Aegina: Greek Island Paradise on Athens’ Doorstep
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While Athens has more than its fair share of sites to fill up any traveler’s itinerary, the big city also has its share of hustle and bustle. So would you believe it if someone said there was a Greek Island [calmer, closer, and cheaper than Santorini or Mykonos] on Athens’ very doorstep? Now what if they told you that it had ancient archaeological sites, world-class beaches and delicious cuisine? This island is none other than Aegina.
Aegina [Grk: Αίγινα] is one of the Saronic Islands, and is located a mere 17 miles away from Athens. The island is very easy to reach from Athens, and its proximity makes it the perfect destination to escape the hustle of the modern capital, especially if it is only for a day. The island boasts a marvelous ancient temple known as the Temple of Aphaia [Grk: Ναός Αφαίας] that still stands, albeit in a ruined form. The Temple of Aphaia is one point of the so-called Holy Triangle, where it is said that if lines were drawn connecting them, the Temple of Aphaia forms an equilateral triangle with the Acropolis in Athens, and the Temple of Poseidon on Cape Sounion.
The Temple was built in 500BC and is made of porous limestone that was later coated with an outer layer of stucco and richly painted. Like the Parthenon and the Temple of Poseidon, the temple is built in the Doric order. Six columns form the front and back of the temple, while each side has twelve columns. 25 of the original 32 Doric Columns still stand to this day, a testament to its construction and subsequent restoration. Most fascinating is that all but three of the columns are monolithic, meaning that they consist of a single piece of limestone, as opposed to being built of stacked column drums. The extraordinary remains of the temple make any trip to Aegina incomplete without a visit to the Temple of Aphaia.
A more recent landmark of Aegina is the Monastery of Agios Nektarios, only a few miles from the island’s port. The massive building was built in honor of Saint Nekatrios who is one of the most recent saints to be canonized in the Greek Orthodox Church. The miracle-working Saint actually lived in Aegina, until his death in 1920. The monastery is visited by a large number of Orthodox faithful that come seeking the Saint’s help and guidance.
After your sightseeing trips, be sure to try some of the islands famous pistachios, which enjoy the status of a product of protected designation of origin from the E.U. If you are a little hungrier than pistachios, you should be sure to grab a bite to eat at any of the port city’s restaurants renown for their delicious fresh seafood.
In addition to sightseeing and fresh seafood, the island is also known for its lovely beaches, which even Athenian’s love to escape to. The tranquil beaches offer the perfect spots to relax in the Grecian sun. Some of the best beaches on the islands are Souvala, Perdika, Vagia, Marathonas, and Agia Marina, to name just a few.
Perhaps one of the best characteristics of Aegina may not be its laid back atmosphere, its cuisine, its beaches or even its spectacular archaeological remains—it may very well be its proximity to Athens. The primary way to get to Aegina from Athens is by way ferry. From Athens, a quick metro trip will whisk you off to the port of Piraeus where you can catch ferries going to the island, all while not breaking the bank. By regular ferry, the trip takes only about an hour and fifteen minutes, while on the flying dolphin hydrofoil it takes only about half an hour. The time on the boat will surely fly by when you get lost taking in the sun and the sparkling blue waters passing you by.
This post was written by GreekBoston.com