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An island full of aromas and history

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An island full of aromas and history

Its proximity to the capital gives Aegina, the largest island of the Saronic Gulf, the true meaning of an ‘easy’ escape even for day trips. However, Aegina is much more than just another nearby island destination.

A great naval power since the Archaic period, inhabited continuously since then, with history leaving its traces scattered all over the island: From Byzantium to the Greek War of Independence in 1821, that named the island the first capital of the new Greek State. Its exuberant past makes this island a palimpsest drenched in the glorious Aeginetan light. It is therefore not by accident, that this oasis has hosted a number of artists who sought a creative refuge under its captivating sky.

Valleys and friendly beaches, mountain villages and harbors, churches and monasteries and the smell of pistachio trees hovering in the atmosphere, invite old acquaintances and first-time visitors for short breaks or long periods of rest… Aegina has a lot to share.

Routes & attractions

Although it lacks the glamour of the Parthenon, but the Temple of Aphaia is said to have inspired Iktinos and Kallikratis in the design of the historic monument in Athens. Built on a 160 meters high hill, this temple of Doric rhythm, made of local porous stone, is ground-breaking since it revisits the proportions used till then in ancient Greek architecture (490 BC). The Temple is surrounded by a rich pine forest with unobstructed views of the Saronic Gulf.

Continuing your archaeological itinerary, you should visit the ruins of the prehistoric settlement of Kolona, the acropolis of Ancient Aegina, next to the port of the island. On this hill once stood the archaic temple of Apollo, from which only one column survives today. The area owes its name to this last column and to the Venetian sailors who used it for their orientation. Within the archaeological site, stands the first archaeological museum built in the newly established Greek state in 1829.

Next stop in time, the Middle Ages. If you climb the hill of Paliachora (or Palaiochora) you will find yourself in a medieval village of the 9th century, which was the capital of the island until 1826. Built on a hill in the hinterland, 7 km from the port, for protection against the Saracen raids, this is the "Mystras of Aegina". Of the 365 Byzantine churches (and 800 houses), only 38 basilicas are preserved today. While wandering around the village, do not forget to hike to the top of the hill where traces of the Venetian castle of 1654 are still visible today.

In front of Paliachora is the religious landmark of Aegina, the monastery of Saint Nektarios, one of the largest monasteries in the Balkans. Thousands of pilgrims flock here every year, as Saint Nektarios is believed to have performed miracles while still alive. The monastery was reopened by the Saint himself in 1904. Its restoration works began in 1973 and were completed in 1994, atop the ruins of a Byzantine monastery. The saint’s relic is kept in the Monastery of the Holy Trinity.

The mountainous side of Aegina remains unknown to most visitors - yet Aegina is an island of great hiking interest. Nine of its paths have been certified - most of them graded as easy to moderate - passing through traditional settlements, mills, scattered churches, souvales (reservoirs for rainwater collection) and of course the island’s nature. The path that goes round mount Hellanion is probably the most popular route: it is 8.8 km long and passes through agricultural and pastoral settlements: starting at Anitsaio, it runs through Vlachides, Sfentouri, Achlada, Analipsi and ends at Taxiarches. Reaching the top of the mountain, enjoy the magnificent view, where the ruins of the ancient temple of Zeus are found. The chapel of Profitis Elias also stands here.

One of the mountain villages of Aegina, Pachia Rachi, once the birthplace of Fighters of the Greek War of Independence, is now a proclaimed traditional settlement with cobbled streets, where cars are not allowed. Many of the houses have been restored, while a small theater operates in the village.

Just south of Pachia Rachi, at Sfyrixtres, is the Ancient Olive Grove, a valley full of perennial olive trees, most of which are estimated to be older than 400 years, judging from the size of their trunk base that reaches up to 30 sq.m. Walking along one of the mountain paths of the surrounding settlements (Pachia Rachi, Marathon or Kapotides) you will find yourself in Eleonas. The natural beauty of the landscape was captured by photographers 20 years ago during a photo-shooting for Hermes fashion house.

Beaches & Activities

The most famous and longest beach on the island is Agia Marina. Sandy, with shallow waters and fully organized, it seems ideal for families and water sports. The namesake settlement is surrounded by pine-covered hills, while around Agia Marina there are many isolated bays for swimming as well as diving.

Ask which is the best beach on the island, and most will say Klima, on the way to Sfentouri: a serene bay with white sand and blue waters. The beach is organized with sun loungers, umbrellas and a canteen for supplies.

On the way to Perdika, you’ll find Sarpa beach. A beautiful bay with a sandy beach and an elegant beach bar. If you want to spend all day on the beach, Sarpa will also offer you an idyllic sunset.

You’ll need about 10 minutes to reach the islet of Moni (Monastery), just across Sarpa. Sheltered and isolated, the emerald waters make this bay even more attractive. In the afternoon, when the heat goes down, it is worth taking a walk in the pine forest that spreads across the largest area of the islet of Moni. You’ll also find a beach bar there.

Halfway down the Marathon - Perdika road, appears Aeginitissa, a large bay, with beautiful, shallow waters and cool shade from the eucalyptus trees. A beach bar operates on the beach, along with many restaurants in the area.

Just 4 km from the port of Aegina, two twin beaches named Marathon A and B, located 500 meters apart from one another, offer sandy shores, full amenities, and quiet waters… ideal for families. Those seeking serenity will find a few less developed spots on these beaches.

To the south of the port of Aegina, you’ll find the beach of Loutra Souvalas, the place where water once gushed from the sulfurous thermal springs of Aegina. Today, it remains a quiet bay with a white sandy shore.

If you want to enjoy the island’s nature, take a bicycle and pedal along the coastal route from the town to the village of Perdika.

Traditions & Events

For 20 years, Aegina has been hosting the International Music Festival every August with atmospheric nights of classical music, chamber music and jazz organized in front of the archaeological site of Kolona, in the small theater of Pachia Rachi and in the Kapodistrian Buildings.

In late July, Souvala becomes the meeting point for seafood lovers. After that comes the Marida Festival or Fisherman's Festival, a fish-eating feast with wine and dancing.

Tastes of the island

Aegina’s ultimate product, the pistachio, is the key ingredient in a plethora of culinary creations. More and more chefs use Aegina’s pistachio in their recipes, thus contributing to this endless palette of flavours. Of course, its unbeatable taste sometimes does not need any accompaniment. If, on the other hand, you are looking for something more sophisticated, try the pistachio paté, made from potato flakes, garlic, lemon and grated pistachio or honey pasteli (sesame seed candy) with pistachio.

Fish tavernas are a must throughout the island - especially in the beautiful fishing village of Perdika - with seafood delicacies for all tastes. You certainly can't miss the katsoula a dish also found in South Crete. It looks like a red mullet but tastes like sole and parrotfish. You should also try the tiganosoupa, a local recipe in which fish is fried in a pan with water and olive oil and served straight with plenty of lemon.

In local diary shops, look for the geremezi, a creamy acid cheese made from three months matured goat's milk, an excellent accompaniment to summer salads.

Don't miss...

Visit the Kapodistrian Buildings. Ioannis Kapodistrias' stay in Aegina gave the island a number of building facilities. These are the Orphanage (for the orphans of the Fighters of the Greek Revolution, that later operated as a Cadet School, a quarantine building and a psychiatric hospital), the Governorate (where the first government of liberated Greece was housed, currently hosting the Municipal Library of Aegina), Eynard School (an educational institute for teachers) and the Municipal Theatre of Aegina.

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