Spetses Travel Guide
Spetses is a truly cosmopolitan island of the Argo-Saronic complex of islands. However, it manages to retain its individual traditional character and to be picturesque, elegant and authentically charming, maintaining features that remain unchanged over time.
As written in the Daily Mail of 4 June 2010, "Spetses is where superyachts bob up and down next to traditional wooden fishing boats and where the super-rich rub shoulders with the locals in quayside tavernas. All are drawn to this pine-covered island for its secluded coves and clear waters and the glories of Spetses Town, the island hub, untainted by package tourism."
Additionally, The Telegraph notes in an article about Spetses ("Spetses, Greece: the idyllic spice island") on 28 August 2012 that "there is something timeless about the square and indeed the island itself. It is as close to the idyllic Hellenic picture as you can imagine: fishermen lay out their catch by the seafront as the locals stroll along the promenade, past impressive villas, domed churches and traditional tavernas with tables lining the road. Cars are banned from the town, so instead people travel in horse-drawn carriages, by bicycle or on mopeds, which rattle through the backstreets with elderly women often sitting sideways on the back".
Being very close to Athens and, therefore, a very popular destination for short holidays or weekend break, the island is definite to excite all visitors with its lush pine-forested landscapes and crystal waters and its relaxing and elegant atmosphere, stressed by the yacht marinas and the nice restaurants. Wonderful beaches, picturesque small bays, various interesting historical and archaeological sites as well as excellent tourist infrastructures, compose a very attractive destination for Greeks and foreign visitors. Spetses played a very important role during the Greek Revolution of Independence in 1821 and is the birthplace of the famous female hero L. Bouboulina. Visitors must be informed that use of vehicles in the main town is prohibited during the summer months, except for bicycles and motorbikes.
GEOGRAPHY - CLIMATE
At 51 nautical miles from Piraeus, Spetses is the southern-most of the Argo-Saronic Islands, which are a complex of islands located in the Saronic and Argolic Gulf, such as Hydra, Aigina, Poros etc. These islands, being close to Athens, belong to the Island Regional unit of Attica. Spetses is an independent municipality, including the small uninhabited islands of Spetsopoula, Falkonera and Velopoula.
The island of Spetses has an area of 25.5 km2, with its sole road, tracing the perimeter of the island, measuring 24 km in length. Its population is around 4,000, most of whom are to be found in the main settlement on the island, Spetses Town, which spreads out over an area of around 4 km along the coast. There is also a small number of summer houses and a couple of hotels around the area of Agii Anargyri, on the opposite side of the island. The highest point on Spetses is Profitis Elias, at 285m. It lies roughly central to the breadth of the island and affords two spectacular views, to the north, of Kosta, Porto Heli and the Didima mountains, and on the opposite side of the Argolicos Gulf, Leonidio, to the south.
The natural beauty of the island today is greatly indebted to the clause which the great benefactor, Sotirios Anargyros, added to his bequests to the islanders. Between 1913 and 1923, he had methodically bought up over 45% of the total island area, which he left to the island of Spetses, with the prerequisite that the pine forest area ( he had re-planted around 100,000 trees during his lifetime), would never be built upon. Therefore, two thirds of the island is covered in pine trees - mainly Aleppo Pine - belonging to the Anargyros Trust. In the hills, one can sometimes see small tins beneath the pines, collecting resin from cuts made in the trunk of the tree. This resin is used to make Retsina, a famous Greek wine. However, Retsina has lost popularity over recent years, with more upmarket Greek wines, made in vineyards taking the market share.
On the sunny terraces in the hillsides, cereals, wild olives and almonds are cultivated and oranges, lemons, vines and loquats are grown in private courtyards and gardens. Spetses also has an abundance of fig trees, pistachios, oleander, myrtle, Carob and Chaste trees. A few imports from the past include Eucalyptus, Acacia and Melia, as well as Bougainvillea, Wisteria and Jacaranda.
An important note that has to be done, though, is the wealth of aromatic herbs. These include thyme, marjoram, savory and rosemary (also Jerusalem Sage). The most infamous of the herbs growing wild on Spetses is "throubi", which is a kind of thyme with a particularly pungent smell. Local folklore has it that the smell of the throubi is responsible for the islanders being slightly crazy! Moreover, the island's abundance of aromatic herbs has prompted the Venetians to name it "Isola di Spezie" (Spezie: Italian word for spices), or "Isle of Spices", where the island's current name "Spetses" comes from.
Spetses has very little in the way of natural water supply, so the island's needs are met by the water-carrier boat which makes its daily trip from the mainland, and unloads at the Dapia. The climate in Spetses is Mediterranean, with cool, sunny summers and mild winters with low rainfall and a constant breeze coming from the north, which is the cause of the clear sky. Additionally, as in all southern Greece, there is a lot of sunshine throughout the year, especially in spring and summer.
HOW TO GET TO SPETSES
There is no airport on the island. The closest airport is Athens International Airport "Eleftherios Venizelos". The island has a helicopter pad, situated beyond Agia Marina.
