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Seal island

Alonnisos, a long green island with a dozen sandy beaches, is only a hop from racy Skiathos, but that’s about all they have in common. A pair of disasters —phylloxera in 1953 that killed the vineyards, and an earthquake in 1965 — left Alonnisos broke and shattered just when the first tourists were washing up on Skiathos.

It slowly recovered, and by the time plans were announced for an airport on Alonnisos, the populace said no thanks. Instead, in 1992, the island’s archipelago of uninhabited islets became Greece’s first national marine park, in order to protect Europe’s largest surviving colony of rare monk seals. And they have had some success, as you can learn at the visitors’ centre ( in the island’s port, Patitiri.

Now one of the most environmentally aware islands in Greece, Alonnisos is happy to remain low-key. Its two seaside villages, Votsi and Patitiri, built after the earthquake, have mellowed under their swathes of bougainvillea; whereas Chora, the handsome old capital on the hill, which was abandoned on government orders after the earthquake, has now been beautifully restored.

The locals run excursion boats along the lovely coasts (roads are few and far between) and to the islets, where you can snorkel, dive or lie on the beach. There are fine walks in the interior, and carafes of good local wine to go with dinner.

Getting there: the easiest way to get to Alonnisos from the UK is to catch a charter flight to Skiathos or Volos. From Skiathos, ferries take two hours (£5), hydrofoils half as long (£9); from Volos, ferries take four hours (£11), hydrofoils two (£17).

Where to stay: isolated under the cliffs in Patitiri, the Paradise Hotel (24240 65213) offers views over the open sea, gardens and a lovely pool; £40, B&B. The Atrium of Alonnissos, at Votsi (24240 65750,, near Roussou Yialos beach, has large rooms overlooking a pool in the inner courtyard; £33 with breakfast.

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