The Mamma Mia movie franchise stars possibly the luckiest actors in the world. Not only do they get to sing and dance and generally have fun with other top actors, but they get to do so in some of the most scenic destinations in the Mediterranean. In 2008, the film crew decamped to Greece for the original Mamma Mia. Filming locations of the movie put the islands of Skopelos and Skiathos on the map as the fictional island of Kalokairi. More recently, they ventured to Vis in Croatia for this year’s summer hit sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, an Adriatic island that was already a hot spot for fractional boat ownership and yacht charters.
We’ll compare the stunning filming locations from the two Abba-themed movies and their key moments, so that you can see where you would prefer to visit.
Skopelos hosted the majority of Greek filming and fortunately, it has retained its appeal as an unpretentious quintessential Greek island. The island is part of the Sporades group that stretches into the Western Aegean from Greece’s eastern coast. Its mountainous, wooded interior is best known for its walking trails, olive groves and a rugged coast punctuated by beaches, bays and almost inaccessible coves.
The idyllic Kastani Beach featured three musical numbers including the scene where the bride and groom sing together as the stag party arrives. Although in the movie the men dance along the pier while wearing flippers, you can’t recreate the scene as the pier was only built as a temporary part of the set and is no longer there. It’s probably safer that way! Kastani is also the beach where Tanya sings ‘Does Your Mother Know’ and later where Donna (Meryl Streep) and the ‘dads’ say farewell.
The picture postcard Agios Ioannis Chapel on the island’s northern coast is also known as the Mamma Mia wedding church. At a height of 100 metres the tiny church with its picturesque views is your reward for ascending the 198 steps carved into the rocky outcrop. It’s also the spot where Meryl Streep sang ‘The Winner Takes it All’ to Pierce Brosnan’s character in one of the movie’s more poignant moments.
Other landmarks spots include a hill on Skopelos’ east side, where Sophie sends the three wedding invitations to her dads and where visitors can experience a spectacular view of St. Nikolaos bell tower. A beautiful beach in Nisi Glisteri was used as the entrance to Donna’s Villa, whilst a rocky peninsula nearby was the spot where Sophie, Bill, Harry and Sam sang ‘Our Last Summer’. Skopelos which is one of the most popular Mamma Mia filming locations is simply full to the brim with memories.
Skiathos is the ‘super trouper’ neighbouring island of Skopelos. The old harbour near Bourtzi was featured in the boat scene at the very start of the film; in fact, you can take a tour that shows you the precise location on the harbour where Pierce Brosnan races Colin Firth to the ferry. The islands have changed very little in terms of character despite their Mamma Mia fame and make a great destination for Greek sailing holidays and fractional boat ownership.
The 2018 sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again catches up with Sophie ten years’ later. Meanwhile, the other characters feature in flashbacks to 1979 where we learn the story of how of Sophie’s mother Donna met her three dads.
This time the Adriatic island of Vis stood in for the fictional island of Kalokairi. Vis was a naval base that was off-limits to tourists until 1989, but its crystal clear waters and off-the-radar setting were perfect for actors of varied singing abilities to belt out tune after tune amongst the few professionals (a.k.a. Cher).
Vis is comprised of just 35 square miles and most of them appear in the movie including key scenes in Vis Harbour. Dionis Pizzeria & Pansion was transformed into a local market and a tavern scene was filmed in lobster restaurant Jastozera. Filming took place in Komiza village’s Barjoska Bay, which features a rocky coast that acts as the launching point for tourist trips to the Blue Grotto.
The new film’s ‘Dancing Queen’ jetty scenes were moved to Barjaci Bay, which also became the new Villa Donna. Most of the cast stayed in yachts or villas in Vis Town because the island only has one hotel (undoubtedly set to increase). The crew made the most of their days off visiting the local sights, enjoying the pebble beaches and sampling the seafood restaurants.
So which locations would you prefer to ‘take a chance on’: the tried-and-tested charms of atmospheric Greek islands or the low-key Adriatic paradise of Vis?