My favourite type of vacation is off-the-beaten-path vacations, away from big tourist flocks. This summer was no exception as I spent two weeks on Aegina, another of the Saronic islands and one of Greece’s well-kept secret…
Home to the first Greek government during the Greek independence war and after independence (1821), Aegina is just a short 50 minutes boat ride away from Piraeus, Athens main port, but it feels a world away from the Greek capital’s mayhem. The island is totally off the touristic radar, almost only known by the Greeks themselves and this is what I like the most about this island, its authentic, untouched feel.
The flow of an island life is unlike any other: laidback and uncomplicated; Aegina is no exception. Out of all the Saronic islands, Aegina is my favourite. It’s more vibrant as well as culturally active than Hydra or Spetses. There is something for everyone on this island: the more sophisticated crowds seeking to enjoy its cosmopolitan feel, the ones looking for cultural happenings and families in search of the quiet family life.
As for all the Saronic islands, the only way to travel to Aegina is by boat. When you arrive in the Chora’s (the island’s main town) harbor, you’re greeted by a waterfront made of honey-coloured neoclassical buildings and the mighty Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nicolas) church, all surrounded by plenty of lush pistachios orchards, the island’s specialty.
FUN FACT: Aegina is one of the world’s biggest “fistiki” or pistachio’s producers. They’ve even created their own Pistachio Festival, which aim is to promote the cultivation of the pistachio known internationally as the “Aegina Pistachio”.
Verdant pines and pistachios groves, ochre-coloured hills, honey-coloured houses, deep to turquoise blue water, what strikes you the most when you’re on the island is its colour palette. And let’s speak about the sunset, so gorgeous you’ll think you’re dreaming!
FUN FACT: Speaking of amazing sunsets, Aegina is known worldwide for its incredible light, so much so that many painters, writers and photographers chose to live on the island to be constantly inspired, such as Nikos Kazantzakis (he wrote Zorba the Greek) or Nektarios Kontovrakis.
There is no shortage of things to do on Aegina. Some of the island’s highlights are the monastery of the holy trinity and the adjacent church of Agios Nektarios as well as the stunning Temple of Aphaia. By the way, visiting this temple dedicated to the goddess Aphaia and as well preserved as the Parthenon – minus the flock of tourists – feels like being on a private tour!
Isn’t it nice to indulge into a bit of shopping when on holidays? Aegina has plenty of shopping options to choose from, from the usual touristic shops to cute little designer boutiques all to be discovered when venturing into the town’s back streets. Some of my favourites are:
- Melisses Gallery, for cute and quirky decorative objects;
- Iliachtina arts & crafts, for unique pieces of jewellery
Your thing is more tasting local specialties? There is no shortage of tempting places to eat and drink on the island. Two of my favourites are:
- The Aegina Yacht club, for its location, scrumptious grilled cheese aka Saganáki and divine Mastiha ice cream;
- Skotadis, for the kindness of their staff and the fresh grilled fish or ceviche
And let’s not forget the beaches?! There are several good sandy beaches on the island. Some of my favourites are:
- Kolona, for its location (right next to the archaeological site of the Temple of Apollo) and its untamed nature;
- Fyki Beach/Aeginitissa, for the atmosphere and trendy beach bar;
- Moni, for its turquoise-coloured water (feels like the Caribbean), its location and the atmosphere
Do you fancy an off-the-beaten-path vacation, go to Aegina! Plus it’s just an ideal quick hop from Athens so you won’t lose any of your precious vacay time on transportation!