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How can you beat that?
So, if you have already traveled for hours over the Atlantic and have been touring in the mainland of Greece, there is no need to spend hours on a boat too. Some of the most picturesque Greek Islands are lying right at your fingertips.
Bear with me here. We need to talk geography for a sec so that you can understand how close these islands are.
The Saronic Gulf sits at the feet of Piraeus – that’s the port in Athens. The gulf includes the islands of Poros, Aegina, Salamis, Agistri and the isles of Fleves and Patroklos.
But right where the Saronic Gulf ends, the Argolic Gulf begins. This is closer to Peloponnese, the breathtaking mainland of southern Greece.
The main island in the Argolic Gulf is Spetses followed by the isles of Bourtzi, Plateia, and Psili. And somewhere between the two gulfs stand Hydra and Dokos.
In practice, when we talk about the Argo-Saronic Islands, we refer to the archipelago of both sea districts. And the most visited inhabited islands in the area are Hydra, Spetses, Aegina, Poros, and Agistri. Each has a unique atmosphere and more than one good reason for visiting. So hang in there and let us take a cruise together to the nearest islands in Athens.
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Want to visit Greek Islands in the Cyclades? Read our relative article…
(the Lady with a Heavy Historical Legacy)
It lures you before you step foot on it. Spetses still bears the legacy of a rich history portrayed on old captain mansions, which still stand to define its character and aura. It has been the muse of writers and has the perfect size for relaxing vacations. Not big to get lost but with several hidden gems to discover.
Here’s the kicker! There are no cars apart from a couple of taxis. You get around on foot, bikes, motorbikes (which you can rent) – you get the picture: a step closer to nature. So, get comfortable shoes. But it can get romantic too!
You can get around with a horse-drawn carriage!!! For a more modern approach to the distant beaches, you can always hop on a water taxi – to make your life much easier.
Everything you need in terms of food, coffee, and a first-row view of the sea is found in the old port. But if you like to go backstage, hop on a carriage or rent a bike and check out the local architecture, the Kounoupitsas area, and the Anargirio & Korgialenio School.
Did you know that the English novelist, John Robert Fowles taught here and his temporary stay in Spetses inspired him to write The Magus?
You can also wander around the old mansions, the mansion of Hatzigianni Mexi – who was Spetses’s first governor, and the Bouboulina Museum, the heroine of the Greek War of Independence.
Spetses played a great role in the Greek Revolution in 1821. And the Bouboulina Museum along with the cannons which stand in Dappia, the main port of Spetses, is reminiscent of that period. It was the first island to raise the flag of revolution and had a strong fleet that made a difference in the struggle.
Back to the summer vacations!
Some of the most popular beaches? Agia Anargyri, Kaiki Beach, Vrelas Beach, Ksilokeriza…
The good news is that it takes one or two hours based on whether you take the fast speed ferry or not to get to Spetses and if you decide to simply do nothing and just relax for a day or two, you can simply do that without getting bored.
The view of the expensive yachts side by side with the traditional wooden boats and the gravity of the Poseidon Hotel, which stands in the old port to remind visitors the glory it has experienced with the hundreds of stars, politicians, royalties, and international high society that had stayed in the sea-view rooms are enough to bring you back once again when you wave goodbye to the beautiful island of Spetses.
(Cosmopolitan & Picturesque)
Hydra! Breathtaking and unique, it will steal your heart. Its name is derived from the ancient Greek word for water: hydor. It’s only 2 hours away from Athens. You just take the ferry from the port of Piraeus and get there before you know it.
Just like Spetses, the interesting part in Hydra is the prohibition of using cars. You can settle for donkey riding instead. Though, the island is easy to walk and thus most people get around on foot. If you want to approach distant beaches or take a tour around the island, you hop on a boat.
The charm of Hydra derives from the way the houses lay at the slope of the island and the local color. It carries a heavy maritime legacy and thus played a vital role in the Greek Independence War too by contributing hundreds of ships and supplies. Today, you can still see the mansions of the local captains before you even step foot on the island. They feature as jewels in the front row of this beautiful Greek island.
Hydra is also known for sponge fishing, the large number of churches and monasteries, and the rocky hillsides. If you like hiking, there are plenty of paths but wear snickers and hats. The main village is Hydra Town – in and around the port. The streets in Hydra are narrow and paved – a distinguished feature of most Greek islands.
