Where is Aegina?
Aegina is one of the Saronic Islands, which are located in the Saronic Gulf between the Attica and the Argolis peninsulas, with the Aegean Sea to the east.
It is just 17 miles (27 kilometres) from Athens, so Aegina is very easy to visit from the capital.
What makes Aegina so special?
With its mix of traditional Greek coastal towns, ancient history, beaches, nightlife and great food, Aegina is the best of the Greek islands rolled into one.
The bonus is that, unlike other islands, it’s practically on Athens’ doorstep, making it easy to reach, and it’s very affordable, too. It’s not as glamorous as it’s neighbours Hydra and Spetses but it is also a lot cheaper and even more accessible.
Aegina is renowned for its Pistachio’s, and the Temple of Aphea is one of the most important in the country.
That’s without mentioning the great climate too! It’s an authentic island that is perfect for visiting year round.
How to get to Aegina
Being so close to Athens visiting is fairly straightforward. Being in the Sporades Islands and one of the closest islands to Athens means it is open year round and is a popular day trip destination, with regular ferry routes connecting Aegina to Athens.
It is also often combined with visits to other Saronic islands such as Poros, Hydra and Spetses. In fact there is a very popular 3-island cruise that combines the three on a day trip.
Ferry to Aegina from Athens
There are four ferry companies that run between Athens’ port, Piraeus, and Aegina, all of which leave from the east side of Piraeus Port at Gate 8.
The ferries have a range of different times and prices, comprising 15 daily connections throughout the year.
Ferries to Aegina usually start at 7:20 a.m. and run until 8:30 p.m. Journey time takes between 40 and 70 minutes depending on the service you choose.
Ferry companies are Anes Ferries, Blue Star Ferries, Saronic Ferries and Aegean Flying Dolphins. Prices start at around €12 per person although the faster Flying Dolphins, costs €19 per person.
You can purchase tickets on the day of travel from the ticket offices at the Port, or in advance online. If you want to take a car onto the ferry to Aegina, then that will cost around €30.
Another thing to consider when booking a ferry to Aegina is what port the ferry will be arriving in – Aegina has three. These are Aegina, Aegina Marina, and Souvala, so if you are staying on the island it pays to check which port is best.
Getting around Aegina
As you might be able to guess from its triangular shape, Aegina is essentially an extinct volcano. Two-thirds of this island is rugged, and mountainous, while the rest – in the north and west, consists of fertile plains.
Getting around isn’t too difficult due to the island’s size. Aegina has an area of around 87.41 square kilometres (33.75 square miles), so you’re never too far from anything. To actually travel around Aegina there is a selection of transportation types :
One popular way to get around Aegina is by cycling. With scenic routes and coastal roads to pedal along at your leisure, it’s no wonder that getting around by bicycle is such a thing on this island.
If you don’t have a bicycle to bring with you, bicycles are available to rent on Aegina. There are some really beautiful routes to tackle for all levels of fitness. The downside of course is that you’re limited by how far you’re able to cycle before you get tired!
Buses on Aegina
Aegina’s bus network is run by KTEL and is well used by tourists to get around the island. The bus service is regular and connects the dots all over the island, from beaches to tiny villages.
The only downside of the bus is that they’re not always frequent – even during the height of the summer. There are only around five buses a day, so it’s not always the most convenient way to get from A to B.
However, the buses are cheap! A ticket costs around €2 one way, which makes sightseeing pretty affordable. Buses leave from the central bus station at Ethnegersia Square, but you can look at the timetable information at the bus stop to see where else you can pick it up.
Buy your tickets at the bus station or aboard the bus.
There are three main routes:
- Aegina to Perdika (20 minutes)
- Aegina to Vagia (30 minutes)
- Aegina to Agia Marina (35 minutes)
Taxis on Aegina
These are perhaps a more convenient but less affordable way to get around, helping you to get around with relative ease. You’ll find a selection of different taxi companies on Aegina.
Obviously, getting a taxi is a bit more expensive than using the bus, but it can be more cost-effective if there are a few of you travelling around at the same time (i.e. you’re with friends or family).
Generally, they cost anywhere between €10-20, depending on how far you travel, and they’re used to taking tourists around, so language shouldn’t be an issue.
Our tip is to ask hotel for recommended taxi companies and to ask about typical fares for various destinations on the island.
Car and Scooter rental
Having your own set of wheels means you can travel at your own pace and not have to worry about bus timetables or waiting around for taxi drivers.
Although car hire sounds like an expensive option, it can work out as quite cost-effective when compared to taxis. It’s also an affordable option if you’re in a group and can split the cost of car hire.
