The island of Aegina is just 16 miles from Athens in the Saronic Gulf. Ferries travel regularly from Piraeus and take about an hour and 15 minutes.
With ancient ruins, idyllic fishing villages and lots of beaches, the island makes a good day-trip from Athens.
Sites of interest include:
The 5th century BCE Doric Temple of Aphaia (Afea), a local goddess of fertility, is a beautiful monument in its own right, but it’s especially interesting because it is built on the site of a Mycenean Mother Goddess sanctuary, which dates to at least the 13th century BCE.
Near the Aegina harbor, the Kolona archaeological site is easily recognized by its lone column, all that stands of a Temple of Apollo, which was destroyed by Christians in the 4th century. The site was continuously inhabited for two thousand years from about 3000BCE and sporadically thereafter. There are remains (mostly rubble) of a theater, a stadium, numerous temples, civic buildings, a synagogue, tombs and a port. If you’re an archaeology nerd, you’ll love exploring this place. If not, it may try your patience. The lovely views should satisfy anyone. The Archaeological Museum helps make sense of this very complex site and documents the history of other parts of the island as well.
Paleachora (which means Old Town) was the site of the island’s capital for a thousand years (9th-19th centuries CE). Remains consist mostly of Byzantine churches, 38 of them, to be precise. Scattered across a steep hillside, the churches are connected by footpaths and range in condition from newly restored to quite decayed. Nearby, the very beautiful, 20th century Agios Nektarios church honors a saint who died in 1920 and is a popular pilgrimage site.
Perdika is a sweet fishing village, with cafes and bars facing the small harbor and Moni Island beyond. It’s a popular place for fish lunch. Across from the harbor is the Camera Obscura, built in 2003 for the Light & Image Exhibition. A 360-degree image of the surrounding landscape is projected, upside down, on the inner walls of the cylindrical building though small holes in the walls.
The coast road is dotted with equally quaint villages.
And now a plug for Animal Protection Aegina Agistri, just because. It’s an animal welfare charity and founding member of the Panhellenic Animal Welfare Federation that shelters dogs and cats, vaccinates, neuters and finds homes for hundreds of animals annually. Check out their FB page!
Can’t get enough of these Minoan frescos from Knossos ~
Talos was a giant bronze man, the Cretan sun god and general guardian of the island. There are many conflicting stories about his genesis, purpose and death, but his role as protector of Crete is a common thread. Zeus and Hephaestus (the god of the forge) are variously named as his creator.
Talos circled the entire island 3 times each day (to account for this, some ancient depictions show him with wings) and lobbed boulders at unauthorized ships that approached the island. Any invader who reached the shore would die a hideous death in his hot-metal embrace.
Talos had one vulnerability – a plug on his ankle, which contained the molten-metal life-blood coursing through a single artery. When Jason and his Argonauts attempted to land on Crete to resupply after their Golden Fleece adventure, they were held off by a barrage of rock-missiles. Fortunately, for the Argonauts, Jason’s wife, the sorceress Medea, was also on board. She cast a spell on Talos, which caused him to remove the plug from his ankle and “bleed” to death.
Some scholars suggest the story represents the cultural, political and technological transition from the Bronze Age and the power of Minoan Crete, which collapsed around 1100 BCE, to the rise of Proto-Greek groups, which invaded Greece in waves across the millennium prior to the fall of Minoan Crete.
Mykonos has a well-earned reputation as the party island of Greece. Most of the tourist development on the island is on the south side, where the scene is dense with raucous revelers in the abundant bars and restaurants, in the streets, and on the beaches.
If a tranquil island experience is the goal, there are far better options than Mykonos.
On the other hand, those travelers looking to kick up their heels for a time and then recover in relative peace, we direct to the north side of the island.
About 15 minutes by car from teeming Mykonos Town, Agios Sostis Beach (St. Sostis)is a lovely, calm stretch of pristine nature. Development in the area is sparse and the only tourist facility is a rustic taverna. The mostly sandy beach is on a small cove on the west side of the large Panormos Bay. It’s very clean and gives way to remarkably clear waters. The beach is clothing-optional, with nudists tending to gather at one end.
There is no bus service to this remote beach, which helps discourage the crowds.
Still, Agios Sostis Beach can get busy in high season. It is other peace-seeking visitors who are drawn here though; and it never gets anywhere near as crowded as south coast beaches.
There are no umbrellas or sunbeds on this beach and no natural shade. Visitors should bring umbrellas and towels, as well as snacks and plenty of water. There may be a wandering vendor or two offering drinks and simple food but don’t count on it.
Kiki’s taverna serves delicious food but the wait for a table is notoriously long, often more than an hour. The Kiki’s hopeful should get a spot in line well before they open for lunch.
Now for the downside – the northern shore of Mykonos takes the brunt of the Meltemi wind, which blows across the Aegean Sea with variable velocity May-October, but especially July-August. A particularly windy day on Mykonos is perhaps not the best day for Agios Sostis Beach.