In antiquity, the island was known as “Peparethos” (or “Peparethus”) and was renowned for its wine. Its first inhabitants were Cretans, who came from Knossos under their leader, Stafylos, the son of Ariadne and Dionysus. Dionysus was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness, fertility, theatre and religious ecstasy in Greek mythology. Alcohol, especially wine, played an important role in Greek culture with Dionysus being an important reason for this life style. In 1936 excavations in the area of Staphylos / Velanio uncovered a royal tomb of the era of Mycenanean Greece, the tomb of Prince Staphylos.
It prospered greatly in Classical times, and was named Skopelos during the Hellenistic period. During the Byzantine period it was a place of exile and, during the Frankish occupation the Ghisi family of Venice ruled it. Barbarossa, plundered the island in 1538, after which it was taken by the Turks. Liberated in 1830, it became part of the newly established Greek state. Welcoming bays, sheltered coves, golden beaches, crystalline seas, verdant hills and picturesque villages, all these unfold before your eyes as your ship approaches the port of Skopelos.
SENDOUKIA (photos above)
One of Skopelos’ most fascinating and mysterious sites, Sendoukia is located on Mount Delphi, which is the island’s highest peak and, unless you are an intrepid hiker, you will need you own car or motorbike to get here. From town, follow the road signs for the tiny (and very pretty) countryside hamlet of Karia. Go on from Karia and follow the signs for Sendoukia and Delphi. Once at the junction for the rough turnoff to the top of Delphi, you will need to park and the remaining distance (20 minutes walk) is on foot. The route is an extremely scenic one, climbing up through pine forest first of all, before opening out onto more rocky terrain dotted with scrub and low trees. From here the path is marked with red blobs of paint which need to be followed carefully. Once at Sendoukia, you will be amazed to find several tombs which have been perfectly carved out of pure rock, with massive stone lids next to each grave. No one is quite sure when the tombs were made and whose bodies they held – they may be early Roman or even Neolithic – but it is certain that they were for very important people as the location with its panoramic views across the sea to Alonissos, Evia and even to Halkidiki on the clearest days, is second to none.
In the small port village of Loutraki there are several sites with ruins and remains from the ancient city of Selinounda. On the waterfront you will find very interesting information boards about the sites, which include Roman baths and a temple. In Panormos you can see the remains of walls of the ancient city that once existed there on the hill behind the main strip of hotels and tavernas on the road, approximately halfway along.