It would be a shame to travel to Greece without visiting the most well-known Greek islands – Santorini, Mykonos, Crete, Rhodes, Corfu, etc. But these destinations are far from Athens and you can’t visit them in a single day. If you want the experience of the Greek islands in a fraction of the time, consider visiting Aegina. The ride is 1 hour and 15 minutes from Piraeus, making it a perfect day trip from the capitol. Being so close to Athens, Aegina is packed on the weekends, so I recommend to visit during the week if you can.
The main reason to visit the island in the first place is for the beaches! Below are a few to consider.
Close to Aegina town, this organized beach has sunbeds and umbrellas for rent as well as several tavernas serving food and drinks. Marathonas is a fishing village, so this is a good spot to grab fish along the sea. Try Stratigos for fresh fish.
Huge eucalyptus trees provide natural shade, or you can rent a sunbed and umbrella. The DJ and trendy bar attract young people to this beach. There is also a restaurant of the same name and offers great fish and an even better view of the sunset.
A bit further away (9 km) from Aegina Town, try the quiet fishing village of Perdika. The views over the channel to the islet Moni makes it one of the best places to watch sunsets. As the sun set, I watched dolphins bursting from the water in graceful arcs amidst the nighttime fishing boats. There is a small, unorganized beach with umbrellas here. Despite the small size, there are a relatively large number of establishments situated along an elevated terrace. Try Nontas for a seafood lunch or dinner next to the sea. After your meal, the lovely cobbled street along the waterfront makes for a nice walk. Or try one of the bars for a cocktail.
If you are looking for a more secluded spot, catch a 10-minute boat ride from Perdika to the uninhabited Moni island. Though more secluded, you can still get your beverages at the two cafes and rent sunbeds and umbrellas. How’s that for a beach getaway?
Other things to do
If you want to stay a bit longer and fit in some cultural activities, Aegina has that too! Aegina was home to one of the best schools of sculpture during archaic times.
Archaeological Museum of Aegina
Come to see one of these early-Classical sculptures for yourself at the Archaeological Museum of Aegina, which houses the statue of the Sphinx (460 BC). It is like a superhero, with the head of a woman and a body that is part eagle and part lion! You can also see Greece’s first mass-produced silver coins (from as early as 580 BC), depicted with Aegina’s specific marker, the sea turtle.
Temple of Aphaia
The temple from 500 BC was dedicated to a Cretan deity, Aphaia. As the legend goes, Aphaia was chased by a lover (Minos), and she jumped into the sea to get away from him (that’s desperation!). She emerged in Aegina and became invisible. Located on a hilltop, there are spectacular views to the north and southeast. The pediment sculptures from here are some of the most important pieces of early Classical period. So good, that 200 years ago they were “bought” and then resold to a Bavarian king. They are now on display in Munich, but there are calls for them to be returned to Aegina.
Wait! Before you leave the temple, be sure to stop at the cafe next door for pistachio ice cream. I’m sure you’ll notice all over the island the pistachios for which Aegina is a well-known producer.
The Old Town of Aegina, where residents retreated in the 8th century AD to avoid the Venetians and pirate raids. They built a fortress and a prosperous city and lived there for 10 eventful centuries. The remains include 33 of 365 churches (so says an old-timer told us; they wanted a different church for every day of the year). Of these that remain, five of them have been restored, including frescoes from the 13th through the 18th centuries. You can see Paleochora on top of the hill near Agios Nektarios monastery. To get there, walk an hour up from Agios Nektarios.
Hellenic Wildlife Hospital
One thing that I will do on my next trip to Aegina is the Hellenic Wildlife Hospital! EKPAZ has treated Greek wildlife since 1984. Every year, it sees at least 3,500 injured or poisoned wildlife, including endangered raptors, foxes, pelicans and flamingos. Common injuries include being shot, but others are poisoned by eating rats that had eaten pesticides. The wildlife is released if recovered enough to survive in the wild. www.ekpaz.gr (Greek).
How to get there
There are many ferry companies offering transport to Aegina. There are two main types of ships: the Flying Dolphin and a car ferry. The Flying Dophins are faster, making the trip in 40 minutes, but are also more expensive €23.50-€28 (return) depending on the company. The car ferries take 65 – 75 minutes but are cheaper for passengers €16- €19 (return). The ticket for a car is €38 – €55 (return).
The app and website Open Seas (www.openseas.gr) is a great place to start. It pulls the schedule from all the ferry companies so that you can choose what fits your schedule. From there, you can book your tickets directly with the ferry companies.
If you choose not to take your car, you can rent a scooter near the port in Aegina. The cost is €17 in the summer. Book here www.aeginagreece.com/aegina-island/car-rental-motorbike-rental/. The island isn’t big, but to get to the sights, you’ll need some wheels.