The most famous beaches? Spilia and Hydroneta are in a walking distance from the town. If you don’t mind walking a bit farther, you can also get to the Kaminia and Vlichos beaches on foot – but mind your step. The paved paths and the slopes under the sun don’t make walking easy. Be prepared to wear comfy shoes. Take a taxi boat if you want to get to the beaches of Agios Nikolaos, Avlaki, Mandraki, Molos, Limnioniza and Bisti.
Hydra is a must-visit Greek island. You will be lured by its cosmopolitan aura that attracts jet-setters not only from Athens but around the world but it still offers easy ways to relax. It’s colorful, close by, and provides great sights and many Mediterranean cuisine choices.
(A Breath Away from Athens)
It got its name from the mythological king Aeacus, is a great vacation destination for most Athenians and visitors due to the proximity to the capital of Greece, and is famous for the local pistachios. It will take you half an hour or one hour to get there depending on whether you get the regular or speed ferry.
Aegina has experienced its good and bad moments during its historical course and has been under the influence of the Byzantine Empire, the Frankish rule, and the Venetian dominance for a long time. And so today, you can still see buildings reminiscent of such periods.
Some of the most prevalent landmarks in Aegina? The temples of Aphaea and Zeus Hellanios, the monastery of Agios Nectarios, and the statue of the first governor of independent Greece, Ioannis Kapodistrias whose building served as a school, library, and museum before it was transferred to Athens.
The island is great for family vacations but also visitors, who want a quick weekend getaway. It’s the solution to those interested in visiting a few archeological sites and relax at the same time.
The most popular beaches in Aegina? Agia Marina, Souvala, Marathon, and Perdika.
Since Aegina is close to Athens, it gets crowdie over the weekend. So, make your plans based on whether or not you mind crowded islands. Don’t forget to get plenty of pistachios before you go. They can’t get any better!
(Small & still Elegant)
It’s close to Athens and built on the slopes of hills. As the ferry approaches Poros, you will be able to view the beautiful houses with the red roof shingles standing out like a card-postal. If you get the fast ferry, you will be there in about an hour. Alternatively, you can take the regular ferry, which takes about 2 hours and 35 minutes to get to Poros. If you want to avoid getting to the port of Piraeus, you can also get a flying dolphin from Porto Heli and Ermioni. The trip will take an hour or an hour and a half.
With that said, let us explore the island of Poros.
It’s bushy with lots of pine trees and crystal waters. Like all islands in the Argosaronic, it gets crowdie on weekends due to its close distance from Athens. Once again, like most Greek islands, the hype is around the port which is the main town of the island. But you can also visit the villages of Neorio and Askeli. One of the distinctive features of Poros is that it consists of two isles: Kalavria and Sferia, which are connected with a bridge.
If you plan to stay for a few days, you can also take the ferry and visit Galatas, which is exactly opposite from Poros. It’s worth visiting too. By all means, you can also travel to Galatas from Athens. It’s a purely traditional Greek destination with lots of olive trees and three beaches: Aliki, Plaka, and Bouja.
Back to Poros! The best beaches?
In spite of its small size, Poros boasts of a rather large number of organized beaches, like Askeli, Megalo Neorio, Mikro Neorio, Love Bay, Monastiri, Kalavria, Kanali etc.
(Tiny & Greenery)
Agistri is one of the smallest inhabited Argosaronic islands. It’s one of the closest destinations from Athens since it will take you an hour to get there with the flying dolphin or an hour and a half with the regular ferry.
The most interesting parts of Agistri? Skala, Megalochori, Limenaria, Dragonera, and Aponissos. The two latter ones have great beaches. You can move around by bus and there is also a tourist train but only for coming and going to Skala.
What’s nice is the traditional color. Most houses keep their original architectural design and local color. There is plenty of green surroundings and beaches too.
The most popular beaches in Agistri? The beaches of Skala and Megalochori are organized and the most popular ones. For more natural beauty, visit the beaches of Dragonera and Aponissos. Other beaches include Xekofti, Skliri, Chalikiada, Bariama, and Magiza.
Note that not all of these beaches are organized and some are hidden for you to discover.
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On our part, we say farewell…
See you in the Argosaronic
One of the greatest advantages of the Argosaronic Islands is their close distance to Athens. You don’t have to travel far to lie on a beach. You can leave in the morning and lie on the beach a couple of hours (or so) later. And that makes them a great getaway even if you visit Athens for business.
On top of that, you can travel to more than one destination. You can pop to Poros and if you get tired or want to see more places, take the ferry and go to Spetses or Aegina or Agistri or Hydra. They are all very close to each other and still have a different color – and that’s a good thing when you like to return home with colorful memories.