Wetland and Woodland of Koukounaries
Skiathos is the westernmost island of the group of Northern Sporades which is located to the north-east of Evvoia island and comprises the eastern part of the prefecture of Magnisia. The total surface of the island is 47 Km2 and the predominate climate is temperate mediterranean with an annual rainfall of about 600 mm. The whole island is being protected as an “aesthetic forest “ since 1977.
Is the most cosmopolitan island and it is truly a paradise on earth, with lush pine forests and crystal-clear azure waters. Despite the rapid growth in tourism here in recent decades, it the island is still picturesque and unspoilt and blessed with more than 60 beautifully clean beaches.
The most famous is Koukounaries, which has been declared the third most beautiful beach in the Mediterranean.
Koukounaries backs onto a pine forest reserve which offers shade, alternative activities or quiet time.
The site of Koukounaries is located in the southern part of Skiathos and includess mainly a mixed forest with Pinus halepensis, Pinus pinea and an understorey of sclerophyllous shrubs which extends up to the coastline, the lake Strofilia with a surface of 9.5 ha to its north, and a marine zone which covers half of the site's area. The site is delimited on the north, east and west by a road while in the sea it reaches up to depth curve of 20 m. The lake Strofilia communicates with the sea through a natural canal situated on the east side of the forest. The pine forest has developed through a secondary succession process having replaced a vegetation dominated by Quercus ilex.
The forest and lagoon Koukounaries have been named Wildlife Refuge, have already joined the program ENVIREG Community and designated as area of total protection «NATURA 2000», and as a monument of nature and cradle of civilization belonging to zones of interest (SCIs). The forest is characterized aesthetic (Since 1977 by Presidential Decree 06/13/1977 - F.E.K.248 DI77 - Forests of Skiathos designated Aesthetic Forests) and the wider marine region with golden sand, as landscape outstanding natural beauty, tourist and natural interest. No building activities or interventions are allowed apart from the already existing golf terrain, the conduct of some scientific research studies and the potential construction of small touristic units which will be in limited numbers, in accordance to the environment and outside the forest boundaries. In addition, Skiathos island is protected by the Barcelona Convention and by the program «CORINE».
The forest covers an area of 500-600 m. in length and 200-250 m. in width, being bounded on its east side by a natural yet artificially broadened canal. Noted that in Greece Pinus pinea has considerable populations only in Strofylia Peloponnisos and Kaiafa, whereas isolated populations of small numbers exist in some scattered locations - Skiathos included. It suffers greatly from tourism, as it is preferred due to its attractive morphology. An essential factor for the stability of the site-system is the hydrodynamic equilibrium between the sea and the lake.
Strofilia is a small yet typical lagoon, and not only has an interesting flora the sea lily, but it is also vital for species of migratory birds, which stop and breed in winter and spring time. Herons, winged Stilts, moorhens, egret, egrets with long legs and gait mansion, jet-black cormorants, coots, beautiful flamingo, impressive glossy ibis with purple and blue sheens, storks, geese with great throw, along with dozens of turtles and lush wetland vegetation give the landscape a unique beauty and bring even more great ecological value of the area.
Except to many species of aquatic birds, it is home for fishes as eels, bass, mullet and generally fish freshwater and saline waters. Also for 5 species of mammals and for 7 species of amphibious animals.
Koukounarie’s Wetlands attract both summer and winter visitors, and has been made an all year round protected area by the Municipality of Skiathos.
The beach is open, characterised by high hydrodynamic movements and has low inclination. Is about one kilometre in length and 20-100 m. wide. Here the sand has a golden colour because it contains smocovite, and for this reason is known as the Golden Beach. Every year deservedly been given the Blue Flag and for that every summer is flooded with tourists who indulge in water sports.
In the small harbor area tie boats, fishing and excursion boats. At the eastern end of the beach empties into the sea a small river, the banks of which are connected by a scenic bridge. There the children have fun playing with ducks and swans and fish safely.