The price of renting a car in Aegina ranges from €30 to €50 per day. In high season you should try to book your car hire in advance as there’s only a limited number of cars on the island and high demand from visitors.
You’ll find both local and international car rental companies offering their services across Aegina. Alternatively, you could opt to hire a scooter or motorcycle. This is a cheaper option and very popular, too, costing somewhere around €20 per day.
Further reading : Driving in Greece
Where to stay in Aegina
The main town on the island of Aegina is also called Aegina. This is the capital and principal port and therefore pretty busy with tourists, hotels, restaurants and things to do.
It’s a busy waterfront destination with classic Greek architecture; think narrow, winding streets and brightly coloured buildings.
The whole town’s a picture-perfect place, and staying here means taking long walks along the harbour, stopping off for a pick-me-up at one of the town’s many cafes, and enjoying fresh fish in a taverna.
Aside from these amenities, Aegina Town also has plenty of historical sights, such as the ruins of a temple dedicated to the ancient Greek god, Apollo. If you want beaches, however, it may not be best for you to stay here as the town has just one small beach.
Here we recommend staying at Plaza Hotel, a great budget choice right across from the beach with amazing sunset views or the charming Aeginitikon Arhontikon Boutique Hotel which is in an historic building .
If travelling in a group Los Pistachios is on the outskirts of town and is a truly amazing new 2 bedroom Villa with a small pool, a gym , a beautiful garden and even a fireplace and can easily sleep 6. Right in town is another fantastic place, Feidiou1, a renovated 2 bedroom apartment in a converted mansion by the Port.
Spilling down from a hill and surrounding a small bay, the village of Perdika is 9 kilometres (5.6 miles) away from the capital. It’s a particularly attractive village surrounded by gleaming blue seas.
Thanks to its setting, Perdika is great for coastal walks and meandering through its narrow streets. In the summer season, the village becomes busy with visitors enjoying meals on the terraces of traditional tavernas, and lingering over drinks in Perdika’s several bars.
Those who enjoy swimming can make the most of Perdika’s nearby beaches. These are pretty natural and undeveloped, with only a handful of hotels backing them. Two of the best hotels here are Ilioperato and LaLiBay resort and spa which is a little further around the cove.
On the eastern side of the island is the village of Agia Marina. This charming destination is named after the church of the same name that sits above the town. It’s also a popular place for people who like days on the beach and swimming in the sea. The beach here is a long stretch of sand backed by pine trees and lapped by clear waters.
The bay here is popular for water sports, particularly windsurfing, and you’ll notice many shops renting out equipment backing the beach. But if you want a bit more peace and quiet there are many coves and inlets in the vicinity for a more tranquil day at the beach.
Evenings in Agia Marina are more lively compared to other towns, with plenty of nightspots including bars, restaurants and tavernas attracting visitors and locals alike to drink (and dance!) into the night.
And if you like history, Agia Marina has got that covered, too. Ancient temples lie in ruins just a few kilometres from the village, making for a fascinating place to hike and spend the day exploring.
Located up in the mountains, well away from the sea, Agia Mesagros is known more for its pottery than beaches. Here you can enjoy spectacular views across the island and spend your time soaking up a more traditional way of life.
In the summertime, the area around Agia Mesagros blooms into life with a number of flowers and trees blossoming on the hillsides. It’s a picturesque place for relaxing away from the more vibrant coastal towns on the island, that’s for sure. It is very close to the Temple of Aphaia and well worth a stop. There are not hotels however.
This town was the island’s former capital from the 9th century AD all the way until 1826. It began when the islanders were forced to relocate to this higher-altitude town because Aegina’s coastal villages kept getting attacked by marauding pirates. That didn’t stop one pirate, the infamous Barbarossa, who effectively destroyed Paleochora and enslaved its inhabitants in 1537.
Uninhabited today, Aegina Paleochora is an interesting place to wander (and just five kilometres from the current capital). There are literally hundreds of churches and chapels, as well as crumbling old houses and ancient streets to explore.
On the northern side of the island is Irides near Souvala beach, a beautiful small resort right on the sea with a very laid back vibe. They have a range of accommodation including family suites that can sleep up to 6 people.
Aegina restaurants and food
Being surrounded by the Aegean Sea, food in Aegina is characterised by fish. Octopus is particularly popular and is served up in practically all tavernas.
But it’s not all about seafood. There are plenty of traditional dishes and produce that hail from the island to try out. If you’re a fan of pistachios, for example, then you’ll be pleased to know that these are grown and are a specialty of Aegina.
