Saronic Gulf Islands
An unpretentious simplicity
Extremely close to the capital of Greece, the Saronic Gulf Islands, is an archipelago of islands, spread in the Gulf to the south of the Attica region, operate as an anxiolytic for the Athenians and are a timeless favorite destination for weekends and last minute vacations, not only in spring and summer but in the other seasons.
Aegina is the closest island to Athens and a classic solution for day trips and summer vacation. More and more Athenians acquire a village house. The neoclassical harbor refreshed, Paleochora renovated, significant new investments add points to the travel profile.
“Hydra, is the most picturesque island in the Saronic Gulf, with atmospheric boutique hotels in refurbished mansions, stylish restaurants and lively nightlife, ideal for romantic and secular breaks.”
Equally scenic at Spetses, a short walk by the speed ferry from Piraeus and ... a half step by water taxi from the port of Costa in Argolida (interconnected 24h/7dw), is favorite to the people for a stylish getaway, a timeless preference for couples, classic youth meetings for summer fun. More low profile, with the picturesque Old Town, the proximity to the Peloponnese and the selected accommodation suggestions, Poros has its own fans.
The Saronic Gulf Islands are located south to the mainland of Attica and west to Peloponnese. This group comprises of the islands: Aegina, Agistri, Methana, Poros, Spetses, Hydraand many many uninhabited islets.
The History of Saronic Gulf Islands
The Saronic Gulf Islands offer a fast track to Greek island life. As with all Greek islands, each of the Saronics has a unique feel and culture so you can hop between resort beaches, remote escapism, classical heritage and exquisite architecture. The islands of Saronic Gulf have always been under the historical shadow of the important mainland centre of Attica.
Aegina is home to a spectacular Doric temple and ruined Byzantine village. Nearby, pine-clad Agistri feels protected and peaceful outside of the booming midsummer months. Further south, Poros with its forested hinterland curves only a few hundred metres from Peloponnese. The Saronic showpiece, Hydra, is a wonderful car-free island with a port of carefully preserved stone houses rising from a chic history-charged harbour. Deepest south of all, pine-scented Spetses also has a vibrant nautical history and pretty town architecture plus myriad aqua coves only minutes from the Peloponnese.
The highlight of their ancient history is undoubtedly the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC. A battle between Greeks and Persians, and the fleet of Greeks blocking the Persian ships in the straits of Salamis, managed to score a decisive victory against the Persians. The island of Aegina was at the crossroads of cultures and conflicting factions for thousands of years. In Aigina, we find traces of all periods of history. Walls and foundations of the Bronze Age, Mycenaean remains, Byzantine churches, classical remains and medieval ruins of the city, monuments of the modern history of Greece for a short time which was the first capital under Kapodistrias. Poros Island was oldest naval Amphictyony centre established in parts of the 7th century BC. The historical islands of Hydra and Spetses, are known for their maritime tradition in modern history at the end of 18th century AC for their participation in the Greek War Independence in 1821.
Climate of Saronic Gulf Islands
The Saronic Gulf Islands enjoy a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and pleasantly very hot summers. The temperature in summer is lower than the mainland because of the sea breeze. The safe bays of the islands are ideal, especially for yacht cruising. The short break to an island of the Saronic Gulf will definitely remain unforgettable. The beaches with turquoise waters on Monis island in Aegina, the wonderful clean beaches of Aponisos and Dragonera in Agistri island and the so called ''coves of love'' at the island of Poros will magnetize you. Visit the Archaeological sites at Kolona and at the Temple of Aphaia on Aegina as well as the Historical Museums in Spetses. Ride a donkey in Hydra island, in Spetses or Aegina and make afternoon strolls down the picturesque port of Poros. Moments which become everlasting memories.
Argo Saronic Islands and generally all Greece are in the Eastern European Time Zone (Greenwich Mean Time plus two hours during daylight saving time, all over the year).
A breath away from Athens
The temptation exists to consider the Argo Saronic Gulf as an extension of the mainland or even more specifically, suburbs of Athens. Entrepreneurs have been quick to exploit the islands’ proximity. The daily cruises from Piraeus calling at Aegina, Hydra and Póros, remains a popular attraction for tourists visiting Athens. When the cruise ships mingle with the ferries, the hydrofoils and the catamarans, there is often a virtual traffic jam on the waters and foreign visitors temporarily outnumber Greeks.
The distinctive character of the Argo Saronic Gulf
“The Argo Saronic Gulf islands are brimming with character, rich in Greek history and behind the crowds and the chi chi boutiques, very attractive places.”
