The Aegean Sea is the sea between Greece and Turkey in the Mediterranean and is one of the most interesting places in the world. The sea is studded with islands, right from the north near Salonica all the way to Crete in the south. For thousands of years, the islands of the Aegean have been used by merchants stopping off on their way to and from Greece and the surrounding areas. As such, the many islands have a rich and varied history for interested travelers to explore. Having only been to two myself, I thought I would share some of the beauty I saw and share more about two islands I’d love to see!
Stepping off the boat onto Aegina felt like stepping into a postcard. This gorgeous island is easy to access from Athens and so very worth it. Aegina was originally linked with Epidaurus, according to legend, which is famous for its theater with some of the greatest acoustics in the world. Today the island is very popular for their pistachio production (which I made a point to enjoy while on the island). Also, there are a couple of beautiful temple sites to explore. Even without knowing the history or devouring delicious pistachio ice-cream the town is worth just exploring this gorgeous island. When I make it back here with Matt, I plan to rent a motorbike and explore as much as possible!
Don’t miss the small, orthodox church that sits on the waterfront. I also giggled a bit at the tiniest Valentino store I’ve ever laid eyes on. It’s amazing the tiny gems you’ll find along the way. Doesn’t this sounds like the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of Athens?
Crete is the biggest island in Greece and is situated right at the southern tip of the Aegean sea before it meets the rest of the Mediterranean. Although it is just an island, Crete is actually quite large and could entertain even the most voracious traveler for a week or more. The island was originally occupied by a civilization called the Minoans. The Minoans lived right at the center of the ancient world, between the great Greek, Persian and Egyptian civilizations. As a result of this, Crete became a melting pot of ideas and the people who lived there flourished. It was the America of its time, a place of high technology and incredible culture. The people of Minoa were, according to archaeologists, surprisingly free and had a political system geared to serve the people. The result was stunning buildings and advanced cities, centuries ahead of the rest of antiquity.
Crete’s history is a big draw for tourists. The Minoans were an advanced ancient civilization who have left behind dozens of ruins for us to ponder and explore. How did they live their lives? Why were they so advanced? And why did their culture suddenly vanish? These mysteries are part of why I’m dying to visit!
Poros was my favorite of the two islands I was able to visit on my trip to Greece. I know that it’s a popular tourist stop (although less popular than Santorini), but it felt like it had even more of a local feel. I loved staring up at the colorful balconies, seeing the paint chip from the sides of the whitewashed buildings. However, my very favorite thing was visiting the different markets. I loved the fish market where the local fisherman showed me their catches from the day and there were lots of other market goodies.
However, my very favorite thing was visiting the different markets. I loved the fish market where the local fisherman showed me their catches from the day and there were lots of other market goodies. It wasn’t as much about the sites on this island, but the experience of wandering like a local.
Santorini is perhaps the most unusual island in the whole of the Mediterranean. The island is essentially donut shaped with a smaller island right in the middle. The unusual form of the isle has baffled scientists for centuries, but it is now believed that the island is a giant caldera or volcano. Although luxury Santorini villas now cover the island, it was once home to another ancient civilization, possibly the Minoans. In fact, many archaeologists and scholars now believe that if Plato’s Atlantis really was a real place, it was probably the island of Santorini. The reason for this had to do with the unique geological and archaeological features of the island. When Plato described Atlantis, he said that it was an ancient and technologically advanced civilization of untold wealth – far more advanced than the ancient Greeks. For years, the story of Atlantis was considered a myth, but recent digs in Santorini suggest otherwise. Archaeologists have unearthed evidence that there was an advanced civilization living on the island hundreds of years before the flourishing of ancient Greece. What’s more, that civilization had three-story buildings, something that didn’t happen in Europe until centuries later.
Plato also says that Atlantis was destroyed in a single day. Interestingly, all the ruins at Santorini are covered in feet of volcanic ash, suggesting that the caldera under the island blew up, giving the island it’s strange, donut shape.
Greece has many reasons to get you to visit. While ancient archaeology and pilgrimage sites are often a big draw to this country, the islands are one of the things that should definitely be included in the perfect well, rounded trip to this stunning country.