Aegina Island, the Sleeping Beauty

Aegina Island, the Sleeping Beauty

If you’re in Athens and want to spend some time at the beach, you could take a tram down to Glyfada – it’s a decent option. Better though, take a ferry from Piraeus to Aegina. This is a decent sized island in the Saronic gulf offering  many “typically Greek” attractions. A small traditional port, beautiful sea for swimming and nice beaches, and some ancient culture (Classic and Byzantine in this case) – all there!

“Standard” ANES Ferry

When to go and how to get there

From the centre of Athens, the Metro takes less than 30 minutes to Piraeus. There are departures about every hour on either the super fast Flying Dolphin hydrofoil or the car ferry even in low season.  This means a day trip is  feasible but I do recommend spending one or two nights there.

We visited in October, had five full days, and spent two days on the island. To be close to the ferry back to Athens, we stayed in Aegina Town, which in retrospect was the nicest place in low season. Unless you want total seclusion or the end-of season vibe when most places are shuttered up.

First views of Aegina Town – even here, the water is totally clear

Where to stay in Aegina

We stayed at a sweet little hotel 5 minutes from the port, called Aeginitiko Archontiko. It is a small family hotel housed in a traditional building rooms are tiny (tiny bathrooms appear a Greek specialty) but it’s so homely and friendly. The day we arrived we just came to drop our bags and were served a sumptuous breakfast in what used to be the salon of the house, then given the scenic tour of half-made up and still-occupied rooms to pick a room.

Aeginitiko Archontiko
Aeginitiko Archontiko
Aeginitiko Archontiko
The tiny roof terrace
Aeginitiko Archontiko
Entrance Hall – it’s so beautiful!
Aeginitiko Archontiko
Another bit of the entrance area, Aeginitiko Archontiko
Aeginitiko Archontiko
Breakfast room

Aegina Town and its beaches

So, Aegina Town is pretty much the island centre. You will find banks, post office, a rather large port, and lots of shops as well as some decent beaches in walking distance – and some hotels and more restaurants you can try. There are also some excavations flanked by decent beaches  – Avra and Kolona.

The beaches

Avra Beach is literally next to the road leading out of town, and has the advantage that you can jump into the sea from the terrace of any of the small roadside restaurants.  Same goes if you feel hungry after your swim. Kolona Beach is another few minutes along the road, quieter, and more rugged. In October, us and another couple were the only visitors there wading through a bit of seaweed to bathe in the super clear waters.

Avra Beach. Yeah, So crowded.
Kolona Beach had even worse crowds. That’s dry seaweed, and a few stones, so swim shoes are better for delicate feet.
Small climb down to Kolona Beach. Also, bring your own shade.

After our swim, we felt hungry, and went for lunch in one of the roadside restaurants. About half were open, and they looked pretty much the same with their checked tableclothes, outdoor seating and seaside terraces. Hello greasy Greek food!

Fava beans, fried aubergines. That was a starter portion. No wonder the cats were waiting for the fish course to be served.

It was tasty, and the main course fish was enough to feed us and the hungry cats  prowling our table (only when the proprietress wasn’t looking, as most local business owners don’t like to see you feed cats from tables).

After lunch we checked into our room, held a siesta and were woken again by the church bells around 5pm.

Take a stroll in town

Small-scale neoclassical architecture everywhere

Perfect to check out the waterfront cafes! Yachts are moored right across the road, plus it’s close to the ferry pier, so these cafes can be a bit crowded, and offer the usual “international menu”. Just fifty metres or so on, more and more basic little bars mix in, and you see people playing cards and board games at the tables.

One wine and one coffee cost two EUROs.
Sunset View, Aegina Port
Aegina Town
Makes you linger…
Aegina Town
… and linger. So much space in off peak season, too.

