Exploring the Saronic Gulf Islands & a Suggested Saronic Gulf Itinerary 2020/1

Saronic Gulf Itinerary: Hydra, Greece
Hydra, Greece

The Saronic Gulf is an area in Southern Greece that often gets overlooked in favour of more well-known Greek islands. It is a region whose floating archipelagos possess rugged, breathtaking natural landscapes, secluded coves, and translucent cerulean waters perfect for diving and swimming.

The Saronic Gulf

The islands of the Saronic Gulf have long attracted Writers, Artists and other creatives who would draw inspiration from their beauty. As far as their reputation as an international travel destination goes though, the Saronic Gulf remains relatively off the beaten path.

It is mostly domestic Greek tourists who travel here. However, this is great if you want to visit some alternative island destinations during your Greece itinerary.

Disclaimer: This post on the Saronic Gulf islands may contain affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase through some of the links on this page I will make a small amount of commission. This is charged at no additional cost to you.

The Islands of the Saronic Gulf

Saronic Gulf Itinerary: Hydra, Greece
Hydra port, Saronic Gulf

Aegina. Agistri. Poros. Hydra. Methana. These are all islands that await in the Saronic Gulf. They are all accessible from Athens’ Piraeus port within just an hour or so.

Each island offers something a little different. The best islands to incorporate into a Saronic Gulf itinerary will no doubt vary depending upon your personal preference and travel style.

Below, you will find an overview of each of the Saronic Gulf islands below. This is followed by a proposed Saronic Gulf itinerary. Feel free to use the Table of Contents to navigate to the most relevant sections.

Hydra

Hydra Island, Greece
Hydra Island, Greece

The picturesque little island of Hydra has often been compared to Italy’s Capri for its elegance and natural beauty. Hydra is arguably the most touristic of the Saronic Gulf islands. However, it is so charming that it is quickly forgiven.

It is not difficult to get off-the-beaten-path and away from the crowds while exploring the island. There are no cars or vehicles on Hydra and the transportation method of choice among the locals is to get around by horse or donkey.

Travelling to Hydra feels embarking on a journey back in time. Beaches on the island are small and few, but what Hydra lacks in this department, it certainly makes up for in stunning nature.

Here you will find adorable fishing villages, picturesque harbours, and hiking trails that lead through fields filled with fragrant flowers. Hydra’s port was an important location in the battle for independence between Greece and Turkey. It is considered as being one of the most beautiful in all of Greece.

Visitors to Hydra should take the time to walk along the coastal path that leads from Hydra town to the quaint fishing villages of Kamini and Vlychos. You can also consider hiking up to the Prophet Elias Monastery for spectacular panoramas over the island.

Where to Stay in Hydra:
The Athina Guesthouse

Hydra Island
Hydra Island, Saronic Gulf

Hydra is quite popular among tourists. As such, you are not short of accommodation options here when planning your trip.

Hydra is one of the more expensive and upscale of the Saronic Gulf islands. Hotel/B&B prices in Hydra start from around £50 per night.

The adorable Athina Guest House is a homely, independent guest house situated just five minutes away from Hydra port. The rooms are comfortable and spacious, the area is very quiet, and the rooms offer incredible views of Hydra town.

It is prudent to reserve your Hydra accommodation a few weeks in advance of embarking on your Saronic Gulf itinerary. This is particularly the case if you are travelling during the peak summer months.

Spetses

Spetses church, Saronic Gulf, Greece
Spetses, Saronic Gulf

Altogether more wild and rugged than Hydra, Spetses is a perfect travel destination for those who love immersing themselves in the “great outdoors”. The town of Spetses is relatively small.

Home to a population of just 5000 people, Spetses town is situated at one small corner of the island. Meanwhile, the remainder of the island consists of what is essentially one huge national park.

Like Hydra, Spetses “officially” does not have any cars, though here you can find a few. The most common way to get around the island is by motorbike and ATV.

Choosing to walk around the island opens up the possibility to uncover footpaths and trails that lead to secluded, hidden beaches and ancient churches and monasteries that are nestled deep in the woodland. Spetses is also home to a number of caves, the most famous being Bekiris cave.

Where to Stay in Spetses:
Villa Christina

Like Hydra, Spetses is one of the more affluent of the Saronic Gulf islands. Prices here are a little more expensive than say, Aegina or Poros. You should expect to pay at least £40 per night for a hotel room in Spetses.

The popular Villa Christina boasts spacious, comfortable rooms at an affordable price. The property has been decorated in shades of blue and white that are so quintessentially Greek. You can browse the latest prices and room rates here.

