Planning to spend some time in Athens this summer? Here are some island destinations for you less than an hour away from the city!
Island of Salamis - credits: travelgreecetraveleurope
The island of Salamis is the largest island of the Saronic Gulf and one of the most historical islands of Greece. It is world-renowned for its ancient past and more particularly for the naval Battle of Salamis in 480 BC. Then, an alliance of Greek city-states (with Athens in charge) faced King Xerxes and his mighty Persian fleet at the Strait of Salamis, a narrow sea passage between Attica and the island. Less than 2km away from the port of Perama, your ferry-boat ride will take you there in just 15 minutes! Explore the island and discover landmarks and monuments from the past related to Greece's modern history!
The Monument of the Battle of Salamis
According to ancient literature, it is believed that the naval battle happened between the islet of St.George and the Kynosoura peninsula. There, 378 Greek ships fought against a fleet of over 1200 Persian ships under the leadership of the Athenian general Themistocles and Eurybiades from Sparta. The great tragedian of Athens, Aeschylus also participated in this battle. According to him, just before the start of the battle, all the allied Greeks sang together the following hymn (paean):
Sons of the Greeks, go,
Liberate your country, liberate
Your children, your women, the seats of your fathers' gods,
And the tombs of your forebears: now is the struggle for all things.
The outcome of the battle was the destruction of the Persian fleet and the withdrawal of the Persian army. It is said, that the allied Greeks lost just 40 ships while the Persians suffered losses of more than 200, while many of them drowned in the waters of the Saronic Gulf. Nowadays, at the spot where the naval battle occurred, a monument commemorates the event, created by Greek sculptor Achilles Vasileiou.
The cave of Euripides
At the south of the island, close to the village of Kolones, is the Cave of Euripides, situated in a beautiful pine forest near the sea. According to tradition, this is where Euripides, the latest of the great three ancient Athenian tragedians became a recluse and wrote many of his tragedies. After his death, a cult honoring the playwright was established. Archaeologists, during excavations in the area of the cave, realized that the cave and its surrounding area were used since Neolithic times and have many Mycenaean burials, classical past, roman offerings and artifacts from the Frankish occupation. Some of the findings are on display in the Archaeological Museum of Salamis.
The circular tomb at Kolones
Right next to Kolones village at the tip of a cape, there is a monumental circular funerary structure dated to the 4th century BC. This tomb was specially designed to be seen from the sea and it seems to have belonged to a prestigious and wealthy family. This imposing structure with a diameter of more than 10 meters, hosted the burials of the family and a small altar for offerings. Nowadays, the tomb has been restored and it's open to the public.
Just an hour away from the port of Piraeus, Agistri is a wonderful picturesque small island in the Saronic Gulf. An ideal weekend city escape, Agistri is dearly loved by Athenians because of its lush pine forests and its crystal clear waters. During antiquity, the island was known as Cecryphaleia. Many of the ancient settlements of the island nowadays are found under the sea of Agistri, mostly at the western part of the island. A must-see attraction of the island is the Folk Art Museum at Megalochori, a small museum that will transport you back in time and introduce you to the past every-day life of Agistri islanders.
Dragonera beach - credits: agistrigreece.com
Following the coastal road after Megalochori and located at the western coast of the island, Dragonera beach is the favorite spot for free-campers. A pebbled beach consisted of two coves, this is the place where the pine forests of the island meet the sea, creating a mesmerizing scenery! A small cantine on the beach provides refreshments and snacks, making Dragonera a popular, family-friendly destination.
Chalikiada beach, Agistri - credits: seastars.gr
Right next to the port of Skala, lies the beach of Chalikiada. With large white pebbles and turquoise waters, it certainly is one of the most beautiful beaches on Agistri. Even though it is within walking distance from the port, it is also accessible following the road northeast to Skala. Access to the beach is hard and demands quite an effort, therefore, it is not suitable for young children. An option not for the faint-hearted, Chalikiada will definitely compensate you for any trouble!
Summer in Athens could be so much more than just city life -even our Athens travel guide says so! Choose one of the island destinations nearby and experience a Greek island just a breath away from city-center! Plan your very own city-escape our check out one of our Greece tours!