There are daily departures of flying dolphins or Flying Cats (which accept only passengers) that depart from the port of Piraeus to Spetses, also connecting with the islands of Poros and Hydra. The boats depart from Tselepi coast at Piraeus, across the church of Saint Spiridon, at Gate D. During the day there are many scheduled departures, depending on the time period. The trip lasts for about 2 hours for the flying dolphins and 2,5 hours for the flying cats. For more info and tickets please contact:
- Hellenic Seaways: 210-4117341
- Hellas Speed Cat: 210-4102898
The flying dolphins agency in Spetses is located in Dapia, the port of Spetses. Agency of Hellenic Seaways telephone on the island is (+30) 22980-73141.
For more information on departures from Piraeus, please contact the Port Authority of Piraeus at 14944 (there is a fee for the call). Daily schedules are given through an answering machine.
From the Peloponnese
Due to its proximity to the mainland, many choose to travel to Spetses overland, parking their cars at Porto Heli or at Kosta.
- From Porto Heli
Porto Heli is a summer resort town in the municipality of Ermionida in the southeastern part of Argolis, at the Peloponnese area. It is situated on a bay of the Argolic Gulf, 6 km south of Kranidi and 40 km southeast of Nafplio. Spetses island is located 6 km south of Porto Heli. From Porto-Heli there are daily departures of flying dolphins for Spetses island, which accept only passengers. During the day there are many scheduled departures, depending the time period. The trip duration is about 15 minutes. For more info please contact Hellenic Seaways at (+30) 210-4117341 or visit its website: https://hellenicseaways.gr/en/ . The Flying Dolphins Agency at Spetses island is located in Dapia, the port of Spetses. The telephone of the agency is (+30) 22980-73141.
- From Kosta
Kosta is an area opposite Spetses, one third of a mile from it. Thus there is no risk of exclusion from harsh weather conditions.
There is large parking in Kosta, where visitors leave their car and cross over to Spetses, within minutes. To book a space in the parking and have info on the price per day, please contact: Tel. parking 27540-57256.
From Kosta visitors can reach Spetses with one of the following ways:
- With the Ferry-Boat (15 minute trip), which departs four times a day throughout the year (8.00 - 10.30 - 13.30 - 17.00)
- With a traditional boat (kaiki) which operates only during the summer months
- With Sea Taxis that operate 24 hours a day, from Kosta to Spetses and from Spetses to Kosta (3 minute trip).
Those who want to go from Athens to Kosta by bus, can take the bus to Kranidi, from the bus station (K.T.E.L.) that is located in Kifissos Athens (Tel. [+30] 210-513458). From Kranidi there is a response to Kosta with another bus, which is coordinated with the departure of the ferry boats (tel. Intercity bus of Kranidi [+30] 27540-21218).
Those who own a car or have a rental one and want to go from Athens to Kosta by car, should follow the directions below (about 3 hour trip):
Following the Attiki Odos and then the National Road Athens - Corinth, after the isthmus, go left towards Epidaurus (Corinth Exit B - Epidaurus). Drive for about 30 minutes and you arrive at the intersection of Epidaurus. Just before you will see signs to Poros or Spetses. At the junction turn right and immediately below the bridge on the left. Then follow the new road to reach Kranidi, after about one hour. Following the road of Kranidiou arrive at Porto Heli, at the intersection lying on the beach. There, go left and you arrive in Kosta.
Please keep in mind that cars are prohibited in Spetses and are subject to special regulations of the Municipality of Spetses. This is the reason why most boats to Spetses are passenger-only. For those who would like to take their own motorcycle or bike to the island with them, please remember that only the regular ferry carries motorcycles and bikes to the island.
HISTORY OF SPETSES
The earliest evidence of man on Spetses comes in the shape of two Mesolithic flint spear-heads in around 8000 B.C. . These were discovered at Zogheria, and are thought to indicate a passing visit by hunters from the Fraghthi cave on the mainland who were searching for water. Spetses' first inhabitants appear to have been mostly just passing through, on their way from the Peloponnese to the Cyclades. Around 1170BC, towards the end of the Mycenaean Era, the island was attacked by Mycenaean forces. It is considered a good possibility that ancient inhabitants of Spetses fought in the historic battle at Salamis, and that the island was attacked by Athenians during the Peloponnesian War. Having passed through periods as a naval base for mainland cities, and as a part of the Roman Empire, along with the rest of Greece, Spetses was among the coastal areas left desolate by repeated pirate invasions. It is believed that the majority of the islands inhabitants at this point in time sought refuge in the Roman-ensured safety of coastal towns on the Peloponnese.
The name of the island in ancient times was "Pityoussa", which means "Covered in pine", as it is mentioned both by Strabo in the 1st century B.C. and Pausanias in the 2nd century A.D.,
and this name most probably remained in use for three millennia, until the first centuries of the Byzantine empire.
At the division of the Byzantine Empire, Spetses was given over to the rule of the Venetians who had control of the island from 1200 to 1460, when they were replaced by the Turks. The Venetians named the island "Isola di Spezie" (Spezie: Italian word for spices) or "Isle of Spices" and, thus, the island's current name "Spetses".
