Wasp-waisted Skyros is the odd one out in the Sporades chain of islands that lies off the east coast of Greece. One of the largest islands in the Sporades it is also the most remote and somewhat off the main tourist trail and thus the least visited of this island group.
Skyros' isolation has helped it preserve its distinctive Greek character and customs – foreigners, for example, are banned from owning houses here. Tourist beds also number only around 1,000 and the resolutely traditional Skyros islanders seem intent on having no more, although visitors who make the effort to mix are very warmly welcomed.
Skyros stands so much apart from the rest of the tourist-hungry Sporades group that there is no direct ferry link from neighbouring islands. The landscape is green and densely wooded in the north; much more dry, rocky and barren in the south.
Traditional festivals and occupations play a large part in island life, and Skyros has long been noted for its arts and crafts, its beautiful pottery and its hand-carved furniture.
Most inhabitants live in and around the island capital of Chora and Skyros has a permanent population of around 3,000 people, mostly engaged in farming and fishing.
A tomb in the southern half of Skyros island is renowned as that 'corner of a foreign field that is forever England'. It is where the verse's author, the poet Rupert Brooke, was buried in 1915, brought ashore from a passing ship. His grave is one of the island's main tourist attractions.
The heavily indented coastline of Skyros is peppered with sand and pebble beaches, secluded coves, rocky inlets and sea caves. Most summer visitors head for the main beach resorts below Chora where sands link the resorts of Magazia and Molos. Those looking to escape the crowds have a number of splendid coves to choose between but access can be difficult and several can be reached only on foot or by boat, especially in the south.
The island capital of Chora lies on the east side of the narrow waist that divides the island of Skyros, north and south.
Visitors arriving from the port of Linaria pass through a rash of charmless mini-markets and a rag-bag of cement block buildings to an attractive hillside town where with whitewashed cube houses stack their way up to the summit in a fiendish maze of narrow streets.
It is all crowned by the Kastro, a Byzantine fortress with Venetian trimmings built over an ancient Acropolis.
The main street of Chora is a narrow strip of tourist shops, travel agents, cafes and tavernas that eventually opens out into a square overlooking Molos beach and the sea.
Perched on a terrace, is a banal bronze 'Statue of Immortal Poetry' erected in 1931 to commemorate the English poet Rupert Brooke, who is buried on the island.
Intended as an allegorical figure, rather than Brooke himself, the original model s thought to have been a male prostitute.
Beneath the square is the small archaeological museum with exhibits of local copper artefacts and a striking ceramic ring decorated with ducks and snakes from around 900 BC. The private Faltaits Museum has an impressive display of traditional Skyrian clothes, embroidery and pottery.
Also of interest is the church of Agia Triada, with some exquisite frescoes, and the white monastery of Agios Georgios founded in 962 which has a painting of St George slaying the dragon.
The sprawling tourist development below Chora and behind Magazia beach now blends into neighbouring Molos village, about four kilometres north of the capital.
Hotels and apartment blocks lie behind an attractive, long and sandy beach that snakes out north to a headland and a small, picturesque harbour and stone breakwater.
An old mill, now turned into a taverna, is a reminder of times past when Molos was less developed as a tourist destination. Lobster is the local speciality and worth a try.
There are a good many fish tavernas in Molos as well as bars and cafes, a bakery and a mini-market.
Further north, past the harbour and around the headland, is Grysmata beach, sheltered by a strip of offshore rock and which has a few tavernas and some accommodation, although there are no facilities here.
A 10-minute walk down the hill and stairway from Chora, leads visitors past the island's official campsite and onto the impressive sands of Magazia, to the south of Molos.
The long, sweeping beach is named after the gunpowder magazines that were stored here in Venetian times.
Fast developing, but still quiet and relaxed, Magazia has plenty of beach facilities including watersports and beachside tavernas.
Long and sandy, the shore blends in with neighbouring Molos and rarely gets crowded even in the high summer season.
Sunbeds are laid out on the most popular stretches, and the water is quite shallow. A trio of rock breakwaters have been dumped offshore to the south.
At the northern end of the beach, the rock has been carved and quarried into bizarre shapes, with a church and cave-like houses hewn from the stone.
The road south beyond Magazia leads to Papa Ta Chomata beach, sometimes referred to as Papa Ta Houma. The name translates roughly as 'land of the priest' but visitors may find little of the cloth here, this being the island's unofficial nudist beach.
The sands at Papa Ta Chomata are fine and the water is clean, although it can be a difficult descent down a narrow cliff path to the shore. Beaches further south of here are disappointingly drab until you get to Aspouss which is a pleasant spot with a couple of nice beach tavernas.
Nearby Basales is an even less developed alternative to Papa Ta Chomata but visitors must beware of the sewage that can arrive with the tide when wind is in the wrong direction (north or north-east). This is not the cleanest beach on the island as sewage from the Chora ends up near here.
Further south still is the beach at Ormos Achillis. Set in a deep bay this once boasted a pleasant, if remote, beach until it was earmarked by developers for a new yacht marina.
Part of a government drive to attract yachting tourism away from Turkey the marina project failed and, apart from a few fishing boats, the place is deserted.
South of the bay at Ormos Achillis the coast becomes very rocky and virtually inaccessible except for the tiny islet of Sarakiniko which has a small beach of white sand and shingle called Nisi tou Despoti, and sometimes referred to as Glyfada.
A boat is the only way to reach the beach which sits on almost the most southern point of Skyros and has no facilities.
This heavily indented stretch of coast is a leading target for boat trips, not only to see the grave of the English poet Rupert Brooke at nearby Tris Boukes but to explore the spectacular caves and inlets on the south-east coast.
