Greek Guide

 

Spetses Island Greece Greek Holiday Destinations

Spetses is one of the Greek Saronic Gulf islands located 98 kilometres south west of the mainland port of Piraeus and just a 15 minute boat hop from the Peloponnesian coastline. It's the greenest of the Saronic islands with pine forests that sweep down from the central hills to picturesque coves which attract foreign tour groups along with hordes of Athenian weekenders.

In antiquity the island was called Pityoussa (meaning pine tree island) but the forests were decimated largely by the lucrative ship building industry which brought great riches to Spetses in the 17th and 18th centuries. Wealthy philanthropist Sotirios Anargyrios, who was born on Spetses in 1848 but made his fortune in the USA, bought two thirds of his barren homeland and set about creating the pine covered slopes which greet today's visitors. The most popular and crowded beach on the west coast, Agios Anargyri, takes its name from the island's great benefactor as does the English style boarding school on the outskirts of Spetses Town. The Anargyrios and Korgialenios College is only used for the occasional conference and summer course these days but is of enduring interest to fans of renowned author John Fowles who taught English here for two years in the 1950s. The island was the inspiration for one of Fowles' greatest works, The Magus.

Like its neighbour Hydra, Spetses retains much of the grandeur and old world elegance of its heyday as an important shipbuilding and maritime trading centre. The main town is peppered with imposing 200 year old mansions with pebble mosaic courtyards, built by wealthy sea captains and successful merchants many of whom made their fortunes by running the British blockade during the Napoleonic Wars.

Spetses is not a totally traffic free island like Hydra but only residents are allowed cars and the use of them is severely restricted. Mopeds and motorbikes, however, zip around the town in large numbers and are the most popular way of getting around the island. A fairly decent 25 kilometre road, mostly paved, loops around the entire coastline of the island and with a mountain bike you can explore the winding trails which zigzag across the interior. If you don't want to join the pesky moped mob you can get around town in a horse drawn carriage and use a water taxi to visit the island's numerous pine fringed coves.

You'll find a plentiful supply of good quality eateries and ouzeris in Spetses Town and come nightfall the picturesque old harbour becomes a hive of activity with swarms of locals and visitors packing the numerous music bars and dance clubs that proliferate on and around the waterfront.

The island is served by a daily ferry to and from Piraeus (four and a half hours) and frequent Flying Dolphins which cut the journey time to two and a half hours (most stop at Hydra en route). Kosta, on the eastern arm of the northern Peloponnese, is only 3.5 kilometres away you get can there by water taxi in quarter of an hour.