01 of 07
Aegina in the Saronic Gulf Islands of Greece
Aegina is a Greek island in the Sarconic Gulf Islands. Only 17 miles by ferry from Athens, it is close enough for some of the 11,000 residents to commute to Greece's largest city each day. The regular ferry takes about an hour and 15 minutes, and the fast ferry (hydrofoil) takes about 40 minutes. I visited Aegina on the 52-foot sailboat the Baltra, which G Adventures deploys on some of its "Sailing Greece" marine adventures.
Aegina's strategic location at the mouth of the Sarconic Gulf made it an important commercial center as early at 1000 BC. The island's residents became wealthy by trading with other important centers in Egypt and Phoenicia. Silver coins minted on Aegina are believed to be Europe's oldest. Neighboring Athens was threatened by Aegina's economic success and attacked and conquered the island in 459 BC. The wealth of the island declined due to pirates who attacked ships and the alternating Turkish and Venetian rule. However, Aegina was the temporary capital of Greece in 1827-1829 after the country obtained its independence from the Ottomans, and the first Greek coins were minted on the island.
Although the island lost its economic and political importance centuries ago, Aegina (also spelled Egina or Aigina) is currently a popular tourist destination because of its proximity to Athens, beautiful rolling countryside, historical sites, and delicious pistachios. Aegina is also the home to Greece's largest church, Agios Nektarios. The Greek Orthodox church is located outside of town in the countryside and is also home to a monastery and convent that rents out rooms to visitors. Those who love modern Greek literature will want to visit Aegina since Nikos Kazantzakis wrote the novel "Zorba the Greek" while on the island.
The Baltra left Athens on our first morning on the boat and motored (no wind) across to a lovely bay near Agia Marina, a tiny tourist town on the east coast of Aegina.
Page 2 >> Agia Marina on Aegina Island >>Continue to 2 of 7 below.
02 of 07
Agia Marina on the Greek Island of Aegina
Although Aegina is not famous for its beaches, the resort at Agia Marina has one of the nicest beaches on the island. After the Captain dropped the anchor in a small harbor near the town, the seven guests on the G Adventures' sailboat went swimming in the sparkling blue Mediterranean. The early June water was too cold (about 72 degrees) for this wimpy Southern girl, but the others found it "refreshing".
We remained at anchor over lunch before sailing around to Aegina Town on the west side. The G Adventures' Captain docked our 52-foot sailboat in a prime spot right on the promenade of Aegina Town. We enjoyed exploring the town that afternoon before dining harborside in a terrific Greek restaurant named Tsias, where I loved the pork souvlaki and traditional Greek salad.
Since we were docked overnight, the guests on the Baltra could check out the Aegina nightlife before bedtime. The next morning, we took a taxi across the island to visit Aegina's most well-preserved archaeological site, the Temple of Aphaia.
Page 3 >> Drive to the Temple of Aphaia >>Continue to 3 of 7 below.
03 of 07
Driving to the Temple of Aphaia on Aegina Island
The ride across the island to the Temple of Aphaia (also spelled Apahea or Afea) is scenic, and the uncultivated inland portion of the island is covered in pine trees. Pistachio and olive trees line the road.
The remains of the Temple of Aphaia are on the road connecting Aegina Town and Agia Marina. This road passes by Greece's largest church, Agios Nektarios. The spacious grounds of this Greek Orthodox church are also home to a monastery, convent, and guesthouses for visitors. The church is named for a Greek Orthodox saint who died in 1946. Thousands make the pilgrimage to the tomb of Agios Nektarios on the site and pray to him or ask for his blessings.
Arriving at the Temple of Aphaia, we immediately marveled at how well preserved it was and its spectacular location offers magnificent views.
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04 of 07
Ancient Greek Temple of Aphaia
The Temple of Aphaia was built in 480 BC, around the time of Aegina's greatest wealth. It is one of Greece's best preserved temples in the Doric style and the most important archaeological site in the Saronic islands.
We visited the temple early in the day (before it got too hot), and were the only visitors there. The site was very quiet, with only the birds, wind, and spirits of the gods and goddesses to keep us company. We explored the site and took some great photos.
The temple is dedicated to the goddess Aphaia, who was associate with Athena. At one time, the temples pediments featured sculptures from the Trojan War. However, these were taken from the site in the 19th century; sold at auction to Ludwig I, the King of Bavaria in 1813; and can now be seen in a museum in Munich, Germany.
The temple is quite interesting, but the views from its location are worth the taxi and entrance fares.
Page 5 >> View of Aegina Island from the Temple of Aphaia >>Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
View of Aegina Island from Temple of Aphaia
The views of Aegina Island and the surrounding Mediterranean Sea from the Temple of Aphaia are magnificent. On clear days, visitors can see all the way to Cape Sounion on the mainland.
Those visiting the Temple of Aphaia should be sure to check out the small cafe/gift shop next door. It has spectacular views of the other side of the island in a pleasant outdoor seating area.
Page 6 >> Remains of the Temple of Apollo on Aegina Island >>Continue to 6 of 7 below.
06 of 07
Remains of the Temple of Apollo on Aegina Island
This solitary pillar is all that remains of a 5th century Temple of Apollo that once stood on this site near Aegina Town. There is also a small museum on the site.
Page 7 >> G Adventures Baltra at the Dock in Aegina Town >>Continue to 7 of 7 below.
07 of 07
G Adventures Baltra Sailboat at the Dock in Aegina Town
The 52-foot monohull sailboat the Baltra is easy to spot at its prime docking spot along the Aegina Town promenade. It has a purple cover over its main sail labeled "G Adventures".
We all considered this the best spot to dock in town because it was directly across from a gelato shop!
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