With the sun shining and the temperatures rising around this time of the year, many of us living in Athens get what I call, the island fever; an urge to visit one of the nearby Greek islands to escape the City . . . to enjoy the island atmosphere with its many attractions including sightseeing, beaches, sailing, walking, cycling, wining and dining!
Last week, on a beautiful sunny day with blue skies and calm seas my husband and I picked a perfect day to visit the Saronic island of Aegina.
We left Piraeus with the first morning ferry at 07.00am and arrived in Aegina in a little over an hour. Even at this early hour, one of the first things we noticed upon arrival, was a line of horse-drawn carriages ready to take you on a spin around the port and its surroundings . . . which can be fun, especially on a first visit to the island!
The town of Aegina is quite traditional and while tourism is in evidence, particularly in the summer, it is still largely Greeks who come here for the day to enjoy many of the island’s waterfront cafes, restaurants and small ouzeries.
Many Greeks and tourists alike come to the island to visit the Church of Saint Nektarios, to pray and ask for Saint Nektarios’ blessing. Saint Nektarios (Agios Nektarios) of Aegina being one of the most widely known Greek Orthodox Saints. Above the church you will also find a monastery inhabited by a small community of nuns who tend to the spiritual needs of those who come to seek solace as well as a chapel, the holy man’s former residence and a store selling icons, candles and other memorabilia.
Paleachora or “old town”, situated on a steep hill close to Saint Nektarios’ monastery is another must visit location! Here you will see the remains of the Byzantine city which the island’s capital from the 9th century to the early 19th century AD. Apart from the historical interest, the panoramic view over the hill and valley below is also lovely!
Another jewel and must see is the Temple of Aphaia. Worship on the site of this sanctuary goes back to prehistoric times, around 1300 BC, when it was associated with a female fertility deity, as is clear from findings brought to light by archaeological excavations.
The Temple of Aphaia lies above the headland of Agia Marina with an impressive view over the sea. It’s about a half hours’ drive from the port and even if you aren’t a fan of archaeology it’s well worth a visit. The view from the top of the hill is truly impressive and if you are in the mood for refreshments, there is small café below the sanctuary . . . with more great views!
On this trip, after visiting the Temple of Aphaia, we drove downhill (a few minutes’ drive) to the seafront village of Agia Marina (Saint Marina), a well-known center of tourism during the summer months . . . with its sandy beach, pine trees and well organized sports facilities.
At this time of the year however, the village of Agia Marina felt like a ghost town! We could only see a few handymen, fixing some of the village’s buildings and seafront restaurants but otherwise most everything was empty or closed down! I’m sure with the upcoming Easter holiday things will liven up, but it would have been nice to find at least one place open, like the one in the photo below . . . to enjoy a local mezé!
With this thought in mind we headed back into the town of Aegina to get our supplies of pistachios nuts (Greece's best pistachio nuts) and some refreshments at a local café before heading back to Athens with the afternoon ferry.
Normally, we would have driven to the fishing village of Perdika, on the southern edge of the island, for a late lunch at one of our favorite taverns but as the ferry boat schedules this time of year are much less frequent we decided not to wait until the evening ferry . . . but instead . . . return to Aegina as soon as possible for another City Break with wining and dining!
How to get to Aegina: http://www.aeginagreece.com/aegina-island/how-to-get-to-aegina-island/
Port Authority Piraeus:
Tel. +30 210 417341 for information on ferry schedules