Are you planning your upcoming holidays in Athens? Sure there are so many things you can do in the Greek capital. However after a few days in a big city maybe you want a change. Do you feel like having island holidays? We have for you the answer. Here are some islands that are close to Athens and they can offer you the weekend gateway you may seek.
Aegina is located just 40 minutes from Piraeus, the main Port of Athens. It is very popular among the Athenians. It is a place where you can feel the original pulse of Greek mentality. You have the opportunity to meet locals or tourists from all over Greece. The island is quite small. It is easy to guide yourselves around. Aegina’s history starts from the ancient times when it used to be a great naval power. The island never stopped to be an important place for Greece’s history and development. Aegina Island was also under the Venetian rule and this is profound in its architectural aspect. The sea and the natural beauty of the island meet a rich spiritual heritage. It is the ideal last minute summer destination as you can avoid the mass of the tourists.
Reaching the port with boat, the elegant neoclassical buildings will catch the eye of the visitor. The light blue waters of the Saronic Gulf host hundreds of fish boats and yachts since the marine is a safe anchorage. The main town is cosmopolitan full with narrow streets waiting for you to discover each unique corner. In the centre you can find all kind of shops, restaurants and cafes. The island is famous for the large production of pistachios.
The tourists of Aegina have also the opportunity to get to know the ancient history of the area. Stepping foot on the island you should definitely visit the Temple of Athena Aphaia. The temple is dedicated as you can understand from its name to goddess Athena. It is on the top of the hill and it is considered to be one of the ancient architectural wonders of ancient Greece. The monument was built in 480 BC and stands grandly on the hill facing the Saronic Gulf.
While the time travelling comes to an end, we should get back to the reality. One other worth-seeing site of the town is the neoclassical house where Nikos Kazantzakis wrote the famous novel Zorbas the Greek. After that you should treat yourselves with fresh fish from the rich Greek sea in one of the many taverns near the port. The whole place is picturesque and the friendly atmosphere awards every tourist who chose to spend his holidays here.
Enough with the sightseeing and lets sunbathe and relax a little. Although the island is small, the visitor has many choices as to where to go for swimming. First, we should mention Souvala. It is the second port of Aegina. As you approach it you understand that it is a beautiful traditional fish village with nice taverns and shops. The beach has hot thermal waters. Driving through a forest with pine trees we reach Agia Marina beach which is a popular destination for the tourists. The beach is a large sandy and organized region. It is circled with the pine forest and the trees almost reach the water.
Furthermore, if you have a yacht you should definitely visit the village Perdikas. Then go for swimming in the island across it called Moni. Perdikas is another traditional village in Aegina. Its marine with the private boats is quite picturesque and gives fine sunset scenery for those who stay there. Only 3 km away is the island Moni which uninhabited. It is a small beautiful island with deer, ponies, wild goats, pheasants, peacocks and squirrels. The animals are familiar with the humans and they dare to approach and even eat from your hands. How amazing and unique experience is that! The waters in Moni are quite deep. The many little gulfs are full with yachts floating above the green crystal waters. The biggest part of the island is covered with pine trees. Apart from swimming and meeting the wildlife of the area try having a picnic or go trekking and hiking.
Agistri is a small island next to Aegina, only 55 minutes from Piraeus port. The tiny island is ideal for a relaxing weekend getaway. The little quiet villages catch the eye of the visitor immediately. Skala is most popular tourist resort. It is the natural port of Agistri. The visitor there will find all sorts of bars, restaurants and traditional taverns. Locals are friendly and willing to show you all the best places of their hometown. We urge you to try traditional snacks and dishes and you will be thrilled with their cuisine. Although Skala is small, it is awake until late hours thanks to a couple of nightclubs that attract young crowds.
The capital of Agistri is Megalochori which from the ancient times was used as a base for naval operations. The village is surrounded by vast greenery and it has natural coves that have crystal waters. As you walk around you will observe that Megalochori has preserved its character and hasn’t been tampered from the touristic waves. It still has little cafes built around the tiled paths. Picturesque corners are everywhere you look like they appear straight from the past. The houses are whitewashed and stone built with nice yards.
Agistri is notable for its natural beauty. Here you will find both secluded beaches and organized ones that attract the vast majority of the tourists. If you seek for an organized beach that has all the facilities then you should go to Skala beach or to Megalochori beach. As you can understand from the names of the beaches, they are the coasts of the two villages that attract the most of the tourists. Both of them are family friendly and sandy. Moreover, two ideal beaches for those who have a yacht are Aponissos and Chalikiada. Aponissos is the highlight of Agistri. It has incredible crystal clear waters. The pebbled bay is surrounded by pine trees. Chalikiada is also a pebbled beach. The waters are transparent and you can easily see the seabed even from the deck of your boat. The bay is circled by abrupt high cliffs. On the top the pine tree forest makes the scenery even more exotic. Finally, we have Dragonera beach, which is organized. It still remains unspoiled and the beauty is incomparable. The green cliffs around and the white pebbles along with the blue color of the Saronic Gulf compose a mesmerizing scenery.
Poros is another island in the Saronic Gulf and only 1 hour away from Piraeus. It consists of two islands, Sferia and Kalavria. They are connected by an artificial canal. Poros is very close to Peloponnese as the canal that separates them is just 200 meters wide. The capital of Poros is Poros Town where the main port is also located. The white or bright colored neoclassical buildings are built amphitheatrically. The narrow streets are colorful from the bougainvillea and the hibiscus. On the highest point of the village there is a light blue clock tower that was built in 1927. The tower is visible from every part of the village. If you go late in the afternoon you will enjoy an astonishing sunset along with the view of the mountainous Peloponnesian coast.