Poros

Poros, Saronic Gulf
Poros island, Greece

With its pastel-coloured houses and large areas of pine forests and lush greenery, Poros is one of the most beautiful islands in the Saronic Gulf. There is not an awful lot to see and do in Poros, though the island certainly has its charm.

Poros is a popular vacation spot for Athenians who want to escape the Greek capital for a few days during the summer. The main strip of road that runs parallel to the boat port is lined with coffee shops, souvlakias, and traditional tavernas. These places are all excellent value for money considering their optimum “touristic” location.

The Peloponnese mainland is visible from Poros and awaits across a small body of water. Tiny fishing boats run travelers across the water from Poros to Galatas for just a few euros.

A number of hiking trails are scattered throughout Poros. Most notably, travellers can hike up to the Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi.

Zoodochos Pigi is an ancient monastery situated within the pine forest some 4km from Poros town. Pleasant walking and cycling routes on the island also lead through a fragrant lemon forest. Alternatively, you can follow the coastal pathways to Love Bay and Askeli beach.

Where to Stay in Poros:
Panorama Apartments

Poros island, Saronic Gulf itinerary
Poros, Saronic Gulf

Accommodation in Poros is very reasonably priced and perfect for those travelling Greece on a budget. Apartment rentals and hotel rooms start at £20 per night.

One spot with some of the best views as well as the best reputation is the island’s Panorama Apartments. Starting from just £20 per night, each room has its own balcony. From here you have incredible views over the sea, and out to Poros town and Galatas in the distance.

Methana

Methana, Saronic Gulf
Methana, Saronic Gulf

The small island of Methana may well be one of the most rewarding travel destinations in the Saronic Gulf. It is also one of the trickiest islands to get to.

If you make the effort to travel to Methana, you are rewarded with the existence of virtually no tourists. You are likely to find that you have incredible places practically all to yourself.

Methana is a volcanic isle home to over 30 active craters. Like Poros, Methana is situated just a stone’s throw away from the Peloponnese. It is renowned throughout Greece for its natural beauty.

Due to the island’s volcanic activity, many thermal baths can be found in Methana. Most notably, the baths that form the lake of Vromolimnos, and the baths of Pausanias are said to have healing properties. The baths date all the way back to the Roman era.

Those with an interest in hiking can ascend the Volcano of Methana. Alternatively, trek through the olive groves and pine forests that surround the quaint village of Kameni Hora.

Accommodation Options in Methana

Methana thermal spas, Saronic Gulf, Greece
Methana thermal spas

Accommodation in Methana is very affordable, perhaps owing to the fact that this island is about as “off the beaten path” as you can get in the Saronic Gulf. The few travellers that make it here are domestic Greek tourists. Rooms and apartments in Methana can be rented for as little as £15 per night.

Aegina

Aegina island, Saronic Gulf itinerary
Aegina island, Saronic Gulf

The island of Aegina is a popular weekend break destination for Athenians hoping to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Aegina is one of the larger islands in the Saronic Gulf. At first glance, it can be a little overwhelming to know where to begin.

Pretty little Aegina town makes a good base. If you are able to rent a bicycle or a vehicle locally, it is easy to adventure out to the many unspoiled beaches and crumbling sun-bleached ruins that are scattered around the island.

Aegina town itself is filled with pastel-coloured houses and a labyrinth-like network of narrow cobbled passageways. A leisurely stroll around the town and port area is a highlight of any Aegina trip.

Don’t miss the salmon-coloured Tower of Markellos which dates back to the 17th century. Its fortified premises have played an important role in Greek history throughout the centuries.

If you have an interest in Greek history and mythology, be sure to stop by the island’s various ruins and archaeological sites. The Temple of Aphaia is no doubt the best-preserved ancient site on Aegina. It shares similarities with the Athenian Parthenon and the temple of Poseidon at Sounio.

Equally fascinating are the remnants of the temple of Apollo at the archaeological site of Kolona and the island’s ancient capital of Paleahora.For a slice of local culture in Aegina, head for a spot of lunch and a coastal walk at the quaint fishing village of Perdika, before watching the sunset over the Saronic.

Where to Stay in Aegina:
Rastoni Hotel

Aegina, Saronic Gulf

There are a number of hotels and B&Bs in Aegina which are excellent value for money. Prices for Aegina hotels start from £25 per night.

Rastoni hotel is situated just a few minutes’ walk from the port. Its comfy rooms provide incredible views over the ruins at Kolona. Other options can be browsed here.  

Agistri

Agistri island, Greece
Agistri, Greece

The little Saronic Gulf island of Agistri is so tiny that you can practically drive from one end of the island to the other within 15 minutes. With that considered, the small size of the island definitely does not mean that travel options are limited.

