with broad sea vistas and the nearby deserted island of Peristera hanging offshore. Taverna fare is above average thanks to the demands of visiting yacht flotillas but popularity has also pushed up prices.
The village is the headquarters of the Hellenic Society for the Protection of the Monk Seal and visitors may see seals recuperating in the small rescue centre at the end of the harbour wall.
There are no beaches here but small bays lie hidden along the coast at Glyfada, Glifes and Tzortzi that are reached on foot or by boat.
A daily bus service runs from Patitiri in the high season and there is a camping site near the shore.
The road hugs the coast north of Steni Vala through the Kalamakia area lined with rock and pebble beaches, some long and flat although none with much in the way of tourist facilities.
The road rises above cliffs to provide panoramic views over the enormous triangular white stone beach at Agios Dimitrios with the large islet of Peristera just offshore.
At the shore are two large beaches of white pebble either side of beach taverna, recently revamped and now looking slightly out of place.
Sun loungers edge the south beach where a small jetty invites boats to tie up and the broad swathe of large white stones and pebbles seem to stretch to the horizon.
Both beaches suffer from a sharp and slippery drop into the sea and stones remain on the seabed for some distance from the shore.
The north beach is a little quieter, although neither beach could be said to be busy. Unfortunately, inflatables have appeared as local try to drum up some tourist trade. The beach could be on the brink of losing its charming appeal.