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Angistri, Greece

A Visit to the Greek island of Angistri, one of the prettiest of the nearby Saronic Gulf islands is just a short ferry boat trip from Athens and is one of those undiscovered secret favorite places you have probably read about

agistri greece Leave it to my friend Dorian to rain on my parade. Back when we were all American highschool students running wild in Athens during the military dictatorship we used to go to Aegina for special weekends. When I say special weekends I mean those times we wanted to do certain things with the knowlege that we would not have to return home at night where there might be an insomniatic parent waiting up with a cup of tea and the desire for a rare heart to heart talk. I think you know what I am trying to say here without me coming right out and saying we would go to Aegina for wild drug orgies or extended acid trips. We would go to Aegina, camp on the beach, drink lots of retsina and act like the kids in Lord of the Flies.

Dorian had a house in Aegina. It belonged to his grandfather. As far as I know he still has it but he never goes there anymore. Dorian was our Aegina expert and he would often talk of another relatively unknown island called Angistri. He would get a far-way look in his eyes as he spoke of its' white sandy beaches and quiet tavernas with fresh fish so cheap it was almost free. A small paradise so close to Athens that it had gone unnoticed by the travelers of the age, Angistri was like a secret hideaway to the few who knew about it. Dorian would laugh at us. "Ha ha. You think Aegina is nice? That is because you have never been to Angistri." Angistri became like Atlantis to us. A place that the old people (Dorian was a year ahead of us) spoke of in hushed tones in reverence to the good old days, kind of like how some of us talk about the sixties.

It took me 30 years but I finally went to Angistri. It was a hot day in June. Hotter than June is supposed to be, even in Athens. We had a couple days to kill before were were going to Lesvos or Sifnos, I forget which, and we wanted a nice day trip to the beach, without traffic. We thought about Aegina but I had just been there a couple weeks before to check out the village of Perdika.

Suddenly I remembered Dorian's fabled Angistri. 
"Let's go to Angistri!!!" I practically shouted at Andrea. She agreed but not with the excitement that I tried to inject into her. For Andrea, Angistri had no Mythology. It was just a place near Athens she had heard of somewhere. Maybe she had passed it on some old boyfriend's yacht, or it came up at a dinner conversation about the best fish tavernas. But to her getting on a subway and a ferry was easier then sitting in traffic on the road to the beach. So just like that we grabbed our day-bags and our daughter Amarandi and went.

angistri island, greeceThere are afew choices of boats to Angistri. We took a small one near the Aegina ferries that was called the Manaras Express or something like that. It was not any faster than the ferries but we were in no hurry. Once we got out of Pireaus and out into the Aegean we were quite comfortable and happy. The boat stopped in Aegina an hour later and then it was another 20 minutes to Angistri.

If you have been suffering through this long introduction hoping that Angistri would be the paradise Dorian had made it seem so many years ago then you may find the rest of this a little disapointing. Angistri is....well it's a really nice island. There is a little harbor but it's not a harbor in the true sense of the word, like Aegina's harbor with fishing boats and guys mending their nets. It's more like a place to park the ferry boat. But it was... nice. The water was incredibly blue and really clean. Amazingly clean when you think about how close the island is to Athens. 

angistri beachWe walked offthe small dock and into the town. Well it's not exactly a town. At least not right there at the dock. It's more like a community. It sort of reminded me of The Pines in Fire Island, but a bit more heterosexual. In fact it was very family oriented. There was a path that went along the shore past a couple restaurants and cafes to a sort of public beach which was very crowded. But again the water was really clean. The people on the beach were an assortment of Greek families, Eastern European's swimming in the sea for the first time, and middle aged Scandinavians and Germans squeezed into bathing suits that were not designed for sumo wrestlers. But the sea was nice so who cared?

agistri beachBut I try togo beyond nice when I can so I followed the little road around the peninsula and came out on the other side where a line of shops, restaurants and hotels (but a nice line), overlooked a long beach where there was not a soul swimming. This is where I swam and it was like heaven. I was amazed that the sea could be so beautiful so close to Athens, and for a few moments everything Dorian had said, so many years ago, seemed to ring with truth rather then exaggeration. This was indeed Paradise. Then my family found me. Amarandi was miserable. Not enough kids.(only a hundred or so). Andrea was pissed off too, sort of at me for bringing them here and probably for a lot of other stuff over the years that she was suddenly thinking about now. Being experienced in this situation I knew that the only cure was food so we sat at one of the small tavernas right by the public beach. That seemed to calm them both down and the crisis passed. The food was....you guessed it. Not spectacular but...nice.