Perfect place to watch the sunset, then eat dinner. We went to a  courtyard restaurant in the pedestrian row behind the seaside promenade – they tended to be more Greek,  less touristy, though, of course, plenty tourists who come to eat here. As a reader helpfully pointed out, the name of the restaurant is Kappos Etsi. Thank you Steve!

Kappos Etsi Restaurant. Can’t go wrong with fairly busy places. Oh! And they had a house cat. Food was very good quality Greek fare.

Trips from Aegina Town

On our second day in Aegina, we drove round on a scooter. Two scooters, and being ever budget-conscious, we went for the 15EURO option and had to do without fripperies like speedometers or indicator lights. For twice the price, I believe you get a very new model without whatever some previous drivers managed to crack off in its hire life. So I’m not going to give you a recommendation, but you will see rental places everywhere and I recommend you look closer than we did! To be fair to our scooters, they ran very well all over the island!  Riding our of town takes a while as town gently flows into suburbs with low rise houses with gardens, then farms with small houses, then woods and farmland.

Agios Nektarios

Agios Nektarios and its monastery are the first point of interest if you travel the main road towards Agia Marina, the largest resort. The monastery was built to honour the local Greek Orthodox Saint Nektarios, a priest from Thrace who, via Cairo and Athens, came to write on the island of Aegina and died there in 1920, his sweater immediately healing a paralysed man in the bed next to him. Like the saint, the monastery is contemporary, and the large basilica containing his relics is one of the largest in Greece. The monastery sees a large number of pilgrims, and many reported miracles include cures of cancer and infertility.

It was rather quiet at the Saint Nektarios Church.
Our wild scooters, all alone in front of the church


One turn to the left and half a kilometre past Agios Nektarios is Paleochora,  a place I have been dreaming to revisit for many years. Back in 1995, I visited Aegina all-too-briefly in a day trip from Poros, and lets just say my companion was less inclined to crawl around abandoned churches. Combined with the promise of a great view when climbing that hill and a lazy afternoon, it was much easier to motivate my current travel mate! I will put this in a  separate post, because it’s such a culturally rich place, and  deserves to be visited.

Overview of Paleochora after a very mild climb on a rough path
Paleochora views
Lots of stones; bring sturdy shoes.
One of many semi-derelict chapels, Paleochora
An Urbex Dream

Agia Marina

Agia Marina at this time of the year was sleepy, almost shut down. We found one taverna that was still open, and the beautiful sea front had closed restaurants and an eerily empty promenade. We didn’t stay long.

Bathing opportunities everywhere, Agia Marina
Agia Marina Beach – pretty much shut down

Aphaia Temple

Just a couple of kilometres above Agia Marina, another treasure justifies the long ride across the island: one of the best preserved Greek temples anywhere, resplendent with a near full set of Doric columns but missing a roof. Once the antiquities were admired, the view wasn’t bad either, and conveniently, there is was small cafe serving homemade pistachio ice cream.

Aphaia Temple Aegina
Even if you just go there for the stupendous views
Aphaia Temple Aegina
Views + History, that’s Aphaia Temple

South of the Island: Perdhika

Back in Aegina Town (where all roads meet), it was not yet time to go to the cafe and watch the world go by – we did this instead in Perdhika, which is lovely but well away from any action. The little village was nearly deserted – its streets certainly were, while about five people drank coffee on the terrace restaurants overlooking the marina. One yacht was just mooring, and the tiny boats taking people to the islet of Moni (even more deserted but good beaches I hear) were idling in the harbour.

Perdhika, Aegina
Comes close to that Greek Island phantasy
Perdhika, Aegina
Coffee with a view
Perdhika, Aegina
The silent lanes of Perdhika

More beaches: Marathonas A and B

On our return, we had the choice of stopping in the village of Marathonas where a beach taverna with proper sunbeds and gastronomy beckoned. Or one of the deserted beaches along the road. Again, super clean water here. A sandbank, too, you had to walk in for a few hundred meters unless you like a good crawl in the sand. However, rocks here and there (in Aegina Town as well) make the beaches on this side one for the swimming shoes, but don’t let that put you off.

