The unique natural heritage of Skyros island
Skyros is an Aegean island with an important natural heritage. The southern parts of the island and most islets, as well as the larger part of Kochylas mountain, the tallest mountain on the island (alt.792m.), constitute Special Protection Areas for birds (SPAs), being part of the NATURA 2000 network of protected sites in EU.
The steep coastal cliffs of Mount Kochylas and the nearby uninhabited islets, are the nesting sites of Falco eleonorae, a migratory falcon which is a globally threatened species. Greece is hosting the 85% of the world population of the species and is considered as the most important country for its conservation and survival. Skyros hosts the largest colony of Eleonora' falcons worldwide, with more than 1,000 pairs. The falcons arrive to Skyros in late April and leave for East Africa, particularly Madagascar and other islands of the Indian Ocean in late October. Until the end of July, falcons are flying over Kochylas mountain and
the surrounding region, covering large areas to find food, mainly large flying insects; therefore can be easily seen from many parts of the island. After July, falcons lay eggs and nest at the steep rocks and cliffs feeding their young with small migratory birds that catch over the island.
Protected seabirds such as Cory's Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea), Yelkuan Shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan), the Audouinis"Gull (Larus
audouinii) and the Mediterranean Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii) live and breed on uninhabited islets surrounding Skyros.
The wetlands of the island are important stop over sites for aquatic migratory birds such as Marsh Harrier, the Red footed falcon, Herons, Egrets and Ibises. Wetlands also provide valuable habitats for other native animals such as terrapines and bats.
The best way to explore and discover the island is to walk around it. Skyros is an ideal place for easy and moderately difficult hikes, as well as for more difficult hikes, for more demanding visitors. Meet the south part of the island and the tall mountain of Kohilas, where the Skyrian horses live, the green pine forest in the north, follow routes that end in beaches, routes with stops in churches, wells and sheepfolds. You can collect herbs, spend some time in isolated sheepfolds where you can enjoy your meal or even camp out at night in the woods.
Guides familiar with the area will be accompanying you in the hikings and will give you information about the flora and the fauna of the island.
Our Walking Routes:
*The Mountain of Kochilas and the unique Skyrian horse in the south.
Mount Kochilas, in the south of the island, is characterized as a special protection zone of bird fauna and belongs to the ‘NATURA 2000’ areas, an ecological European network of protected areas of the highest environmental value for species of plants and animals which are rare, endangered and vulnerable. The landscape in these areas is characterized by its unique natural beauty. It is there, where the unique Skyrian horse lives, in an almost semi-savage condition. It is a rare breed that can be found only in Skyros. Its origins can be traced back to ancient times. It is of small stature, with a height of one meter and ten centimetres. Quite characteristic are its intense eyes and rich mane. In the past, the horses spent the winter in the area of Kochilas and in the spring, their owners used them for threshing. Before they return to the Mountain, in August, the island's residents organized races and celebrations. Today, there are few in numbers. During these routes visitors can see them living in small packs in their natural environment. During their walks, visitors are given detailed information about the flora and fauna of the area. The routes also pass from isolated sheepfolds where visitors can watch how Skyrian people make their products using traditional methods, such as the famous Skyrian cheese.
* The lush pine-forest and the variety of herbs in the north.
The north side of Skyros, that the locals call "Meroi" (quiet place) is green, with thick pine forests and crops. It is covered by 60.000 hectares of pine forests full of endemic types of plants while herbs such as chamomile, sage, thyme, oregano, vegetables savages and caper plant abound. Our routes pass through olive groves where chamois, hares and wild rabbits live freely in nature. Visitors can enjoy spectacular views to the sea. During the walk visitors can collect herbs and we will show them how to preserve and use them in the local cuisine. Sand or pebbles? Our picturesque walks end at secludes bays and quiet beaches where visitors can swim in the sea and relax. We can also arrange for our visitors to camp out in the woods and we will provide everything they need.
*Chora (the Town of Skyros) and picturesque churches
Our walks start from Chora, the Town of Skyros, where visitors can learn about the island’s particular architecture. The settlement of Skyros that has been characterized as traditional and preserved monument by Greek government is built amphitheatrically on the sides of a rock around the Byzantine castle. The need to protect the residents from invasions, mostly by pirates, led them to build their houses near the castle and on the west side of the rock, so that they could not be seen from the sea. The total surface of a Skyrian house that hosted a whole family is 35m2 and all the interior elements are shoe great interest. Walking in the narrow streets of the Chora, between the white houses with the dark colored terraces, you cannot resist the temptation to take a look inside, to the interior decorations. Outside the house, you can see bougainvilleas, geraniums and basils. Our route continues to nearby small churches and chapels, with interesting frescos and history. During this walk visitors can learn a lot about the island’s roots in history and mythology.