The Saronic Gulf is the sea that washes the coast of Athens and Piraeus. There are several islands in it, with Aegina being one of them. There are several low cost runs between Aegina and Piraeus every day. It takes about one hour by ordinary boat and half as much by flying dolphin.
Upon the arrival at the island, visitors can see the really nice old houses of Aegina, some of which are refurbished and in perfect condition. Close to them there are some horse-drawn carriages, a nice way to visit the town. If you choose to go on foot, try to enter the small, narrow roads of the town of Aegina; they are totally worth it!
Worth seeing are the main church close to the harbour, the small church at the entrance of the port, the Tower of Markelos and the old Prisons that used to be the First Orphanage School of modern Greece. Aegina once was the first unofficial capital city of modern Greece. One can see many nice cottages all around the island, with stone walls beautifully adorned by nice flowers, especially bougainvilleas.
If you want to go around the island you should better rent a car or a motorcycle. There are some nice beaches within walking distance from the town of Aegina, but still you may need to explore the rest of the island. Busses can also be an option. There are plenty of hotels and rooms to let all around the island. Prices for accommodation, food and drinks are much better than Athens or the Cyclades.
Close to the city there are the ancient ruins of the first inhabitants of Aegina, in the area called Kolona (which means “column”). Pay a visit to the monuments and have a swim at the nearby beach.
On the island there is located one of the most famous temples in ancient Greece, the Temple of Afea (it means “unseen” in Greek). Its unique location at the top of the mountain offers terrific view to the Saronic Gulf. If the weather is good and the atmosphere clear, you can even see cape Sounio, the island of Kea, Athens and Piraeus, as well as some parts of the Peloponnese. The temple is in a really good condition. The area is covered with pine trees, so most likely you can find a shadow to relax. The Temple of Afea is located about 20’from the city of Aegina.
If you like hiking, you can climb up the Ellanion Oros (mount Ellanion). There you can find an archaic altar devoted to Ellanios Zeus (the translation is “Zeus of all Greece”). The weather in Aegina is a bit dry and warm, still a lot better than Athens.
Famous beaches on Aegina are Aeginitissa (very organised, with beach bars), Marathonas, Perdika, Kamares, Souvala, Vagia and Santa Marina. In Santa Marina you can find many restaurants and bars. It used to be a party place some decades ago, now it is a lot more quiet and even suitable for families. In Perdika there are some really nice fish tavernas and crystal clear deep waters where you will enjoy swimming.
From the harbour of Perdika you can take a small boat to the nearby island of Moni. This island belongs to a monastery and it is uninhabited. On the island there is a beach bar – restaurant so you don’t need to carry a lot. Upon the hill there is a shelter for animals, peacocks, deer and wild goats (called kri-kri). Some of the animals are not afraid of the tourists, meaning that will come close to you and you will be able to take pictures of them. The adjacent beach is really nice, sandy. On the other side of the island there is also a nice, rocky beach, not so crowded, where you can exercise your diving! The boat costs only 5 euros and in 10-minute time will take you to the island. Sometimes there are also parties thrown on the island!
Aegina is also famous for its many monasteries. Luckily, lots of them allow visits to those interested. Well known are the monastery of Saint Nektarios and the monastery of Panagia Chryssoleontissa (Holy Mary of the Golden Lion) for women.
Aegina is famous for a product that is its pride and joy: the pistachio. As a matter of fact, this type of pistachio is know in Greece by the name of the island (we say “Aegina pistachio”). Try it dried or even roasted. At the end of the summer, a feast for this unique product is held on the island too.
Either visiting for a daytrip or for longer holidays, Aegina has a lot to offer to those who choose to pay a visit. From Aegina you can also travel to Agkistri, Methana and Poros. During summer, there are also boat trips to the ancient theater of Epidaurus.
Text by Christos Loukas (aka KitsosMitsos)
world traveller and blogger