There are plenty of day-trips out of Athens, Greece. One of these is a three-island tour to Aegina, Hydra and Poros. If you’re short of time this is a good way to get a taste of the small islands just off the coast of Attika.
I’ve been back many times to visit these islands, usually taking single island trips to spend the day browsing or sun-bathing. The one time several years ago that I visited Poros was on a rainy afternoon stop-over on the Three Island Tour. This last year I decided to visit the island again as I was enroute to the Peloponnese and Poros is a good stopping-off point. I ended up enjoying it so much, that I stayed four days.
Poros,”The Ford”, is one of the Saronic Gulf islands just a short distance off the coast of the Peloponnese, separated by a narrow straight. It’s actually made up of two islands divided by a shallow canal with a bridge. Poros town (Sphairia) is a busy little port with a large harbour for ferries and yachts. Kalavria ( its name means “gentle breeze”) is a quieter area across the canal. In mythology, the islands were associated with the god Poseidon.
I found excellent accommodation right at the entrance to the ferry port at a beautiful refurbished neo-classical mansion, now the Hotel Dionysos. My airy room overlooked the harbour. In spite of the buzz of the little pakakias (motor bikes) and cars, it was mostly quiet, especially in the early morning and later in the evening, with a breathtaking display of sunsets painting the sky gold and crimson. There is a restaurant/bar downstairs and a web cafe which the friendly proprietor allowed me to use free when he learned I was a travel journalist.
Unlike the more popular, barren Cycladic Islands, Poros is a green island with pine forests, and olive and lemon groves. And unlike the Cycladic Islands, Poros attracts fewer tourists and those seemed to be of Scandinavian origins. The Swedes love this island and it is their archaeological society that tends to the excavations here. Poros is also a popular stop for yachts and you’ll see boats from all over the Mediterranean anchored in the harbour. One night I even got invited to a yacht for a few drinks by some American travelers. I found the people on Poros to be friendly and helpful, not only the locals but the visitors as well.
All along the harbour front are shops, hotels and tavernas so there are many shopping and dining options places to choose from. Just a short ten-minute walk up the road from my hotel, across the canal bridge, is the lovely little Kanali beach where you can rent beach chairs and umbrellas so you can enjoy a relaxing afternoon swimming and dozing in the sun. At night, my favorite place to eat was at the Poseidon Taverna that served everything from fresh sea food to Cordon Bleu.
One of my many reasons for wanting to visit Poros was to see the Temple of Poseidon, an archaeological site famous from antiquity. Unfortunately the little tourist train that usually transported tourists up the mountain to the site was no longer running so I hired a taxi for 25 Euro. The road from the port winds up the mountain through the pine forests, affording magnificent panoramic views of the island and sea. There are excavations at the sanctuary, although most of the ancient building materials were removed over the centuries. The temple was a sanctuary for fugitives and castaways and it was here that the Greek orator Demosthenes fled after the Athenians were defeated by Macedonia at the Battle of Chaeronea. He had been making speeches and publishing anti-Macedonian pamphlets defaming King Philip II and Alexander, so rather than face what might happen if he were captured, he chose to commit suicide by drinking poison at this sanctuary. Later I would visit the Archaeological Museum in the town to see displays of finds from the Temple of Poseidon excavations.
As the taxi wound back down the mountain, we stopped at the beautiful 18th century monastery of Zoodochou Pigi. Surrounded by tall stone walls, the monastery is built on a slope with memorable views of the sea. Near the entrance is a spring with waters that are supposed to possess healing qualities. I splashed some of the ice-cold water over my face to refresh myself and passed through the gate. I browsed awhile in the courtyard enjoying its fragrant gardens, shade trees and the picturesque view.
Each day on Poros was completed with a leisurely stroll along the harbour and a stop at a seaside tavern to enjoy the magnificent sunsets. Finally, it was time to say goodbye and I caught the little ferry over to Galatia on the Peloponnese mainland. I would like to have stayed longer on Poros, and the next I’m in Greece I’ll be sure to visit there again.
Written by W. Ruth Kozak for EuropeUpClose.com