Aegina is an island packed with sightseeing opportunities for the holiday visitor. Among the most important are the Aphaia or Afia Temple, an amazing example of ancient Greek architecture set on a forested hilltop in the northeast of the island. Something a little more modern can be seen at the Monastery of Agios Nekataros in the Kontas area. This miracle worker saint died in the 10920s and was famous for healing the sick. Next to the church is the Palaechora, the remains of a hillside city with 70 churches though manyu have suffered the effects of a nearby quarry.
Aegina has a history of pottery and craftworkers are still at large in traditional potteries in hillside villages most of which are easily accessible thanks to a comprehensive road network.
The temple of Aphaia, or Aphaiia, stands on a pine-covered hill around 4km from the bay at Aghia Marina. The 5th century BC Doric temple is well preserved with some 24 limestone columns still erect, making it the leading visitor attraction on the island.
It is dedicated to Aphaia – a hunting nymph daughter of Zeus and very much a local divinity – and first excavated in 1811 and again in 1901 when it was stripped of its most important artefacts which now grace the rooms of German museums. Some of the less important finds can be found in the museum in Aegina.
Archaeological work was resumed in 1966 and has continued on and off for 20 odd years. The temple is approached by a ramp from the east near some sacrificial altars. South of the temple are traces of an entrance gate and a priest's lodgings.
A regular bus service goes past the temple from both Aegina Town and Aghia Marina. You have to pay to go in. It's been repeatedly struck by lightning so now there's a thundering great metal rod at one end. The views from here are staggering, at least where pine trees don't stand in the way.
The remarkable Agia Nektarios is a place of pilgrimage for the sick and disabled, not unlike Lourdes but without the lamentable tourist circus.
A former dean of the School of Theology in Athens, St Nectarios was renowned for his healing powers and was the first saint to be canonised by the Orthodox Church in modern times. He is buried here and is the patron saint of those with cancer, heart trouble, arthritis, epilepsy – even the unemployed.
Agios Nektarios lived from 1846 until 1920. The church – said to be the largest in Greece – is south of Souvala on the main road from Aegina Town to Aghia Marina and there are plenty of buses.
There is a mass pilgrimage each November which Patricia Storace describes in her book Dinner with Persephone. There is a fine taverna opposite when you get tired of trudging around.
The uninhabited islet of Moni sits opposite Perdika and there are regular 15-minute ferry trips across from the marina. Someone once tried to build a hotel there and the remains are still evident.
Moni was once owned by the Monastery of Chrysoleontissa – hence the name – but is now apparently the property of the Touring Club of Greece which levies a small charge for visitors and runs a campsite on the northern slopes.
Thickly wooded on its western side, Moni has become something of a nature reserve with deer, rabbits, wild goats – and peacocks that squabble for scraps from day trippers.
There is a path to the summit and the reward is the view of a German bunker left over from the war. The Moni islet has a small sand and stone beach with shallow waters, but the rocky shoreline is probably more suitable for those who enjoy snorkelling.
South of Agia Nektarios a track leads to ruins at Paliohora or Paleochora and several other variations, once the capital of the island under the Venetians and the Turks when the coast was plagued by pirates.
The former town is set in the side of a steep hill, crowned with the ruins of a Venetian castle. In the 18th century, there were around 400 homes here and 20 or so churches.
The town was abandoned in 1826 and most of the houses demolished but a cathedral and some chapels have been restored and many contain excellent frescoes and impressive iconostases though you need permission to view.
Get there early and there is usually someone around to unlock doors and point out the most interesting sights – remember to offer a good tip for the trouble.
On a hill near Perdika is a remarkable Camera Obscura House, with twelve openings in the circular wall. Light enters the covered WW2 gun emplacement through the wall slits and creates a 360°12-part panoramic image of the outside world, upside down and reversed on a semi-transparent screen.
The former monastery of the Virgin Chryssoleontissa, on the road to Marathonas, is now a convent and access is restricted. It dates from splendidly has a splendidly carved iconostasis. It stands high in the central hills – a one-hour walk south from Agios Nektarios. There is a marked road but you still have to walk the last 300 metres or so.
Mount Oros is Aegina's highest mountain, an extinct volcano, 532 metres high. A tiny chapel crowns the summit and on it's lower slopes is the ancient church of Taxiarchis. Climbers will enjoy great views of the surrounding countryside and villages such as Kpotides, Lazarides, Pahia Rahi and Vlahides. A road of stone steps leads from the road in the Pergaene region to an ancient site where it is said that Aeacus originally established the worship of Zeus.