Horiatiki is a salad dish that can be found all over the island. This consists of green peppers, tomatoes, olives, cucumber and onion, and is topped with a generous helping of olive oil.
In terms of meat, padaika is the main dish. This is essentially lamb chops and potatoes, Greek style. Moussaka, with minced meat, aubergines and potatoes, can also be found across the island.
Vegetarians will enjoy a range of delicious dishes including various casseroles, and stuffed vegetables.
Tzatziki is made fresh on the island, of course, and is particularly fresh and cooling in the summer months. Traditional Greek yoghurt eaten on the island will be some of the tastiest you’ve tried, also.
Some of the best tavernas on the island include Ouzeri o Skotadi, Pantarei and Palaisos in Aegina Town and Remetzo and Saronis Fish Restaurant in Perdika.
If you are visiting the Temple of Aphaia try and have lunch at Taverna Argyris in nearby Mesagros.
Things to do on Aegina
Even though Aegina is a small island it’s packed with things to keep you entertained during your trip. There’s something for everyone, from exploring ancient ruins to spending lazy days on the beach.
Being dotted with various types of beaches, one of the best things to do on Aegina is simply to relax and enjoy kicking back by the sea. You’ll find beaches in the main towns, but if you have your own set of wheels you’ll be able to explore and find remote beaches more easily.
The best beaches are Agia Marina and Souvala which are well organised and have lots of great tavernas, watersports, sunbeds for hire and hotels too. Perdika is also a popular choice.
Across from Perdika is the small, uninhabited island of Moni which has some great beaches which you can visit on day tours during summer.
The island’s history stretches back millennia. Minoan artefacts have been found here that date back to 2000 BC. Many different civilisations have left their mark, from the Romans to the Ottoman Empire.
The remains of ancient Greek temples can be seen to this day. One of these is the Temple of Apollo, close to the port of Aegina.
Elsewhere, the Doric Temple of Aphaia was built in 450 BC (on the site of an even older temple). This temple was dedicated to the Goddess Athena and most amazingly it forms a perfect isosceles triangle with the Parthenon at The Acropolis in Athens and the Temple of Poseidon in Sounion. All done using the stars as guides!
The Archaeological Site of Palaeochori is located on the hill behind Aegina town and was made into a fortress capital after the invasion by pirates in the 9th century. The citadel and indeed the entire island fell to numerous captors over the years including the Ottoman pirate Barbarossa who took the town in 1537 and destroyed it. Today it is often described as the ‘Mystras of the Gulf’ and is a fascinating area to explore.
The Archaeological Museum of Aegina is located in Aegina Town and was founded in 1829, the first of its kind after the war of independence! Here you will find many fascinating artefacts from the Temples of Apollo and Aphaia. There is also a very good Folklore Museum.
Churches and monasteries
Churches dot the island, too. Aegina Paleochora, mentioned above, was once thought to be home to over 330 churches and today 30 remain.
The most important Church in Aegina is the Monastery of Agios Nektarios, established by Saint Nektarios in 1904.
There’s also the 17th-century Monastery of Chrysoleontissa, an imposing structure built in a remote locale to protect it from piratical raids, and up in the hills in the centre of the island is the imposing Virgin Mary Chrysoleontissa Holy Convent.
Nature and Agriculture
At the centre of the island at the base of Mount Oros is the beautiful valley of Elaionas. Here there are ancient Olive Groves with trees over 400 years old. In this area, visitors will find an array of wildlife and animals like sheep, goats and rabbits and birds such as partridges and doves.
Aegina Cathedral of Nectarios
Events on Aegina
Held on 17th July, this religious festival features music, drinking and dancing in the town of Agia Marina.
One of the most important festivals in Greece is theDormition of the Virgin. Taking place on 15th August, this event is often referred to as the “Easter of the Summer”. There are many different panigiri (island festivals) taking place on Aegina, but the largest is held on 15th August at the Monastery of Chrysoleontissa.
Feast of Agios Nektarios
Arguably the most well-known festival of the island, this festival takes place on 3rd September and 9th November. Crowds of pilgrims make their way to the Monastery of Agios Nektarios, named after the patron saint of the island.
ThePistachio Festivaltakes place on Aegina every September. The festival celebrates the promotion of local products and particularly the famous pistachio nuts of Aegina. The main events are found in Aegina Town, but you will find other events all over the island including cooking courses, theatre performances, musical concerts, art exhibitions, and ceramic workshops.
International Music Festival
The International Music Festival of Aegina has been taking place every August since 2006. Every year, it hosts classical and jazz performers, choirs and bands with the aim to promote new and emerging artists.