General Information on Aegina
Aegina, a rather large island in the Saronic Gulf, lies a mere 17.5 nautical miles away from Piraeus, the main port of Greece, rendering it the main weekend destination for many Athenians. As a result, Aegina is a vibrant island all year round, teeming with people in its narrow alleys.
The island consists of a series of volcanic heights in the center and south, which were formerly crowned by temples of Zeus and were used as navigational markers. In the northwestern part, the coastal plains and low hills are dominated by pistachio and almond plantations, olive groves and a few vineyards. Pistachios, specifically, have been produced here since antiquity, and you will definitely have the opportunity to taste them in every imaginable way.
Aegina has an excellent tourist infrastructure, boasting an abundance of hotels, restaurants, shops, organised beaches and other attractions. Car rental agencies are also present on the island.
When visiting Aegina, you will surely notice its character of antithesis; traditional villages and cosmopolitan resorts, picturesque sandy beaches and rocky coasts. Simply rent a car or hop on a horse-drawn carriage and let the view settle in.
History of Aegina
According to Greek mythology, Aegina owes its name to the daughter of the River God Asopus, whom Zeus seduced and took to the island, then called Oenone. There, she gave birth to Aecus, first king of the island and grandfather of the famous Trojan hero Achilles. The archaeological records show the island has been inhabited since the Neolithic period, and it is considered the birthplace of the poet Aristophanes. The Minoans later ruled over the island, followed by the Achaeans and the Dorians.
The island saw an economical and naval growth around the mid-2nd millennium BC, forming trade routes with Cyclades, Crete and the mainland. Aegina was also the first place in Europe to mint coins and develop a banking system. Shortly afterwards, it evolved into a controlling commercial force in the Mediterranean, bearing a powerful and extensive fleet.
Literally in the centre of the Saronic Gulf, close to Athens, Corinth, and Epidaurus, the island is in one of the most unique natural locations of the region. This position was ideal for trade of its products, mainly pottery and perfumes, and its prominence held sway in the region until the first Persian War. The powerful fleet of the island played a significant role during the famous Battle of Salamis against the Persians. After the Persian defeat, Aegina continued to flourish and its inhabitants built the superb Temple of Aphaia. However, the economic, social and naval glory of the island alarmed the Athenians, who, envious of its wealth, attacked in 459 BC. As a result, the city walls were pulled down, the fleet surrendered and the inhabitants were replaced by Athenian colonists. These events submerged the island into geopolitical obscurity and had the same fate as the rest of Greece.
Later on, the island came under the rule of the king of Macedonia and Pergamos and, in 133 BC, of Rome. Afterwards, it was annexed to the Byzantine Empire, followed by Venetian domination and the Turkish yoke. Aegina made an important contribution during the Greek Revolution of 1821 against the Ottomans and experienced a brief moment of glory from 1827 to 1829, when it was declared temporary capital of the partly liberated Greece. With the creation of the Greek State in 1830, the island returned to the shadows and to its humble position as main producer of pistachios in Greece.
Towns & Villages in Aegina
Aegina Town: Capital of the island, this is probably the most beautiful and traditional settlement. The air of nobility is ubiquitous here, and its imposing neoclassic buildings are constant reminders that this is the first capital of Modern Greece. As a contrast, the colourful waterfront, with a plethora of cafes, fish taverns and little shops, provides a quite picturesque and friendly atmosphere to the visitor.
Agia Marina: This coastal village is situated 14km east of the capital, and attracts a huge number of tourists thanks to its organised beach, a nearby pine forest and a lively nightlife. Restaurants, taverns, cafes and bars as well as a variety of accommodation choices may be found here, covering every taste.
Perdika: This beautiful small village is situated 9km south of the capital, on top of a hill, and offering a fantastic view of the Aegean Sea. Near the charming fishing harbour, visitors may find fish taverns, cafes and bars. Boat and yacht owners can also make use of the facilities provided.
Mesargos: This is a mountainous village amidst dense vegetation, situated 9km northeast of Aegina Town. Mesargos is a wonderful settlement to visit while in Aegina, and has some amazing views over the island and the Temple of Aphaia Athena. The village is famous for its ceramic pottery and many talented potters, known all over Greece, live and work here.
Beaches in Aegina
Agia Marina: Agia Marina attracts the main portion of tourists, thanks to its sandy beach, which is fairly large and well organised. It is located 14.5km away from Aigina.
Souvala: The beautiful coastal village and port of Souvala is situated 10km from the capital and is a well-known resort, offering spas and a well organised sand-and-pebble beach. It can be found northeast of the capital, close to the homonymous resort.
