Gems of the Saronic Gulf

One of our greatest goals here at Fantasy Travel is to help you discover the hidden treasures of Greece. If you are reading this, chances are you’re already aware of popular destinations such as Santorini or Mykonos. Although wonderful in their own way, the little Mediterranean slice of heaven we call Greece has a lot more to offer. This is why we are launching a new blog series which will focus on places that don’t get as much attention as they should.

Today we will talk about the islands of the Saronic Gulf. This small islandic group is very popular among locals due to their close proximity to Athens, which makes them an ideal destination for a weekend getaway as they feature numerous options for entertainment. Accommodation is usually not an issue throughout the year, so next time you find yourself in the Athenian metropolis without a solid plan laid out, why not swing by Aegina, Agistri, Poros or Hydra for a different kind of Greek island experience?

 

Aegina

For such a small island, Aegina has enjoyed an impressively prominent role in ancient history. During ancient times it was a rival of Athens, the great sea power of the era. As such, the island is, to this day, full of archaeological sites and historical points of interest. Next to the island’s Archaeological Museum you can find the site of Kolona, containing the remnants of the Doric temple of Apollo. Even more impressive is the temple of Aphaia, a well-preserved monument shrouded in mystery, due it forming a perfect isosceles triangle with the Parthenon and the temple of Apollo in Delphi and another one with the Hephaesteion and the temple of Poseidon in Cape Sounion.

History is not the only reason to visit Aegina though. Surrounded by crystal clear azure waters, the island provides many opportunities for a swim or even a boat ride from the picturesque village of Perdika to the smaller island of Moni. In the mainland, one can traverse the hills to the stone chapels of Paleahora (meaning old village) or visit the Monastery of Agios Nektarios. Finally, don’t forget to taste Aegina’s pistachios, a delicacy famous all around Greece.

 

Agistri

A stone’s throw away from the capital is Agistri, the smallest island in this group. Nevertheless, it remains an attractive destination for those seeking to spend a few tranquil days away from the city and surrounded by the cerulean sea of the Saronic. Agistri is home to numerous secluded sandy beaches, most within walking distance from one of the island’s three settlements.

The calm weather in Agistri is ideal for an assortment of water-based activities. Boat rides around the island give you the opportunity to explore the coastline and for the more adventurous types out there, kayaking and scuba diving have strong communities which attract members from the surrounding areas.

The architecture of Agistri will resonate with you as it combines the whitewashed houses of the Aegean with the terracotta roofs usually reserved for the mainland. Even though it is not famous for its flora, the bougainvillea blossoms that can be found on the southern part of the island produce a soothing effect as you hike the trails through the fruit groves. If you are ever on these parts, you can also try horseback riding, before you continue on your journey and explore Agistri’s graphic chapels which are spread all around the island.

 

Poros

Only an hour away by ferry from the port of Piraeus, Poros is one of the most easily accessible islands from the capital and with multiple routes daily, it can even serve as a one-day excursion. The island is extremely close to Peloponnese, with a 200m (650ft) strip of water separating it from the mainland. That gives Poros a unique coastline, as a big part of it is almost lagoon-like. Geographically, Poros consists of two islands connected by a bridge over a narrow strait. In the north there is the larger Kalavria, while the volcanic Sphairia resides on the south part.

The sightseeing begins before you even set foot on the island, as Poros’ iconic clock tower looms over the main town’s port. Standing on a rocky pedestal, this magnificent, 92-year-old monument is a must-see even if it is a bit of a climb to get to the top. Another point of interest that isn’t usual around those parts is the Russian Naval Yard, located on a bay on the far side of the island. The base was established during the late 18th century when a Russian armada docked there to survive attacks from the Ottoman Empire.

Much like the rest of the Saronic Gulf islands, Poros has many picturesque villages and hiking trails that lead to sandy beaches or secluded bays. Water sports are big on the island with waterskiing, banana boating, kayaking and stand-up paddle-boarding usually available in the summer.

 

Hydra

Hydra is a very cosmopolitan island full of bars, cafés, clubs and restaurants on its seaside. With a strong artistic community, it is home to numerous galleries and shops focusing on homemade souvenirs. Exploring them while walking through the narrow streets of the main town will take you to stone squares reminiscent of Greece’s mountainous areas and cul-de-sacs leading to traditional taverns. Away from the coast you will find a multitude of monasteries, churches and even convents ideally suited for visitors who wish to combine hiking with sightseeing.

Hydra is famous worldwide for belonging to a niche group of islands that don’t allow cars. As a result, getting around the island can be achieved in different ways including trekking, sea taxis to secluded beaches laid with pebbles (Mandraki is the only sandy beach on the island) or even the traditional donkey ride.

Finally, after a walk around the harbor, be sure to drop by the Historical Archive Museum and as you step out, watch the beautiful sunset with a view of the Andreas Miaoulis cannons, a monument built to honor the famous hero of the Greek Revolution.

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