So near to the mainland and yet so far, Aegina offers a surprisingly unspoilt escape. Aegina, a small and charming island
in the Saronic Gulf, will give you a taste of what you’re missing of all other Greek islands
. Though only an hour from Athens by ferry, this place feels worlds away from the megalopolis. Its long summers and mild winters make it a year-long holiday destination. And it’s surprisingly unspoiled: you’ll find antiquities and traditional tavernas, a port town with a 19th
-century atmosphere, beaches for (almost) year-round swimming, deserted Byzantine chapels, pine-clad hills, acres of pistachio orchards and mounds of freshly roasted pistachios. Visit Perdika and you could be in a Cycladic village. Or the Temple of Aphaia and you’ll discover one of Greece’s most memorable sanctuaries.
What to do in Aegina
A retro ride around Aegina’s town
First explore the old town. But before you set off, don’t forget to buy a bag of those pistachios. If you’re feeling romantic or lazy, you can take a tour in a horse-drawn carriage and be transported instantly into the 19th century. Close to Athens, in the heart of the Saronic Gulf, you’ll enjoy picture-perfect imagery. You’ll pass the dazzling white chapel of Agios Nikolas, brightly painted fishing caiques, some of which double as floating greengrocers, and the fish market with almost as many tavernas as stalls. Make sure you come back here to sample the seafood with a glass of ouzo.
Here and there stand imposing neoclassical buildings and monuments, vestiges from the early post-independence days when Ioannis Kapodistrias, the country’s first governor, made Aegina its capital. Venture into the side streets and you’ll find cafes in shaded courtyards, galleries, and shops selling hand-painted ceramics, clothes and knick-knacks.
The power of Ancient Greece
On your trip to Aegina, you’ll come across the well-preserved columns of the Temple of Aphaia, an ancient temple predating the Parthenon. Rising in a pine forest above the bay of Agia Marina, the peaceful site invites you to sit down, feel the ancient energy of Greece and think back when this temple, Sounion’s temple of Poseidon to the east and the Parthenon formed a hypothetical isosceles triangle, a symbol of the far-reaching might of Athens.
Paleahora: A stroll through mediaeval Aegina
For a glimpse of a more recent era, a stroll along the steep hillside of Paleohora will take you back to Byzantine Aegina. This was the island’s capital, where the islanders moved to be out of sight of the cutthroat pirates that scoured the Aegean. All that is left are the remnants of its many 38 stone chapels. As you explore them, you’ll find yourself scrambling to the top of the hill to see the twin chapel of Saints George and Demetrius where the medieval fortress once stood. The hike is especially delightful in spring when wild flowers carpet the slope.
Agios Nektarios: a place of pilgrimage
Orthodox Christians from all over flock to the 20th- century church of Agios Nektarios to honour Greece’s first modern saint, whose embalmed body is considered miraculous.
The Monastery of Agios Nektarios
Orthodox pilgrims have been coming here for years, to worship at the holy monastery of Agios Nektarios, considered to be a miracle worker.
A trip to Perdika
No island should be explored solely by land. Charter a yacht or a speedboat at Kalamaki and you can sail into the little fishing port of Perdika in no time. You may only be in the Saronic Gulf, but you’ll think you’ve reached the Cyclades. Whitewashed houses, flower-lined steps, fish tavernas on stilts just like in the postcards. You can even enjoy a second island at the same time, since little Moni, with its emerald waters lies a mere 10 minutes offshore.
Images of Aegina
Hidden gems of Aegina
The floating greengrocers
Even if you don’t want to buy anything, it will be a feast for your eyes. You won’t find fruit and vegetable sellers like these anywhere else in Greece. It’s a sight worth discovering during your holidays on the island!
The Christos Kapralos Museum
Just outside the main town, this old studio of one of Greece’s most famous sculptors, houses some of his best-known works and drawings. The bronze portrait of his mother looks out to sea opposite the house, where he summered from 1963-91.
The archaeological site of Kolona
The sounds and smells of the Aegean wafted over one of the most important prehistoric settlements in Greece for thousands of years, of which only remains exist today. At the end of the 6th century BC, the hill was transformed into a sanctuary, with the Doric temple to Apollo dominating the site. The monolithic column that formed part of the temple was for years a point of reference for Venetian sailors, who named the area Colonna.