If you’re visiting the Greek mainland and want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Athens, a trip to Argo-Saronic islands is a great way to do this. Situated just off the Peloponnese peninsula in the Aegean Sea’s Saronic Gulf, this archipelago is renowned for its stunning beaches and ancient ruins.
As with virtually all Greek destinations – this website is worth checking out for further information, but read on first to see what you think…
The quickest way to get to the islands is to take a short ferry ride from Piraeus, a port city in the Athens urban area, to Salamina. It’s not the most tourist-friendly place with little by way of facilities for holidaymakers, but if you’re out for a day at the beach you’ll have to go past Salamina Town and across to the west coast resort of Eanido to find a suitable beach.
If you’re after a bit of ancient culture, just to the north of Salamina Town is the monastery of Faneromeni – a working nunnery set in pine woods and overlooking the mainland. If you take a trip here, be sure to take in the stunning frescoes on display.
Just an hour from the port at Piraeus is Aegina, a laidback island and one of the Argo-Saronic’s most popular getaways for holidaymakers. The island is well-known for its pistachio orchards and you’ll find the nuts being sold all over the harbour when you arrive.
The island has many ancient remains, the best of which is undoubtedly the Temple of Aphaea, a ruin dating back to the fifth century BC that has some great views across to Athens.
The beaches on the island are small but well organised for tourists and the two most popular are Souvala and Agia Marina, both of which are lined with taverns, hotels and watersports facilities.
One of the quietest islands in the archipelago is just a 15-minute boat ride from Aegina and although it’s not got much in the way of beach resorts, Angistri is covered with pine trees and has a timeless, natural beauty.
The island plays temporary host to an unusual mix of holidaymakers with Athenian weekenders, young Greeks, and predominantly British and Scandinavian holidaymakers vying for positions on the beaches, hotels and cafes.
This tiny island can be reached by road, via Galatas, or ferry from Piraeus or, if you’re the seafaring type, by yacht as it plenty of places to moor up. It’s a favourite among package holiday operators so expect to see mainly British and Scandinavian tourists.
It is essentially two islands separated by a small canal straddled by a bridge and it’s probably best to stay in the larger but quieter resort of Kalavria and head into the town or into Poros Town for food, nightlife and shopping.
Although it sounds a little sinister, Hydra is the most unspoilt of the Argo-Saronic islands – the harbour and main town is preserved as a national monument and all traffic is banned, even bicycles.
Away from the main town the rest of the island is road-less and rugged, with a mountainous interior in which you can find rural cottages, terraces, and hilltop monasteries in among the pine forests.
On the downside, the beaches are few and far between and a large presence of expats means prices are often inflated.
The main town of Spetses is one of the biggest on any of the islands, with apartments and villas spread for miles along the northeast coastline. The town limits also prohibits the use of private cars and only taxis and delivery vehicles are allowed. Most people get around by horse-drawn carriage, bicycle, moped, motorcycle, or on foot.
Aside from that, though, the island remains largely uninhabited and the beaches can be difficult to find – make your way along the coast though and there some of the best, and quietest beaches to be found in Argo-Saronics.