Mamma Mia: This is where the popular film was shot
Charming villages, beautiful stone houses, white sandy beaches, and cliffs you want to plunge into the sea from. It's easier to vacation in Europe like the characters in Mamma Mia than you think – here we go (again!).
Many people rushed to Greece and Croatia a few years ago, when Mamma Mia fever was at its height. The advantage of locations from classic blockbusters is that although the hype has settled, the destinations remain just as beautiful and exciting. The white sandy beaches where Amanda Seyfried and Meryl Streep danced are now a little less crowded.
First things first: As you may know, there are actually two Mamma Mia movies. You have the one that premiered in 2008 (Mamma Mia!), and the sequel that came out in 2018 (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again!).
So, where do you go to walk in the footsteps of the Mamma Mia characters? We have created the perfect guide for you!
The first Mamma Mia film was filmed on location at Skopelos in Greece. The island is located in the Aegean Sea, between the beautiful holiday islands of Skiathos and Alonissos.
No matter where in the world you come from, you can fly to Skopelos by first stopping in Athens and then taking a domestic flight. You can also reach the island by ferry from the five ports on the mainland of Greece: Volos, Thessaloniki, Agios Konstantinos, Kymi, and Mantoudi.
The plot of Mamma Mia
Before we go any further, we need to have a quick recap of the plot in the Mamma Mia films. In the first film, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is getting married. She wants her father to be at the wedding but doesn't know who he is. After reading a diary kept by her mother (played by Meryl Streep), Sophie is faced with three potential candidates – rather, three different men who could be her father. All three are invited to the wedding, and Sam (Pierce Brosnan), Harry (Colin Firth), and Bill (Stellan Skarsgård) travel to the island. Once everyone is together, the drama (and the fun) begins.
In the sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again!, Sophie is pregnant, and is set to take over the management of her mother's hotel. The plot flits between the present and the past, giving an insight into her mother's past life and various boyfriends. Like the first film, this one also features a mixture of love and drama – and plenty of classic ABBA songs.
But why exactly were the islands of Greece chosen as the location for the romantic drama that plays out in the Mamma Mia films?
Skopelos is known as one of the greenest islands in Greece and has several small and beautiful beaches. If you want sand between your toes like the films' characters, you should visit Agnontas beach. This was the where the fantasy scene featuring Meryl Streep was shot, in which she sat in a boat and dreamed of wealth. Agnontas lies on the south side of Skopelos and is easy to get to by both car hire and local transport. The area is home to a community of fishers, so it is recommended to sample some delicious fresh seafood at one of the restaurants that are right by the beach. The beach is also known for being windless.
On the north side of the island lies a small beach called Glysteri. Several scenes in Mamma Mia were shot here, including the one where Sophie reads her mother's diary out loud to her friends. The beach offers pebbles and clear water – but the nicest thing is that you pass through a picturesque olive grove to get here. The beach is equipped with sun loungers, parasols, and showers.
Close by, you can also visit the location of the fictional Hotel Villa Donna. In reality, no such hotel exists, rather it was a set that was built for Mamma Mia and removed afterwards. But in the film, Villa Donna lay on the cliffs above the beach of Glysteri.
Although Villa Donna is not exactly rooted in reality, you will find many similar hotels in Greece - with the same idyll and energy.
Skopelos' most beautiful beach
Kastani is the most famous beach on Skopelos, and also known as the most beautiful one. It has crystal clear, turquoise water and is surrounded by pine trees. Several of the scenes in Mamma Mia were filmed here. It was here that Sophie and Sky sang "Lay All Your Love on Me". You can get to the beach by local transport or taxi.
Amarandos Cove is where the sailing scene with Sophie and her three potential fathers was filmed, featuring the song "Our Last Summer". Here, you will find many hidden coves and idyllic swimming spots. The place is often compared to a swimming pool thanks to its clean and crystal clear waters. You can get here by car or on foot, but the easiest way is a boat.
The wedding in Mamma Mia
Once you have a tan, have been warmed by the sun, and have salt water in your hair, you should set aside a day to visit the church of Agios Ioannis Kastri (The Church of St. John). This is, of course, where the wedding itself was filmed. The small church is located in the region of Kastri in the north of Skopelos. The church (which you are sure to recognise) is situated at the top of a cliff and has stunning views. To get to the top, you need to climb 198 steps carved into the mountain. The interior of the church houses old ecclesiastical relics and beautiful icons. There is also an altar in the church where you can light candles.
It should be mentioned that although the exterior of the small church was used in the film for the wedding scenes, the scenes from inside the church were shot in a studio in Hollywood.
The cliff is connected to the rest of the island via a narrow path. The beach below is quite idyllic, but also full of tourists in the summer.
In film number two, the location has moved from Greece to Croatia, more specifically Vis. You can get to this island paradise by flying to Split, and then taking the Jadrolinija ferry across to Vis. The route runs all year round.
You will get right into the Mamma Mia mood as soon as you arrive, as the port is considered the centre of the island, and many of the scenes in the film were shot there. The port has several restaurants and bars, so you can relax and start your holiday with a coffee or a drink as soon as you step ashore.
Although Vis is a remote island, which served as a military base until 1983, it's unfortunately no longer as unknown as it once was. Nevertheless, there are several gems here that are a must to visit. Firstly, you can't miss Stiniva, which has been voted Europe's most beautiful beach several times. The beach is famous because it is surrounded by high, rocky cliffs, and is located in a bay. The water is crystal clear, and it's a popular spot with divers. It pays to arrive early, as recognition has brought with it plenty of beach-loving tourists. The easiest way to get to Stiniva is by boat.
Another place you should visit on Vis is Srebrena Beach, which is located on the south side. Here, you will find shade from trees, and pebbles for those who are not that fond of sand.
It is by no means the first time Croatia has been used as a location for films and TV shows. Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and Succession have all filmed on location in Croatia.
An otherworldly experience
Karolina Square, located a short walk from the port of Vis, was used as a location to depict a busy Greek market. In reality, most of it was staged, but you'll find Dionis Pizzeria, used as the shop where Donna picks up a new pair of overalls. And, of course, you can see charming brick buildings, stairs and architecture that is typical for the place, and of Croatia in general.
In addition, you really should experience the Blue Cave, located southeast of Vis. Here, you can take a guided tour into the caves. In the middle of the mountain, everything 'turns blue', as the sun's rays that enter the underwater cave create the effect of blue light, and objects below the surface shimmer in a kind of silver shade. Visitors often describe the experience as otherworldly and somewhat eerie, but also breathtakingly beautiful. It's a must when you are on holiday in Vis.
Whether the actors in Mamma Mia had an opportunity to experience the blue phenomenon is not known, but if you want to dream away to some of Europe's most beautiful beaches – just rewatch the film or, better yet, book your trip!