From 1460 to 1821, 400 years of Turkish occupation followed. Since the 17th century, the population increased with the coming of people from the Peloponnesian regions of Lakonia, Kynouria, Argolida and Ermioni. The first medieval living quarters of Spetses were built on the Northeast side of the island at the place called "kastelli", which means "The island fortress". The acropolis of the settlement was on the hill where the church of St. Vassilios is today and had walls surrounding it.
These new Spetsiots started out with just livestock, but quickly realized that there was a demand for the timber that came from the island's pines, and so began to build small ships to transport it. A second wave of refugees arrived in 1540 and that was the period when the ships being built on the island grew in number and in size. After 1715, the small community which had established itself at Kastelli began to take shape as the mighty naval power which was to take part in the Orloff Insurrection in the second half of the 18th century. In retaliation for the Spetsiots' raising of the Russian flag, Turks and Albanians set fire to Kastelli in 1770 and many were killed or taken prisoner. When the first Russo-Turkish war ended in 1774, the prisoners were released and they returned to the island. The Spetses fleet now sailed under the safeguard of the Russian flag, and the island was in effect independent. It was governed by an 8-man council of elders, a local administrator and Turkish representatives appointed by the Spetsiot elders. This was a period of rapid economic expansion for the island, given further momentum by the outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars. The people of Spetses became extremely wealthy during this time, enough so as to allow them luxuries undreamed of in other parts of Greece, such as private tutors for their children. This great marine power the island had started to develop into played a crucial role during the Greek Revolution against the Turkish yoke and is still the trademark of Spetses.
When the 1821 Revolution came, Spetses was the first of the Argo-Saronic islands to join the battle. The towns and villages of the Peloponnese had already taken to arms, and the elders sent out a call for support to their island neighbors. The reply came back without delay, despite the fact that due to their affluence, the Spetsiots did not suffer great hardships under the Turkish rule. On 3 April the Chancellery was taken without opposition, and the ships' captains swore allegiance to the revolution. The forces of Hydra were also enlisted, after consultations between the captains of both islands.
From the very beginning of the revolution, the Spetsiot navy, under the command of G. Panou and the great heroine Laskarina Bouboulina, the only female admiral in Greek history, succeeded in cutting of two Peloponnesian fortresses, Nafplio and Monemvasia. Since it was not possible to take these two fortresses by land, the only way to make these fortresses surrender was a naval siege, cutting their defenses off from Turkish supply ships. During that period the Spetsiot navy also managed to destroy many Turkish ships in the Aegean Sea and furthered the cause of Independence by blocking off Turkish-held ports and transporting arms and ammunition.
In July 1821 Spetsiot ships fought the Turkish fleet out of Samos, managing to bum part of it and, soon after that, held them off at Kitria bay in Mani. On July 23rd Monemvasia fell to the Spetsiot ships and men after the four month siege. In the siege of Nafpio the Spetsiots showed their bravery fighting both at sea, under Bouboulina and on land, under the other captains. The Spetsiots also played an important role during the siege of Tripolitsa, and on the day of the fall of the town on September 23rd 1821, they were the first to reach the city walls. In July 1822 the Spetsiot navy was sent to Souda, Crete, to fight part of the Egyptian navy, which was allied to the Turks. Later that year they fought against Dramalis on land and the Turkish fleet off their own shores, while at the same time helping the besieged Greeks at Messolongi.
After the destruction of the Dramalis' army by Kolokotronis and his men at Dervenakia, the fight against the turks in the Peloponnese took its normal way. Very few fortresses were able to resist the Greeks, one of which was Palamidi at Nafplion. This fortress was being besieged both by Dimitris Ipsilandis on land and Laskarina Bouboulina by sea. The Turkish fleet, in a desperate move to provide Nafplio with food and ammunition, sailed towards the Argolic Gulf. The idea was to attack Spetses and then, on the way, Hydra.
Hatzigiannis Mexis and his sons took over the defense of the island, together with more Spetsiots. They set up three cannon batteries on the island. Moreover, Hatzigiannis Mexis sent the women and children to Hydra that was difficult to attack due to its rocky coasts.
On 8 September, 1822 the enemy ships appeared in front of Spetses, between Trikeri and Spetsopoula. The wind was blowing northeast, helping the enemy fleet. The Greek fleet under the command of Andreas Miaoulis moved towards the entrance of the Argolic Gulf, thus trying to attract the enemy to a spot where it would be easier to defeat him. Miaoulis even rose the signal flag so as to make the fleet follow him. At that moment Spetses remained unprotected. Therefore the Spetsiot captains I. Tsoupas, D. Lamprou and I. Koutsis, along with the Hydriot A. Kriezis disobeyed orders and attacked the Turks. Shortly, the other Spetsiot captains joined them in their effort to push off the enemy. The superiority of the Turkish fleet in number, ship size and armaments was large. Despite unfavorable winds, more Greek ships followed and the battle lasted all afternoon. The noise emanating from the 140 ships that took part in the battle was such that in Hydra people thought the group was moving. The air between Hydra and Spetses was full of such smoke that the Hydriots thought the island of Spetses was on fire. That was a crucial moment and despite the poor visibility that made it difficult to use the fireships, Pipinos, a Hydriot captain, managed to throw his successfully on an Algerian ship. Suddenly the Spetsiot captain Kosmas Barbatsis, fearlessly, holding a knife jumped onboard his fireship, dragging along his crew. In the midst of the pandemonium of the battle he made a dash for the Turkish admiral's flagship. The Turks remained amazed at his courage and started retreating in front of his crazy act. The Turkish flagship burned and sank - according to tradition - at the entrance of the port. A while later, the Turkish fleet left the Argolic gulf without supplying the fortress of Nafplio, which finally surrendered on November 30th, 1822. This great naval battle of the 8th September 1822 is celebrated every year on the island in the first fortnight of September, with a very famous festival, called "Armata", which lasts for a week. Armata is basically the re-enactment of the torching of the Turkish armada's flagship during the naval battle of Spetses (1822), attracting thousands of visitors every year and concluding the summer activities on the island.
