The Saronic Island of Aegina is Good for a Weekend away from Athens

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Aegina town taken from the port. Credit:Bgabel

The Saronic island of Aegina is very close to Athens and the port of Piraeus, which means that at weekends, many Athenians head for it, either for the weekend – because they have villas there, or for day trips. If you go during the week, the island will not be as busy and you can take a horse and carriage around the picturesque harbour area, and buy fresh fruit from the street vendors a short walk from the harbour.

The ferry from the port of Piraeus takes about an hour and a quarter to get to Aegina and the catamaran about 45 minutes.

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The port at Aegina. Credit: Bgabel

Aegina is famous for its pistachio nuts, and they are the best I have ever tasted. I have eaten them fresh and dried, and have found those on Aegina to be superior to all others. The island has its own pistachio cultivar which tends to support my personal opinion of them.  The Greek legend is that pistachio trees (Pistachia vera) had their origins on this island, but in fact they came from Iran and Asia and were imported into Greece from Syria in the 18th century. They clearly liked the soil on Aegina and flourished.  There is a pistachio festival on the island in September, which is a fairly recent development.

Aegina is also famous for its almonds and you can buy these and mastica (originally from the island of Chios) there too, from stalls on the sea front.

Apart from the pistachio trees there are many archaeological sites to visit including the Temples of Aphaeia and Poseidon, and Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches in Kipseli.

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Perdika from Moni island – a short boat ride away. Credit: Ggia

Perhaps my favourite place on the island is Perdika which is the other side of the island from the harbour. It is a picturesque village with the small sea front lined with fish and seafood restaurants (tavernas) and you can have most things that come from the sea there including sea urchins. These are best eaten raw with a piece of bread to scoop out the delicate orange star-shaped urchin. When you order wine – ask for a carafe of the house wine as this is usually good and much cheaper than buying it by the bottle. (This applies all over Greece.)

If you go to Aegina off-season then you can more or less negotiate cheap rates at hotels close to the harbour and those in Aghia Marina, which is a tourist trap in summer. In winter it is quiet but still (usually sunny).

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Your carriage awaits as you step off the ferry! Credit: Dimorsitanos

If you take in Aegina as part of an island-hopping holiday you can easily visit the neighbouring islands of Hydra and Poros. Hydra is particularly picturesque with the donkeys waiting patiently in the harbour to take barrels of water up the hill to places which do not have a water supply.

If you go to Athens in August you should try to get to the Aegina Music Festival, which has both Greek and international performers.

Aegina may not be an ideal place to spend a fortnight, but it is a great place to visit for a few days when Athens gets too much to tolerate, whether in summer because of the heat, or in winter when you simply need a break.

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About lynnee8

I have travelled extensively both for business (I am a teacher and teacher-trainer of English as a Foreign Language) and pleasure. I have just come back from Pakistan where I lived for 4 years. I love Greece and have lived there for more than 10 years although not all at one time.
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