Athens One Day Cruise: 3 Greek Islands in 12 hours!

 

Some believe you have to go far away from Athens and the Parthenon to find the true beauty and relaxation Greece has to offer, with some skipping the Athenian capital all together and flying to far off islands like Crete, Rhodes, Mykonos and Santorini. But the beauty and essence of Greek life is everywhere, including Athens and many nearby places on the mainland. And what’s also close to Athens and doable via a day trip is Greek island hopping!

On my recent trip to Athens I had the opportunity to set sail with Athens One Day Cruise out of the port of Piraeus, where our tour visited the beautiful islands of Hydra, Poros, and Aegina all in one day. As part of Greece hosting the 2014 edition of the world’s largest conference for travel bloggers, TBEX, there were 10 other bloggers aboard the ship, carrying travelers from around the world, with a large percentage from China and Russia. Here’s what to expect and a review of Athens One Day Cruise.

The ship's dramatic approach into the famous island of Hydra
The ship’s dramatic approach into the famous island of Hydra
Before the first port of call, everyone is invited to partake in Greek dancing.
Before the first port of call and at the end of the day, everyone is invited to partake in Greek dancing.

 

Hydra –

Hydra
 

The first stop was Hydra, a pedestrian only island that doesn’t even allows bicycles. Aside from your feet, donkeys are the only alternative form of transport permitted to travel through town and up the island’s mountains. As we were part of a press trip, our group of 12 were invited into the lovely office of Dr. George Koukoudakis, mayor of famous Hydra. Hydra has previously been rated by UNESCO as the best preserved Mediterranean island, and for this reason, in the late 90’s, the island turned down an offer from Virgin Atlantic owner Richard Branson to build a mega resort which would have changed the 2,200 residents entire way of life. Mayor Koukoudakis was welcoming, informative and treated us to delicious fresh baked sweets after speaking to us for over an hour.

The Mayor of Hydra hosts our press group in his office to discuss the affairs of the island.
The mayor of Hydra hosted our press group in his office to discuss the affairs of one of the world’s top ranked islands.

 

Thumbs up with the Mayor of Hydra, George ______
Thumbs up with the mayor of famous Hydra, Dr. George Koukoudakis.

As we spent an hour in the mayors office, this only left our press group with 30 minutes to essentially just snap photos of Hydra. Had we been apart of the regular tour we would have enjoyed more time discovering Hydra’s beautiful courtyards and winding white washed alleys, with lovely seaside views. There’s lots of restaurants and cafes along the water to enjoy a nice meal and drinks, and some of the streets of the island reminded me of Mykonos’ beautiful main town. Hydra is definitely a worthwhile island to visit, even if you don’t make it into the mayors office for a chat.

 

The only method of transport allowed on Hydra aside from your feet, are donkeys.
The only method of transport allowed on Hydra aside from your feet are donkeys.

 

Hydra fishermen
 

Ships Amenities – 

Since it’s just a day cruise, you won’t find any swimming pools, movie theaters, or on board massages, but there’s plenty of seating to enjoy drinks and food while sailing through pristine waters and picturesque islands. Between Hydra and Poros, a delicious buffet lunch was included for all passengers on the cruise, offering many Greek favorites like dolmades, feta and moussaka, along with a nice offering of fish, meat and vegetarian dishes. Almost everyone that was part of our press group enjoyed the food and the welcoming hospitality of the majority of the crew.

 

Poros –

 

The approach into Poros. Despite being a cloudy day, it was still gorgeous.
The approach into Poros. Despite being a cloudy day, it was still gorgeous.

 

Poros Boats and Mountains
Poros was the island we spent the least amount of time on. We only had an hour to roam and it was afternoon, siesta time in much of Greece. This did however make for a tranquil stroll along the esplanade, taking in the town and the picturesque surrounding mountains. And despite being siesta, there were still cafes and restaurants open if I’d wanted a drink. An additional half an hour on Poros would have been nice, but time is tight when you’re squeezing three Greek islands in one day!

