In search of a quick getaway to blow off some steam? We discovered the top 2 short – distance islands of Saronic Gulf, Aegina and Agistri, just a breath away from Athens. So very budget friendly for you and your Erasmus buddies!
AEGINA: The Pistachio-land
First on our list is Aegina , the largest island of Saronic Gulf. Due to its proximity to Athens, it is a favoured vacation destination during the summer months. Known for its volcano surface and being the homeland of prestigious pistachio, Aegina is certainly not to be missed. The sponge fisheries are also of notable importance, while its beaches are very popular among local and international students.
Temple of Aphaea: Formerly known as the Temple of Jupiter Panhellenius. This beautiful, Doric temple is now recognized as dedicated to the mother-goddess Aphaia. It was a favourite of the neoclassical and romantic artists.
The Orphanage of Kapodistrias: A large building, known locally as The Prison. Constructed in 1828-29 by Ioannis Kapodistrias as a home for orphan children. The building is one of huge cultural significance. It used to house schools and vocational workshops. The National Public Library, National Archaeological Museum, military academy, National Printing Office, the National Conservatory for Choir and Orchestra were also located there. From about 1880 it was used as a prison, and housed political prisoners during the Greek Junta, from where it got its local name.
The Tower of Markellos: Built during the second Venetian occupation, as a watch tower in anticipation of a Turkish siege. A castle, fortified walls and watchtowers were built at this time. The tower was abandoned after the Turkish occupation of 1714. The revolutionary leader Spyros Markellos bought the tower as his residence in 1802. In 1826-28 it was the headquarters of the temporary government of the embryonic Greek state.
Temple of Zeus Hellanios: Near the village of Pachia Rachi, is a 13th century, Byzantine church. It is built on the ruins of the ancient temple of Zeus Hellanios which was built in the 4th century BC. The staircase leading up to the church, some of the original walls, and loose stones from the earlier temple still remain.
The island ‘s treasure is no other than the world famous pistachio. The first pistachio peeling factory was established in the early 60s in the Plakakia area. The quality of “Fistiki Aeginis” which is a PDO product, is considered internationally excellent and superior to several foreign varieties. That happens due to the special climatic conditions of the island as well as soil’s volcanic characteristics. Pistachios have made Aegina worldwide famous. Today, half of the pistachio growers are members of the Agricultural Cooperative of Aegina’s Pistachio Producers. It is estimated that pistachio production reaches 2,700 tons per year. Mid- September – still warm enough for sea dives- is the best month to visit Aegina, as the annual Pistachio Festival takes place, under the name “Fistiki Fest”. The perfect way to kickstart your Erasmus experience in Athens.
In Greek mythology, Aegina appears as the daughter of the river god Asopus and the nymph Metope. When Zeus abducted Aegina, he took her to Oenone, an island close to Attica. It was where Aegina gave birth to Aeacus, who would later become king of Oenone; thenceforth, the island of Oenone became Aegina.
Aegina island used to be the gathering and training place of Myrmidons. Zeus needed an elite army and at first thought that Aegina, which at the time did not have any villagers, was a good place. So he changed some ants (Greek: Myrmigia) into warriors who had six hands and wore black armour. Later, the Myrmidons, commanded by Achilles, became the most fearsome fighting unit in Greece and were the leading fighters of the Trojan War.
How to get there
Hydrofoil ferries from Piraeus take only 40 minutes to reach Aegina while the regular ferry takes about an hour. Ticket prices for adults are within the 4–15 euro range, so it will enter into your Erasmus scholarship budget. There are regular bus services from Aegina town to destinations throughout the island such as Agia Marina and Portes – a fishing village on the east coast.
AGISTRI: The Camping Paradise
Agistri, (Greek : fishing hook) is very popular among local and international students. A unique, small island that is also located in the Saronic Gulf, very close to Aegina. It can be reached within 10 minutes by various boats from Aegina. These boats include the Agistri Express and a number of small “water taxis”. The island is also an hour’s boat ride from Piraeus’ port.
There are only three settlements on Agistri – Milos (Megalochori), Skala and Limenaria. Milos is the main village where the majority of the Greek population of the island lives. Skala is a 20 minute walk from Milos along the coastal road. It is where most of the tourist facilities and hotels are. Limenaria is a very small village on the other side of the island with very little tourism, ideal for relaxation.
Agistri is a pine-covered island and home to a wide variety of plants. Some examples are the wild cyclamen, thyme, caper bushes, and thistles. The island also hosts a population of chukar partridges. The rocky eastern coast is used as a breeding place by swifts. Noteworthy is a population of peafowls, which have been introduced to the island and since become feral.
Popular beaches are Aponissos and Dragonera on the western coast, the beaches of Megalochori and Skala in the north, Mariza in the south, and Skliri and Halikiada in the east. The island is a perfect choice for camping lovers with Halikiada leading as the top tent-erection spot.
If you were wondering whether Athens was the right choice for your Erasmus, we hope that these quick getaway ideas cleared all your doubts! Filled with history and beautiful landscapes, it is there that you will be able to enjoy your student life to the fullest.