The Charm of Aegina, Greece

Visit Aegina for a slice of everything Greece has to offer, from rolling hills to beautiful blue waters and delicious home-made souvlaki – at a fraction of the usual Greek crowds and tourist prices.

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The perfect weekend trip

Aegina was our first island weekend getaway when we lived in Greece. Christian surprised me with the trip, which had been a recommendation by his Greek colleagues at the shipping firm he was working in at the time. There are speed boats and ferries to Aegina from Piraeus, the main port in Athens, on a regular basis. Be careful if it’s your first time in Piraeus – it is a behemoth of a port, and it can take around half an hour to walk to from one terminal to the next. It can get hot, messy, crowded, and very confusing to figure out where your ferry is leaving from, but people are pretty helpful and you should arrive around an hour in advance if it’s your first time catching a ferry.

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A quick picture before our first island getaway!

We visited Aegina from Friday through Sunday. However, it is a perfectly feasible day trip as well, as it is only a forty minute ferry ride from Athens. Tickets are reasonably priced between 12 and 14 euro depending on when and where you buy them and the time of year of your visit. This made it the perfect weekend getaway from the city atmosphere of Athens and Glyfada. Consider visiting after April to escape any spring time showers.

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Island charm

Accommodation: Do

Do stay in Agia Marina. We fell in love with Aegina from the moment we were whisked away from the main Aegina port to Agia Marina, where we were staying. We decided against renting a car for the weekend as we wanted to spend most of our time exploring Agia Marina and taking buses if necessary, as per the recommendations of our Greek friends.  We were definitely not disappointed by the Marina area and what it had to offer. A little less than twenty euro got us via taxi from the west side of the island to the east, Agia Marina.

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Agia Marina

Visiting in April ensured that we had the beaches almost exclusively to ourselves. We were told that the island never gets as busy as Santorini or Crete, even during the peak summer months of June through August. The water was too cold for an island girl like me to swim in in April, but we enjoyed the sunshine and the beach views nevertheless.

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Our first day in Agia Marina

Agia Marina has a handful of family-run beach cafes that have a reasonable selection of drinks and snacks for a beach day. Try not to order exclusively seafood dishes; although it is a coastal nation, we found that their octopus and salmon left much to be desired (in comparison to these preparations elsewhere) and you really couldn’t go wrong with a good Greek salad or souvlaki in this part of the world.

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After a meal by the beach

The highlight of our trip was definitely Hotel Angela, where we stayed. Highly recommended by Christian’s colleagues, it lived up to its reputation. We always prefer staying in family-run, homey B&Bs and inns and this place has thus far topped the list. Angela herself welcomed us and gave us a room with a spectacular view of the surrounding hills and marina. Rooms at Hotel Angela are clean and comfortable. The hotel was a two minute walk from the main street in Agia Marina, and a five minute walk to the beach. What set the hotel apart was its homey charm and scrumptious breakfast, mostly cooked by Angela herself. Breakfast is served in the beautiful little garden by the hotel, which infinitely added to the charm of the place. Starting off your day in the quiet of her beautiful garden, filling up on croissants and eggs is an experience to be rivalled.

Activities: Do

Agia Marina has a number of different bars, restaurants, and shops – just enough for its visitors.

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Cafes and bars line the main street in Agia Marina. They’re far from being packed and loud, but are lively enough for a good drink in the evening.

The recession had obviously hit the island pretty hard and they were still recovering from it when we visited, but the spirit and charm of the people reverberated through their lively family get-togethers in the evenings, where the conversation and wine flowed. We loved the traditional restaurants, where the patriarchs and matriarchs themselves would usually greet us and take our orders. If its intimate island charm you’re looking for, look no further than Aegina.

Renting an ATV is not uncommon here. We however decided to venture a bus ride to the Temple of Aphaia instead. Note that while the bus is a viable option to get around the island, it is not punctual. We almost gave up on it and  One it arrived, two euro one way got us to the beautiful bones of this temple, set 160m above sea level. The sparse crowds and beautiful views make this temple worth the visit.

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Temple of Aphaia

Note that the way up to the temple can be a little confusing as there are no large signs, walls, or gates leading up to it. The bus drops you off at the foot of the temple and you walk your way up (not a tough walk at all!) – just keep going up until you see the temple!

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View from the Temple of Aphaia

We decided to walk down from the temple to the town and marina on the other side, instead of taking the bus directly back. This was again worth the walk down, as we got to see the more unspoilt beauty of the island.

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Walk back to town

We also decided to visit the Archaeological Museum of Aegina before we took our ferry back to Athens. If you stay in Agia Marina without a car, consider arriving a few hours before your ferry at the Aegina port on the west side of the island to explore its abundant restaurants and Archaeological Museum.

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A church by the port on the west-side of the island (with a wedding in progress!)

That way you can avoid the bus trip back and forth and have more time to enjoy the relaxed island atmosphere and beaches on the east side of the island. We especially enjoyed the waffle and ice-cream shops lining the shores of the west of the island, and the incredible views of the Saronic Gulf. If it’s rustic, home-grown, peaceful island holidays you enjoy, with delicious food and cheap prices to boot, Aegina is the destination for you.

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A waffle while we wait!

In summary:

Do: Stay in Agia Marina

Do: Consider visiting May through September. April showers do occur.

Don’t: feel compelled to rent a car if you’re looking for a relaxed island getaway.

Do: Ask around for the bus schedule. Note that they’re not always on time!

Do: Visit the Temple of Aphaia. Walk down from the temple back to town instead of taking the bus back. It’s a great trail as long as you have an hour at least to enjoy it.

Do: Check out the restaurants and bars open at night. They have a lot of vibrant music and great drinks and food, regardless of the day of the week.

Been to Aegina? Planning a trip there? We’d love to hear about your experiences! Share your stories with us below!

Cruising the Greek islands? Check out our tips for Santorini, Mykonos, and Syros!

As always, be a conscious traveler: Take nothing, and leave nothing behind. Be conscious, be welcome! Read more about conscious travel here.

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We promised we’d be back!
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