Greece is one of our most popular destinations for a cooking vacation, and with an amazing gastronomy and gorgeous places to visit, that should be no surprise!
One of our most popular Greek cooking vacations is our Greek Cooking Odyssey, which takes place on the island of Poros, one of the Saronic islands.
So what are the Saronic Islands and what makes them so popular?
What Are the Saronic Islands?
The Saronic Islands are a group of islands in Greece named for their location in the Saronic Gulf. The Saronic Gulf, known as the Gulf of Aegina in Greece, is located in the center of Greece, between the peninsulas of Argolis and Attica. It is the gulf on which Athens lies, which means the Saronic Islands are probably the easiest islands to get to for international travelers, and are even possible as a day-trip from Athens.
There island group includes Poros, our favorite, as well as Salamis, Aegina, and Agistri, but the nearby islands of Hydra, Spetses, and Dokos are also usually grouped with them. Because of its proximity to the mainland, the Saronic Islands are a popular spot for Greeks to vacation or have summer homes.
The most populated of the Saronic Islands is Salamina, also the largest, and it has recently been named the most densely populated of Greek Islands (learn more here). The other islands, however, are much smaller in terms of population, resulting in a fabulous small-town feel.
Poros Island, a mountainous volcanic island, is actually comprised of two islands (Sphaeria and Kalaureia), today connected by a bridge over a narrow channel. The island pair is about 31 sq km (12 sq miles), with a population just under 4000 inhabitants. Most of the inhabitants are concentrated in and around Poros Town, the capital, and the villages of Askeli and Neorio. The rest of the island pair is either mountainous or covered with dense vegetation such as forests of pine, olives, lemons, figs, and almonds.
The island of Poros offers beautiful beaches, including the famous Askeli beach, located near Poros Town, and Love Bay. Famous for sailing and water sports, it is an ideal place for families and summer travelers.
The town also offers other sights to see, however, including the Monastery of Zoodohos Pigi, an eighteenth-century monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary and home to the graves of famous soldiers of the Greek Revolution of 1821, when Greece fought for its independence from the Ottoman Empire.
There are also the ruins of an ancient temple to Poseidon in the center of the island, and Poros Town offers a vibrant, fun restaurant scene and local shopping.
The Islands of Aegina and Hydra
Aegina is one of the most known of the Saronic Islands, due to its quaint capital of Aegina Town, as well as for the important ruins found there. Aegina Town is full of narrow alleys, a beautiful seafront promenade, and elegant buildings, which make it a picturesque place to explore during a Greek Islands culinary vacation.
But the island’s history as one of the most important islands of Ancient Greece makes it even more interesting to explore. The archaeological site of the Ancient Temple of Aphaea (or Aphaia) dates back to the Sixth Century BCE, although it is thought to have been built on the site of even older ruins. It was rebuilt in the Fifth Century following destruction by a fire. The Doric Temple is dedicated to the mother-goddess Aphaia, an ancient goddess associated with fertility and agriculture. The Temple was once thought to have been dedicated to Athena, which is why it is sometimes referred to at the Temple of Athena Aphaia.
Hydra has the unique distinction of being one of the few places in the world without cars, which are banned on the island. How does one get around? By foot, boat, or donkey. Yes, donkey! When visitors arrive on Hydra for a stay, they are greeted by donkey drivers whose pack animals will carry the travelers’ luggage to their hotel of choice.
This and the beautiful stone mansions make Hydra one of the most picturesque places in Greece, one that is perfect for exploring. The many footpaths across the island, the views from the hilltops, and the secluded beaches make Hydra a perfect place to explore on foot.
Visit Hydra during our Greek Cooking Odyssey.
Greece has some 114 populated islands, so there is no shortage of islands to explore on a cooking vacation in Greece! But why not try the Saronic Islands for your next trip? Contact us to start planning.
Learn more in our video:
By Peg Kern
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