In the following years the Spetsiots continued to fight for the freedom of their country until I. Kapodistrias was elected as the first head of state of Independent Greece in 1828. They took part in the battles of Samos, Kos, Gerontas and helped the heavily besieged Messolongi.
After 1825, the Spetses merchant fleet continued to prosper for another twenty years, but then it fell into decline, taking with it the population of the island. The outlook for the island began to improve again with the return of Sotirios Anargyros from the U.S. in the early 20th century. Realising that the future for Spetses lie in tourism, he put his new-found wealth to the best possible use, constructing the road around the island, building the first hotel in the Greek islands, the "Posseidonion" (that was built in the style of its French Mediterranean models, the Carlton in Cannes and the Negresco in Nice), and replacing the pine-forests of the island which had been depleted to facilitate the boat-building industry. Later on, he built the College which bears his name (Anargyrios & Korgialenios School of Spetses), and which for 60 years educated nobility from all over Greece.
During the German Occupation of Greece in the course of the Second World War, the Spetsiots suffered less than inhabitants of other places in Greece. Most people had a chicken or two, grew their own vegetables or fished, and so did not go hungry. There is, however, one notable incident which left its scar on the people of the island. A handful of Greek freedom-fighters (called "andartes" in Greek) were washed up on Spetses and hidden by the islanders in Bekiri's Cave at Anargyri. The German occupiers' informants leaked the news, and the people of Spetses were commanded to gather on the Dapia. There, the men of all ages were separated from the crowd and restrained. Aghast, the remaining islanders were told that unless they handed over the "andartes", the men's lives would be forfeit. The andartes were protected and helped off the island and the valiant men of Spetses gave their lives for the greater good.
The civil war which followed the release of Greece from the German occupation thankfully passed Spetses by to a great degree.
Other important people coming from the island are Alexandros Diomidis, Prime Minister of Greece from 1950-1951, and in the 19th and 20th centuries the poets Stratigis, Pergialitis, Logothetis, Botassi, and the painters Eleni Altamoura, Ioannis Altamoura, I. Koutsis and D. Litsas.
Moreover, Spetses was the basis for the island of Phraxos in John Fowles' 1965 novel "The Magus". Many locations described in the book actually existed, including the "Lord Byron School" (the private Anargyrios & Korgialenios School of Spetses) and the "Villa Bourani" (located on the south side of the island above a popular public beach). Both the school and villa still exist, although the house is under private ownership.
The "Posseidonion" hotel contributed immensely to the development of the modern character of the island being a pole of attraction for personalities such as princes, kings, prime ministers, important industrials, scientists, artists, etc. The former President of Greece Konstantinos Tsatsos, the greekshipowners Niarchos, Onassis and Livanos, Jacky Kennedy-Onassis, Maria Kalas, Noureyeff, Alexander and Amalia Fleming, the MacMillans, the Curchills, the Kennedys, the Rothchilds, William Reyley (Secretary of Foreign affairs, USA), Will Martens (President of the European Assembly), are all indicative names of famous visitors of the island.
ACTIVITIES - LEISURE
Spetses is easy to get to know, superficially at least, since it has great history and glory revealed in every part of it. Its only town stretches along the north coast from the Old Harbor called Baltiza to Dapia, which means "reinforced spot" and is the island's port, and west to Kounoupitsa. It doesn’t take much more than half an hour to walk from one end to the other, which means that the car prohibition in town is not a problem at all - especially if one takes into account the variety of local transportation, such as buses, caiques, car taxis, water taxis, horse buggies and bicycle and motorbike rentals.
Spetses Town with its elegant mansions and narrow paved paths has been characterized as a preserved settlement. It is a very nice place to stroll around, especially the beach promenade that starts from Anargyrios School, crosses Dapia port and continues to the old port. Some of the most important places one should visit while being on the island can be found below.
The historical square of Dapia
The historical square of Dapia at the harbor was the meeting point of captains and rulers in the Greek Revolution for Independence in 1821. Today it is the center of tourism in the capital of the island with chairs and tables of the patisseries to have exploited even the last centimeter of space, next to the cannons used by Spetsiots fighters in the war of 1821.
