General Information on Spetses
Spetses belongs to the Argosarinic Gulf islands and lies at the entrance of the Argolic Gulf, since it is the southernmost island of the cluster. Spetses is a cosmopolitan island. It is one of the popular destinations for weekends and holidays all year round.
The island excites the visitor with its lush pine-forested landscapes and crystal waters. Wonderful beaches, picturesque small bays, various interesting historical and archaeological sites as well as excellent tourist infrastructures, compose a very attractive destination for Greeks and foreign visitors. Like Hydra, Spetses had an important role during the Greek Revolution of 1821, and is the birthplace of the famous female hero Bouboulina. Visitors must be informed that use of vehicles in the main town is prohibited during the summer months.
History of Spetses
The island was known in ancient times as Pityoussa. Its former name was given by the Venetians who called it “Isola di Spezzie” (=Island of fragrances) due to its many aromatic plants.
Archaeological finds in Spetses date back to 2000 BC. However, the island during antiquity was of no importance. The Macedonians had conquered almost the whole of Greece in the 4th century BC, and after them followed the Roman and the Byzantine Empire. In the beginning of the 13th century AD, the Venetians took over the Aegean. During the 15th century, the island population increased with people coming from the coast of the Peloponnese but could not form settlements because of frequent pirate attacks.
The first settlement was built around the 17th century. The very first medieval settlement was Kasteli, situated on the northwest side of the island and surrounded by thick walls. Once the island was settled, it began to develop into a great marine power, which is still the trademark of Spetses. The impressive merchant fleet of the island was converted into warships that played a crucial role during the Greek Revolution against the Turkish yoke.
When in 1821, the Revolution broke out; Spetses was the first of the Argosaronic islands to join the battle. The towns and villages of the Peloponnese had already taken to arms, and the elders sent out a call for support to their island neighbours. The reply came soon, despite the fact that the Spetsiots did not suffer great hardships under Turkish rule. On 3 April, the Chancellery was taken without opposition, and the ships’ captains swore allegiance to the revolution. The forces of Hydra were also enlisted, after consultations among the captains of both islands. The Spetsiot ships participated in the liberation of Nafplio, Monemvassia, Mani and Messolongi as well as in the siege and conquest of Tripolitsa, and went to Crete to fight the Egyptian fleet, which was allied with the Ottomans. These powerful ships were also used to transport weapons, munitions and supplies to other island that joined the Revolution. Those ships were the main cause of success during the decisive battle against the Ottoman fleet in the Argolic Gulf. After 1825, the Spetses fleet continued to prosper for another twenty years, but then it fell into decline, taking with it the population of the island.
The two World Wars brought great poverty and misery on the island and forced another part of the population to move abroad. The outlook for the island began to improve again with the return of Sotirios Anargyros from the U.S., in the early 20th century. Realising that the future of the island lies in tourism, he put his wealth to the best possible use, constructing the road around the island, building the first hotel in the Greek islands, and replacing the pine-forests of the island which had been depleted to facilitate the boat- building industry. Later, he built the College which bears his name, and which for 60 years educated nobility from all over Greece. Today, tourism is one of the main resources of the island. It nevertheless leaves local traditions and habits intact, since they are strongly and proudly maintained by the inhabitants.
Towns & Villages in Spetses
Spetses Town: This is the capital and the harbour of the island and has been characterised as a preserved settlement. The mansion houses of the captains with their characteristic architecture, the Byzantine churches and the pebble paving alleys constitute samples of the traditional architecture that characterise the town. The town concentrates most of the available facilities, and counts on banks, supermarket, restaurants, cafes, bars and many more. Cars are not allowed on the capital, so horses, donkeys and bicycles are usual means of transport. The heart of the city is its beautiful harbour called “Dapia”. All business constructions in that district are painted in white and blue, a symbol of the maritime culture of Spetses. A flat wave-breaker fortifies the district and protects it from the winds and the wild sea.
Kounoupitsa: This small settlement is situated just few kilometres away from Dapia. It consists of cubic houses, pastel-coloured cottages, dovecotes, cobblestone gardens and fuchsia bougainvilleas. The coastal road of the settlement offers a magnificent view over the coast of the Peloponnese.
Analipsi: This is a neighbourhood of the Old Harbour, situated 1.5km from Dapia. The settlement is mostly inhabited by fishermen and owes its name to the little chapel standing there.
Baltiza: This is the name of the Old Harbour of Spetses, which is situated at a distance of 1.5km east from Dapia. It is a natural harbour, deeply penetrating the soft coastline of the island. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Baltiza was the base of the developed shipbuilding activity of the island, an activity that still keeps on today.