 

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Poros
 

Poros Esplanade
 

Aegina –

On the island of Aegina we boarded a bus that drove up the mountain, through villages and pistachio and olive groves to reach the beautiful ancient Temple of Aphaia, dating back to 500 BC and dedicated to the goddess of Aphaia, who was worshipped exclusively on the island at the time. It’s a stunning temple, especially since you have a panoramic view of the Saronic Gulf, Salamis Island and the port of Piraeus. Across from the temple I purchased deliciously creamy pistachio ice cream made from goats milk from a local vendor, a truly unique treat for someone allergic to cows milk. Aegina is one of the largest pistachio producing areas in the world, exporting tasty nuts beyond Greece’s border.

After the Temple of Aphaia we visited one of the largest Greek Byzantine churches in the world, the Church of Saint Nectarios (Agios Nektarios). Saint Nectarios lived from 1826-1920 and was said to be a miracle worker who could heal sick people. In 1961 he was proclaimed a saint by the head of the Orthodox church in Istanbul (still Constantinople to Greeks). The mausoleum of Saint Nectarios is within the gigantic church, which is still not fully completed, though 14 nuns currently take residence there. After visiting this amazing church, I purchased some pistachios from a friendly older man from the back of his van. They were probably the best pistachios I’ve eaten in my life, so fresh they melted in my mouth.

Aegina town, Greece
Arriving in Aegina town- the closest of the 3 islands to Athens, but the final stop of Athens One Day Cruise.

 

Temple of Aiphaia, Aegina, Greece
The Temple of Aiphai on Aegina dates back over 2,500 years to 500 BC. During this time, Aegina was a rival of Athens.

 

Temple of Aphaia, Aegina
 

The Church of Saint Nectarios on the island of Aegina.
The  Byzantine Church of Saint Nectarios on the island of Aegina.

 

Entertainment –

On our return from Aegina back to Athens we were treated to lively entertainment that included traditional Greek bouzouki music and dancing. Volunteers were pulled from the crowd (including yours truly) to dance and either show off or embarrass ourselves a little. While I was initially hesitant to get out and dance myself, I wound up laughing harder than I had in days. Looking around the crowd, there were a lot of laughs to conclude what was a very picturesque day.

Overall- This is a good cruise for those with limited time in Greece and want to see several beautiful islands. The ship is comfortable, the sites are stunning and you’ll be hard pressed not to laugh at the entertainment. The biggest drawback for some is the limited amount of time you have on each island. It might be better if the cruise only visited two of the islands and allowed more time on each one, which was a critique of a few of the other travel writers I spoke with. I’m not sure which island I’d skip though as they were all beautiful with their own unique aspects and I’m glad I experienced all three.

To read the review of another travel writer about Athens One Day Cruise, read Rachel Heller’s post about the experience.

Most people only think of visiting the Greek islands in summer, but check out our post about why Syros is a great island to ring in the New Year! 

Greek dancing on Athens One Day Cruise
 

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 Disclaimer: While this cruise was provided free of charge by Athens One Day Cruise, it hasn’t impacted the opinions written in this post by Alex Kallimanis.  

8 thoughts on “Athens One Day Cruise: 3 Greek Islands in 12 hours!

    1. The Greek islands are indeed wonderful for relaxing and taking your time, especially when it’s summer and you can lounge on the beach!

    1. Hi Ursula and Guenther!

      Thanks for the compliment! It was wonderful meeting you on this trip and having the opportunity to get to know you both a bit over the course of the day cruise. I just checked out your post and you did a fantastic job with it. Nice work recording the mayor’s address and Q&A session with us in his office. I enjoyed hearing my question to Mayor Koukoudakis at the 29:30 mark of the Youtube video 🙂

      All the best as well and the happiest of travels to you both!

  1. Hi thank you for your wonderful review of one day cruise, I will be in athens also and purchase this day cruise ahead of time. I would like to know about aegina island. the tour to Temple of Aphaia and church is that included with the day cruise or you book it ahead of time?

    1. Hi Marie. Pleasure and glad we could help! While the tour to the Temple of Aphaia and church on the island of Aegina is not included in the regular price of the cruise, it’s easy to add on this tour. The choice for your time in Aegina is to either pay extra to do the bus tour or spend time exploring the town and surrounding area on your time. For most, it’s definitely worthwhile to pay a little extra for the tour. Have a wonderful time in Athens and the beautiful islands!

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