The Bouboulina Mansion (The Bouboulina Museum)
Behind Dapia is Bouboulina's Mansion, now a Museum, where visitors can take a 45-minute tour and learn about this interesting heroine's life. Built around the end of the 17th century, the building is shaped like a Π, a detail which at that time indicated the importance of the owner. Bouboulina was a heroine that played a significant role in the 1821 War of Independence.
Laskarina Bouboulina was the bravest of all Spetsiot revolutionaries and the only female admiral in Greek history. She was born in 1771 in a Constantinople prison to the Hydraean captain Stavros Pinotsis, who was at the time incarcerated there as punishment for his participation in the Orloff uprising, and would later die there. Her mother went on to marry the Spetsiot captain, Vassileos Lazarou or Orloff, and the family took up permanent residence in Spetses. At the age of 17, Laskarina married captain Dimitrios Giannouzas, who was killed in a naval battle with Algerian pirates. Her second husband, Dimitrios Bouboulis was lost to her in the same way, and at the age of 30, Bouboulina found herself twice widowed with seven children of her own and four step-children from Bouboulis' first marriage to take care of.
Fortunately, financial worries were never a factor for Laskarina Bouboulina. She was heir to a vast fortune which she augmented by buying shares in a number of local ships and building three of her own, including the renowned "Agamemnon", which played a vital role in the revolution. Already a member of the "Friendly Society" (the organization founded to cover the activities which would lead to the revolution), when the fighting began, she created and sustained her own unit of men, as well as crews for her battle-ships. She brought in weapons and supplies from abroad, which she concealed in secret hiding-places. All of this contributed to the diminishing of her once-great fortune, but enabled many important naval battles to take place. Her own personal sacrifices for the revolution were not limited to the financial burden, or even to her placing herself at the forefront of danger, as a much-respected Admiral of the fledgling Greek Navy. She also lost two of her beloved sons to the struggle for freedom from the Turks. After the Revolution had freed this part of Greece, Bouboulina lived in Nafplio with her daughter, until civil war erupted and claimed the lives of her son-in-law and his father. She then returned, embittered and close to poverty to her first husband's mansion in Kounoupitsa. It was there that this celebrated lady was to meet her inglorious end, murdered by a member of the Koutsis family in May 1825, when her son, Georgios eloped with their daughter.
It's really worth visiting the mansion and take the live tour, which is run by her fourth-generation grandson, for the architectural details, like the unique carved-wood Florentine ceiling in the main salon, as well as the collection of furniture, paintings and personal items that belonged to the heroine - such as her weapons, her headscarf and a model of her flagship. In the courtyard of the Museum the visitors can buy history books, videos and other paraphernalia.
The Spetses Museum / The Hatzigianni Mexi Mansion
The Spetses Museum started as an archaeological, historical and folklore collection of the island in 1939, at the Hatzigiannis Mexis house that had been declared a historical monument in 1924. The house was built between 1795 and 1798 and was donated to the Greek State by the heirs of the Mexis family in 1938. This imposing building with its nigh arcades hosts objects that represent more than 4,000 years of cultural history of the island. Some of these important objects exhibiting in the museum are ceramics of the first Hellenic period, tomb stones/pillars and sculptures of the Roman period, ceramics of oriental and occidental European origin, brought by the Spetsiot sailors at the end of the 18th century, a collection of post Byzantine and Russian icons and important heirlooms from the revolution of 1821, such as the Spetsiot revolutionary flag, the remains of Bouboulina, guns and portraits of the Spetsiot captains, rare wooden front ship figureheads and letters written by war heroes like Kolokotronis and Athanasios Diakos.
Sotirios Anargyros Mansion
Also behind the port of Dapia, visitors can find the exquisite neoclassical architectural stone Manor of the benefactor of Spetses Sotirios Anargirou, who became rich in the tobacco industry in the U.S.A. and got back to the island and spent most of his money in various projects of Spetses. This magnificent building with the neoclassical style and the two Egyptian sphinxes that dominate at the right and left of the entrance, stands out with the quality of its composition and structure. It was designed by a Greek architect in the old Egyptian palaces style and it is one of the finest examples of the early 20th century architecture. Today it is housing the Cultural Center of Spetses.
The Monastery of Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nickolas)
The Monastery is situated above the Old Harbour of Spetses, Baltiza, and it is the seat of the island bishop. It was built in 1805 and has a superb arched bell tower made of the fine Tinian marble and a courtyard with a mosaic floor. The main church houses nice Byzantine icons of St. Nicholas and of fishermen and sailors, since Agios Nikolaos is also the patron saint of sailors.
The monastery is famous and much visited because of its great historical importance. There, on 3 April 1821, the Spetsiot leaders took the oath of freedom and raised the island's Independence flag, the flag of the Greek Revolution.
It was also the place where the body of Paul-Marie Bonaparte, Napoleon’s nephew, who came to Greece to fight on the side of Greeks, was kept in a barrel of rum for several years, before being transferred to an islet of the Peloponnese where those who died for the Greek War of Independence were buried.
The Monastery is open to visitors under the condition that the men wear long trousers and the women wear long skirts and have their shoulders covered.
