For those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Athens without having to venture too far, the neighboring Argo-Saronic islands are an ideal option. A popular destination among Athenians looking for a weekend escape, the islands of Poros, Hydra and Spetses feature picturesque harbors, museums and Neoclassical mansions, narrow, winding streets, charming beaches and unspoiled, natural beauty. Here’s our guide on how to make the best of a five-day getaway in the Argo-Saronic gulf.
Head to Piraeus and jump on a hydrofoil to Poros and in an hour you will be contemplating the small island’s harbor. Separated from the mainland by a 350-metre strait, Poros comprises in fact two islands – Sferia, where you can find Poros Town, and the larger Kalavria – which are separated by a small canal spanned by a bridge. Built in the shape of an amphitheatre over two hills, the main town of Poros is a busy little hub. Visit the Archaeological Museum to learn more about the history of the island and how it took its actual shape. Get a glimpse into the past at the Folklore Museum, then walk along the picturesque harbour to the Clock Tower for an impressive view of the whole town. Poros is also blessed with beautiful little beaches, such as Askeli and Megalo Neorio. Take a stroll around the Lemon Forest, a hill covered in more than 30,000 lemon and orange trees, and drop by the Temple of Poseidon built in 520 BC, where the Athenian rhetorician Demosthenes committed suicide while he was pursued by Philip, the King of Macedonia.
Where to stay: Siren Blue Resort, Monastiri, Poros, Greece, +30 22980 22741/3
Where to eat: Karavolos, Port of Poros, Poros, Greece, +30 22980 26158
Hellenic Seaways offers daily connections to the neighboring islands. Hop on a hydrofoil and journey to Hydra. From the get-go, you will be stricken by Hydra’s car-free nature. An island with no vehicles, where the only means of transportation allowed are donkey, horses and bicycles, it truly makes for a carefree place. With its traditional stone houses, small cobbled streets and a bustling harbor, Hydra is one of the most scenic nearby islands you could wish for. More impressive maybe is the fact that the small island is home to 300 churches and six monasteries and, though you might not be able to see them all in just a few days, some of them are definitely worth visiting. Spend the first day in the center, strolling along the waterfront and exploring the secluded squares and narrow, winding streets up in the town. The island’s museums include the Historic Archives and Museum of Hydra, the Ecclesiastical and Byzantine Museum housed in the old Monastery of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, and the Museum of Post-Byzantine Art and History, housed in the mansion of Georgios Kountouriotis.
Where to stay: Angelica VIP Boutique Hotel, Andrea Miaouli 43, Hydra, Greece, +30 2298 053202
Where to eat: Bratsera Hotel Restaurant, Hydra, Greece, +30 2298 053971
Today is your day to explore the rest of the island. Known for its many hiking trails (around 12 of them), Hydra is a paradise for hikers and walkers. The trek to Limnioniza beach may be semi-strenuous but your efforts will be rewarded by a dive in turquoise waters. If you are not really into hiking but still want to take advantage of the joys of swimming and sunbathing, Spilia, a rocky beach off the main port, is a good alternative.
Where to eat: Sunset Restaurant, Kolpos Hydra, Hydra, Greece, +30 2298 052067
Continue your island hopping trip to Spetses. Welcome to the island of aromas, or the isola delle spezie, as it was once named. The picture-perfect old harbor and Dápia – the modern harbor area of town where the heart of the island’s entertainment is – are the trademarks of the town of Spetses, the main settlement on the island. A single road makes a loop around the island, which you can use to explore the many beaches. Agioi Anargyroi bay is one of the most popular, but if you’re feeling adventurous you can explore Bekiris’ cave, one of the most beautiful and difficult spots to reach on the island. You can reach it by a trekking path or by boat. Because the entrance is quite narrow however, you will have to swim to get in but, once you’re inside, it is totally worth the expedition. The interior of the cave is breathtaking, with crystal clear waters and a small, sandy beach on one side.
Where to stay: Mare Monte Suites Boutique Hotel, Agios Mamas, Spetses, Greece, +30 22980 77122
Where to eat: Mouragio, Old Harbor, Spetses, Greece, +30 2298 072387
Rise early and take advantage of your last day before the boat-ride back to Athens. Plan a morning to visit the house of Laskarina Bouboulina, a naval commander and heroine who played a significant role during the Greek War of Independence of 1821. The mansion now houses a museum which recounts the story of the war with an emphasis on her life. Also worth visiting are the Church of Panagia Armata and the Cathedral of Agios Nikolaos. After that, reward yourself with a swim at Zogeria beach, a stunning little bay flanked by a lush pine tree forest. If you are lucky and the weather allows it, you may even spot Nafplio in the distance!
Where to eat: Zogeria tavern, Zogeria, Spetses, Greece