Outside of the main towns and fishing villages, Agistri boasts miles and miles of lush greenery, unpopulated hills, and peaceful pine forests where figs, lemons, and oregano grow wild. A pleasant walking route to follow is the footpath that leads to the tiny village of Metochi.

This is a charming, non-touristic village whose white-washed houses are among the oldest structures on the island. Surrounded by woodland, Metochi is a good starting point for many of Agistri’s best hiking routes.

For incredible viewpoints and panoramas over the island, follow the uphill trail to the Church of Panagia. Though the blue and white Cycladic church is often closed, this point offers the best views over Agistri.

Quaint villages and craggy landscapes are certainly a major draw for visiting Agistri. However, so too are the paradisiacal beaches that act as a perfect point for a little rest and relaxation on the island.

Agistri offers beaches suited for every travel style and preference. You will find everything from secluded coves to organised beaches lined with bars and tavernas.

The remote beach of Chalikiada is guarded by cliffs and is an excellent choice for those hoping to escape the crowds. Alternatively, Skala beach is just 100 meters from the town’s harbor and offers rentals for sunbeds and parasols, in addition to a lot of shops and dining options nearby.

Where to Stay in Agistri:
Oasis Scala Beach Hotel

Agistri, Saronic Gulf
Agistri, Saronic Gulf

Like Aegina, Poros, and Methana, Agistri is a relatively affordable place to stay during your Saronic Gulf itinerary. Hotel rooms and apartment rentals start from around £20 per night.

The four-star Oasis Scala beach hotel offers spacious rooms equipped with scenic balconies right on the seafront of Agistri by the beach. Rooms at Oasis Scala start at just £30 per night and include a delightful traditional Greek breakfast.

A Proposed 14 Day Saronic Gulf Itinerary

Methana island landscapes
Methana, Saronic Gulf
  • Hydra (2 days)

  • Spetses (2 days)

  • Poros (2 days)

  • Methana (2 days)

  • Aegina (2 days)

  • Agistri (2 days)

  • Athens (2 days)

Hydra Island – Two Nights

Board the boat at Athens Piraeus port bound for Hydra. The journey takes approximately one hour and 45 minutes.

Opting to choose one of the earlier ferries allows for more time to explore beautiful little Hydra. The first day of your Saronic Gulf itinerary can be spent wandering through the streets and alleys of Hydra’s port before finding a scenic spot to watch the sunset.

On day two, get up bright and early and wake yourself up in true Greek style with an iced Freddo espresso. Wander along the coastal path to Kamini and Vlychos and enjoy fresh seafood delicacies at Christine’s tavern. If you still have energy to burn, backtrack towards Hydra port and walk up to the Prophet Elias monastery for breathtaking panoramas over the Saronic Gulf.

Spetses Island – Two Nights

Hop on board the ferry from Hydra to Spetses for two days in the Saronic Gulf’s most rugged island. Day one can be spent exploring the port area at a leisurely pace.

When lunch time rolls around, enjoy a steaming pot of moussaka at one of the ouzerias that line the seafront and walk up towards Kouzounos to admire the historic port and shipyard. Spetses is a very upscale region in the Saronic Gulf. As night falls, there are plenty of chic cocktail bars and restaurants to enjoy and mingle among locals.

On your second day in Spetses, rent a bicycle, a scooter or an ATV to help you to get around the island easier. Following the road from Spetses town to Ligoneri and beyond, you will discover plenty of secluded, “hidden” beaches.

There are also many tiny churches nestled deep within the woodlands. Since the island is small, it is possible to cover its entire circumference in a day with your own transport.

Poros Island – Two Nights

Drop your bags at your hotel before spending some time exploring the Poros port area. Stroll up to the clocktower that looks over the old town and enjoy fresh seafood delicacies at one of the quaint tavernas by the sea. Wash it all down with a strong glass of ouzo before hopping on board one of the tiny fishing boats that run regular trips across to Galatas to explore the opposite side of the bay.

Wake up bright and early on your second day in Poros to hike to the Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi. Nestled deep within the pine forest, exploring the Monastery itself is a fulfilling experience, as is the trek through nature to get there.

Departing early in the morning to start the hike enables you to avoid the intense heat of the midday sun. After a sumptuous lunch at a local taverna, pack up your beach towels and head to Love Bay for an afternoon of relaxation beneath the Mediterranean sun.

Methana Island – Two Nights

From Poros, travel onwards to Methana. Many of the ferries heading back to Piraeus stop at Methana. However, they do not run every day of the week. Be sure to check the schedule in advance.