Posseidonion Grand Hotel
The «Poseidonio Grand Hotel» opened its doors for the first time in the summer of 1914, giving the island its cosmopolitan glamour. Located on the square Boumboulina, where all the big events on the island are being made, including the famous representation of the Battle of Spetses in 1822, known as "Armata", the hotel was a vision of the benefactor of Spetses, Sotirios Anargirou, who was responsible for much of the development of the island. This 1914 waterfront landmark, a fitting backdrop to the defiant bronze statue of Bouboulina, was the scene of glamorous Athenian society parties and balls in the era between the two world wars. It was once the largest resort in the Balkans and southeastern Europe.
The Anargyrios - Korgialenios School (Anargyrios College)
Known as the inspiration for the school in John Fowles's "The Magus", this institution was established in 1927 as an English-style boarding school for the children of Greece's Anglophile wealthy elite. It is located nearby the hotel "Poseidonio" and its excellent facilities span 130 acres with a private olive grove and additional 9,000 acres of private forest. The School comprises of 5 main buildings, of which 4 are designed and operated as a dormitory, while the main building area of 5,500 sq. m. has auditoriums (40-120 seats), conference and teaching room, press room, workshops, restaurant kitchen etc. It also has a classical outdoor theater for cultural events, a beach with water-sports and sports facilities (football courts with nocturnal lighting, basketball etc.) . Visitors can take a (free) peek inside the school and stroll around the fabulous gardens throughout the year.
Church of Holy Trinity
The church of the Holy Trinity, built in 1793, the old metropolis of the island, build to the highest point of the city in Kastelli and has a magnificent wooden carved iconostasis of the Assumption.
This is one of the most beautiful and difficult spots to reach on the island of Spetses. The cave of Bekiris is called the cave of film-makers and lovers, as it fascinates visitors with the beauty of its interior. Located close to Agii Anargyri beach, on the western side of the island, one can reach the cave either following a trekking path through a pine forest or by boat. However, as the entrance of the cave is very low, visitors will have to swim to get into.
The interior of the cave is amazing, with blue-green water and a small sandy beach on one side. Stalactites and stalagmites form strange shapes and create a romantic environment, ideal for couples. In fact, a romantic scene of the Greek film "Tzeni Tzeni" had been filmed inside this cave in 1965.
There are two stories that tell how this cave took its name. The first story relates to a man named Bekiris who was living there some centuries ago, all alone, and a seal would come every day to bring him fish to eat. Another story, which is probably the real one, is that a lot of people from Spetses had found shelter in this cave in 1770 when the Turks were plundering the island. Unfortunately, a man named Bekiris betrayed them and all people were slaughtered. Moreover, it is said that the cave was also a refuge for a wounded British pilot in the Second World War.
Bekiris Cave is one of the sights in Spetses with a distinct natural beauty and historical significance. The path to the depths of Bekiris cave is an excellent experience.
Other caves on the island of Spetses can be found in the list below:
- Cave of Agiogianneon (near the cape of Kamares)
• Vathia Cave (which means "Deep Cave" and is in the cave after Agriopetres)
• Cave of Zaira (in the cape of Phokies)
• Condou Cave (which means "Cave of the short one) on the hill opposite Agia Markella)
• Cave of Mavrou (above the area of Agioi Anargyroi)
• Miltiades Cave (beneath the Prophet Elias facing the village of Spetses)
• Be Cave (between Ligoneri and the School)
Church of Panagia Armata
The church of Panagia Armata (Virgin of the Armata, which means "Armed Virgin" in Greek) is a white and yellow chapel located on a hill above the Old Port of Spetses. This lovely church was built between 1824 and 1830 by the Spetsiot captain Ioannis Koutsis to commemorate and honor the defeat of the Ottoman fleet during the naval battle on the 8th of September, 1822.
The church is dedicated to Virgin Mary because this victory was considered a miracle of Panagia on the name of her birthday anniversary. Every September, during the festival of Armata, a Holy Mass is celebrated there and garlands are offered at the monuments outside the church. From this chapel, visitors can enjoy a magnificent view over the harbor and the town of Spetses. This is one of the best spots to enjoy the sunset.
Walking and Hiking
There are plenty of trails in the hills for visitors to walk or hike. Tracks lead up to the top of the island, across the other side and zigzag down to many of the beaches, east and west. Perfect hiking weather is from October through to May. If in the height of summer, best to head off early in the morning to avoid the intense heat. Visitors should make a plan for their return journey, whether it be by boat or on foot, later in the evening. One should also remember to always take plenty of water, as only the main beaches will sell refreshments. There are plenty of alternative, gentler walks, all the way along the seafront from Kounoupitsa to the west all the way to the Old Port, Baltiza, to the east. Horse buggies or taxis may be available to take visitors back to their accommodation, if required. There are plenty of walking routes all over the island and these can be enjoyed at all times of the year. In the hottest months of June, July and August, it is advisable to start very early in the morning, before the sun gets too hot, or late in the evening when it is cooler.