Poros has some beautiful beaches perfect for relaxation and sunbathing. Love Bay is probably the most beautiful beach in the island. The bay is small but it is like a real paradise on earth. You will swim in crystal emerald waters and above your head you will admire a forest of pine trees. If you love adventures then you should visit Askeli beach where you can try water sports. The beach here is large with golden sand and the waters are deep. Near the beach, there is Askeli village where you can find bars, shops and taverns. In addition two other beaches that should be on your list are Megalo Neorio and Mikro Neorio. They are connected through a footpath. Both of them are suitable for families and partly organized. Their natural beauty is apparent. The sandy shore is long and has natural shadow by the pine trees that reach the sea. The last recommended beach would be Monastiri, a small cove protected by green cliffs. The clear waters here make the place ideal for scuba diving.
Hydra is only 1.5 hours away from Athens. It is an excellent getaway from the hustle and bustle of Athens since motor vehicles are forbidden on the island. It is quiet and has an unspoiled character. It has an aristocratic vibe that it is reflected on the architecture. The stunning 18th century villas standing on the watrefront will welcome you to Hydra. You will be tempted to sit in the little cafes and restaurants and enjoy the summer breeze. Take your time to wander around Hydra town. It is full of mansions from the 18th century built by wealthy ship owners and merchants. Some of those villas have turned into museums. The houses are standing very close to each other making the streets narrow. The houses have tile roofs and bright colored windows. The whole town is a true jewel, unspoiled by any modern architecture.
The coastline of Hydra is rocky and is full of small bays with crystalline waters. Some beaches are only accessible by boat. The beaches of Hydra are ideal for relaxation and they give generously to the visitor moments of serenity. Limnioza beach is small bay with pebbled shore. The waters are deep blue and transparent allowing you to see the rocky seabed. It is perfect if you seek seclusion. On the contrary of the privacy that Limnioza offers, is Bisti beach. It is an organized beach with umbrellas and sea beds. The bay is circled by green hills and as the color of threes is reflected on the water it makes it look emerald. Bisti is an ideal place to go if you like scuba diving. Agios Nikolaos beach is a totally remote beach that is accessible only by boat. The shore is pebbled and the waters have a deep blue color.
Hydra is also the ideal weekend getaway for those who always want to have a sip of adventure in their vacation. If you are into hiking Hydra is the place to be. There are official routes you can follow. They will reveal you mesmerizing panoramic views of the island and astonishing natural sceneries. One more fun activity you can try is horse-riding. There are many different excursions you can try and all of them are worth going. And finally, as we have already mentioned, some beaches due to the rocky seabed are interesting for scuba diving.
Spetses Island is just 2 hours away from Athens and is a perfect weekend getaway since it is a charming verdant quiet place. Like Hydra, no motor vehicles are allowed in Spetses, except scooters. The scenery is similar to Hydra’s. Neoclassical houses and cobblestone streets are the elements that make Spetses picturesque. The town of Spetses has the main harbor that is also a trade centre. The settlement is lively and is full of tourists in the summer. Shops, cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops are spread around. It also has a quite vivid nightlife.
The beaches of Spetses won’t disappoint you. The most popular beach of the island is Agia Marina. It took its name from the small pink and white chapel that is surrounded by palm trees, pines and cypresses. The beach is both pebbled and sandy and is organized. You can also enjoy fresh fish and sea food in the taverns by the sea. Agia Paraskevi beach is a sandy family friendly coast that is shaded by a thick pine forest. To continue with Agioi Anargiri beach, one of the largest beaches in Spetses. Its deep waters make the place ideal for water sports. For the end we saved Kaiki beach that offers a view of the opposite coastline of Porto Heli in Peloponnese. Kaiki is one of the most popular beaches close to the main town. It is fully organized with umbrellas, sun beds and equipment for water sports.
Kea or Tzia
Only 1 hour away from Lavrio there is Kea, a Cycladic island close to the mainland. Although it is so close to Athens, tourists usually pass it by. This is why Kea is the best weekend getaway if you seek seclusion. Its architecture and looks have nothing to do with the typical Cycladic style. The houses are white but have tiled roofs. The main settlement is Ioulida. It is quiet and has the spirit of a traditional village. You won’t see any cars here, since everyone has to leave theirs at the entrance of the house. In the village there are remains of a Venetian wall and ancient fortifications. The Archaeological museum is also located in Ioulida. It has a nice collection of items that were found in the excavations around the island. These items prove that Tzia has been inhabited since Post Neolithic Age and had a flourishing civilization during the Early, the Middle and the Post Copper Age.
Kea has majestic natural beauty. Unlike the rest of the rocky land of the Cycladic islands, Tzia has large areas with lush vegetation. If you like scuba diving or you want to try the sport this is the place to do it! Kea has an amazing sea bed full with shipwrecks. The HMHS Britannic, sister-ship to the Titanic, was sunk near Tzia by a German naval mine in 1916 on only its sixth voyage and it’s considered one of the most significant shipwrecks in the Mediterranean, and of all time. On the reef of Koundourou, there’s another sunken ship, the steamer Patris that went down in 1868. Moving to the shore and towards the land of the island it is worth to visit the Temple of Pythiou Apollo built in 530 BC. To get there you can follow the same ancient trail that worshippers used to follow to get to the Temple.
As we mentioned before, Kea is the hottest destination for a weekend getaway for those who love scuba diving. Koundouros and Korissia beaches are two beautiful sandy beaches that have diving clubs to exercise your favorite sport. They have a long shore and are popular among tourists. On the other hand if you seek for privacy and to get away from the crowds then you should visit Liparo beach or Near Kambi beach. The first one is sandy and has light blue waters. The other is pebbled and its crystal waters make any one want to take a dive.