As “new” destinations emerge with discerned travelers looking for more of an authentic and enriching travel experience with loved ones, combined with far but easy-to-get-to escapes, the Greek islands in the Saronic Gulf continue to stand strong on top of that list. Unspoiled by time but rich with history and charm of each island that have been the sought-after muse for generations of aristocrats, celebrities and artists, the Saronic Islands of Greece is located in the Aegean Sea between the Saronic Gulf and Argolic Gulf.
Saronic Gulf here I come! Just might be my new summer muse too!
Each with its unique traits, tales and accolades – a nod to Hydra for receiving the highest rank of any Greek island as a unique destination preserving its ‘integrity of place” by National Geographic Traveler - we had to ask our travel experts at White Key Villas, Greece’s leading luxury villa rental company, to share with us some insights about the top three off-the-radar Saronic Islands that are easy to get to and fall within a travel time of under 30 minutes by helicopter from Athens or three hours by boat from the mainland. Naturally, with their signature “White Key Villa Experience,” which is inclusive of every detail from transportation, local activity suggestions and planning, and in-villa requests, our customized island-hopping itinerary was created swiftly.
So, pack your weekender and wander with me as we discover White Key Villas' authentic experiences in Aegina. Hydra. Spetses.
Aegina, the first capital of Modern Greece and a darling of Greek Mythology, is the one closest to Athens and often considered an Athenian suburb, due to the swift commute from the Port of Piraeus. Authentic, easygoing and ideal for families, it is one of the preferred weekend getaways and summer hubs for Athenians looking to escape from the city hustle. Many aristocrats and artists have built their summer residences here benefitting from the easy accessibility to the mainland and tranquil setting. Unspoiled by mass tourism and the absence of a strong hotel culture makes it the island for residents, homeowners and their friends, while it is also a common destination for sailing boats and yachts.
Widely known for its pistachio, a traditional specialty with protected designation of origin (PDO), Aegina also houses the splendid 5th-century Temple of Aphaia, the great Doric sanctuary dedicated to the goddess of Aphaia, and the magical Byzantine Paleochora ruins.
White Key Villas ❤️ We love its close proximity to Athens and the fact that it is still an authentic Greek island enjoying the calmness and serenity of a remote destination. Lovely people, beautiful, non-crowded sea-vistas and the option to depart on a plethora of exciting daytrips make Aegina a wonderful family island. Plus, we are enamored by its unique Pistachio nut and all the delicacies made of it!
Stay: The glass haven that sits high above the bay of Aeginitissa is the newest in the White Key Villas portfolio, Villa Aeacus.
The all-time favorite of Athenians, Spetses is an island with important history and an aristocratic background as revealed by the well-preserved neoclassical architecture of its buildings. Cars are not allowed on the island and transportation is by water taxis, horse, carriages, mopeds or one of the four taxi cabs. The island features some lovely beaches where the pines almost reach the water.
The picturesque neoclassical manors, the little ports, the flower filled courtyards and the cobbled streets make up the island’s most charming ambience, radiating a very romantic yet classy atmosphere at the same time.
Although Spetses is very lively at night, especially on weekends, it is an ideal destination for peace and calm seekers. A vacation in Spetses can be combined with watching a play at the ancient theatre of Epidavros, sailing, or hop over next to nearby Hydra.
For fall travelers, the Festival of Armata, which takes place on the second weekend of September, is definitely worth witnessing as it celebrates the major victory of the naval forces of Spetses against the Ottoman fleet during the Greek War of Independence in 1821. A series of cultural, religious and athletic events lead up to the spectacular closing event, which takes place at sea. Reenacting the naval battle, the event is set to the sights and sounds of fireworks, music, and the horns of dozens of yachts which arrive every year to be a part of this cosmopolitan gathering.
White Key Villas ❤️ A time resistant and cosmopolitan island, Spetses evokes heartwarming childhood and teenage memories to us from when we were spending our summers with our families on the island. Spetses is still one of the top options for a family holiday.
Here, I have to agree with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis who described Hydra as "the stuff of fairy tales …"
The elegant beauty of this island has enchanted international jet setters with its glorious nautical past and stunning waterfront lined with yachts, sailing boats and luxurious cruisers. Picturesque alleys are dotted with upscale boutiques, restaurants and cocktail bars ensuring a cosmopolitan stay while ship owners and captains's extraordinary mansions built in the 18th and 19th centuries exude timeless sophistication.
No cars and motorcycles here make way for a fabulous stroll time-traveling around Hydra's narrow alleys and backstreets while admiring stunning stone mansions, including Tombazi mansion which houses the School of Fine Arts, Lazaros Koundouriotis mansion built in 1780 which is today a branch of the National Museum of History and Pavlos Koundouriotis mansion – a house museum with exquisite period furnishings.
Cute donkeys, horse carriages, bicycles and water taxis will help you move too as beaches in Hydra are located away from town and are mostly pebble or rocky with beautiful clear waters. Located very close to the mainland (Peloponnese), you can combine a vacation in Hydra with various cultural activities, or visits to close by Spetses, Porto Heli or Poros.
White Key Villas ❤️ Enduring finesse, artistic elegance and the car-free environent make Hydra one of our very favorite places!
Wait there's more! Ask White Key Villas about their hidden gems too - the private villa collection that stays that way - private.
White Key Villas is Greece’s leading luxury villa rental company offering full service hospitality and expert travel consulting. Operating for over 10 years, White Key Villas manages 250 exclusive properties in its carefully curated portfolio accessing the most sought after high-end, privately owned villas in the country. Perfect for groups, families and multi-generational travel, the White Key Villa team offers expert consultation to match a party to the ideal property based on aspirations and needs outfitting the stay with exceptional services and staff.
Whether traveling to cosmopolitan destinations like Mykonos, Corfu or the Athens Riviera to off-the-radar locales such as these in the Saronic Gulf, guests have access to all the amenities of a first-class hotel but the privacy and individual attention of a villa stay.
White Key Villas has been included among Conde Nast Traveler’s Villa Specialists for the past seven years, is consistently included in Travel + Leisure’s Best Villa Rental Companies and is a member of UltraVilla, UK-based travel specialists and a directory of refined properties worldwide.
All images credited to White Key Villas