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Before we went to Athens I only knew about Aegina because I had watched one of Jamie Oliver’s TV shows, Jamie does Athens. He visited the Greek island, explored it and cooked all sorts of delicious, yummy food. Then and there I decided that we needed to see this island ourselves.
When we found out we would travel to Greece, we knew Aegina would be our day trip from Athens. It was so nice to get out of the noisy city full of dust and breathe fresh, salty air within only 30 kms away from Athens.
To make the Greek mythology short, Zeus, who was the father of gods, fell in love with the god Asopo’s daughter (he had 20 daughters!), who was of course very beautiful and her name was Aegina.
Zeus kidnapped her and took her to the island of Oinoi. There, they had a son called Aiakos and the island was named after her. Aegina was also Achileas and Aiada’s hometown and they were both two of the most important heroes in the war of Troy. In historical terms, there is evidence that the island was inhabited from as early as 3500 B.C.
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So what else is to love about Aegina? There are so many fragrant lemon and orange trees, ancient abandoned villages on hillsides, awe inspiring olive tree groves and the pistachio tree orchards – known as the most famous export of the island.
Our first sight was of the colorful modern type classical buildings, which are located along the sea front of the island and have terrestrial colors making them look even more beautiful at sunset. The capital of the island is the City of Aegina, which is located on the west side.
After a short walk in the port we stopped by the Cathedral that had also been used as a parliament between 1827 and 1828 for the first Greek government. In the Cathedral, there were many historic relics, a marble icon screen, remarkable murals and icons.
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Walking around the marina of Aegina City we just arrived on time to catch the bus that took us up (160 meters high) to our next stop, the Temple of Aphaia. It is the jewel in the crown of Aegina.
This ancient building is on the top of the island, about 13 km from the main port. The Temple is a stunning example of ancient architecture set in a beautiful natural forested area with amazing views across the island to the sea. Twenty-four pillars of the temple remain, out of a total of 34.
We enjoyed the opportunity to walk within them in very close proximity. The sun was shining, the air was crisp, the view was beautiful so we decided to have a picnic and eat our store bought lunch (Feta cheese, olives, bread, avocados, tomatoes) there within this atmosphere.
After a short walk around the ruins and our lunch, we decided to start walking down the road.
Ten minutes later a car stopped next to us and a Russian couple (who had already lived on the island for eight years) offered us a lift as far as the island’s most visited church – one of the largest in the Balkans – Agios Nektarios (Saint Nectarios) with the monastery of Agia Triada (The Holy Trinity) right next to it.
The funny thing was they spoke only Russian, Greek and knew a couple of words in English. The two of us speak English, Spanish and a bit of French, German and Russian so the communication between the four of us was a bit challenging.
But when good people come together they can understand each other without speaking the same language, don’t you think?
Agios Nektarios was known as a great miracle worker, as a healer of every sort of disease; he was also an educator, philosopher, theologist, poet and writer.
Nowadays thousands of people visit the tomb of Agios Nektarios, to pray to him or ask for his blessings. He established the monastery and lived there for the rest of his life as a monk.
It is said that 14 nuns still live in this place. The area – where the church stands – is called Kondos, located 6 km from Aegina City and can easily be reached by bus, taxi or car. The bus stops in front of the church.
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So what else is to love about a day trip to Aegina? There are so many fragrant lemon and orange trees, ancient abandoned villages on hillsides, awe inspiring olive tree groves and the pistachio tree orchards – known as the most famous export of the island.
The trees have been cultivated in Aegina since 1860. The ideal climate of the island and the unique soil composition lend exceptional flavor and aroma to the Aegina pistachio. This has distinguished it from other pistachios and earning well-deserved recognition as the finest pistachio in the world.
We spent our last hour of our amazing Athen’s day trip to Aegina, waiting for the ferry to arrive at a sea-front café, sipping chilled frappé coffee,enjoying the beautiful sunset and thinking of not leaving this happy place forever.
Getting to Aegina from Athens:
Ferryboats depart daily from the port of Pireus to Aegina:
Hellenic Seaways Ferries (blue, red and white)
Nova Ferries (red)
Agios Nektarios Ferry (light yellow)
Prices are between 8 and 10 Euros per person for a one way ticket, and takes 60 – 90 minutes. Timetables are available at the ticket offices on the quay. The entrance door of the ferry also displays the departure time. You have to buy your ticket at the ticket offices, but if you are late they will also let you buy your ticket on the ferry.
Getting around on the island:
The main bus station is located in Aegina Town with buses leaving regularly to the villages of Souvala and Aghia Marina (passing Agios Nektarios & Aphaia Temple). You can buy tickets in the ticket office next to the bus station. The bus station is located opposite the ticket offices of the Ferries and Flying Dolphin next to the harbor. For more information call: +30 22970 22787.
Information about hotels on Aeginia.