Aegina is the largest of the Saronic Islands with a glorious history dating from antiquity. Today, Aegina is popular island sea escape known for its golden beaches, spectacular countryside and fishing villages where authentic taverns specialize in an array of fresh grilled fish and local wines. The island is also internationally acclaimed as home of the world famous Aegina Pistachio. Just a short distance from Athens, Aegina is the preferred Saronic island for the summer home of cosmopolitan Athenians. According to myth, Aegina takes its name from the beautiful nymph kidnapped by Zeus. One of the fascinating highlights of Aegina is the Temple of Aphaia situated on a pine clad hilltop.
The Temple dates back 2,500 years to the 6th Century BC and is a tribute to the monumental art of ancient Greece. In modern Greek history, Aegina was actually the first capital of Greece after the War of Independence and not Nafplio, as most assume. Aegina’s history and traditions are born from the countryside. Just north of Aegina town, one single column (Kolona) on a hill is the only remnant of the ancient Temple of Apollo. Built in 520 BC, the Temple was situated on the site of previous temples on the prehistoric acropolis. Another temple was dedicated to Delphinian Apollo, protector of sailors. The Aeginetans honored the god to such a degree that they replaced the image on their coin from the sea turtle to a dolphin.
A visit to the magnificent church of St. Nektarios and Monastery is one of the most spiritually rewarding experiences on Aegina. Located on a hillside among pistachio, fig and pine trees, the church was erected to honor the saint described as a man of deep prayer and a hard worker. His memory is celebrated on the nameday of Nektarios with a procession in Aegina town. On a steep hill next to the church, all that remains of Paleochora, the island’s old capital, are 33 churches linked by winding stone paths, which represent a fraction of the rumored 365, one for every day of the year. The castle at the top and town were well-camouflaged to blend with the landscape against pirate attacks. The island’s long tradition of fine ceramics also springs from the countryside. The art, passed down from generation to generation, utilizes the local clay called, argilomaza, and is found 3 to 10 meters below the surface.The beautiful pottery is made from the same clay which has existed on the island since antiquity.
Among the highlights of Aegina are the many beautiful beaches including Marathon a picturesque, sandy stretch of beach closest to Aegina town; Agia Marina, a well-organized, sandy beach with all facilities and Perdika beach known for its quality seafood taverns. Here, the gastronome can enjoy the true taste of local cuisine. In addition to such delicacies, as octopus and sardines on the grill, a unique local fish, katsoula, found only in the waters around Aegina, and acclaimed as the most delicious in Greece can also be enjoyed. And, of course, the taste of the local wine is unforgettable. One of the recent annual events of the island is ‘The Aegina Fistiki Fest,’ a three-day festival of music, art and culinary events celebrating the island’s famous pistachio (in Greece, ‘fistiki.’). The delicious taste of Aegina’s high-quality pistachios is attributed to the island’s unique climatic conditions and the volcanic element of the soil. Don’t miss the island’s pistachio sweets, including the local ‘pasteli,’ with Greek honey and Aegina pistachios. Athens to Aegina day trip is full of discovery with a 2-hour stay on the island for exploring its rich history, archaeological and architectural landmarks – and allowing plenty of time to enjoy the island’s famous pistachio sweets in a cafe along the beautiful port.