ATHENS ONE DAY CRUISE: AEGINA, POROS, HYDRA
All aboard the giant cruise ship at 8 am in the morning and the first thing I need to do is grab a greek coffee. It’s April so the wind is quite crisp on the top deck, but the serenity makes up for the chilly wind. Our cruise ship departs Athens and we head out on an adventure to explore three islands in the Aegean sea. Our destinations are Hydra, Poros and Aegina, each unique in their own way, which I was about to discover.
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From Athens the first part of the cruise takes a couple of hours. There is an opportunity to have coffee, some breakfast and hear the briefing about the day ahead. As we begin to pull into the port of Hydra, everyone aboard rushes to the deck to admire the houses and buildings sprawled across the steep hills of the island.
I didn’t know where to begin. After stepping off the boat my senses were overwhelmed. The car-less instead uses donkeys to transport people and goods throughout the town. Dogs lay sleeping in doorways and cats prowled throughout the winding alleys leading up the hills.
It was lucky I wasn’t heading in any particular direction because it truly was a maze. The white buildings and orange roofs paint a beautiful sight from the scenic points atop the hill. After a long climb in the sun, I finally made it to a small clearing, which overlooked a church on one side and the entire town and port on the other.
Hydra was my favorite of the three islands. Running through the maze of alleys, streets and stairs led to new discoveries around each corner. I think the absence of cars adding to the historic atmosphere in the town, which from the very first moment felt peaceful and slow-paced.
After a brisk jog down the hill to make it back before the ship left we were on our way to the second destination of the day, Poros.
My favorite part about Poros was cruising to the port while on the ship, admiring the town from the water. I’ve never experienced towns quite like those in Greece that seem to scale the entire hill. It is probably quite unextraordinary for many Europeans but having grown up in flat urban areas, the tiered layout of the towns was something to marvel at.
Immediately after stepping foot onto Poros I was lured into an ice cream store by a large man with an even larger smile. Not normally one for sweets, I have to say the vanilla ice-cream was not your run of the mill scoop. I’m not sure what they did to it but it was special.
We had 45 minutes to explore the island so I set off into the maze of alleys once again. My favorite little scene from the adventure was a small blue car parked in the middle of nowhere, no people around. It was a world away from the hustle of a big city.
I headed back to the boat eagerly anticipating the buffet lunch. A greek feast awaited. Huge spreads of authentic greek plates and salads were followed by an even bigger spread of desserts. I finished the meal off with another greek coffee in preparation for our last island adventure on Aegina.
On board, we had the option to buy a bus tour of the island scenery or a tour to the temple of Aphaia and the monastery. I decided to head to the temple of Aphaia, which was the inspiration for the Parthenon.
I’ve never stood in front of a structure in so much awe. The temple was built in 500 B.C. It is truly remarkable and makes you feel like a tiny dot on an incredibly long timeline.
The final stop was to the Agios Nektarios Monastery, an enormous structure, which dwarfed people as they passed through the stunning arched doors. After exploring the inside of the monastery and admiring the intricate details of the interior, I was once again lured over by an enormous smile. This time I was buying fresh, local pistachios. The salted nuts only lasted me the trip back to Athens.
This was an amazing way to get a small taste of some of the Greek islands. In one day we covered so much ground with ample time to relax on the boat in between stops. I could have spent a week on Hydra and maybe someday I will return.