Spetses – Aristocratic and cosmopolitan
Embark on sophistication. Visit Spetses and indulge in the island’s eclectic charm. Ideal for the discerning traveller, Spetses boasts a long history of catering to those who appreciate the aesthetics of old-world tradition with a cosmopolitan edge. Just two hours away from Athens’ main port of Piraeus by hydrofoil and three hours away by car, Spetses is an easily accessible destination.
However, cars must be left on the mainland, as traffic is limited to a few vehicles, thus encouraging visitors to explore the island on foot or on bike or by making use of public transport. Spetses played a key role in winning the 1821 Greek War for Independence. Testament to this are the monuments that dot the island’s impressive promenade.
A characteristic horse-drawn carriage ride is a delightful way to travel through time past and present. Gaze at the mansions perched atop the hill overlooking the vast blue sea; the traditional shipyards at the Old Port; stop at the newly-renovated landmark Poseidonion Grand Hotel. Head west and take note of the Anargyreios and Korgialeneios School of Spetses. The sprawling complex of buildings is where author John Fowles taught English. His time on Spetses inspired his novel, “The Magus”. Enjoy seaside dining, shopping and a variety of special events held in spring, summer and autumn.
Spetses Island is 50 miles south of Greece’s major port, Piraeus, and just 1.5 miles off the coast of Argolis. Known as Pitioussa (meaning ‘full of pines’) in ancient times, modern Spetses lives up to this reputation. Its strategic location, at the entrance of the Argolic Gulf, has shaped this island, originally inhabited around 2300 BC.
Spetses and its fleet played a proud role in the Greek Revolution and since the late 18th century, the islanders of Spetses have developed a robust sea trade, amassing considerable maritime knowledge, power and wealth. They were among the first to raise the flag of the Revolution on their masts in 1821 and, along with Hydra and Psara, helped take control of the Aegean, playing a pivotal role in naval battles such as Armata. This period gave rise to prominent seafarers including Laskarina Bouboulina, Kosmas Babatsis, Chatzigiannis Mexis and Botassis.
Following the modernisation of naval technology and the emergence of the steamboat, Spetses lost its leadership role in shipbuilding to Piraeus. Its decline lasted until the early 20th century, when it experienced a cultural renaissance under benefactor Sotirios Anargyros.
Today, the green island of Spetses is an exquisite destination, an easy day trip from Athens.
General information about Spetses Island
Spetses is easily accessible by boat, directly from the port of Piraeus, with Flying Dolphins, boats or sea taxis from the opposite coast of Kosta. Spetses is the ideal summer holiday retreat, showcasing nature with its lush landscapes and crystal-blue seas, but it is equally captivating in spring and autumn. The island’s capital is the town of Spetses, with the port of Dapia; the district also includes the islets of Spetsopoula, Agios Ioannis, and Mikro Bourboulo. The town of Spetses is distinguished by a noble architecture, thoughtful town planning and a marvellous promenade near the old port. The island has become a favourite destination in recent years for personalities from Greece and abroad. No vehicles are allowed, enhancing further the unique atmosphere.
With its elegant style, cobblestone streets and magnificent manors, Spetses is a place you won’t soon forget. In the main town, visit the Museum of Spetses, the Museum of Bouboulina and the Anargyros Manor. These are buildings of great architectural historical significance, dating from the peak of the island’s history and revolutionary times. Walk to the lighthouse; the view won’t disappoint. Rent a sea-taxi and visit Spetsopoula, the private island of the Niarchos family.
Those more romantically inclined might choose to see the old port by carriage. The Poseidonion Grand Hotel, a superb sample of French-style architecture reminiscent of the Côte d’Azure, is one of the top places to stay; at least drop by for a coffee, dinner or spa session. If you’re lucky enough to visit Greece and arrive in Spetses in June, you’ll be able to attend the Spetses Classic Yacht Race. And don’t forget the Armata Festival in September and the Spetses mini Marathon, which takes place each October.
Spetses has recently emerged as a gastronomic destination. While prices in Spetses are still on the high side, the island offers a wealth of choices. The highlight is the Poseidonion Grand Hotel, offering a unique culinary experience at the On the Verandah restaurant, or refined Japanese cuisine at the Freud Oriental. If dinner isn’t on the menu, consider stopping by for coffee or breakfast. In the village of Dapia, enjoy some fresh fish and local wine at one of the taverns in the harbour, town centre or old port. Never leave the island without tasting Spetses’ traditional almond sweets.
All the beaches of Spetses are beautiful, especially those of the south-western part of the island, combining the ocean’s blue with the woodland’s green. Visit the ‘college’ beach of Kaiki, so called for its proximity to a school. Or perhaps you’ll have the opportunity to celebrate life at the uniquely beautiful beach of Vrellos. Many consider Zogeria, at the cove of the same name, to be the island’s best beach. Lush foliage, a peaceful environment and clean waters: the perfect getaway. Other popular beaches include Agia Marina, Agia Paraskevi and Agioi Anargyroi, with Xylokeriza and Ligoneri also attracting both locals and tourists. Near to the town of Spetses, you’ll find more beaches, including Kounoupitsa and Agios Mamas.
The iconic Poseidonion Grand Hotel majestically overlooks the beach of Spetses. This five-star hotel has a spa and two gourmet restaurants. Spetses offers accommodation of all types and classes, including rooms to rent, villas and guest houses.
The island’s tourist industry, with plenty of experience catering both for celebrities and the rest of us, has something for everyone.
Spetses is the ideal location for walking and bicycling, a bike being perhaps the best means to tour the island. Fill your mornings with nature, sport and wellness, to atone in advance for an eventful evening as only the Greek isles can provide. Spetses may be the most lively island of the Argo-Saronic Gulf. Most clubs and bars are to be found in the old harbour and Dapia, where the evening’s entertainment can easily last until the dawn’s early light. Agios Mamas is also a perfect setting for liquid refreshment.