Imagine being able to get the full Greek island experience without having to endure a multiple-hour journey that will cost you time and money. Well, this dream doesn’t need to belong to the realm of imagination, as the Saronic Islands offer their visitors exactly that: all the advantages of a Greek island and the additional benefit of being in such close proximity to Athens that they can serve as a 2-day or even day-trip destination!
When it comes to holidays, convenience is everything! Therefore, If the clock is ticking and the days you have to spend in Greece are limited, choosing one of the Saronic islands as your holiday destination is the smartest choice you can make. Whether you choose to visit Aegina, Poros, Hydra, Spetses, or Methana, you’ll be met with beauty and ease; what more can you want?
And if you need more convincing that the Saronic islands combine the best elements of every destination, it only takes the islands of Hydra and Spetses to seal the deal. Both of those islands are remarkably scenic, with cobbled alleys and old stone houses dominating the setting, and don’t require a car; you can go everywhere on foot or by taking a local taxi! Aegina is a personal favorite, with its authentic Greek island ambiance fooling everyone into thinking they’re way more than an hour away from Athens.
Additionally, Methana is connected by a narrow strip of land with the region of Argolida and is ideal for quiet vacations away from the cosmopolitan elements of the more popular Greek islands. Tiny Agkistri is known for its lush greenery and the magnificence of its long sandy beach, while Poros offers its visitor the opportunity to smell the enticing smell that comes off of its famous lemon forest that blooms during spring.
Here is a breakdown of all the Saronic Islands to help you with your choice. Of course, if you feel like it, they’re all so close to one another that you can get away with touring all of them on the same trip to Greece; Greek island-hopping is highly recommended, but, as always, the choice is yours!
Aegina - credits: leoks/Shutterstock.com
Aegina is the largest one of the most favored islands of the Saronic Gulf and a top destination for both locals and tourists due to its location at a very short distance from Athens, namely around 40 minutes with the speed boat.
By now, it should come as no surprise that following the theme of all Greek islands, Aegina has many natural beauties and a very interesting history. Its fascinating past can be demonstrated to anyone who visits Aegina’s well-known archeological sites such as the famous ‘Temple of Aphaia Athena’ and the ruins of the ‘Temple of Apollo’ of which today only one column has been preserved.
Although the island may not be known for its gorgeous beaches, there are a few that are worth visiting, when you can lay on your back enjoying a coffee or a cocktail and listening to the waves crash on the sandy shore. The most popular beaches include the beach of Marathona, Vagia, and Agia Marina, with Agia Marina attracting the youngest ad hippest crowds.
Due to the aforementioned close proximity to Athens, unlike most Greek islands, Aegina is a destination that can be enjoyed all-year-round, however, if you plan on visiting it during the winter, it’d be wiser for you to stick to a weekend as this is when the island gets some life breathed into it for all the Athenian that escape to it for a short getaway. During the summer months, Aegina is full of tourists -both from abroad and from other regions of Greece- who come to enjoy its relaxing vibe.
The capital of the island is Aegina, which is the main port where the majority of tourists arrive. Arriving at the port of Aegina, you will see the beautiful picturesque marina and the traditional houses and buildings located near the sea. In the port of Aegina, you will also find the local buses which will take you to different parts of the island if you do not have your own means of transport. There is also a taxi station near the dock.
Additionally, some other parts of the island that are worth spending your time on are Agia Marina, Souvala, and the seaside Perdika, the last of which will give you the opportunity to taste fish and seafood in one of the many restaurants of its picturesque little port that looks out to the Saronic Gulf and the neighboring islands of Agistri and Methana.
Don’t let the incredibly easy accessibility fool you; there is more to Aegina than meets the eye, and although it should feel like an extension of Athens it feels far from it. It feels like a gorgeous Greek island anyone would be lucky to explore!
Agistri - credits: Aerial-motion/Shutterstock.com
Within a very short distance from Aegina, around 10 minutes to be exact, is the beautiful island of Agistri. It is a lusciously vegetated island ideal for a day trip from Aegina or Athens that due to its greenery offers a deep breath of fresh air to everyone looking to escape the big cities.
Although small in size, Agistri is infinite in beauty. On the island, there are many scattered beaches where you can cool off during the hot summer months. The island has two ports, Skala and Mylos. The main port is Skala, where many visitors arrive. As soon as your foot touches the ground of Agistri, you can see the traditional white church at the pier and the beautiful beach that stretches there.
