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Greek islands in the Argo-Saronic

Map of Argo Saronic Islands Greece

The Argo Saronic Gulf lies just south of Athens and is peppered with rocky islands that are a favourite getaway for weekending Greeks.

The islands not only differ from the mainland but from each other too, offering a wide variety of experiences for the holiday visitor.

The Argo Saronic Gulf is, in reality, two areas. The Saronic islands skirt the coastline around Athens while the Argolic is further south and edged by the cliffs of the Peloponesse.

The Saronic islands are reached more easily with plenty of ferry routes from the mainland. Islands that lie further south tend to be more exclusive and expensive, reached only by catamaran and hydrofoil.

Both gulfs can get very busy in the summer with cruise ships, ferries, hydrofoils and catamarans. Three major ferry companies operate regular services on more than 20 routes from Piraeus, near Athens, and Porto Cheli in the Peloponnese.

Egina or Aegina is the most popular island with good beaches, lively nightlife, a sprinkling of antiquities and fertile soils for its famous pistachio nuts. The closest island to Athens it gets lots of weekend visitors as well as the usual crop of foreign tourists. Aegina also boasts the impressive Temple of Aphaea, one of the most important antiquities in Greece.

Agistri, sometimes spelt Angistri is much smaller and quieter then Aeginea but on the same regular ferry routes. Heavily wooded, the island has only three villages and fewer than 1,000 inhabitants.

The island of Methana is the what's left of a volcanic eruption just off the Peloponnese coast. Noted for its thermal springs, Methana attracts elderly Greeks and a few more adventurous tourists.

Close to the Peloponnese coast, Poros is the volcanic merger of two smaller islands. Its main port has an attractive waterfront with restored mansion houses climbing the hillside. Mediocre beaches means fewer visitors but Poros is a fine base for visiting mainland archaeological sites such as Epidaurus and Mycenae.

Further south still Ydra, or Hydra attracts upmarket visitors. Advertised as one of the most romantic islands in Greece it has a picture-perfect harbour protected by heritage status and attracts celebrity homeowners, drawn to its old-world charm and car-free cobbled streets.

Spetses is a little off the tourist track and its attractions are confined to the attractive old harbour. Spetses has a notable naval tradition and is popular with the yachting set. Away from the crowds, there are walks and hikes through pine forests still recovering from devastating fires.