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Saronic Gulf
The Greek Saronic Gulf Islands are a popular weekend and summer retreat for Athenians fleeing the smog-filled streets of their traffic congested capital. These are the closest islands to Athens - Aegina is only 35 minutes by hydrofoil from the mainland port of Piraeus - and consequently they attract hordes of Greek visitors along with foreign tour groups and independent island-hoppers who don't have time to venture further a field. The archipelago is named after the mythical King Saron of Argos who is said to have drowned while pursuing a deer that fled into the gulf to escape the royal huntsman's arrows. Aegina's proximity to Piraeus makes it one of the most visited of all the Greek islands, popular with day trippers and home to many Athenians who commute to the capital each day. Its biggest visitor attraction is the impressive 5th century BC Temple of Aphaia which pre-dates the Parthenon and is one of the best-preserved ancient temples in the whole of Greece . The island's interior is a paradise for hikers with its low mountains concealing wooded valleys, olive groves and endless orchards of pistachios which are the island's biggest export. Aegina Town, on the island's west coast, is a working harbor with some grand old buildings and a very "Greek" feel to it (it's almost a suburb of Athens these days except it's a great deal more attractive than the urban sprawl on the outskirts of the capital). The main east coast resort of Agia Marina is a different world of package holiday hotels and a frantic beach scene of Brit bars, copious water sports and burning foreign bodies. The island of Poros lies to the south of Aegina , hugging the Peloponnesian coastline which is only a five-minute boat hop away. Poros is actually two islands connected by a road bridge - the tiny volcanic island of Sferia, dominated by attractive, tourist-orientated Poros Town, and the larger island of Kalavria with its interior smothered with pine trees and beaches packed with Greek and foreign tourists. The island is an ideal base for exploring the many fascinating places of interest to be found at the eastern end of the Peloponnese .Hydra has the great attraction of being an entirely traffic-free island - even bicycles are banned here so the only way to get about is on foot, on a donkey or in a water taxi. The island boasts one of the most stunningly beautiful harbors in Greece , with imposing 17th and 18th century mansions stacked on the rocky hillsides overlooking the waterfront. Hydra has been a favorite haven for writers, artists and Bohemian types since the 1960s. The back streets of the main town and the uncoil interior are still a delight for those seeking a respite from the tourist development and madding crowds that now characterize many of the other Greek islands.
Spetses is the southernmost of the Saronic Gulf Islands and has the best beaches. The coastline is peppered with picturesque pine-fringed coves that makes this a popular destination for British package holidaymakers. It's not as traffic-free as Hydra as mopeds and motorbikes are allowed but only residents are permitted to bring in cars and their use in the main town is prohibited.

