Aegina, an island in the middle of the Saronic Gulf and in the vicinity of Salamina, Agistri, Poros, Methana, and, further out, Hydra and Spetses, is the second closest island to Athens (the closest is Salamina) and a classic weekend destination for Athenians over the decades, some of who have made the gentle and low-key island their permanent abode. This includes a contingent of authors and artists who have contributed to the island’s tradition of ceramics production and sculpture. Its proximity to Athens and Piraeus (some even go as far as to call it a suburb of Athens), is a blessing in disguise: too close to count as an "exotic" holiday destination, Aegina is consistently charming even when the island settles in for the winter months and has little reason to envy the glitzier Aegean and Ionian destinations. Technically a volcanic island, a fact visible in its barren inland terrain and hills, it is instantly recognizable by the sprawl of both big and small neoclassical buildings at the main town, that extends inland from its bustling harbour.
Aegina is one the islands that played a leading role in the famous battle of Salamis in antiquity and in the 1821 War of Independence. It features prominently on the archeological map, mostly because of the temples of Aphaia, Apollo, Zeus and the site of Kolona, first inhabited 3500 years ago. In the 19th century Aegina was Greece’s first capital, a privilege that is reflected in the dignified architecture of the main town, some of it designed in the 19th by the famous architects Stamatis Kleanthis and Eduard Schaubert. Some of the notable buildings at the Chora, which comes with a lovely seaside promenade, spacious squares, and houses with soothingly regular facades, include the old Orphanage, the Governor’s building (Kyverneion) and the Markellos tower.
Further on from the main town, Perdika, a fishing village next to the island of Moni, Anitsaio, that boasts a spectacular view of the surrounding region with the mountains of Peloponissos at the far end of the gulf, Pachia Rachi, a picturesque community built on a slope and Messagros, surrounded by the island’s famous pistachio trees, are well worth a visit. There are no spectacular beaches on the island, but lots of family-friendly swimming spots and other smaller less accessible coves. The green island of Moni, a brief boat ride from Perdika, is a definite must for swimming. Vagia, the twin beaches of Marathonas and Aeginitissa are sandy beaches dotted with umbrellas and sun beds. Portes is more on the quiet side.