Aegina is the second largest island of the Argosaronic Gulf. It is ideal for family vacations and day trips from Athens as it is almost one hour away from the port of Piraeus. During a family trip to Athens from Thessaloniki, we organized a one-day excursion with friends and the kids to Aegina and I hope you have the chance to visit the island too as it is a place which combines history, pleasure and authenticity.
A few words about the island
Aegina is a quite large island. In the center, it is mountainous and some slopes lead all the way to the sea.
According to mythology
According to mythology, Zeus fell in love with the nymph Aegina and had a son, Aeacus, who reigned on the island of Oinoi (Aegina) and later became the father of Peleus (the father of Achilles) and Telamon.
Aegina has a long history
It had a navy and a lot of fortifications, which unfortunately were demolished after their submission to the Athenians in 455 BC. When the Peloponnesian Wars started, the Athenians left the island and the Aegean refugees didn’t return to the island for years. In 1828, Kapodistrias decided to set the headquarters of his government in Aegina. However, one year later, he moved it to Nafplio, which became the first capital of Greece.
Day trip to Aegina
Book a day trip with boat to Aegina from Flisvos Marina in Athens (traditional wooden motorsailer boat). On the island, enjoy free time to visit its lovely beaches, friendly town and the amazing ancient temple of Aphaia! (press the link to see what is included)
To Aegina with ferry
The duration of the ferry ride is about one and a half hour. You can also go to Aegina by the flying dolphin but it is more expensive.
You can book your ferry tickets from here:
When you reach the port of Aegina, the whitewashed church of Agios Nikolaos welcomes you to the island. Next to it you can see a huge anchor which is one of the landmarks of the island.
The picturesque harbor with the beautiful boats gave us immediately a sense of serenity and tranquility!
As we left the port behind us, the children were thrilled seeing the traditional carriages, called “paetonia”, which transferred us to another era. Some of them were waiting for the next tourist for a stroll while others were roaming the streets of the island and the sound of the horses’ petals made us turn our heads and admire them!
Paleochora-Monastery Agios Nektarios
Our first destination was the Monastery of Agios Nektarios, which is located near the village of Kontos, in the area of Paleochora, just 6 Km away from the port. You can take either the bus or go there by a rented car/van. We chose the second option as we wanted to see most of the island and stop at a beach for a swim after our visit to the monastery.
The bus ticket to Agios Nektarios costs € 9.5 while renting a car costs € 30 and a minivan € 60. (prices 2016)
A few words about St. Nektarios
Saint Nektarios is one of the most recently proclaimed Saints of Orthodoxy. Saint Nektarios, the Miraculous, was born in Thrace and died in Aegina in 1920. He was recognized as a Saint after his death but he was proclaimed Saint in 1961, nearly 40 years after his death. His memory is celebrated on the 9th of November.
The large church, which is still being built, is imposing. The steps in the back yard lead you to the place where you can find his tomb but also his house. At these points, as you can understand, photographs are prohibited.
It is said that if you place your ear on the marble tomb, you will hear the steps of the Saint but also short sounds like someone is hitting its walking stick hard on the ground.
I closed my eyes, put my ear on it and waited patiently. Even though there was crowd waiting outside the little chapel, I managed to hear it! So did my little on! Since then, he admits that he indeed believes in Saint NeKtarios holiness!
The Temple of Aphaia
When you finish your visit to the Monastery, I would recommend visiting the Temple of Aphaia. On a hill of Agia Marina, you can find the ruins of the Temple of Aphaia, one of the most beautiful temples of ancient Greece! It is well-preserved, in a sixth-century Doric style and it was built in the 6th century with limestone. Though, It looks like it had been covered with plaster and then it was painted. Today, out of the total 32 columns of the temple, you can only see the 24.
For coffee and a swim in Agia Marina
As we already were in the area of Agia Marina, de decided to sit at a seaside café. The beach is excellent and there are also changing rooms. Even though most of our friends decided to have coffee, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to have a swim with the kids. The sea was very clean and shallow in the front. I desperately needed to swim as the weather was great and I had been really hot by the previous sightseeing.
At Perdika for lunch
Our friends suggested having lunch at Perdika, the beautiful little port opposite the island of Moni. From Perdika, you can take a boat to the island of Moni, which is only 500 meters away and it is inhabited. Its beach is also ideal for a swim.
Even though there was a sudden ten-minute rain and the sky was dark, we were still in a good mood and we sat at the tavern. The kids chose spaghetti but we of course had some ouzo with seafood and fish. If you want to taste something local you can order the fish “katsoula”. The meal finished with a traditional dessert, yogurt with homemade spoon sweets (similar to a sweet preserve but with whole pieces of fruit or vegetables eaten with a small spoon)!
A full day trip to saronic islands
Escape the hustle and bustle of Athens on a full-day tour around the islands of Hydra, Poros and Aegina in the Saronic Gulf.
Walking around Aegina
Time flew away very quickly and we had to catch the last ship to Piraeus. As we had some more time, we had a quick stroll in the narrow streets of Aegina, we saw the little cafes and the touristic shops with the local traditional products. I was amazed by the beautiful buildings which look like they belong to another era.
Read also on Greek Travel Family:
- 10 must-see destinations in mainland Greece
- Athens Acropolis
- Athens, Acropolis museum
- Explore Acropolis museum with kids
Local products of Aegina
Of course we tried some local products as well. And even though I am from the South, I assure you that the Aegean pistachio has nothing to do with the ones we usually eat in Macedonia or Thessaloniki. It’s much better and tastier!
The island is full of pistachio trees, a small deciduous tree that has been cultivated in Aegina since the late 19th century. In Aegina you can find a specific variety (called “koilarati). The ideal climate conditions of the island and the composition of the soil make the peanuts of Aegina the best in the world and therefore they are exported to many European countries. Since 1997 Aegina peanut has been a PDO product.
The shop owners, whether they are producers or not, are willing to give everyone a try. Pistachio from Aegina with or without salt, sweet made of mastic called “ypovrihio”, spoon sweets, pastels sweets, walnut sweets, liqueur, loukoumi (greek delights), are just a few of the traditional sweets and snacks you can have. Personally, I loved the liqueur, the salted peanuts and the loukoumi with a pistachio in the center! You can also find a lot of cosmetics with the Aegean Pistachio as their main ingredient, such as creams for the hands or the face.
We enjoyed our return as the weather was great and we decided to feed the seagulls. We also saw an amazing sunset which unfortunately couldn’t capture with the camera.
Other sights in Aegina
As the day reached its end, I promised the kids to return to Aegina to see Paleochora and the archaeological site of Kolona.
The archaeological site of Kolona (Pillar) is next to the port of Aegina. It’s got its name by the Venetian sailors who used the one and only column remained there for orientation. The characteristic pillar, which is preserved until today, is located at the top of a hill and it belongs to the Temple of Apollo, built around the end of the 6th century BC.
I am looking forward to seeing you again beautiful Aegina.