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(Area 50 sq. km, length of coastline 56 km).
Hydra differs from the other islands in the Saronic Gulf on account of its rocky, barren terrain and its characteristic architecture which is perfectly attuned to the austere natural environment. These endow it with a special charm that together with its cosmopolitan ambience, high standard of accommodation, luxury shops, art galleries, restaurants, night life and opportunities for sea sports have enhanced it as one of the most popular tourist destinations in Greece. Excavations have revealed the existence of a Mycenaean settlement to the west of the present town. The island flourished during the Byzantine Age the finds from the area of Episkopi – at that time its capital – on the west coast attest. During the Ottoman period the Hydriotes had secured a system of local self-government and many privileges, and so managed to create a powerful mercantile fleet. With the declaration of the War of Independence in 1821 the captains put their vessels in the service of the Struggle and fought valiantly. Hydra, the island’s capital and port, a unique combination of architecture and landscape, makes a lasting impression. The stone-built captains’ mansions, two- and three-storey high with tiled roofs, are built amphitheatrically on the two bare hills overlooking the harbor. In most of these residences, restored and renovated inside and out, the authentic interiors and antique furniture are preserved. Among the most important mansions are the Tombazis – which houses the annexed of the School of Fine Arts – the Kountouriotis, the Voudouris, the Miaoulis, the Voulgaris, the Kriezis – now the Home for the Elderly – and the Tsamados – the Merchant Marine School. Places of interest include the old harbour with the battlements and cannon, the Koimesis tis Theotokou Monastery, built to the plans of Venetian and Genoese architects in the 17th century, and the churches of Hypapanti and Aghios loannis tou Nistevti with notable wall-paintings. At the summit of the hill, with a panoramic view over the town and the harbor, are the twin monasteries of Aghia Eupraxia and Profitis Ilias. The Historical Archive-Museum houses a wealth of material on the island’s history as well as a significant library. To the NE of the town is Mandraki, and on a hilltop a short distance from there is the Aghia Triada Monastery. At the NE edge of the island is the Zourvas Monastery, dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin, and to the S is the Monastery of Aghia Matrona. The coasts of Hydra are rocky and sheer. There is an organized beach at Mandraki, which can be reached by sea-taxi or on foot from the town. Other beaches ideal for swimming, at Kaminia, Vlycho, Molo, Bisti, Limnioniza and Aghios Nikolaos, can all be reached by sea-taxi. Between Hydra and the coast of the Peloponnese lies the islet of Dokos. Easter is celebrated on Hydra with special customs. At Kaminia on Good Friday the Epitaphios procession continues down to the water’s edge, while on Easter Sunday an effigy of Judas is burnt. In June the “Miaoulia” is celebrated. The high spot is a re-enactment of the Hydriote Admiral Miaoulis setting fire to the flagship of the Ottoman fleet. Among the island’s advantages is the prohibition of motor vehicles. Several excursions can be made by donkey. Hydra is renowned for its delicious almond cakes.


(Area 22 sq. km, length of coastline 25 km).
Situated at the entrance to the Argolic Gulf, opposite Kosta, Hermionida, from which it is separated by a narrow channel 1.3 nautical miles wide, Spetses is the southern most island of the group. It has been inhabited since the Early Bronze Age (2500-2000 BC), as attested by the remnants of defensive walls, figurines and clay vessels found at Aghia Marina. During the Ottoman period the Spetsiotes built up an important fleet and were protagonists with their neighbors in Hydra in the Greek War of Independence. The attractive town of Spetses is one of the most elegant and dignified island capitals. It has an ambience of the “good old days”, which is created by the Neoclassical houses and is enhanced by the absence of motor vehicles and the circulation of horse-drawn carriages. The heart of the small town is the historical Dapia Square with the cannon, emplacement that brings to mind the struggles against the Ottoman Turks. Here, around the picturesque harbour, are the old coffees hops, many restaurants, patisseries, shops etc. To the left of Dapia, in the direction of the old harbor, are numerous Neoclassical houses and the metropolis (Greek Orthodox cathedral) of Aghios Nikolaos. Standing in a lovely setting, the church was once the catholicon of a monastery. There are quaint shipyards beside the old harbor and beyond these is the chapel of the PanAghia tis Armatas. Built on a densely wooded hill with a wonderful view over the whole town, it commemorates the Spetsiotes’ victory in September 1822. A short distance away is the lighthouse. To the right of Dapia Square is the imposing building of the old Poseidonion Hotel and a monument dedicated to Bouboulina, the most important woman protagonist in the Struggle of 1821. Further on, in the area of Kounoupitsa, are the impressive premises of the Anargyrion-Koryalenion School, founded in 1927. Mansions worth visiting in the town are those of Bouboulina, Botasis and Chatziyannis Mexis. The last now houses a museum of memorabilia of the 1821 War of Independence, archival and folklore material, paintings etc. (tel. (22980) 72.994). At the highest point in the town is the Holy Trinity church, built in 1793. On the west coast, near Aghioi Anargyroi, is the Bekiris cave in which the 1821 freedom fighters sought refuge. All the island’s beaches can be reached by bus or cacique: Aghioi Anargyroi, Aghia Paraskevi, Zogeria, Vrellas, Aghia Marina, Xylokeriza. Spetses has an excellent tourist infrastructure and there are plenty of hotels, pensions, entertainment centers, restaurants etc. There are ample opportunities for sea sports and many night spots. The annual festival, the “Anargyria”, is held in August. In mid-September there is a reenactment of the naval battle of the Armada, which sets off from the chapel of the PanAghia tis Armatas, near the lighthouse of the old harbor. The events include athletics contests and folk dancing. To the SE of Spetses lies the privately-owned, verdant islet of Spetsopoula. Spetses is an ideal base for making excursions to Kosta, Porto Cheli, Kranidi, Nafplion and the archaeological sites of the Argolid opposite. In the summer there are theatrical performances in the ancient theatre of Epidaurus. There are fuel and water supply facilities for private vessels in the harbor of Spetses.


