The Saronic Islands, near Athens, are an archipelago in the Saronic Gulf. This is the closest island group to Athens with the closest islands within an hour's boat ride. These islands can be visited on the One-Day Saronic Cruise that runs daily throughout the year. The three-island tour includes an entertaining ferry ride and visits to Hydra, Poros, and Aegina. The Saronic islands have a rich history of being the home of wealthy ships' captains. They brought neoclassical architecture and cosmopolitan character to the communities. These islands played an important role during the Revolution against the Ottoman Empire in 1821. It was boasted that several Greek national heroes come from these islands.
ATB#1 and I were into the second week of a long trip through Greece and Italy and the heat had been really intense. We decided to take the three island One-Day Saronic Cruise tour planning to enjoy the cool breezes and get a taste for the island hopping we had planned for the next 4 weeks.
As we boarded, we were enthusiastically greeted by performers in traditional dress and commercial photos were taken (available for sale onboard). We grabbed a coffee from the concession and found a nice spot on the deck to enjoy the breeze while it was still cool. The private ferry was large and beautifully appointed with generous seating inside and some outside seating on the expansive decks.
The first stop was Hydra (pronounced Hee-dra). We enjoyed a very comfortable ride.
Hydra is the former home of Leonard Cohen who treasured it for its beauty and peace. It is also known as a jet setter haven. Hydra is rocky and doesn't have beaches but we saw many people swimming off the rocks.
The town was restored and preserved to replicate the town as it was in the 1800's. This was the Golden Age of prosperity gained from piracy and blockade running. The Hydriotis later gained a fierce reputation during the war for Independence.
The waterfront is lined with cafés, restaurants, and many tourist shops. The only vehicle allowed on the island is the garbage truck. All other vehicles are forbidden. Everyone else travels on foot, or takes a donkey-taxi.
We visited the Virgin Mary Cathedral and Ecclesiastical Museum near the center of the port.
It was a pretty church with silver ornamentation. The small museum contains the artifacts and regalia still used during services and church celebrations.
The side roads are twisty, narrow, and often lined with tall walls. As with this type of day tour, our time was very limited so it was soon time to return to the dock. This is always our biggest complaint about day tours with multiple destinations.
Back on board, on the journey towards Poros, we were treated to some entertainment.
Poros is one of the lesser known Islands. Most visitors to the island go there with the three-island tour. It's considered the greenest of the Saronic group.
The blue and white motif blend prettily with the coral clay of the roof tops. Blue window and door shutters are on almost every home.
I love the clever decor that creatively combines local symbols and business artifacts. It's fairly common to see the copper tankards used outside of bars and tavernas.
Aegina Island -Moni Island
We decided to skip spending time Aegina in lieu of taking a short water taxi to Moni Island where we were promised a beautiful beach and sheltered waters. Moni is a private uninhabited island home to deer, small horses, wild boar, peacocks, and pheasants, although we didn't see any wildlife except for sea urchins in the shallows.
The beaches of the island are crystal clear. We headed straight to the side of the island with sandy beach with crystal clear waters. There was also a beach bar, with a full offering of snacks, meals, and beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic). Be careful. There was a large population of sea urchins, which we were told was unusual. A fellow tourist stepped on one and was in considerable pain as first aid attendants worked to remove the spines from her foot.
We each got a chair and an umbrella and spent the rest of the afternoon going back and forth from chairs to water. It was the perfect afternoon.
On the final leg back to Athens, the ship put on a Greek folk dancing demonstration. I was one of the volunteers who learned to dance a couple of easy dances with them. It was great fun.
We arrived back at the port about 8 pm. Time to go back to the hotel to change and head out for dinner. After a full day enjoying the fresh air, we were ready for another amazing Greek dinner in view of the Acropolis.
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