Greece- Aegina Island | Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com
The ultimate day trip from Athens
A stone’s throw away from Athens, the island of Aegina makes for the perfect day trip for those wanting to escape the busyness of the mainland. I dragged my travel friend Nancy with me on the 75-minute ferry ride across the Saronic Gulf to explore the land of the pistachio nuts.
The island is iconic in Greek history and was once the capital of Greece in 1828 before Athens. According to the myth, the island took its name from a nymph, the daughter of the river god Asopos, whom Zeus fell in love with and took with him to the island. There is evidence that the island was inhabited from as early as 3500 B.C.
The island is also famous for its year-round harvesting of round-shaped pistachio nuts. It started here in 1860 and expanded to other parts of Greece. Most of these fields are placed on the western side of the island because this area is more fertile and less mountainous than other parts of the Island. The EU recognizes Aegina as having the best pistachios in the world and is protected.
On first impression, this scenic island appeared as a typical Greek coastal village. Neo-classical houses adorned the streets, horse-drawn carts carried locals up and down the promenade and restaurants can be found alongside the harbor.
Even though the island is small, it boasts a great number of archeological sites and natural beauties. The temple of Aphaia is known as the jewel of the island and is the main tourist attraction. It forms an equilateral triangle with the Parthenon and the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, the so-called “holy triangle” of antiquity.
On the outskirts of Aegina town, you can find the charming rustic villages of Kypseli, Agii, and Vagia that today resemble a ghost towns.
If you are looking at spending the night, I would really recommend spending it in the town of Agia Marina. This tourist hub of the island is set in a beautiful bay with good sandy beaches. Many modern hotels have been built here, and there’s a good choice of tavernas, cafes, and restaurants. My favorite was the Panorama Hotel perfectly situated on a private rocky beach. The family-run business ensures you will be treated like a Greek god and goddess. I could only imagine lounging on the deck chairs basking in the sun, then later jumping off a good few meters into the ocean for a cool-off.
Nancy and I spent the day exploring the village. It’s beautiful, and a few minute’s walk between beaches. I always have a tendency to head out toward the more untouched places, and this time was no exception. Nancy was quickly beginning to realize my fascination for these sorts of places that can only be found off the beaten track. I was surprised to see that many buildings were boarded shut, and newspapers covered the windows. We walked past a few abandoned cars, covered in a thick layer of dust, and got the impression that they hadn’t been moved for a good couple of years. There were a good few streets with buildings that were once shops that had been completely abandoned. There was no sign of civilization here, except for a few rats that scurried by. It saddened me that once a bustling village, could grind to an absolute halt.
I asked a few locals that I managed to find what was going on, and they told me, that the island was no longer generating money, and that there had been a decline in the number of tourists and locals visiting. Locals had moved off the island. I went during the peak of summer, and you would imagine that an island so close to Athens, will be filled with I had a look through a few reviews on trip advisor and didn’t come across as many as one would assume… Perhaps, a few other more well-known islands in Greece have taken preference over this 87m2 gem. This locals a good source of information, owned a pistachio nut export business. Here we tried out a pistachio nut butter -similar to the peanut butter we all know. I bought a few jars and ate them all before I left the island.
Nancy and I stopped for lunch at the Ao An snack bar. I would love to give you directions on how to get there, but I really don’t know how to backtrack our steps. We walked a lot that day.
We spent sunset at the Aegina harbor while waiting for our boat to come in. The sun’s rays gently hit The church of Agios Nikolaos – a dome-shaped that is considered the protector saint of sailormen. I glanced over at the 14th-century whitewashed chapel of Agios Nikolaos and along the harbor and noticed a young woman pushing an elderly lady in a wheelchair.
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