Nisos Skhinousa (also known as Schoinousa, Schinousa or Schinoussa) is an island in the Middle Cyclades, located to the south of the larger Naxos. Skhinousa belongs to the Natura 2000 project owing to its rich, endemic flora and fauna. It is a part of the municipality of Naxos and the Lesser Cyclades since 2011 and has two major anchorages, Port Mirsini and Nisis Agrilos.
Squeezed between Iraklia and Koufonisia, it’s a moderately populated island and has historically been an active spot. It is also one of the largest islands among the Lesser Cyclades despite its small area. With a population of around 200 – 250, there are many more goats and animals here than there are people. The tranquility on offer can not be underestimated.
Schinousa is in fact the fourth largest of the small Cyclades island group which may come as a shock during a daily stroll. Walking from A to B shouldn’t take you more than about 45 minutes. And, you are generally no more than a 15-minute walk from one of the beaches no matter where you are.
Its main town Chora is known for its beautiful sunset views and is a great resting stop for tourists transiting the Aegean Sea. Other settlements Mesaria and Mirsini are also prime tourist spots.
Skhinousa has ruins of ancient monuments, a Byzantian church, and a castle that are usually part of a tour itinerary on the island.
Navigation and Anchoring
The Mirsini anchorage is the preferred bay for mooring private yachts as it provides excellent cover from the meltemi. Anchor suggestion is between five and eight meters because of the poor holding. The shores and beds are lined with sand, rocks, and reefs, which can make navigating slightly difficult. If you choose to anchor at the Mirsini bay, consider getting a map.
The other main anchorage is Agrilos which has a fairly shallow passage between itself and Schinoussa and no amenities to speak of.
If you don’t have your own yacht, you can use the ferries that depart from Piraeus, Naxos, Iraklia, Koufonisia, and Amorgos.
There are three main settlements on Schinoussa, the largest of which is Chora the island’s capital a short walk from another of the two settlements Mersini where the port is, with the third being the smaller village of Mesaria.
If your perfect Greek holiday involves partying until the sun comes up, frequenting booming beach bars, and losing your keys as you return blurry-eyed to your resort hotel at 3 am, Schinoussa may not be your best choice. For those chasing a more relaxed pace of life, Greek food delights washed down with local beer or wine and stunning seascapes then it may just steal your heart.
Days can be spent strolling under dangling fig tree branches, watching white protective-suited beekeepers hovering around buzzing beehives, or stopping at roadside tables stacked with tomato boxes. A true slice of authentic Greece!
History of Skhinousa
Skhinousa is one of the most populated islands in the Lesser Cyclades. This was always the case because it has been inhabited since times immemorial. Previously governed by the rulers of Amorgos, it became a part of Naxos only in the twenty-first century after the Greek government intervened.
The name Skhinousa is assumed to have originated from either Echinousa (abundance of sea urchins) or Schinoza (a Venetian nobleman). Although, no history records prove this. Incidentally, Echinousa is also known to be the former name of the Kimolos island in the Southern Cyclades.
Places of Interest in Skhinousa
There are around eighteen beaches around Skhinousa, each with a unique view for tourists coming in from all sides.
Many, like Piso Ammos, Livadi, Almyros, and Tsigouri come with added bonuses of rows of overhanging trees casting some gratefully accepted shade across the sand.
Capital Chora is the best place on Schinoussa to experience a typical Greek island village with cobbled streets, small alleyways winding to historic-looking old town squares, and white houses shrouded in hanging bougainvillea and geranium pots overlooking the street beneath. The Cycladic style is at its best and most untouched by tourism. Chora is also a great place to introduce yourself to the local tipple ‘rakomelo’, a tasty mix of raki and wine.
You will also find a small folklore museum in Chora with a modest collection of items from local tradition.
Reasons to Visit
The isolation and peace are some of Schinoussa’s biggest advantages. It has a very off-the-beaten-track feel to it and many people come simply to relax on the beaches. Hiking is another favourite pastime, while swimming in the gentle aquamarine seas that border most of the island is another favourite. Of the many beaches, Livadi beach has everything you would want for beach perfection, sandy beach, hot sun, a shop, a few bars and restaurants.
Other Things to Do in Schoinousa
Skhinousa is also a migratory station for a lot of birds arriving from the east. This adds to its charm for botanists and environmentalist tourists visiting the island. You will also find beautiful hiking trails along the Chora and Mesaria villages. Here you can enjoy unique Greek delicacies such as fava bean, exotic fruits, and meat-based items.
There’s also a windmill on the island that is worth visiting during a hiking trip. With lush greens and several low-lying hills to climb, Skhinousa offers a complete package for tourists looking to take in the history, culture, and gastronomy of the Aegean.
Some small areas of archaeological interest include ruins from ancient Greek times and Roman ruins. There are also the ruins of a medieval castle and a traditional windmill.
For the more adventurous, there is the Aeolia boat that does trips around the island. You can also find windsurfing and surfing around the busier beaches such as Livadi.
Skhinousa is a populated island with an active town (Chora) and port (Mirsini). You will find most provisions such as food, fuel, clothing, and refreshments. There are traditional cafes and tavernas located across the town and settlements that are open for business around the year.
Thanks to its beautiful landscape and unrestricted views of Keros and Kato Koufonissi, Skhinousa will make for a great leisure stop. The island has active resorts and hotels that will offer days-long accommodation. If you plan to stay for several days, consider mooring at the Mirsini anchorage.
Car rentals are minimal and only really exist from one of the small hotels on the island.
The road network is what you would expect on a small island, mostly unpaved with the possibility of going entire days passing only walkers and a local or two riding a donkey.
Schinoussa does have a bus service during the high season but no taxi service, worth noting if you have luggage. The Express Skopelitis ferry visits Schinoussa daily on its route between Amorgos and Naxos and vice versa, giving the island good connections to further amenities and nearby larger islands.