Touring the island by bicycle is a great way to experience the lush nature of the island. The charming combination of pine trees and sea, especially in the island’s southwest area, is best enjoyed by bike. The island’s whimsical springtime "Tweed Run" is a bicycle ride organized by the Poseidonion Grand Hotel, in which participants dress in tweed. It should take around 2 hours to go straight round for those who are used to biking. However, visitors should be careful, since there are motorbikes and trucks that may appear in front of them on tight corners.
For those who would love to discover parts of Spetses by horse, there is a Horse Trekking Center on the island, Greg's Spetses Horses. There are horse trekking paths for all kinds of riders, from complete beginners to advanced ones. The trekking paths could last from 45 minutes to 4 hours.
EVENTS ON SPETSES
There are plenty of events organized on Spetses island, for all tastes and hobbies, the most famous of which can be found below.
Armata is the best known traditional event in the island, that attracts thousands of visitors every year. It is basically the re-enactment of the naval battle of Spetses of September 1822. Hundreds of the island's inhabitants take part to this original, popular festival that lasts for a week and takes place in the first fortnight of September. Armata Festival reaches its peak with the blowing up and burning of the effigy of the Turkish flagship in a pandemonium of fireworks and crackers. For more information about Armata Festival and its meaning please check out the "History" section.
Spetses Classic Yacht Regatta
The Spetses Classic Yacht Regatta (SCYR) was founded in 2011 and is the most popular race in Greece and one of the most important in the Mediterranean. It is organized every summer, usually in June, by the Navy Club of Greece and is under the auspices of the Municipality of Spetses and with the support of the Spetses Navy Club.
The event is now considered as an event for Greek and foreign sailing, with classical boats, caiques and Latin races offering great thrills and rich competition to the participants and the crowd of tourists flocking to the island. The most important representatives of sports, both athletic and business, from Greece and abroad, are present every year with over 75 boats and 400 crew members.
This race honors the principles and values of the noble competition and fair play, with spectators having the opportunity to admire rare shots from Greece and abroad and enjoy high-level sailing races in a real celebration of nautical sport and woodworking art.
Moreover, the focal point of the Regatta race remains the international innovation of fighting classical boats, Greek traditional boats and latinia at the same time in a sailing race. Some of the most famous boats in the country, such as Faneromeni, Panagia of Tinos, Alkioni, Aeolos Spetses, South Wind, Afroessa, Stratis, Marida, George built in the traditional shipyards of Perama, Syros, Valley and Spetses have participated in the biggest race of classical boats in Greece. The Navy Club of Greece, as the organizer of the race, proved that the wooden boats are a powerful magnet with their beauty and austere luxury. Closely linked to the naval tradition of the island of Spetses, the event highlights in a difficult time, apart from the values of the sailing sport, the woodworking art which has not exhausted its survival ticket in the future. Additionally, since karnagia (shipyards) are an integral part of the tradition and the historical heritage of Spetses island, part of the proceeds from the registrations will be donated to the traditional Shipbuilding Association of the island of Spetses, dedicated to enhancing and preserving the continuation of this art.
Spetses Mini Marathon
Spetses Mini Marathon is a rich and diverse sports event featuring a number of happenings and sport activities for amateur and professional athletes from Greece and abroad. The event takes place every year in mid October and last for three days. The Spetses mini Marathon includes, more specifically:
- 5 km Race that takes place on the northeast part of Spetses. The route goes through the center of the island, Dapia, and the Old Harbor. It is the historical round of the town and is suitable for both experienced and first-time runners.
- 25 km Race, which is a fantastic experience for nature - lovers, since it does the full "naturalistic" round of the island. This race is suitable for experienced runners.
Note: The common start and finish point for both races is usually the Poseidonion Square, in front of the imposing Poseidonion Grand Hotel.
- 5000 meters Course Swimming Competition (Spetses island-Kosta-Spetses): Participants start from the Poseidonion square pier, reach Kosta and then swim back to Spetses. During this course, swimmers are not allowed to wear flippers.
- 500 meters Course Swimming Competition (Kosta-Spetses): Participants are usually transferred by traditional boats to Kosta, and swim back to Spetses at Poseidonion square to the finish point. During this course, swimmers are allowed to wear flippers.
Moreover, there are three categories of children’s races – participation is free for all.
- Children’s Running Races (for children under 6 years old)
- Children’s Running Races (children between 6-12 years old)
- Children’s Swimming Races.
The Spetsathlon is organized by the Communication Lab and takes place every April on the island of Spetses. It consists of three parts: swimming, cycling and running. The race is co-organised by the Spetsathlon Committee and the HTF (Hellenic Triathlon Federation), which provide the basis for a high standard event with judges certified by the European Federation. Suitable for visitors who would love to test their sporting endurance in the lovely Greek island of Spetses. For more info please visit: http://spetsathlon.com
Tweed Run is a fascinating event of old-time cycling that started in 2009 from London and then spread to the most important metropolis' of the world to continue by coming to Spetses. Style and elegance parade on the island with eye-catching antique and stylish "tweed" presences. The initiative of organizing the event was taken by the Poseidonion Grand Hotel, with the active participation of the Hellenic Bicycle Museum. It is worth mentioning the great contribution of Mr. G. Sinognoglou, the man who created and maintains the Hellenic Bicycle Museum and who brings his very own bicycles for use by the participants from Athens to the island.