Along the beach, you will find many coffee bars where you can enjoy your drink by the sea. Many of these cafes have sunbeds and umbrellas for customers who wish to order their drink on the beach. There is also a large selection of restaurants and taverns serving delicious delicacies and fresh fish.
Anyone who arrives in Agistri immediately understands why the island is considered the hidden jewel of the Saronic Gulf. It is an island that offers peace, relaxation, and carefree holidays away from the stress of everyday life. The beaches of the island are ideal for all visitors while the shallow waters in some parts of the sea offer a safe resort for families with children.
What’s more, the island has several tourist accommodations such as hotels, rooms to let and apartments which operate mainly from May to October while there are some that are open all year round. Regardless, we would suggest you visit it during the summer months, as it is then that the island can be experienced in its full potential!
Agistri is a traditional island that has not yet been affected by the intense cosmopolitan life that can be found elsewhere in the Greek islands. It has managed to retain its magic and charm and it is waiting for you to take advantage of that!
Hydra - credits: S-F/Shutterstock.com
The beautiful island of Hydra is a small island located a breath away from the coast of Argolida in the Peloponnese and around two hours from the Port of Piraeus in Athens.
Hydra is an island of unique beauty surrounded by a wonderful natural landscape. The city of Hydra is built amphitheatrically around the port and everywhere a wonderful combination of gray and white of the area with the enchanting blue of the sea prevails; it is no coincidence that Hydra is famous for its traditional houses but also for a special kind of architecture of its buildings.
What makes Hydra stand out the most, however, is the absence of cars from the island. Transportation in the city is done by donkeys or by boats that will take you around the various beaches. This tradition has been preserved to this day in order to make visitors feel that they travel back in time. It is however also extremely convenient as one doesn’t need to worry about renting a vehicle and driving in unknown streets. Not to mention the added bonus of partying at night without having to be responsible for the way home!
Every day the port of Hydra receives many vacationers as they constantly anchor yachts and cruise ships from everywhere. Due to the fact that the island is internationally known for its beauty, it presents a cosmopolitan atmosphere and intense nightlife.
Crossing the cobblestone paths of the island, you will have the opportunity to admire the beautiful stone houses with the blossoming courtyards and the colorful flowers that spread an intoxicating aroma everywhere.
Although a small island, Hydra lacks none of either the beauty or hospitality of the other Greek islands, while it is also an extremely diverse holiday destination perfect for both those who are looking for a more relaxed experience and for those seeking out the famous Greek island nightlife!
If you visit Hydra, don’t forget to walk around its scenic port, a venture that is so simple yet so unique. Reaching the hill above the port you can gaze at the sea and enjoy unforgettable sunsets. It is also worth visiting and getting to know the religious history of the place just from an architectural and historical perspective alone as there are about 300 small churches and 6 monasteries scattered throughout Hydra.
Hydra’s most beautiful beaches include Spilia, Hydroneta, Avlaki, Kamini, and Vlychos, but the sheer beauty of the island is not restricted to its beaches. Just a visit, will make you see why if you visit Hydra once, you’re bound to visit it again!
Poros - credits: S.Borisov/Shutterstock.com
The beautiful Poros has a ferry connection with the port of Piraeus and Galata in the Peloponnese region. Although it is a very popular destination for Greeks, it also attracts many visitors from all over the world, who come to the island in order to escape the daily stress of the city and enjoy the tranquility of the area.
Poros is also suitable for a day-trip or a weekend getaway if you want a short break from everyday life. Once you arrive at the port of Poros, you will see the huge clock which dominates imposingly and stands out among the rest of the scenery. You can visit the clock to take souvenir photos all over the island and enjoy the wonderful panoramic view across the Saronic Gulf.
Walking on the island you can admire the huge pine trees that spread everywhere and the traditional houses that are built amphitheatrically. This picturesque setting is complemented by the famous ‘Lemon Forest’ which is a small natural paradise famous for its mind-blowing aroma, especially during the spring. Those who love hiking can visit the Lemon Forest which stretches east of the main city of the island. Walking among the lemon and orange trees you will find a picturesque watermill and a waterfall that complete the enchanting scenery of nature.
