- The islands
The ancient island of Ikos, which is later (16th century) referred to as Liadromia or Chiliodromia and from 1832, as Alonissos, is the only inhabited island in the Park. The presence of man on the other islands is limited to seasonal shepherds and guards.
Morphologically, an extended series of hills and low mountains (up to 493m) form either steep shores in the northern part of the island or small plains in the eastern part. The southern part is covered with pine forests in contrast to the macchia vegetation of the north.
The majority of local population lives in Patitiri village, which is also the central port of the island. Votsi and Roussoum Gialos bay both lie to the north of the port. Patitiri village used to be a port servicing the old mountain village of Alonissos (today Old Village of Alonissos). In 1965, a destructive earthquake forced all inhabitants of the Old Village to leave their homes and move to the port of Patitiri. Patitiri is the administrative centre of Alonissos and the place where all public services are concentrated. The place was named after the winepresses (grape press) that locals used in the past to produce their popular red wine.
From the port of Patitiri, day boating tours set off to many local beaches and tourist boats make daily excursions to islands of Zone A, where public access is allowed.
There are two campsites on the island (one in Steni Vala and one near the port of Patitiri on the way to Marpounda).
In the north-eastern part of Alonissos is Steni Vala. The small natural port is a refuge for fishing boats and yachts, since it is an attractive holiday resort with excellent fish taverns and numerous possibilities of accommodation. In this part of the island is Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre for wounded and orphaned baby seals, run by Mom.
Votsi is located 1.5 km away from Patitiri and was first inhabited after the 1965 earthquake when the residents of the Old Village of Alonissos were forced to rebuild their homes in a new location. This place is very beautiful with a shingle beach and a magnificent pine forest. There is also the center of homeopathy where the principles of Hippocrates apply to medicine.
Roussoum Gialos is again an area where it was inhabited after the earthquake of 1965 and due to the rapid reconstruction it has been united with Patitiri. It has a small port and beach. According to the traditions, wine was traded and the relevant customs duties were paid (roussoum in Turkish means “customs duties”).
It is a flat island and uninhabited which is covered with Mediterranean low vegetation (macchia). Underwater marine surveys has brought to light an old shipwreck along with a series of other archaeological finds revealing that Sporades Islands had always been an important sea crossroad of ancient civilizations. Therefore, one of the most important goals of the N.M.P.A.N.S. is preserving these finds and promoting them to the world in collaboration with local authorities. For this reason visitors should be very careful so as not to cause any damage to the archaeological findings.
Kyra-Panagia is the first island we come across in the northern part of the Park. Mountainous and uninhabited, this island has a smooth relief. The interior of the island is covered by dense macchia vegetation with predominant species Pistaccia lentiscus and Quercus coccifera, small open areas, rocks and hilltops with a view of the surrounding area. Two shallow bays, Agios Petros to the south and Planitis to the north, are safe natural heavens. To the east, there is a recently repaired post-Byzantine monastery of the Birth of Virgin Mary.
Heading northeast, Gioura is the next desert island that we come across. The island is rocky and precipitous and giving refuge to many indigenous species of flora and fauna. More specifically, a rare goat species (Capra aegagrus var. dorcas) – largely considered as endemic- lives on this island. A popular destination is also the cave of Cyclops with beautiful stalagmites and stalactites structures. The main reason why the island has been declared as a Nature Conservation Area is the protection of all the above species and habitats, including the caves that provide a living place to the Mediterranean monk seal Monachus monachus.
Psathoura is the most northerly island of the Marine Park and the landscape here is completely different. It is a small, flat island of volcanic origin covered with heather clusters (Erica arborea) and many other types of shrubs. It is worth mentioning that there are species of flora that are unknown to the rest islands of the Marine Park, such as the endemic sea daffodil (Pancratium maritimum). To the south, the Mandraki beach stands out within the dark rocky landscape for its white sand. Walking to the northern part, the large lighthouse built by the French engineers in the previous century, signaling the international sea routes of the northern Aegean Sea.
The island is the core of the Marine Park and is strictly protected. It is the most important part of the natural habitat of the Mediterranean monk seal, and also of the birds of prey which live and reproduce on its steep cliffs. Piperi has precipitous, rocky shores and its vegetation is dominated by pine forests, kermes oaks, phrygana although some rare plant species growing on cliffs. There are up to 33 bird species and is estimated that the island hosts about 350-400 pairs of Eleonora’s falcon (Falco eleonorae).
Skantzoura is a flat island with a smooth relief. The series of low hills end up on white marble shores. It is covered with macchia vegetation and phrygana, while there is a forest with short cedar (Juniperus sp.). Along with Strogilo and Polemika (its two nearby isles), Skantzoura is an important nature reserve of Audouin’s gull (Larus audouinii) and Eleonora’s falcon (Falco eleonorae). In the past, Skantzoura was also a monastic center. The monastery was once located in the center of the island, today is closed.