After lunch I walked around for about 20 minutes looking for some stuff to photograph for this website but it's not the most photogenic place which may be the reason you won't find it in many of the Guidebooks. Not that it is ugly. There are some nice houses along the coast and some pretty little gardens in the back lanes. But there are no great photographic spots or scenes. You know, like an old fisherman mending his net, maybe a pelican chasing a tourist girl in a bikini or even a cat sitting next to an urn like you see in those Greece calanders in the Plaka. As nice as Angistri is, if you wanted to make a calander of the island to sell in the Plaka you would have to bring over a dozen models and have them pose naked in the sea right about where I was swimming.

OK. Dorian exagerated a little bit. Or maybe 30 years ago Angistri was wild and untamed. A place where wild goats and rabbits frolicked with naked tourist girls in the verdant hills. But for a day trip from Athens it's great. You won't find many places this close that are so nice to swim. And I only saw a very small part of it. I was in Skala. The other port is called Milos and for all I know that may be incredible. Eyewitness Travel Guide to Greece says the rest of the "hilly pine-clad island is largely unspoiled". But they didn't have any pictures of it and they have pictures of everything. Something that no guidebook mentions is that there is a lake there at Liminaria.

angistri catamaran boatAnyway there are hotels on the island so you can stay for more than the afternoon. As a matter of fact many people spend their entire holidays here and it was because so many people were asking me about it that I finally made this page after sitting on these pictures for over 2 years. Apparently it is a  popular gathering place for the kind of PhilHellenes who come back to spend their summers in Greece year after year.

Getting home was quicker. There is a Catamaran that is owned by the island and it gets back to Pireaus in about an hour with a stop in Aegina.

When we returned to Athens I couldn't wait to see Dorian. I was beaming with pride when I informed him we had just returned from Angistri.
"Angistri? Why? That's a horrible place."
He makes me really mad sometimes. 
But it's not a horrible place and remember that just 30 years ago he was raving about it and making us feel insignificant because we had never been there. No it's not as beautiful as Sifnos (Dorian dislikes that island too). Not as charming as Hydra. Not as entertaining as Mykonos. Not as visualy spectacular as Santorini. Angistri is...well.....pretty darn nice
Maybe not worth waiting 30 years for, but nice enough for a day trip from Athens.

Then after putting up this website I discovered a side to Angistri I did not even know existed. It is a place called the Agistri Club, reknown to Greeks and foreigners living in Athens as one of the best holiday hotels within striking distance of Athens. When people need a break and don't want to take a five or eight hour ferry ride to find a beautiful hotel on a clean beach they come here. The hotel has a devoted following of travelers who return year after year and apparently things can get pretty fun there from reports I have gotten.

Left from the harbour at Skala and just beyond the Agistri Club Hotel at Skliri is Halikiada beach, made famous in the early eighties as the site of the Adam and Eve naturist meeting, a testing ground for naturism in Greece. It remains now as then, inaccessible to all except the determined few who seek the best that nature offers.

Helpful Travel Information

If you want to know more about the lovely island of Angistri from the people who actually live there and want to find out more about the Agistri Club Hotel and all they offer, visit The Angistri Club website

You can also find more hotels on Angistri at www.hotelsofgreece.com/saronic and on Booking.com's Angistri Page

See also: Hydra, Poros, Greek islands
or See my step by step instructions for going on your own to a Greek island at www.greektravel.com/lesson1

For Transfers to Pireaus for the ferry or from Pireaus to your hotel see George the Famous Taxi Driver at www.greecetravel.com/taxi

  

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