They may have performed under a stage name but the Greek islands of Skiathos and Skopelos were the breakout stars of this hit musical.
In the steamy summer months the island of Skiathos is the Greece of your daydreams. Whitewashed tavernas spill onto cobblestoned lanes that slope towards the waterfront, where yachts and colourful fishing boats bob and clank in the sun. The air is spiked with the scent of grilled fish and seafood and the sounds of wine-and-ouzo-fuelled revellers.
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Many are lured to Skiathos and its neighbouring island, Skopelos, by Mamma Mia!, the 2008 rom-com musical set on “Kalokairi”, a fictional Greek island, where an all-star cast – headed by Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth – frolic to the hits of ABBA. Part of the Sporades archipelago, about 130 kilometres north of Athens as the crow flies, Skiathos and Skopelos are the silent stars of the cult favourite.
These days, Mamma Mia! is screened several nights a week (between June and September) at the open-air cinema, Attikon, on Papadiamanti Street in Skiathos Town. From the nearby little port – where Brosnan and Firth arrived on Kalokairi (which means “summer” in Greek) – you can take a scenic Mamma Mia!-inspired boat trip, with the title track and the likes of Dancing Queen and Super Trouper booming out.
Skiathos is a delight – more than 60 beaches bless this pine-forested, hiker-friendly island – but be sure to buzz across the glistening Aegean Sea to the equally pretty Skopelos, where most scenes were shot. Boutique operator Sail the Day runs snorkelling cruises to key locations, notably the rock-and-pine-fringed Kastani Beach where Sky (Dominic Cooper) and Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) sang Lay All Your Love on Me as Sky’s buff mates emerged from the turquoise water. You can also absorb the beauty of Skopelos from a kayak.
Mamma Mia! diehards love to make the pilgrimage up more than 100 steps to the chapel of Agios Ioannis. Dramatically perched above a wave-kissed promontoryon Skopelos’s north-east coast, it was the site of the film’s wedding, though the chapel’s interior looks much different, and tinier, than on screen. That’s because, like “Villa Donna” – the hotel-taverna run by Streep’s character – the set was at Pinewood Studios in England. ￼