If you are in Greece and fulfill any of the following, I recommend you go for a Saronic islands tour. These options are a. you are in Athens and are looking for a day trip, b. you live in Athens and are looking for a weekend getaway or c. your budget doesn’t allow you to visit any of the heavenly Cyclades or Ionian islands. Greece has always been a popular destination among the superyacht set, and island hopping is necessary if you wish to travel from one place to another. However, in recent years, thanks to a great network of the public ferry, most Greek islands are accessible to ordinary people also. This led to a surge in day trips among the Athenians and what can be lovelier and closer than the Saronic islands.
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Why visit the Saronic islands
Consisting of 7 small islands, the Saronic or Argo Saronic islands are simply lovely. The Argosaronic Gulf of the Aegean Sea entails the islands of Aegina, Hydra, Poros, Spetses, Dokos, and Agistri. These islands lie on calm waters and are mild and green rather than rugged and stony. A peaceful quiet prevails there and the islands are scented with pine, mimosas, lemon, and olive trees. Lovely coves with crystal clear waters can be found there amidst quaint villages and there are plenty of historic sites to explore. I visited the Saronic islands on an organized day trip from Athens and it was one of the best experiences of that holiday. In retrospect, I wish I could spend some time on each of those islands and enjoy slow traveling in Hydra. Anyway, the sailing tour was also nice and it was a day spent in the sun with the blue seas and scented mimosas. Presenting a photo essay and a travel guide to the Saronic islands. This is a must-do activity from Athens.
Saronic Islands Travel Guide
Located between the peninsula of Attica and the northeastern coasts of the Peloponnese, the Saronic islands, in Greece, are part of the Aegean Sea. Due to their short ferry ride from Athens, they are perfect for day trips and are also frequently visited as weekend destinations and for short holidays.
How to Reach
The Saronic islands can be accessed only by sea as they don’t have any airports. Depending on which island you wish to visit, a trip from the ports of Athens can take from 10 minutes to 2 hours. Most ferries for Saronic islands leave from the Piraeus port. The islands of Aegina, Hydra, Spetses Agistri, and Poros can be accessed directly from Piraeus. The Saronic islands ferries usually leave from gates E8 and E9 every morning and some ferries carry cars at an extra price. In summer, the tickets get sold out fast so advance booking is always a good idea. To visit Dokos, one has to rent a private boat. Salamina is closer to the Perama port and there are multiple ferries available throughout the day.
How to Travel around the Saronic islands
The most common means of transport for moving between the islands is a hydrofoil boat. Another good idea is to rent a car or a motorcycle. This will help one access the isolated beaches and the hidden coves. Public transportation or taxis are not available in most cases and one can book a water taxi for more flexibility of movement. Saronic islands are extremely popular and tickets are often sold out in summer. Booking in advance is recommended and you can find tickets here. The island of Poros has a local bus transport option and one can use it to visit different places such as different beaches, the Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi, or the remains of the Temple of Poseidon. You can find the detailed schedule and updates here. The most important thing to remember is that Hydra does not allow any motorized vehicles, so one has to either hike or opt for a water taxi. Alternatively, one can explore the islands on a tour. Hydra – Poros – Aegina is a popular combination. This tour takes the whole day. Refreshments and a guide are included.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit the Saronic islands would be between April and September. However, the islands experience maximum footfall and have peak season prices at this time. Some shops and inns close in early April or late September. There are fewer crowds at this. From mid-July to the end of August, the islands are full of tourists, locals, travelers, and rich residents returning to their island homes.
Saronic Islands Overview
It is the second biggest Saronic island and is famous for the temple of Aphaia, an impressive Doric temple built around 500-490 BC. This charming island is just 40 minutes away from the port of Piraeus. There are plenty of things to do in Aegina. One can visit the temple of Aphaia, the impressive monastery of Agios Nektarios, and the Byzantine churches. The island has some lovely beaches Agia Marina, Aeginitissa, Vagia, Souvala, and the secluded Portes. One can even take a boat from Aegina’s Perdika port to Moni, a little uninhabited island that is located close by. Aegina has some lovely Greek taverns where one can eat fish cooked the local way. It is also famous for very tasty, locally produced, pistachios. One of the most interesting facts about Aegina is that its temple of Aphaia along with the temple of Hephaestus in Athens and the temple of Poseidon in Sounion forms an isosceles triangle on the map. Overall, Aegina is one of the best Saronic islands for a weekend getaway from Athens.
