Aegina island lies in the Argo Saronic bay to the south of Athens and it can even be seen from the centre of the capital. It is even closer to Athens' centre than some of the city's northern suburbs.
Many of the 12,000 people who live on Aegina commute to the capital to work and the island is a popular weekend retreat and a favoured retirement island for many well-heeled Greeks.
Visitors find Aegina an ideal island base when touring the historic sites on the Greece mainland with easy transfers from Athens' airport.
The main resorts may get swamped with day trip visitors, especially on the weekends and Aegina Town even suffers the suburban problems of limited street parking and night-time traffic noise.
Aegina is a roughly triangular shaped island, about eight miles by six. To the north and west are fertile coastal plains, noted for crops of pistachios, almonds and figs.
Aegina islanders who don't commute to Athens either work in the tourism industry or as farmers.
To the east and south are hills that rise to the conical Mount Oros (also called Profitis Illias) and a long and rocky ridge that runs across Aegina with fertile valleys on either side.
There are several important historical sights here including The 5th century BC Doric temple of Aphaia, the ruins of a village at Paliohora and the remarkable church of Agia Nektariou.
As one of the closest islands to the Greek capital of Athens, Aegina has a well-developed tourist infrastructure geared mainly to the Greek weekenders who descend on the island in droves. Most visitors head for the north coast beach resort of Agia Marina or to the east coast beaches. Sandy beaches are in short supply and the island has more to offer in the way of interesting sights and good walks.
Although a busy port, Aegina Town has a pleasant crescent-shaped harbour backed by brightly painted neoclassical houses with tavernas, shops and cafes trailing along the water's edge.
The waterfront is where everything gravitates, including most of the traffic. Dozens of bars and clubs emphasize that this is a party island, yet quiet corners ensure plenty of genuine Greek charm.
The island-grown pistachios are on sale everywhere, most notably at the growers' cooperative by the harbour gates. Boats moored to the quay also sell fresh fruit, vegetables nuts and raisins. And among the usual tourist boutiques are craft shops specialising in the local hand-made pottery.
Tables line the main promenade at night while tasselled horses pull the tourist traps to and fro. The austere and much-photographed chapel of Agios Nikolaos sits alone at the water's edge. Richly retired Greeks have thrown up no end of retirement homes that lend a flat, suburban air.
Nevertheless, there is much to see. The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Agios Demetrios is where the first government of modern Greece was sworn in and north of the town at Cape Kolono is a fluted 23-ft column, the surviving remnant of a 5th century BC temple to Apollo. Recent excavations in have uncovered a theatre and a stadium. Nearby, a small, sandy beach called Avra, or Kolono, has sunbeds and tavernas.
Marathonas is what passes for a traditional Greek fishing village in these modern tourist days. Found about four kilometres south of Aegina Town it is almost half-way to the popular resort at Perdika.
The pretty village has just 250 or so permanent inhabitants with their homes climbing up on the steep hillside where a walk uphill reaps some spectacular views of the coast and leads to good hill trails and even mountain climbing.
Of the two small beaches only one is sandy while the road behind is lined with tavernas bidding to passing trade out of the main town. Nearby is the imposing monastery of Panagia Chrysoliodis, which dates from the 16th century.
The coast road south from Aegina Town is dotted with tavernas at every sandy cove and backed by pistachio groves and eucalyptus trees, notably at Aeginitissa and Profitis Ilias before it reaches the resort of Faros.
Faros is most noted for its beautiful neoclassical buildings and a less than a classical giant water park. It's not the best in Greece, basically a big pool, a couple of decent water chutes and scores of sunbeds.
On the edge of Faros, past the petrol station is a dirt road leading down to Sarpa beach. Once a rather scruffy outpost, the beach here has been cleaned and upgraded and visitors will find plenty of sun loungers, a volleyball area and a small cantina.
The fishing village of Perdika has lately been invaded by hotels, though it manages to cling on to some original Greek charm with its picturesque flower-bedecked side-streets and pleasant fish tavernas that defy the barren surrounding countryside.
The resort perches on a promontory with a large marina below where luxury yachts share shelter with small colourful fishing boats. Shady tavernas sit above and behind on the high walls that line the utilitarian strip of battleship grey concrete that passes for a promenade.
Excursion boats leave here for the islet of Moni that lies just offshore and there are day trips to Angistri island which lies about four kilometres to the west.
Just before Perdika is a small beach called Klima, or Klidi, noted for beach parties that attract DJs from Athens. It's well signposted off the main road to Perdika.
The tiny seaport of Portes lies on the east coast of Aegina. Reached along the coast road south of Agia Marina, Portes perches rather dramatically over the sea with a long beach of steeply banked stone and shingle.
A little way inland is the Ekpaz Wildlife Sanctuary which has around 5,000 animals and birds. Entry is free and visitors get guided tours throughout the day. The sanctuary has a small souvenir shop where a donation can aid the excellent work going on there.
Agia Marina is the busiest and biggest beach resort on the island with a long, wide sandy beach that's gently shelving, so it's ideal for families with children, and with every sort of tourist facility including a bewildering array of watersports.
Its popularity has left its mark with ranks of hotels behind the beach robbing the resort of any charm it might once have had while sun loungers cover every scrap of sand along the busy shoreline.
Resort life centres around the busy beach and the streets leading to it. Tavernas, bars, shops and cafes are plentiful and weekending Athenians will pack the marina out with boats.
Steep wooded slopes lead to the Temple of Aphiaia, one of Aegina's major attractions while the charming village of Alones, nestling in a deep green valley nearby, has scores of excellent tavernas
Pony traps ferry romantic diners to and from Agia Marina while other tavernas are a favourite for 'Greek Night' excursions.
Also nearby is the mountain village of Mesagros, much boosted by its proximity to the Temple of Aphiaia, and known both for its wildflowers, some unique to the area, and for its fine ceramics.
Mesagros visitors often head for the house of Rodakis, a fine example of 1880s architecture and in very good condition.
Vayia, or Vagia, is a small port located about four kilometres east of Souvala. It has a small sand and shingle beach and a couple of old-style traditional tavernas.
In the centre of the resort are more tavernas and a cafe. Having missed out on the tourist explosion of the main Aegina resorts, Vayia has the relaxed air of a bygone age.
Eastwards, along a coastal path, are isolated coves while the neighbouring village of Agius, smothered in pines, is noted for its water jug pottery and for the church of the Apostle Crispus.
Souvala was once a busier trading harbour than Aegina Town but the explosion in tourism left it trailing behind. Its workaday past is reflected in some drab industrial buildings and a general utilitarian air but Souvala still has some charm and a small, if unremarkable beach of coarse sand and shingle.
Souvala is mainly a holiday village for Greeks and its crammed with flats and small houses, many of them second homes for rich Athenians – this being the nearest port to the mainland.
There's a good range of tavernas around the harbour where the bright lights of Piraeus can be seen on a clear night. Souvala is also well known for a health spa that attracts sufferers of rheumatism and those with skin disorders.
In the midst of the pistachio and olive groves of north-west Aegina is the attractive village of Kipseli with a fine central square and traditional two-storey homes.
The name Kipseli means 'beehive' and local tales have it that the village was renamed following a protest over at the former village name of Halameni which meant 'ruined'.
Kipseli is at the heart of the most prosperous area of the island with extensive orchards and farms stretching over the green plain. The village is noted for its huge number of chapels, another reflection of the area's great wealth in times gone by.