Introduction (Area 84 sq km , length of coastline 57 km). During the 6th century BC Aegina built up a large commercial fleet and emerged as an important naval power. At this time too local potters were producing the well-known Aeginetan clay vases. Fine arts flourished on Aegina in antiquity and the Aeginetan sculpture workshop, which had its heyday in the 6th and 5th centuries BC, was renowned. On account of its navy, Aegina played an important role in the Persian Wars. It was captured by the Ottomans in 1718. After the Liberation, the first government of the newly founded Greek state was installed in Aegina in 1828. Aegina, the island’s capital and port, is an attractive town with colorful Neoclassical houses. Interesting sights are the quaint chapel of Aghios Nikolaos by the water’s edge, the metropolis of Aghios Demetrios (Greek Orthodox cathedral) where the first government of Modern Greece was sworn in, the Government House (Kyverneion) of Capodistrias, now the premises of a notable library. On the picturesque Kolona hillock near the harbour, stands a solitary Doric column, the sole remnant of the temple of Apollo which stood there in the 6th century BC. The Aegina Archaeological Museum (tel. (22970) 22.637) houses significant finds from the area. On a hill 4 km from Aghia Marina, is the island’s most important archaeological site, the temple of the ancient goddess Aphaia, patron deity of Aegina. Peripteral and in the Doric order, traces of the previous temple can be seen in its foundations.
Twenty-four of the 34 columns of the epistyle, part of the restored entablature and two columns from the promos have survived. Remains of the prophylaxis, an altar and priests apartments are also preserved. Aphaia, a deity little known to the Greeks, was replaced by Athena in order to boost their morale in the Trojan War, which is why this monument is alternatively known as the temple of Aphaia Athena. The Monastery of the Virgin Phaneromeni is quite close to the town. North of the town are the seaside resorts of Plakakia, Leonti, Souvala and Vaia, with accommodation for holidaymakers, restaurants, tavernas, bars and other amenities. At Souvala there are therapeutic springs. The road along the island’s N coast ends at Tourlos. Six km NE of Aegina is Palaiochora, the island’s capital from the 9th to the 19th century, with a medieval castle and many interesting churches. Not far away is the convent of Aghios Nektarios. Information, tel. (22970) 53.800, (22970) 53.806. The interesting architecture of the Monastery of the Virgin Chrysoleontissa, founded in 1600 in the heart of the island, is reminiscent of the fortified monasteries on Mount Athos. The medieval village of Mesagros, 9 km NE of Aegina, B with its long tradition in pottery-making, offers a superb view of the Aphaia temple. To the S is Aghia Marina (13 km from Aegina) , the island’s most popular seaside resort, set in the midst of pine woods. The road along the coast S of Aegina passes through Faros, Paliopyrgos, Marathonas, Aiginitissa and Profitis Ilias. It ends at the pretty fishing village of Perdika, with the thickly wooded islet of Moni 3 km offshore. There are frequent boat services between Perdika and Moni in the summer months. There are mooring facilities for private craft in the harbour at Aegina. Information from the Harbour Office, tel. (22970) 22.328. The island’s characteristic products include pistachio nuts and local pottery.