On the days of the Festival, the island is filled with enthusiastic participants who cared for their classic bikes and their stylish dressing styles with tweed character, experiencing a great deal of care-free moments inspired by British standards. The relaxing, spring bike ride in Spetsiotic nature, the hot tea and picnic stops with a variety of delicious snacks, the awards for the best appearance of bikes and costumes in excitement and the jazz musical events with plenty of fun are only a small part of the fascinating atmosphere that animates each time in the mansion Spetses. The purpose of the event, besides entertainment, is through the game of hidden treasure to help visitors to get to know the island better and learn things about places that they might have visited before but had no idea what they meant for the place.
Saronic Chamber Music Festival
Every year, during July and August, there is a Chamber Music Festival that is located to all Argosaronic islands, including Spetses. This is an annual meeting for an international ensemble of world-class musicians dedicated to the exploration and performance of chamber music. For more information please visit the Festival's website: https://www.saronicfestival.com
BEST BEACHES OF SPETSES
Although beaches of Spetses island are different from each other to match everyone's preferences, they are bound to provide picturesque spots and relaxing family atmosphere. Visitors will find busier beaches with sun-beds, umbrellas, taverns, beach bars and water-sports, but also quieter, secluded beaches with no facilities, beaches with large or small pebbles, others with fine shingle and a few with sand. Some of them even have a mixture, with pebbles up one end and sand down the other.
Apart from the main beach in town, Agios Mamas, which is mostly pebbled and has clear shallow waters and is definitely convenient for many people (thus it is crowded), there are also other organized beaches in Spetses to swim and enjoy a day at the sun. Transport to these Spetses beaches is easy by bus or by boat from Dapia, the new port of the island. So all visitors have to do is head to the island’s sun-drenched beaches and swim in blue waters with a beautiful pine-forest as backdrop. Below there is a list of the best beaches of the island:
Agii Anargiri: Located on the south western coast of Spetses, 12 km from Dapia, Agii Anargiri is one of the largest and most developed beaches of the island. It is lying in a nice cove and is a sandy and pebbly beach with deep waters, ideal for water sports. Various fine taverns can be found in the area, slightly inland of the beach. Moreover, from Agii Anargiri beach visitors can reach the breathtaking cave of Bekiri. The beach of Agioi Anargiri can be reached by local bus or taxi boat.
Agia Paraskevi: A sandy beach situated on the west part of the island, 12 km away from Dapia. It took its name from the near-by picturesque chapel of Agia Paraskevi, which features in an important scene in John Fowles' classic book, "The Magus". The beach itself is a key setting throughout the book, as is the Botassi villa (in the trees, between Agia Paraskevi and Agii Anargyri) reputedly the real "Bourani". Water sport facilities are also available.
Agia Marina: 2 km south-east of Dapia, this is the most popular beach of the island. Sandy, organized with many beach bars, and restaurants. Sun lovers as well as water-sport funs arrive here either by boat or by bus.
Xylokériza: The beautiful bay of Xilokeriza is located on the south-eastern coast of Spetses, 8 km from Dapia. A dirt path leads to it, but it is easier accessible by boats or taxi-boats which connect it with Spetses Town. It is one of the less developed, secluded beaches of the island and it is offering sand and pebble, nice waters and a small tavern.
Vréllos: A beautiful sandy beach on the west part of the island. Surrounded by a dense pine forest, it’s no wonder it is called “Paradise”. The beach is also an ideal starting point for following a beautiful walking route towards Profitis Elias, the highest spot of the island.
Zogeriá: The beach of Zogeria is located in a lovely cove covered by a dense, verdant pine forest. For the locals, Zogeria is the most beautiful beach of Spetses and nothing comes close to it. Sand, rocks and pebbles board the cove and descend into the deep, sapphire waters. A dirt track leads to the beach, and is topped by a whitewashed chapel and a tavern. The taxi boats are the easiest way to reach this paradisiacal place. Weather permitting, one can enjoy a breathtaking view all the way to Nafplio.
Kaiki Beach: This beach is also known as "College Beach", due to its proximity to Anargyrios College. It has a third name, as it is also known to the locals, as "Scholes". It is located on the main road heading west around the island and sits directly in front of Anargyros College (about 20 min from Dapia on foot). There are beds and umbrellas on this now-sandy beach, with a well-stocked bar, and a wide selection of water-sports, including a beach volley court, which is very popular within the young Greeks. The water sports office is a disused caique (hence the name) that sits on the beach close to the road. On the opposite coasts from Kaiki, one can see the coastline of Porto-Heli in Peloponnese. In close distance, there are few fish taverns.
Ligoneri: Ligoneri is a quiet, not-organized, secluded beach, going on in a westerly direction from Town and past the Anargyrios College. There is a bus stop above on the road and, from there, one can go down a dusty path on foot. The beach is divided in two parts and is a mixture of pebbles and sand, with the sand being nearest, where there is also a shady area provided by one of the big pine trees.