Athen’s Day Trip: Aegina Island
A quick 35 minute hydrofoil ride from the mainland port city of Piraeus will bring you to the shores of Aegina, in the heart of the Saronic Gulf. You’ll disembark at the bustling harbor where ferries, hydrofoils and small fishing boats are constantly passing in and out through the marina. For easy, guided tours, visitors can take a horse and carriage ride from the waterfront, but navigating the island by foot or motor scooter is just as easy and will allow you to explore the numerous alleyway restaurants and shops tucked into the hillside.
Although a day could easily be spent watching the activities of the marina and exploring the markets and restaurants that line the waterfront, Aegina is also home to some not to be missed historical sites. One of the most popular of these being the Church of Agios Nektarios and the neighboring Monastery of Agia Triada. Built around 1904, the church holds the mausoleum of its namesake saint, Agios Nektarios. Having been known as a great healer of disease, thousands come to the site to pray to for the saint’s blessings. A trip to the island should also include a stop at the Temple of Aphaia. The original temple was built around 570 BC, but the one on the island today dates back to around 510 BC after a fire destroyed the original temple and it had to be rebuilt. Believed to be a site for the worship of fertility, twenty columns remains in tact at the site. The temple is an equal distance from the Acropolis in Athens and Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, creating a North, East, South triangle among the three historic sites.
In addition to all Aegina has to offer, the island is most well known for its pistachios, which have been grown there since 1860. Considered the best in world, the local nut, known as the Aegina Fistiki, can be purchased throughout the island, in small bags, family-sized bags, as nougat bars or sweetened roasted kernels. The nut is now the cause for an annual celebration, The Aegina Fistiki Fest, which began in 2009.