HAVE AN ISLAND-HOPPING SUMMER
With a warm summer sun, cool breeze and salt on your skin...the deep blue Greek seas beckon you to take on a sailing adventure. Anyone who has experienced it will agree, there is simply no better way to explore the unique majesty of the Greek islands and mainland coastline, than by boat.
The Argo-Saronic Gulf, in close proximity to Athens, is an Aegean Sea gem. Here is where a traditional village vibe meets cosmopolitan flair. Perfect for island hopping, the Argolic and Saronic gulfs are home to a collection of islands including Aegina, Agistri, Poros, Hydra and Spetses. Whether you go by sail or motor boat, the experience out on sea is a sweet combination of romantic and adventurous.
With a myriad of travel, taste and tour options, the possibilities are limitless. Luckily, Portes Magazine’s crew of avid travelers are here to guide. With your floating hotel, how long you decide to dock at each stop is up to you. When on a boat...you may be tying the occasional sailor’s knot, but you’ll never be tied down to one single location. And with so many islands and islets to choose from, it takes a lifetime to enjoy these timeless treasures...so waste no time. Set sail!
Our first stop...AEGINA:
Aegina has something to offer visitors year-round. Archeological sites adorn this small island, the most prominent being the Doric Temple of Aphaia Athena, dating to 500 BC, one of three Greek sites – along with the Parthenon and Sounion‘s Temple of Poseidon – which make up the “holy triangle” of Greek antiquity. Fun fact: Town was the temporary capital of the newly-formed Kingdom of Greece from 1827 to 1829.
As with most Greek islands, Aegina hosts quite a few churches and monasteries just waiting to be explored, the most famous being the Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. Nektarios - one of the largest in the Balkans and one of archeological magnificence.
A combination of sandy and pebbly beaches hug the island’s coastline, while the small fishing village of Souvala in the north offers therapeutic thermal waters, reputed to ease dermatological ailments and rheumatism.
Other ways to explore this island include sea kayaking and horseback riding. In the evenings, relax by the water’s edge at one of the many tavernas serving up freshly grilled calamari or your choice of meze dishes, before strolling along the beachfront.
Aegina is famous for producing the best pistachios in the world. Indeed, authentic "Fistikia Aeginis," as they are called, are a flavor not to be missed. So, be sure to grab a couple bags of these tiny green gems from local producers right on the waterfront before you sail to your next destination...
Speckled with a mix of neoclassical and traditional village-style residences, the waterfront neighborhood of Poros gives off a cheerful, welcoming vibe. Lined with sailboats and yachts of all sizes, the island’s characteristic port is one of the most beautiful in Greece.
Built in amphitheater form overlooking the water, the port of Poros hosts tiny shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and squares, but there is more to this island than meets the eye. Poros is actually an island pair made up of two separate parts: Spheria and Kalavria, taking its form after the volcanic explosion of Methana in the late 3rd century BC.
Unlike the dry rocky environment characteristic of many Greek islands, Poros is filled with green pine trees. Though less famous for its beaches, a few local favorites include Askeli, Love Bay, Kanali, Russian Bay and Panagitsa.
Among notable places to visit here are the Temple of Poseidon, the Zoodochos Pigi Holy Monastery, the Archaeological and Shell Museums, and last but not least, Citronne Art Gallery. Of course, there is no missing the island’s most famous landmark: the Poros Clock Tower. Poised atop a rocky foundation with a magnificent view of the port, this is the island’s “Big Ben,” chiming in to remind you of the time well into the night and in the early morning hours.
A sight special to this island is the Oraia Koimomeni or Sleeping Beauty of Poros: a series of mountains in the distance resembling a reclining woman...a truly spectacular backdrop for a most memorable island sunset. Take a stroll along the harbor and enjoy the view!
A popular destination for Athenians and tourists alike, the port of Poros exudes a very Greek island aura. It offers a perfect mix of daytime bliss and sparkling nightlife.
We suggest visiting Poros for the weekend before heading off to the more mellow...
One of the most popular islands in the Argo-Saronic, a visit to Hydra romantically takes you back in time. Aside from limited municipal vehicles, Hydra to this day remains car and motorcycle-free, relying instead traditionally on donkeys and mules.
The port, originally built during a period of prosperity largely gained from piracy, has been restored and preserved as it was in the 1800’s, making it a wonderful place to sit back and relax at one of the many tavernas, unwind by the clock tower and watch the world - and donkeys, followed by cats - go by.
Hydra’s small rocky coves offer excellent swimming opportunities in crystal clear waters.
Then we head to SPETSES:
A major player in the 1821 War of Independence, the island of Spetses flaunts a sophisticated flair and boasts a longstanding naval tradition, this, evident in the numerous captain’s mansions still standing. A ride through the cobblestone streets on a horse-drawn carriage can transport you back in time in the well-preserved old harbor neighborhood that’s also lined with cafes overlooking the waterfront.
The island features two museums well worth a visit. Housed in the 18th century Venetian mansion of the then Governor Hatziyiannis Mexis, the Spetses Museum displays folk art and letters written by the War of Independence heroes including Athanasios Diakos and Kolokotronis. This museum also features archaeological finds dated some 4,000 years. The Bouboulina Museum pays tribute to the 1821 revolution’s famous heroine and naval commander, Laskarina Bouboulina. Based in her home, the museum features rare publications and a weapon collection that was used in the quest for freedom.
Those visiting in September may be lucky enough to witness the annual Armata - a festival celebrating an 1821 battle where a Turkish effigy ship bursts into a fireworks display alluding to victory against Ottoman rule.
With a rich and highly significant history, the island of Spetses exudes a romantic and heroic aura. Characteristic to this island are the unique naval-themed black and white pebble floor mosaics adorning parts of the street and house courtyards. Depicted in the mosaics are anchors, mermaids, sailboats and more, hinting at the story of the island’s glorious past.
Spetses is a great destination to discover by bicycle. And don’t sail away before trying the island's famous almond sweets - the amygdalota.
WORDS: Portes Magazine | Rebecca Hall
PHOTOS: Anthe Mitrakos | Chris Ouzounis