(Area 33 sq. km, length of coastline 43 km). A narrow channel separates the island from Galata on the opposite Peloponnesian coast of Troizinia (anc. Troezen). Myth has it that this richly verdant island was the birthplace of Theseus. In the 7th century BC Poros, then called Kalaureia, was the seat of an amphictyony of seven cities. During the Greek War of Independence (1821) the inhabitants of Poros joined forces with those of Spetses and Hydra, putting their ships in the service of the Struggle. The delightful little town of Poros is the island’s capital and port. To the east of the harbor is the richly wooded islet of Bourtzi with a small castle built for its protection in 1827. Housed in the Poros Archaeological Museum, tel. (22980) 23.276, are important finds from the island and ancient Troezen. Some 5 km NE of the town are the remains of the sanctuary of Poseidon, with a 6th century BC temple in the Doric order. The area is called Palatia by the locals and has a stunning view. Near the harbor, on the S coast of Poros, is enchanting Askeli with superb sea and dense pine woods. On an eminence beside the shore is the Zoodochos Pigi Kalavrias Monastery. Three km NW of Poros are Mikro and Megalo Neorio, beautiful sandy beaches with pine trees down to the water’s edge. There are plenty of opportunities for taking excursions from Poros to the opposite coasts of the Argolid, crossing the strait by sea taxi or ferryboat. Directly opposite the harbour of Poros is the Peloponnesian town of Galata, set in the midst of greenery, and further S is the idyllic Lemonodasos (lit. Lemon Wood). There are fuel and water supply facilities for boats in Poros harbour. Information, Poros Harbour Office, tel. (22980) 22.274, (22980) 22.224. In early July Naval Week is organized, with cultural events and exhibitions associated with the island’s nautical history
(Area 95 sq. km., length of coastline 104km).
Salamis on account of its strategic position in Athens’ “embrace”, was an “apple of discord” between the Athenians and the Megarians in the historical period. The most important event in the island’s past was the naval battle fought in its straits, between the Greek and the Persian fleet during the Persian Wars (480 BC), in which the invaders suffered an ignominious defeat. Salamis was also the birthplace of the tragic poet Euripides. The island’s capital is Salamina or Koulouri. The Salamis Archaeological Museum (tel. (210) 46.35.372) houses finds from the area. In the Folklore Museum (tel. (210) 46.57.361) there are local costumes, tools, vessels and other objects. About 6 km NW of the town is the Phaneromeni Monastery, with rich wall-paintings, a collection of ecclesiastical treasures, an icon-painting and a weaving workshop, as well as a hospice. Information is available from the monastery, tel. (210) 46.81.940.
The earliest archaeological site on the island is at Ambelakia, 4 km SE of Salamina. The naval battle of Salamis was fought here. Selinia is located 8 km SE of the town. The seaside village of Moulki or Aianteio is 6 km SW of the town in an area of pine woods. The recently explored Cave of Euripides, at Peristeria, has not only yielded significant finds but is also the place where tradition relates that the poet withdrew to write his tragedies.

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Visit also the Regions and Locations of Greece:

Attica (Athens and Rest of Attica) - Saronic Gulf - North Eastern Aegean Islands
Central Greece and Thessaly - Crete - Cyclades - Dodecanese - Epirus - Evia and the Sporades
Ionian Islands - Macedonia - Peloponnese - Thrace

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Greek Destinations: Athens Destination | Arcadia Destination | Attica Destination | Amorgos Destination| Andros Destination | Evia Destination |
Evritania Destination | Fokida Destination | Viotia Destination | Crete Destination | Heraklion Destination | Lassithi Destination | Rethymnon Destination | Ios Destination | Milos Destination | Mykonos Destination | Naxos Destination | Paros Destination | Santorini Destination | Serifos Destination |
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