Like every Greek island that respects itself, Poros has some beautiful beaches where you can enjoy the sun and the sea. Our top picks include the Little Neorio, the Grand Neorio, the Canal, Perlia, the Vagonia, and the small picturesque bays of Agapi and the Naval Station. Many of the beaches are secluded and surrounded by lush pine trees where you can relax and unwind.
Poros has an excellently organized tourist infrastructure and has all kinds of accommodation such as rooms, apartments, and studios. There are also many taverns and restaurants where you can enjoy delicious local dishes as well as several bars and cafes for an intense nightlife that will help you remember the carefree days of your early adulthood.
Spetses - credits: Konstantin Sokolov1973/Shuttestock.com
Spetses is the southernmost island of the Saronic Gulf and is located very close to Argolida, in the Peloponnese region. It is a striking island that attracts many visitors and is one of the favorite destinations of Greeks for their summer holidays.
The historic square of the island, the impressive neoclassical mansions, and the absence of cars give Spetses a unique charm. The city of Spetses has successfully maintained, until today, its traditional character and is considered a protected settlement, with many of its traditional mansions, serving as museums.
The island is of great historical importance. The port is called Dapia and in the historic square of the city, the famous cannons from the Greek revolution of 1821 stand out. Additionally, in the beautiful Poseidon Square stands the statue of Laskarina Bouboulina, known for her contribution to the struggle for Greeks’ liberation from the Turkish.
On the island, there are many cafes, bars, clubs, restaurants, and taverns where guests can taste wonderful local delicacies and refreshing drinks. Do not forget to try the stuffed rooster and the famous local dish ‘fish a la spetsiota’, both of which will be treats to your senses.
The island is famous for the quiet atmosphere it offers, mainly due to the absence of cars. Only motorbikes and traditional horse-lead carriages are available on the island to transport people to different places.
If you decide to visit Spetses in September, you will have the opportunity to attend many cultural events organized on the island at that time. The most important is the representation of the arson of the Turkish flagship, on September 8, 1822, which is celebrated in memory of the naval battle of Spetses with the Turks.
Methana - credits: De Visu/Shutterstock.com
Although Methana doesn't belong to the Saronic islands as it's not even an island but a peninsula connected to the Argolida region in the Peloponnese with a narrow strip of land called ‘Steno’, the island's beauty and close proximity to the Saronic complex makes it worth a mention. In reality, Methana is a volcanic peninsula with natural springs and beautiful beaches with crystal clear waters. While it displays a rather unconventional type of beauty, it is loved by the Greeks who want to spend their time in offbeat parts of the country.
The capital of Methana is -you guessed it- Chora, a truly captivating city that offers whatever you can think of and then some. Apart from Chora, the peninsula is surrounded by small picturesque villages such as Mounoupitsa, Vathi, Palia Loutra, Kypseli, Agios Theodoros, Agios Nikolaos, and Megalochori, all gorgeous and inviting in a way no visitor is able to resist.
Another well-known area in Methana is the village of Dritsaika from where you can enjoy a magnificent view out to the Saronic Gulf.
If you visit Methana during the summer months, you will have the opportunity to enjoy the island’s beautiful beaches. Sea fanatics should definitely make sure to visit Almyra beach, which is the most famous on the island, but any other beach will do as well; would it really be a Greek island if all of its beaches weren’t to-die-for?.
Continuing the route from Almyra beach, you will reach the ‘Cave of Pigeons’, which was discovered by chance by the locals, in 1973. Vathi is another village on the island that is worth visiting in order to climb to the crater of the volcano located in its premises called Kameni. This unique island is also famous for its hot springs that gush in the area of Vromolimni. Every year, people with rheumatic and skin diseases arrive on the island to swim in the thermal waters.
Methana is indeed ideal for quiet, alternative holidays. Its incredibly easy accessibility from both Piraeus and Argolis in combination with its unusual volcanic landscape, its incredible beaches, and its traditional elements, make it a top destination for even the fussiest of visitors!
You need neither an incredibly rich budget nor a month-long vacation to enjoy the Greek islands to their full potential. With the Saronic islands on the table, enjoying an authentic Greek holiday on an island is easier than ever. Don’t let the short distance fool you: each and every one of the Saronic islands will make you forget you’re only a breath away from the hustle and bustle of the Greek capital. Incredible beaches, scenic landscapes, and the unmistakable Greek island aesthetic will follow you wherever you choose to go!