The island’s mountains comprise over a dozen “impressive or notable” hills, as one of the many definitions (here, the Oxford English Dictionary) describes a mountain. Only eight, however, meet the minimum height-above-sea-level elevation of three hundred metres. Some 145 million years ago, in the Cretaceous Era, these mountains were shaped by both volcanic and sedimentary rocks, and formed part of a geological feature known as a kippe, or nappe, a section of the Earth’s crust formed by tectonic movement (the Northern Sporades sit on the north-west edge of what is known as the Aegean Sea Plate). And they are still on the move, but slowly.

 

The highest is the central massif of Delfi, reaching 681 metres (2234 feet) at its highest peak and forming the backbone of the island. The presence of the mysterious Neolithic graves at nearby Sendoukia suggests that the mountain once featured in the island’s prehistoric cosmology.

An entirely different cosmology can be found on its nearest rival, the round bulk of Palouki, which looms over the capital town. Its height (546m, or 1719 feet) and the harshness of its slopes attracted the builders of the eight monasteries around its peaks, whose construction was itself an act of religious piety and endurance. The religious festivals associated with these places of worship require the islanders to enact at least a symbolic penance in the processions they involve. While some of the religious sites are now closed, islanders still climb the mountain to maintain others, in remote points that only became accessible by vehicle in recent decades.

 

As these and the other Skopelos mountains ride the line between the Aegean Sea Plate and the Eurasia Plate, the current expansion of the island’s network of paved kalderimi paths, from Mavragani in the west to the remote Ayia Anna chapel in the east, is opening the mountains to the growing number of walkers visiting Skopelos.