Beaches in Spetses
Agia Marina: This beach can be found 2km southeast of Dapia. It is the most popular beach of Spetses mainly because of its proximity to the capital. Agia Marina is a sandy organised beach which gets really crowded during high summer season. It is overlooked by a small pink and white chapel of the same name which is surrounded by palm trees, pines and cypresses.
Town Beach: This beach is situated in the middle of the capital of the island. The beach is mostly pebbled and has clear shallow waters. There are many accommodation options that take advantage of their closeness to this beach, which obviously provides convenience to their visitors. This beach usually gets very crowded in summer months.
Agia Paraskevi: This beautiful beach is situated in a sheltered cove on the western coast of Spetses, 12km from Dapia. The beach is shaded by a thick pine forest, it has sand and pebbles and tourist facilities.
Agioi Anargiri: This beach lies on the southwestern coast of Spetses, 10km from Dapia. It is one of the largest and most developed beaches on the island, with sand and pebbles and deep crystal-clear waters. Tourist facilities and water-sports are available here.
Xilokeriza: This beautiful bay is situated on the southeastern coast of the island, 8km from Dapia. It is one of the less developed beaches of the island and has sand and pebbles.
Zogeria: The beach of Zogeria is located in a lovely cove covered by a dense, verdant pine forest. For the locals, Zogeria is the most beautiful beach of the island. Sand, rocks and pebbles board the cove and descend into the deep, sapphire waters.
Top Things to Do in Spetses
1. Bouboulina Museum: This private museum is housed in the home of Bouboulina, and displays a collection of personal objects and household furnishing of the Spetsiot heroine. It is worth visiting, not only because of its collection but also for the astonishing wood-carved Florentine ceiling in the main salon. Bouboulina was a Greek heroine of the Greek War of independence in 1821. She was born in a prison in Constantinople because her father, captain Stavrianos Pinotsis had taken part in the failed Orlof Revolution of 1769-1770 against the Ottoman rule. After her second husband was killed in a battle against Algerian pirates in 1811, Bouboulina took over his fortune and trading business and built four ships.
Later on she joined the Filiki Etairia, an underground organization that prepared Greece for revolution against the Ottoman rule, as its only female member. She bought arms and ammunitions at her own expense and brought them secretly to Spetses in her ships. When the Revolution broke out, Bouboulina sailed with eight ships to Nafplio and began a naval blockade. She took part in many battles and during the ensuing extermination of the Ottoman garrison, saved most of the female members of the sultan’s household.
2. The Monastery of Agios Nikolaos: The Monastery is situated above the Old Harbour of Spetses, Baltiza and it is the seat of the island bishop. It was built in 1805 and has a superb arched bell tower made of the fine Tinos marble and a courtyard with a mosaic floor. The main church houses nice Byzantine icons of St. Nicholas and of fishermen and sailors. The monastery is famous and much visited because it was the place where the Spetsiot leaders took the oath of freedom and raised the banner of the Greek Revolution. It is also the place where the body of Paul-Marie Bonaparte, Napoleon’s nephew, was kept for several years, before being transferred to an islet of the Peloponnese where those who died for the Greek War of Independence were buried.
3. Spetses Museum: This museum is housed in the amazing mansion of Hatzigiannis Mexis, one of the notables who played a leading part during the fight for the Greek Independence. The mansion was build during the 18th century and is an excellent example of the local architecture and has a flat façade with an arched ground floor patio supporting a second-storey balcony. Only the first floor is open to the public and displays a collection of relics and objects depicting the island’s history and culture from the Early Helladic period to the beginning of the 20th century.
4. Sotirios Anargyros Mansion: This superb mansion is situated in the hart of the new harbour of Spetses, Dapia. It was designed by a Greek architect in the old Egyptian palaces style and it is one of the finest examples of the early 20th century architecture. The mansion belonged to Sotiris Anargyros, a Spetsiot who became rich in the tobacco industry in the US, and who spent most of his money in various projects on the island.
How to Reach Spetses
Getting Around in Spetses
Bus: The Island has two bus routes. There are three or four buses daily from Square Agia Mamas, in Spetses Town, to Agioi Anargyri (40 min) via Agia Marina and Xilokeriza. Departure times are displayed on a board by the bus station. There are hourly buses to Ligoneri.
Water Taxi: Water taxis go anywhere from opposite the Flying Dolphins office.
Weather in Spetses
Like in all southern Greece, Spetses has a warm and Mediterranean climate and a lot of sunshine all year long, especially in summer and spring. Summer in Spetses is cooler that in other parts of Greece and temperature never reaches 30 degrees. Winters are mild with low rainfall and a constant breeze coming from the north is the cause of the clear skies.
Top 10 Destinations in Spetses
All Destinations in Spetses
Map of Spetses