The Saronic Gulf Islands dot the waters nearest Athens and offer a fast track to Greek island life. As with all Greek islands, each of the Saronics has a unique feel and culture, so you can hop between classical heritage, resort beaches, exquisite architecture and remote escapism.
Aegina is home to a spectacular Doric temple and ruined Byzantine village, while nearby pine clad Angistri feels protected and peaceful outside of the booming midsummer months. Further south, Poros, with its beautiful old town and forested hinterland, curves only a few hundred metres from the Peloponnese.
The Saronic showpiece, Hydra, is a gorgeous car-free island with a port of carefully preserved stone houses rising from a chic, history-charged harbour. Deepest south of all, pine scented Spetses also has a vibrant nautical history and pretty town architecture, plus myriad aqua coves only minutes from the Peloponnese.
Itinerary – Hydra & The Saronic
Day 1 – Athens
With equal measures of grunge and grace, Athens is a heady mix of ancient history and contemporary cool. The magnificent Acropolis, visible from almost every part of the city, is the hub around which Athens still revolves. This temple city, built in the 5th century BC, serves as a daily reminder to Greeks of their heritage and the city's many transformations. The cultural and social life plays out amid the landmarks that are centuries old through the remnants, mythology and philosophy of Ancient Greece and Byzantine churches. The city crackles with energy in art shows, political debates and even on the walls of derelict buildings, as Athens has become one of Europe's most noted spots for street art.
Day 2 – Aegina
The island of Aegina is one of the most popular tourist destinations as it is the closest island to Athens. Between 1827 and 1829 Aegina town was the temporary capital of the newly founded Greek state. It was during this period when the Governor had impressive neoclassical mansions built to house his headquarters. Even though the island is small, it boasts a great number of sights and natural beauty. The island’s highlight is the famous Aphea Temple which forms the ‘holy triange’ with the Parthenon and the Temple of Poseidon. On the outskirts of the town, you can find charming little villages with distinctive traditional character, such as Perdika, Souvala and Kypseli.
Day 3 – Poros
The town of Poros is built in the shape of an amphitheatre over two hills. In antiquity Poros consisted in fact of two islands, Spheria and Kalavria, but the last explosion of the Methana volcano in 273 BC radically changed the morphology of the area. Spheria was cut off from Methana, and in this way Poros took its present-day form. Lush pine trees vegetation, crystal clear beaches, a lively waterfront adorned with shops, cosy cafes and restaurants, a picturesque capital with grand traditional mansions and picturesque cobbled streets, as well as a wide selection of entertainment venues are the ingredients of this quiet, yet cosmopolitan, destination that attracts visitors from all age groups.
Day 4 – Spetses
Spetses is a picturesque, car-free island with unique architecture, naval history and culture. The island flourished during the early 18th century, developing into a significant naval power, dominating the major shipping routes of the Mediterranean. Today, the mansions lining the coast are testimony to the vast wealth and grandeur of that time, now housing the Bouboulina’s Museum (named after the only female admiral in world naval history) and the State Museum containing artefacts representing some 4000 years of history.
Day 5 – Ermioni
This seaside town is a lovely destination to experience the typical Greek vacation. The island character, the verdant landscape and the friendly atmosphere attracts many tourists and Greek travelers. A walk along the port side is relaxing, especially in the evening when people come to enjoy a seaside dinner or a drink.
Day 6 – Hydra
Breathtaking Hydra is one of the only Greek islands that is free of wheeled vehicles. No cars. No scooters. Just tiny marble-cobbled lanes, donkeys, rocks and sea. Artists (Brice Marden, Nikos Chatzikyriakos-Ghikas, Panayiotis Tetsis), musicians (Leonard Cohen), actors and celebrities (Melina Mercouri, Sophia Loren) have all been drawn to Hydra over the years. In addition to the island’s exquisitely preserved stone architecture, divine rural paths and clear, deep waters, you can find a good cappuccino along the harbour, which is great for people-watching.