This is my favourite Saronic island. Known as an island of “captains and artists”, Hydra offers a mix of history, stunning architecture, and quiet nature. Add to the mix, a rich history (during the resistance of 1821 against the Ottoman Empire) and the fact that no motorized vehicles are allowed on the island and you have Hydra – the perfect island getaway. It is less than 2 hours by boat from Athens and is included in Saronic island cruises. The port offers stunning views of the town that is built amphitheatrically. Since there are no cars or other vehicles, apart from a handful used by the authorities for emergencies, the only way to explore Hydra is on foot, donkey, horse, or sea taxi. There are many things to do in Hydra. Nature lovers can enjoy hiking, swimming, and bird-watching. The island’s 600 meters tall Eros mountain offers great views of the Saronic Gulf. Culture enthusiasts can visit the stunning traditional houses, such as the Koundouriotis and Tobazis mansions; stroll along the coastline connecting the port town with Mandraki; explore the island’s beaches and diving spots, like Ydroneta, Kamini, Vlichos, and Plakes by sea taxi; and visit the Ecclesiastical and Byzantine Museum to get a taste of the Christian Orthodox history of the island.
Located only an hour’s ferry ride away from the Port of Piraeus, Poros is one of the closest of the Saronic islands. This makes it extremely popular among day-trippers. Poros Town, which is the main hub of activity on the island, is a picturesque settlement featuring hotels, shops, cafes, restaurants, and traditional tavernas. The Roloi Tower in Poros town offers fantastic panoramic views of the island and the surrounding sea. The hinterland is not so habited and the terrain is mostly covered in pine trees, olive groves, and vines. Poros has the ruins of the Temple of Poseidon, located in the heart of the ancient settlement of Kalaureia. Things to do in Poros are exploring the beaches of Askeli, Vagionia, Love Bay, and Neorio; biking along the beautiful trails in the pine forest; and hiking to the remote “Ntana” lighthouse, to the west of the island. The town also has some gorgeous neo-classical old mansions like Deimezi, Griva, and Galini mansions.
Although not very visited, Salamina is the biggest of the Saronic islands. It offers some archeological ruins, diving, and spelunking opportunities. The ancient site of Kolonos is worth visiting and many people like to explore the Cave of Euripides, a cave considered to be used since the Neolithic period (5300-4300 BC). Salamina is located just 10 minutes away from the port of Perama.
Agistri, Spetses, and Dokos
- Agistri – Located less than an hour away from Athens, Agistri is known for its magnificent rocky beaches, and crystal-clear waters. It is a small island so the ideal solution would be to rent a bike and ride around. The main town is Skala. Things to do in Agistri are exploring the Chalikiada beach, visiting the wetland of “Lekani” Lake, and snorkeling at the Aponnisos beach for a fee of 5 euros.
- Spetses – This is the farthest Saronic island from Athens. Despite this, Spetses has a rich naval history and is known for its contribution to the Greek War of independence in 1821. It can be reached within 2 hours from the port of Piraeus in Athens and there are at least 5 daily crossings. There are no cars on Spetses, but one can hire a moped or bicycle to get around. Alternatively, there are plenty of hiking trails, and one can use one of the numerous boats and sea taxis to get to the beaches.
- Dokos – Dokos is located between Hydra, Spetses, and the mainland coast of Ermioni Peloponnese. The landscape of the island is rocky and mountainous, while the highest peak is 308m. It is largely uninhabited and the locals practice agriculture and fishing. Organized tourism is not developed there, but the island is known among nature lovers, hikers, and free campers. Beaches in Dokos are small and clean, while the remote landscape is ideal for camping. There are no regular ferry services to Dokos and one can go there by water taxi from Hydra, Ermioni, or Spetses.
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