Salamis, the largest of these islands, is renowned for the epoch-making naval battle in 480 BC, which decided the outcome of the Persian Wars. Aegina is home to the beautiful Doric Temple of Aphaia, which is one of the most important antiquities to be found on any Greek island. The Argo Saronic Gulf islands in literature and in filmography: Poros and its channel have been immortalised by American author Henry Miller, in “The Colossus of Maroussi” and forested Spétses by John Fowles in his celebrated 1966 novel “The Magus”. Not to be outdone, since the early 1960s Hydra has attracted artists, filmmakers, well-heeled Athenians, trendy French and Italians, movie stars and many other international celebrities.
Just 45 minutes by the hydrofoil, Aegina attracts many travelers. Long a favorites Athenian weekend retreat, Aegina remains more popular with them than among foreign tourists or other Greeks. Between 1826 and 1828, Aegina served as the first capital of the Modern Greek state. Elegant Aegina Town has numerous buildings that constructed when the country’s first president, Ioánnis Kapodístrias, lived and worked there. In Livádi suburb, a plaque marks the house where Níkos Kazantzákis lived during the 1940s and 1950s, and wrote his most celebrated book, Zorba the Greek. Aegina’s main produce is pistachio nuts that is sold everywhere in the island. Aegina’s main attraction is the exceptionally beautiful Temple of Aphaia, on a pine-tufted hilltop commanding a splendid view of the gulf. It was Built around 490 BC in the Doric order, it is the only surviving Greek temple with a second row of small, superimposed columns in the interior of the sanctuary, and one of the most completely preserved – it’s well worth waiting for any crowds to disperse to enjoy it in solitude.
Poros Island is separated from the Peloponnese by a narrow channel. This narrow channel gives the island its name. (Poros in Greek, means ‘passage’). As you sail down the wide passage from its northwest entrance, the town of Poros appears, presiding over one of the most protected anchorages in the Aegean, with scores of yachts berthed in a row. Poros Town is built on several hills, occupies most of the little sub-islet of Sferia, attached to the bulk of Poros by a narrow isthmus cut by a disused canal. Whichever route you choose to climb to the clock tower, you’ll probably lose yourself in narrow lanes overhung with vines and flowers. Poros island sees far more package tourism than its neighbors, along with Athenian weekenders and village homeowners.
The island of Hydra is today mostly a long, barren rock with a few stands of pine. But the postcard-perfect harbor bracketed by grey-stone mansions, Byzantine-tiled and vernacular houses is incomparable. Hydra Island is attracting the artistic and the fashionable since the middle of 20th century, and many others ever since. It is one of the few islands worldwide declared an Architectural Heritage Reserve, which has helped Hydra island retain its original beauty through strict building controls and the banning of most motorized transport.
The town, also called Hydra, is a worldwide popular travel destination, packed out during summer and at weekends most of the year. The harbor, girded by a slender breakwater, forms a perfect crescent, its two ends flanked by 19th-century cannons.
The Overhead, amazing white-plastered houses climbing the slope are accented by massive grey arhondiká, mansions built by shipping families who made fortunes in the 18th and 19th centuries. Some of these are open for visitors, for example the gorgeously restored Lázaros Koundouriótis Museum. Just an hour walk upwards and inland leads to Agía Evpraxía Convent and the Profítis Ilías Monastery while Zoúrvas Monastery stands at the extreme eastern tip of Hydra.
Spetses in antiquity it was known as Pityoússa, and despite devastating fires in recent years it is still marginally the most wooded within the Argo Saronic gulf of islands and with the very beutiful beaches. Tourist development here is far more extensive than on Hydra island but less than on Poros and Aegina.
Spetses was one of the main centres of activity during the Greek War of Independence, using its fleet for the Greek cause. It is distinguished for being the first island that revolted against Ottoman rule in 1821, and the fortified Dápia harbor still bristles with cannons.
Although Spetses island fleet reduced after that war, shipbuilding traditions continue. The local museum in Spetses island contains painted ship-prows of the revolutionary fleet and the bones of local heroine Laskarína Bouboulína.
Just out of town in the opposite direction, stands the Anargyríos and Korgialenios College.
In Argo Saronic Islands and throughout Greece, the euro is the standard currency. This converter allows you to determine the value of other currencies compared with the euro.
Of course, there are so many places where you can exchange your currency for euro such as Banks, Currency exchange offices etc.
Argo Saronic Islands are a popular holiday destination and generally a quite safe place for visitors. Use common caution and be careful when walking around after dark and you won't face any problems while staying there.
Power sockets in Greece deliver 220-240 volts at 60 hertz, and you may need a converter to use your electrical and electronical devices here.
If you have a laptop or a tablet with you, wireless Internet is available throughout Argo Saronic Islands, including in many hotels, coffee shops, etc. At some locations, you have to pay for WiFi.
The drinking age in Argo Saronic Islands —and throughout Greece—is 18, and smoking is banned in public places throughout the Town, including bars, restaurants, Public Transport and taxis. Cigar smoking is permitted at cigar bars that register with the Town. In Argo Saronic Islands , those who are 18 or older can purchase tobacco and cigarettes.