Aegina is a pleasant island with pine clad hills, small fertile valleys, and a vibrant coastline, but its biggest asset is its location at the center of the Saronic gulf. It’s a short ferry ride from Athens, so it’s perfect for a day-trip.
Aegina is one of the closest islands to Athens, and if you are looking for a day-trip, or a short stay, it’s worth a visit.
If you are in a hurry, you can combine three islands on a day cruise from Piraeus: Aegina, Poros, Hydra.
Aegina is home to one of the most beautiful temples of late Archaic Greece, the temple of Aphaia.
A volcanic island with plains of respectable fertility to the northern and southern parts, Aegina is also where the famous pistachio nuts can be found alongside the other main produce of the island, grain, vines, almonds and olives.
The southern end of the island is rocky and barren. The highest peak of the island is Mt. Oros.
What to See and Do
Beyond the Main Town
Beyond the busy harbor, the town of Aegina is seemingly untouched by the tourist traffic that permeates the waterfront. Just a couple of blocks away from the sea you will find yourself immersed in authentic Greek town life.
The streets beyond Aegina harbor are filled with local stores catering to the local population, and that is a pleasant surprise for those who crave a little normalcy in the course of a vacation.
As far as things to do in Aegina town, leisurely walks, reading, and visiting the ancient town and museum, or the water-park just to the south of the town would exhaust most visitors’ options.
A small beach of dubious quality is located just outside the archaeological site, five minutes to the north of the harbor, but for more enjoyable swimming a trip outside of Aegina town is the best option.
The town of Aegina is the largest inhabited spot of the island and it’s a relatively quiet spot to relax for a day, but its sightseeing is fairly ordinary by Greek Island standards. It’s charm lies is the sleepy streets that start about one block behind the busy and touristy promenade.
The Ancient Kolonna and the archaeological museum on the northern end of town can keep a lover of ancient artifacts busy for a couple of hours, and the numerous cafeterias lining the colorful promenade are a nice place to relax while watching the lazy motions of the caiques at the colorful promenade.
The promenade of Aegina Town is by far the busiest place of the island with numerous ferries and hydrofoils docking every hour or so, and it is packed from end to end with tourist shops, restaurants and cafeterias.
Several neoclassical buildings in various states of restoration are sandwiched between the commercial establishments, and horse carriages ferry transport tourists back and forth.
Pistachio nuts are in plain view everywhere and given the island’s reputation for their quality, consuming at least one bag during your stay is well advised.
Archaeological Sites & Museums
Aegina has two major archaeological sites, the Temple of Aphaia, and Kolona. The former is of high significance and beauty even for those who have a passing interest in ancient Greece, while the former is a bit harder to decipher without a bit of background.
The town of Aegina also hosts a delightful little archaeological museum that showcases artifacts from the excavations on the island.
History of Aegina
Archaeological evidence puts the islands earliest habitation around the 4th millennium BCE.
According to the Greek mythology the island was inhabited when Zeus had a romantic interlude with the Nymph Aegina and produced a son, Aecaus, on the island. Zeus, at the request of Aecaus populated the island so Aecaus would have subjects in his kingdom.
“The Myrmidons: These were men created from ants on the island of Aegina, in the reign of Aeacus, Achille’s grandfather, and they were Achilles’ followers in the Trojan War.
Not only were they thrifty and industrious, as one would suppose from their origin, but they were also brave. They were changed into men from ants because of one of Hera’s attacks of jealousy. She was angry because Zeus loved Aegina, the maiden for whom the island was named, and whose son, Aeacus, became its king.
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Best Time to Visit
Thanks to its proximity to Athens, Aegina is busy all year-round. Many Athenians visit the island on day-trips, and the main town does not go into hibernation like the rest of the Aegean islands during the winter months.
Spring, early summer, and September are the best times to visit the island, but if you like crowds you might want to opt for an August stay.
Getting to Aegina
Due to its proximity to Athens, there are multiple ferry boats and faster catamarans from the port of Pireas. There are more scheduled in the morning hours.
You can get tickets right at the port, in the kiosks that line up the harbor.
Aegina is not really known for its beaches, but its coastline is dotted with a few coves where you can find reprieve from the sun in the Saronic gulf waters.
If you are waiting for the ferry, you will find the little beach at the edge of town adequate for a quick dip, but if you prefer a beach with better amenities and water, you will have to travel to the other side of the island to the Agia Marina beach.
Click here to open the Aegina map and get direction in a new window.