Methana can also be reached by taking the boat to Galatas and then a cab to Methana. This is not overly pricy if there are a few of you.Spend the first day of your Methana itinerary exploring the town and relaxing in the thermal spas.

On day two, prepare to hike the slopes of Methana volcano. If you are a little weary after all of the physical exertion, you can always revisit the thermal springs again before you continue onwards to Aegina.

Aegina Island – Two Nights

Exploring Aegina town at a relaxed pace is a nice first introduction to the island. The most notable archaeological sites here are the Temple of Aphaia and the ruins at Kolona.

Both places are located very close to the town centre. They can be easily reached from the port area on your first day.

During day two in Aegina, embrace a more laid back pace. Spend the day exploring the fishing village of Peridka.

Agistri Island – Two Nights

Arrival in Agistri marks the penultimate leg of this Saronic Gulf itinerary. Drop your bags at your hotel and venture to one of the island’s beaches for a lazy day in the sun.

In the evening, treat yourself to some Greek foodie delicacies and cocktails by the sea.  On day two in Agistri, prepare for your final hike of the trip.

Don your comfiest walking shoes and embark on the steep ascent to the Church of Panagia. When you reach the top, you are rewarded with some of the best views in the Saronic Gulf.

Athens – Two Nights

Athens is perhaps one of the most underrated and frequently overlooked parts of Greece. Though it may be the idyllic charm of the Greek islands that attracts travellers, the capital also boasts plenty of attractions.

Aside from the renowned ancient sites such as the Acropolis, the ancient agora, and Anafiotika Plaka, it is all of the various neighbourhoods of Athens, each with their own charming personalities, that make the city so magical.

This three day Athens itinerary provides a nice introduction to Athens’ highlights. It goes off the beaten path in Athens away from just the tourist attractions and takes you through the eclectic Pagrati neighbourhood, the upscale Kolonaki district, and on to Vouliagmeni and the Athenian Riviera.

Getting Around the Saronic Gulf

Athens, Greece
Athens, Greece

Boats operated by Hellenic Seaways run from Athens’ Piraeus port to and between the various islands of the Saronic Gulf. The precise ferry schedule varies depending on the season so it is prudent to check that here before your trip.

It is also important to note that the boats do not run between every individual island. It is for that reason that I have proposed a Saronic Gulf itinerary that follows the order outlined above.

This itinerary has been tried and tested. It is also is one of the most logical routes to follow to ensure that you can easily transition from one island to another, and don’t have to wind up going back and forth.

Costs of Sailing around the Saronic Gulf

Boat prices range from around 10 – 30 euros one way depending on the distance between your locations. Prices are also subject to fluctuations based on season and demand so you should check with the ferry operator before departing.

Saronic Gulf Tours

There are plenty of tour operators in Athens that offer Saronic Gulf tours like this one. These tours are also a nice alternative if you don’t feel confident travelling around the islands independently.

Many organised Saronic Gulf tours enable you to see 2-3 islands in a day. This means that you do not get to truly scratch beneath the surface of the various islands. However, these tours can be a great choice if you are limited on time.

When to Travel to the Saronic Gulf Islands

Vlychos fishing village
Vlychos fishing village

The Saronic Gulf islands are very much a seasonal travel destination. Though the general perception of Greece is as a Mediterranean paradise, the temperatures drop drastically during the Autumn and Winter months.

This period sees a lot of businesses close up for the season and a dramatic reduction in the number of boats operated. The best time to visit the Saronic Gulf islands is between April and September.

If your main intention for visiting the Saronic Gulf is to relax on the beaches, top up your tan, and embrace the laid back Greek island lifestyle, it is advisable to travel between June and early September. If you are visiting the Saronic Gulf with the intention of simply hiking and exploring the towns, Spring is the best time to travel.

Visiting during this period means pleasant temperatures, fewer tourists, and lower travel costs. The weather is still relatively warm and pleasant during Spring and Autumn in Greece.

Parting Words

Have any questions about this Saronic Gulf itinerary and guide? Feel free to drop me a message or reach out to me via the comments below.

I live here in Greece (Athens). I will be happy to help if I can. Safe travels, Melissa xo  


Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer and Blogger based in Athens, Greece. She writes for numerous high profile travel publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, Matador Network, The Times of Israel and The Huffington Post.

1 thought on “Exploring the Saronic Gulf Islands & a Suggested Saronic Gulf Itinerary 2020/1”

  1. This has been really helpful, thank you Melissa. My friend and I hope to visit Athens and the Saronic Gulf from Aug 29 to Sept 6. Hoping to hike Mount Parnitha whilst there so if you’re itching to breath in some ‘fresh’ Athenian summer air we would love for you to join us 🙂

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