The first thing to know: Kalokairi, the island where Donna (Meryl Streep) and her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) run their hotel, the Villa Donna, is fictional. In the first movie, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2018, the Greek island of Skopelos served as the backdrop, while filming took place in Croatia for this summer’s big hit, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.
But Skopelos is the place to go for couples who want the complete Mamma Mia! experience. Newlyweds can visit filming locations like the iconic hilltop church or they can enjoy a refreshing swim in the Aegean Sea. And why not hole up in a romantic hotel room at a seaside resort where the stars stayed during the shoot?
Of course, there are plenty of picturesque Greek islands to visit (6,000 to be exact) and while Mykonos has Lindsay Lohan’s beach club and Santorini has incredible hikes, the destination of Skopelos has its own stunning vistas. And, best of all, it’s not unusual for a couple to bust a move to “Dancing Queen” in public.
Plus, if the honeymoon timing is right, the island can feel as if it’s completely private for a truly romantic experience. Now cue the Mamma Mia! soundtrack—whichever you prefer—and channel the spirit of ABBA (and Meryl) as you dream about those turquoise Aegean waters.
WHEN TO GO
According to locals, May and September are the best months to visit–since the summer months are heavy with tourism–and the weather is pleasantly temperate. It’s warm enough to lay on the beach, but not so hot that you’ll sweat through your outfit while strolling down Skopelos Town’s main drag.
Couples will have to do some transportation planning so they don’t end up stranded on a ferry pier like Young Donna (Lily James) in Here We Go Again. While Skopelos doesn’t have an airport, so there are two options to get to the destination.
The first is to fly to the neighboring island of Skiathos, then hop on a ferry, a helicopter, or a water taxi (depending on the location of the destination and available budget). Note: Visitors cannot take a water taxi after dark, so make sure the plane arrives far in advance of dusk, or plan for one night in Skiathos beforehand. Regular flights are available to Skiathos from Athens, London, Munich, and other European cities. (And production actually filmed a few smaller scenes on Skiathos, including at the island’s Old Port, where the three dads meet for the first time.)
The other option, though slightly longer, is to travel to the mainland city of Volos, about a four-hour drive from the Athens airport, and take a two-plus-hour ferry to Skopelos.
WHAT TO BRING
Fans can channel their inner Donna with a boho chic wardrobe (think modernized ‘70s fashion with colorful scarves, bell sleeves, maxi skirts, a blue bikini to match the water, and of course, her signature overalls. Or simply take a look at these beach honeymoon essentials we love. (Pro tip for travelers: Don’t forget the bug repellent. The mosquitoes can get particularly vicious at night.)
WHERE TO STAY
For couples who want to stay in town, check out the five-star Skopelos Village Hotel. The family-owned business is a ten-minute walk to the Skopelos Marina, and it’s where the cast stayed while filming the first movie. Guests will be welcomed by a wall of photographs of the hotel owners with the stars, including Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgard.
The hotel also has a restaurant that cooks up traditional Mediterranean cuisine from the family’s own recipes.
For newlyweds in search of a more secluded, picturesque spot, the Adrina Beach Hotel is another family-owned property that contains two separate areas: a hotel with a more traditionally Greek vibe (namely, white buildings with tiled roofs and colorful flowers), and a resort next door with ultra-modern and luxurious bungalows and a spa (shared with hotel guests. The two properties are connected by a beachside path. (Pro tip for guests: Keep the patio door open at night and let the waves lull you to sleep.)
Both hotels have private pebble beaches and saltwater pools, while snorkeling, scuba-diving, and other adventurous activities can be arranged through the hotel. It’s a 10-minute walk to the village of Panormos, and a 20-minute drive to Skopelos Town. (A pro tip for foodies: Getting the fresh Greek yogurt and honey for breakfast every morning is a delight, and each room contains a jar of local honey to take home.)
WHAT TO SEE
A true Mamma Mia! sightseeing tour isn’t complete without a trip to Kastani Beach, where Tanya (Christine Baranski) performs “Does Your Mother Know,” and where Sophie and Sky (Dominic Cooper) sing “Lay All Your Love on Me.” This destination is also where Donna and the dads say goodbye to the newlyweds in “I Have a Dream.”
Production originally built a bar and a jetty on the beach, which were both removed after filming was completed, but locals eventually built a permanent beach bar that serves delicious blended cocktails and other beach treats.
Another scenic spot is Glysteri Beach, which served as Sophie’s wedding departure point, and a nearby cliff for where Sophie, Bill (Stellan Skarsgård), Harry (Colin Firth), and Sam (Pierce Brosnan) sang a portion of “Our Last Summer.” It also serves as the view from the fictional Villa Donna (which was actually a set at Pinewood Studios in London).
But the real highlight is Agios Ioannis Church, set atop a cliff overlooking the ocean. Climb the 200 steps to the top for sublime views, and marvel at the fact that Meryl and cast climbed the steps regularly during filming. (The church at the top was dressed for filming, so it doesn’t look like the one in the movie. It’s still lovely, though.) A small hill in front of that cliff is where Donna and Sam sing “The Winner Takes It All.”
Couples will also want to stroll through the cobblestone streets in the small village of Glossa and peruse the shops in Skopelos Town. They might even want to channel Bill with a sailboat trek.
Paikos Rodopoulos, Adrina Hotels CEO, says people are drawn to Skopelos because it’s the greenest Greek island. It’s also relatively small—visitors can drive from one side of the island to the other in 40 minutes. He recommends a weeklong stay to take full advantage of the sea.
Visiting all the locations will require renting a car, but if that’s not an option, then several local companies offer Mamma Mia!-themed tours. Rodopoulos adds that many of his guests rent cars—but they use it exactly once during the whole trip, electing instead to spend their time in the sea and on the beach.
—Written by Jean Bentley.
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