The Best Greek Island You've Never Heard Of
There are so many unique Greek islands it's hard to pick which ones to visit while you're there.
We all know about Santorini and Mykonos from the glamorous Instagram photos posted by rich people, models, and celebrities (some combinations of all three).
But before you go where the sandwiches are 25 dollars and you're elbow to elbow with other tourists from the second you walk out of your hotel room (which, I might add, will not be the one with the classic white architecture and private infinity pool from those Instagram pictures I just mentioned)...you might consider balancing those bustling tourist hotspots with something a little different.
Aegina is the closest island to Athens in the Saronic Gulf. It's relatively small, quiet, and unspoiled by mass tourism. You won't feel at all out of place if you're not dressed in a billowy gown and golden body paint. I'm looking at you, tourists in Santorini. Those heels are just impractical. The streets are slippery for crying out loud! Full rant here.
While Aegina hasn't hit the mainstream with international tourists, it is a popular destination for Athenians getting away from the city during weekends and holidays. Regardless, Aegina is perfect for when you're looking for a quieter destination to balance out the hectic nature of Athens or Santorini.
It also has goats running around and happy, well-fed cats. Isn't it nice when that happens?
There are a few towns you can visit on the island of Aegina, including Aegina town - the capital of the island and its main point of entry. Outside of Aegina town, check out Agia Marina (where I stayed), Perdika, Vagia, and Souvala.
Near Agia Marina is the Temple of Afaia, a must see temple that predates the Parthenon! You might even be the only person/people there when you see it, and that's a pretty cool feeling. The island is ideal for swimming, eating, shopping, exploring, and relaxing. Aegina town is even great for partying.
Aegina is the perfect island to wander around and discover at your own pace. There are quiet little authentic restaurants and waterfront cafes at every turn and a bunch of uninhabited buildings that you can climb around and explore (I spent a significant percentage of my time in Aegina on rooftops or exploring half-built resorts).
Please explore abandoned buildings at your own risk and don't sue me if you trip, fall, or get stuck in a Narnia situation.
We arrived by ferry from Piraeus and took a cab to the tiny marina town of Agia Marina. Our little hotel (hotel Rachel) was close to the beach and at 11$ a night we had no cause for complaint.
Agia Marina is small and, depending on the season, very slow and quiet. Many buildings and businesses were shut down and out of use, and I think there was only one other person staying in our hotel.
With three or four days in Agia Marina, there's plenty of time to see and do just about all there is to see and do. Eat some traditional fare at one of the gorgeous waterfront cafes, spend a day at the beach, explore the town and its little shops and pretty alleyways, and hike around and explore the area in all its leisurely splendor!
At times it can feel deserted, at times you'll find a bustling restaurant or a packed beach only to turn your head and find it all empty again.
The evening we arrived and were walking to find a restaurant for dinner was probably the closest my real life will ever come to an episode of the walking dead. In a good way, in a good way!
Aegina is a surreal, quiet paradise perfect for relaxing and really getting to know Greek island culture outside of major tourism.
If you go, don't forget to try the pistachios. The pistachios produced in Aegina are famous all over Greece. While you're at it get some of the pistachio ice cream!
Since businesses are opening and closing rapidly, and it's more of a loungy, feel-your-way-around town, I can't suggest an ideal itinerary or "the best restaurants in Aegina". All I can say is explore, relax, and look for the fountain of youth, because I met an old man who swears it's around here somewhere.
Have you been to Aegina? Or are you considering it for your next trip to Greece? Let us know in the comments below!
As always, thanks for reading, and don't forget to follow the sloth!
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