Testing the waters in Marathonas B

We returned the scooters, where just a cursory look was taken. I don’t think we could have bashed them up much more. We fed the cats again on what had now turned into a pretty big round as we spotted more groups of hungry kitties, then fed ourselves. Seafood this time, in a tiny restaurant called Geladakis right by the entry to the  fish market. I am pleased to report the cats looked quite well fed here. We even saw some of the sellers feeding them fish from their stalls.


So far, we had spent a day and a half in Aegina, but due to the scooter rental, had seen a lot. I used the last morning to stroll to the harbour.  I found yet more hungry cats, fed them the remaining cat food and wondered whether I ought to research my holiday destinations better. Perhaps I should just travel to places with a decent animal welfare record. But even in Germany with its excellent animal protection laws, animals get abandoned, and not just turned into shelters but dumped in the street, too.

After another humongous home-baked breakfast, we bought some more pistachios and set back to Athens for the big-city part of our little autumn sun catching trip.



How to get to Aegina

Flying Dolphins from Piraeus about every hour or two, and a car ferry every three hours until the early evening. Most boats go to Aegina Town, and public transport from there can be tricky although there are some buses (and numerous taxis offering fixed price rides to the sights and major villages)

Where to stay

In low season, definitely Aegina Town. We stayed at the Aeginitiko Archontiko Hotel for approximately 45EURO per night. It has no website but can be booked through a number of the mainstream hotel booking sites.

Things to see

Aegina Town has a couple of low-key museums and an excavation site near the harbour. Other sights are the Temple of Aphaia, Paleochora and the Monastery of Agios Nektarios. Perdhika is a sleepy picturesque village with boats to Moni if you desire more seclusion. Agia Marina is a resort centre with a lovely sandy beach but not much else to offer in low season.

Where to eat

The small pedestrian street running parallel to the road hugging the harbour has at least ten restaurants. All looked pretty good. There are three opposite the fish market, of which Geladakis is one,  and a Cretan restaurant called Kriton Gefsis further along.  These get consistently good reviews. Some rustic but greatly placed restaurants right by the sea can be found in Avra Beach.

Other islands in the Argo-Saronic are similarly underrated, though have worse ferry connections. But what other islands are there that aren’t over-touristed, and are within fairly easy reach of the mainland, especially Piraeus or Rafina? As always, any advice is much welcome. Thank you for reading!

6 thoughts on “Aegina Island, the Sleeping Beauty”

  • The restaurant you ate at in the back street of Aegina town is “Kappos Etsi” superb food and very nice people, great place we go there very often when on Aegina.

    • Hallo Steve,

      thank you so much, that is indeed the place! I looked up the photographs and it’s “Kappos Etsi”. I loved the restaurant too: nice courtyard seating, friendly staff, very good food, and a lovely well-fed cat patrolling the courtyard! Thank you so much for identifying the place!

  • We were there in September, not as sleepy! Had a FANTASTIC time in Perdika,
    where I found some my family(cousins of course!) every restaurant we ate at was
    superb, especially REMEZTO. Moni Island was really worth it too.

    • Hi George, thank you for reading and commenting! It’s good to see that Aegina gets some more visits in the summer! Looking at the size of hotels there, it seems safe from mass tourism, and to be honest to you, I have only been to Greece in spring and autumn so far, but Athens was pretty heaving even in October. I loved Perdika which was very quiet in October, and I agree that the restaurants are beautiful, and the views superb. I could really spend some days in Perdika, too, and the scenery in Perdika probably surpasses Aegina Town as well. Do you have any other recommendations for Greek Islands to visit?

  • Thank you, Marit! I actually visited many years ago and wanted to return for a longer visit of Palaeochora! I suspect there will be quite some lovely low-key islands like this waiting to be discovered

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