The west coast of Skyros is where island ferries dock at the main port of Linaria. A number of attractive beaches line the heavily indented shore. Many lie at the head of sheltered inlets surrounded by dense forests of pine.
The functional fishing village of Linaria is also the main port for Skyros. It lies on the west coast at the island's narrow waist, tucked into a small bay about 10 kilometres from the capital at Chora
The only other major settlement on Skyros apart from Chora, Linaria is basically a cluster of squat concrete buildings packed around a tiny, picturesque, harbour.
More a transit point than a resort, Linaria nevertheless has some pleasant tavernas and a small beach within walking distance at Aheronnas.
It's also worth a trek to the church of Agios Nikolaos, on a hill above the port, which offers some spectacular views.
Linaria is also the base for boat trips around the island. A great favourite is the islet of Skyros Goula which has a couple of small beaches and dramatic caves and the islet of Sarakiniko which has a small beach.
Kalamitsa lies to the south of Linaria, just over the headland, and lays claim as one of the best beaches in the south-west – which is not saying much as it is just about the only one.
Not much more than a long swathe of shingle, the sand does peep through the stones at the northern end which is fronted by tavernas, a few villas and a windsurfing club.
Nearby are a well-preserved stone sarcophagus and an upright Doric column. To the south Kalamitsa blends into the long, white shingle beach of Kolimbades which has some decent swimming.
There are coves with shingle beaches further south, although none have any facilities and most can only be reached by boat.
The road north out of Linaria heads into the hills and a barren landscape of low scrub. The road forks right to Chora and left around the bay to Aherounas, also spelt Acherounes.
The pleasant long, sand and stone beach is at the head of a well-protected bay with clear shallow water that makes it a preferred choice for families with children.
Two tavernas offer the basics while a cafe serves ice cream and drinks. As Aheronas beach is only a 10-minute walk from Linaria, it is a time-honoured choice for those staying in Linaria, although the prettier beach of Agios Pefkos is just over the headland.
This is the beach many visitors head for on the west coast of Skyros. Agios Pefkos lies over the headland from Aheronas at the head of a deep bay, about 11 kilometres west of Chora.
Pine trees tumble down to the sand and shingle shoreline at the wide and attractive bay. Rocky outcrops appear at both ends and a long line of trees backs the beach to the south. A couple of cantinas open here in the summer season.
Some parking is available on a patch of land off the main road that skirts the south of the beach, and it is a short walk down a dirt track to reach the shore.
Once the site of a small but productive marble quarry, the little harbour that lies to the south of Agios Pefkos is where Syrian marble used to be shipped out.
Also nearby is the charming chapel of Agios Panteleimonas, which enjoys panoramic views over the coast of Skyros.
North from Agios Petros and down a steep bank is the smaller, but even more attractive bay of Agios Fokas. Despite being prettier than its neighbour fewer make it down the rough track that snakes down from the road above.
Once cloaked in pine forest, a fire in 2008 denuded much of the area but this remains a picturesque spot in a beautiful bay and the reward for going the extra few miles is well worth it with a beach of sand and white pebble and the small chapel at the end of the beach.
Agios Fokas has a basic, but excellent, taverna that opens in the high summer. Both Agios Fokas and neighbouring Agios Petros have recently been discovered by villa companies and their days as peaceful havens may well be numbered.
The far north of Skyros has the best of the secluded beaches, but they are not always easy to find and few of them have any facilities. This coast also takes the winds and heavy seas that batter the cliffs over the winter as well as the northern 'Meltemi' that blows through July and August
Set in a peaceful wooded bay Atsitsa lies on the north-west coast about 19 kilometres from Chora and is mostly rock and stones with a couple of ramshackle wooden quays where boats can tie up.
Atsitsa is home to a British-run holiday meditation centre where PRIVATE – KEEP OUT signs deter passers-by from straying near. The karma here is very much up-market and exclusive.
Named after the offshore islet, Atsista is set in densely wooded coves and has some iron mine installations dating from the 19th century. Pine trees plunge down to a shoreline that is rocky enough to make swimming difficult but there is a good fish taverna here.
To the north, at Markesi, is the chapel of Theotokos erected on the site of a former temple to Poseidon where ancient tomb carvings are found.
Just north of Atsitsa are a couple of small and rather nondescript beaches of sharp sand and shingle at Kalogrias and at Krya Panagia, the latter of which has a tiny chapel and a summer taverna.
The best of the beaches in this area is Agios Petros, a pale sand beach with a few pebbles backed by magnificent dunes
Access to Agios Petros is down a track through the dense pine woods that starts near the airport.
Like the others beaches in the area, there are few facilities at Agios Petros. A beach cantina sometimes opens in the summer when the small beach can get quite busy.
There are sand and pebble beaches along the stretch of coastline that makes up the northern tip of Skyros. None are well known, and all are sparsely populated.
Two most worth visits are Markesi and Theotokos, although you may have to contend with the drone of jet aircraft taking off from the nearby military airbase.
Although neither has any facilities, both have good shallow water, a little sand and shingle and rocky outcrops on either side.
There are some ancient engraved tombs near Markesi for those interested in archaeology near the chapel of Agios Theotokos.
Palamari is most noted for the interesting if slightly neglected site of a Bronze Age settlement which still shows the layout and pattern of the original streets and houses.
It was first built around 3,000 BC and flourished for a millennium. The total area covers about five acres, although the eastern part is now under the sea.
The main reason for the ancient city's growth was the metals that were once mined in the Palamari area. Below the archaeological site is a very pleasant sand beach but care must be taken not to wander too near the military base which is a restricted area.