Marathonas: This picturesque fishing village appeals to tourists despite the settlement retaining its exclusive character. It is comparatively quieter than other harbour-towns. The sandy beach is organised and is bordered with few trees.
Perdika: This small beach is located in front of the lovely fishing village of Perdika, south of the capital. The beach is composed of a mixture of sand and pebbles and offers a wonderful view over the islet of Moni and the Peloponnese.
Top Things to Do in Aegina
1. The Temple of Aphaia: The temple lies on top of a pine-covered hill, on the northeastern part of the island, 12km away from the capital. The sanctuary was initially dedicated to the cult of Aphaia, a local deity later assimilated by Athena. Finds dating from the prehistoric period suggest that the cult had been established very early, possibly in the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC. According to archaeologists, the sanctuary flourished mainly during the archaic period; around 500 BC, the sanctuary assumed the monumental form it preserves today. The area was levelled off by the construction of isodomic walls which retained the ground, on which the temple was erected, along with the altar, the propylon and various lesser buildings. A new period of prosperity came during the mid-4th century, when the altar was remodelled and several new buildings were constructed southeast of the temenos. Pottery findings of the later periods suggest restricted activity on the site until the beginning of the 1st century BC, when the sanctuary was abandoned. The imposing Temple was built around 500 BC. An earlier building existed on the same position, built in the 6th century BC, but was burnt down in around 510 BC. It was Doric, peristeral, with 6x12 columns. At the middle of the façade of the dimple, a ramp 2.90m wide, was constructed, connecting the temple to the altar. The latter, 12m wide, was located to the east of the temple. The Propylos was situated in the south part of the temenos and gave access to the sanctuary. Apart from these main structures, a house for the priests was built to the southeast of the sanctuary, while the outer area served for religious activities connected with Pan. Votive offerings were erected around the temple.
2. Paleohora: This was the former capital of the island from the 9th century to 1826. The inhabitants of Aegina were forced inland due to frequent pirate attacks, common in Greek islands during that period, and many coastal villages, including Aegina Town, were abandoned. Despite the efforts of the inhabitants in 1537, the infamous pirate Barbarossa annihilated the island and enslaved any survivors. Today, ruins are the sole reminders of this village, as the inhabitants moved to the modern capital. In this fascinating ghost town, you may still find some of the 365 churches, and the churches of Episkopi, Agios Georgios and Metamorphosis house particularly interesting frescoes. The abandoned settlement is situated on a hillside, 6.5km away from the capital.
3. The Archaeological Museum of Aegina: This museum, founded in 1829, was the first museum of Greece. It is housed in a building constructed in 1980 near the site of Kolona in Aegina Town. The exhibition consists of a collection of artefacts from the Temple of Aphaia, a statue of the Temple of Apollo and Neolithic pots.
4. Kolona Temple of Apollo: On the far side of the beach in the capital, you may find the ruins of an important town which flourished during the largest portion of the Bronze Age (2500-1600). In archaic times a temple of Apollo was erected on the site. Today, only one column remains standing and has given its name to the area. Moreover, this was also the site of the Ancient Acropolis of the island, and finds from an early Helladic settlement have been excavated.
5. Moni islet: The tiny islet of Moni is standing near the islet of Angistri, on the west coast of Aegina. It is almost deserted, apart from a rare species of wild goats which is native here. Moni has some beautiful little sandy coves, impressively clear waters and a rich flora. The islet can be reached by taxi-boat from the little port of Perdika.
How to Reach Aegina
Ferry: During summer, there are over 10 daily ferry routes connecting Aegina and Piraeus (1½ hours), as well as a service from Agia Marina (1½ hours) and Souvala (1 hour). Moreover, there are at least three daily ferries to Poros (1 hour), two to Hydra (2 hours) and one to Spetses (3 hours). For more information, you may contact the Piraeus port authorities (+30 210 41 47 800); an automated message will inform you of the routes.
Hydrofoil: These operate almost hourly between Aegina Town and Piraeus (35 min).
Getting Around in Aegina
There are frequent buses running from Aegina Town to Agia Marina (30 min), via Paleohora and the Temple of Aphaia. Other buses go to Perdika (15 min) and Souvala (20 min). Departure times are displayed outside the ticket office which is on Plateia Ethnegersias.
Weather in Aegina
Aegina has a Mediterranean climate, consisting of mild winters and dry, hot summers. Spring time is particularly enjoyable in Aegina when the fertile island is covered with lush vegetation and temperatures are optimal. Autumn is also very pleasant for visiting, as the days are still sunny and clear and the temperatures quite mild.
Top 10 Destinations in Aegina
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Map of Aegina