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Island hopping in the Saronic Gulf

Saronic Islands, Greece

Craving a little island time?  On a budget?  An easy day trip from Athens, the Saronic Islands check off a lot of boxes for a budget traveler with island dreams.

A one-hour metro ride from Athens International Airport will take you to the port city of Piraeus, where you can hop on a ferry or a flying dolphin hydrofoil to Aegina, the closest island to the mainland, and a popular weekend destination for Athenians.  Travel in the low-season and you’ll be free of crowds, and have your pick among the affordable hotels that line the waterfront near the ferry dock.  Once you’ve settled in, there’s nothing left to do but enjoy the sun and take in the views of the gulf and nearby islands.  Near the harbor and in the back streets of Aegina Town you’ll find many groceries and boutiques where you can shop for briny olives, locally grown pistachios, crafts, and more.  More than 13,000 people call the island home, so restaurants and most shops are open year round.  This is the place to indulge in freshly caught seafood and vibrant Greek salads.  Mouth-watering souvlaki is grilled to order over hot coals and topped with a squeeze of fresh lemon.  It’s irresistible.  If you want to explore the island beyond Aegina Town, rent a scooter for the day and follow the coast to the peaceful fishing village of Perdika, and be sure to visit the hilltop ruins of Temple Aphaia.

If you’re interested in a real desert island experience, take a ferry to nearby Agistri, where it seems there are more cats than people. Although most restaurants close in low-season, there is a grocery and a family run souvlaki grill (open at night only) in the village of Megalochori.  Agistri is great for walking, so break out your hiking shoes and start exploring.  You can walk from one side of the island to the other in a day.

Prices and logistics:  Athens has a modern airport, served by many European budget airlines.  Trains and metros from the airport are easy to navigate and take you to the heart of Athens and the port of Piraeus.  You can purchase ferry tickets at booths at the port in Pireaus the day you depart, or pre-book online, if you like to plan ahead.  Fares run about €8 per person, each way.  Reservations are not required for hotel rooms on Aegina and Agistri if you are traveling in the in low-season, and you can easily find a simple room with a view of the sea for under €50.  Dining out is cheap, and the food is delicious!  A Souvlaki lunch or dinner for two with beer runs about €12.

 

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