An introduction to Aegina Island
Aegina Island is situated only thirty kilometres from Athens in the Saronic Gulf. In the ancient past, Aegina was a rival of Athens, but today is the Athenian’s most popular weekend escape, due to its proximity and easy access.
Names after Aegina, the mother of Aeacus, the island is rich and verdant and especially famous for its production of pistachio nuts.
Aegina was a figure in Greek mythology – the daughter of the god Asopus and the nymph Metope – who was abducted by the great Zeus and hid her on the island, then known as Oenone. Her son became the first king of the island. On this island, legend has it, Zeus trained an elite army called the Myrmidons who were later led in battle by the great Achilles.
Beyond the legend, according to archaeological discoveries has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The Myceneans and the Minoans were also present. Aegina passed through Roman rule, the Byzantine period, Frankish and Venetian rule and Ottoman rule. In 1828, following the Greek War of Independence, it is Aegina that emerges as the very first capital of the new independent Greek State. The governor was Ioannis Kapodistrias.
Aegina town is the modern day capital of the island. It is a picturesque town which proudly shows off its neoclassical buildings. Along the port there are numerous cafés and fish tavernas and a lovely promenade from which many narrow streets lead you into even more cafés, churches, tourist stores, museums and open squares and gardens and temple ruins.
The famous Greek writer and thinker, Nikos Kazantzakis, built a house on this island. Famous for his novel Zorba the Greek, the Cretan writer chose this particular island to build a house of unique architecture, located in the area called Livadi.
Aegina Town is famed for its excellent fish market and fish tavernas of the highest quality.
Apart from the archaic ruins of temples scattered about this mystical island, it is the churches and monasteries that stand tall as the most imposing landmarks. These are the Church of Agios Ioannis Therapondas, the Church of Taxiarchis Mandamados, the 14th century church of Panagia Trouloti, the Early-Christian era Basilica of Saint Andrew, the Monastery of Agios Raphael, the Church of Agios Stephanos, the Church of the Dormition of the Virgin and the Byzantine Monastery of Ipsilou. Many of these structures exhibit ecclesiastical items, crosses, altar clothes and other documents.
Aegina is a great island escape for history buffs who also like to spend lazy days on the beach. There are numerous museums and archaeological sites here that must be seen. The archaeological museum holds artefacts found on the ancient sites of the Apollo Temple and the Aphaia Temple as well as other island discoveries.
Most of the activity on the island takes place around Agia Marina beach, a sandy beach the lines the island’s main tourism resort. Water sports are very popular here and there are excellent facilities available so that visitors can engage in canoeing and sailing, to name just a few activities.
Before you leave the island, be sure to visit the 5th century temple of Apollo to see its single Doric column standing alone after all these hundreds of years, and also the Doric temple dedicated to the nymph, who was only worshipped on this particular island.