Greece – Spetses

Spetses was already inhabited in the 3rd Millennium BC, and archaeological excavations have revealed an important past on the island. Because of its many pine trees, it was called Pytiousa in ancient Greece, and the islanders seem to have been skilled in making and repairing ships, since Spetses was a place for the ancient ships to get new stock and careening. The capital of Spetses, Dapia, is very attractive and has many old buildings where a strong sailing tradition can be discerned. The house of Bouboulina is a private museum today which is open to visitors. The monastery of Ag. Nikolaos (St. Nicholas) is situated just outside Spetses town, and is also open to visitors. There are buses that go along the one sole road tracing the perimeter of the island measuring 24 km in length. The most popular beaches are the golden sand beaches of Agia Paraskevi and Agia Anargyri. To catch the bus, head past the main harbor towards the beach (10 min walk along the coast). Bus stop and schedule located on the beach.

12 Sep: We pulled into Spetses around noon and hoped that we had sufficient time to get acquainted with this laid back isle. A travel writer once wrote “Of all the Saronic islands, Spetses feels as if it’s off the beaten track”…we didn’t know how far off the beaten track but couldn’t wait to find out firsthand. Our simple agenda for the day was to rent ATVs and zoom around the island in search of a tranquil beach.

After disembarking from our cruise, we took a left from the Dapia Harbor and walked along the waterfront towards the main section of town. At Plateia Limenarhiou, horse-drawn carriages were lined up in a row waiting patiently to transport passengers to the Old Harbor (about 1.5 km away from Dapia). Once we got into the main section of Dapia, we had no problem following our noses to the nearest souvlaki stand. We ate a quick and tasty lunch at Cockatoo, before wandering the streets in search of a rental agency. A couple of blocks away, we met and befriended Stelios, who owned Stelios’ Rental. After briefly discussing our day’s plans with him, we opted to rent two mopeds (15 Euros/day for each) instead of two ATVs (30 Euros/day for each). Stelios ensured that we all felt comfortable riding around on the scooters, and once we were set, we headed off to navigate our way around Spetses’s 24 km circular loop.

It was fairly easy getting ourselves out of Spetses Town…as long as we kept the sea to our left at all times, we figured we wouldn’t get too disoriented! The first beach we came upon was Agia Marina, which looked alluring but it was only the first beach we had seen thus far. So we took a quick photo and agreed that whatever beach looked the most inviting would be the one we went back to on our second circular lap around the island. That way we’d get a chance to see all of our options first.

Before too long, we were quite grateful we listened to Dario’s advice and hired scooters for the day. We saw a couple of bikers, but they looked like they were doing far too much physical activity whilst on vacation…especially while trying to get up those steep hills! Spetses is known for its pine trees, and we were quite grateful to philanthropist Sotirios Anargyrios who had the foresight and vision to purchase two thirds of Spetses in the 1914s and plant Aleppo pine all over the island. The greenery was much appreciated, especially after looking at Spetses’s rockier, craggier neighbors.

Our second beach stop was at Xokeriza Beach…we had to ride down a fairly steep path to get to the almost deserted pebble stoned beach. The day suddenly turned overcast and gloomy, so we decided not to linger but to drive onward to complete our circular tour. As we were trying to get back up the steep incline, our scooter ran out of steam half way…so we had to ride back down to the base and build up enough momentum to gun it up the entire length of the hill…finally making it on the third attempt.

Even though we didn’t have a strenuous bike ride on Poros, we all suddenly discovered that our butts were sore from bouncing around on the scooters…and we attributed it to the previous day’s bike riding activities. So our rest stops became more frequent and longer in duration. Next stop was at Agioi Anargyri, which had a concrete quay in the middle of the beach for water taxis to drop off passengers. We didn’t linger too long, as we were off to Agia Paraskevi, another beach very close to Agioi Anargyri. Agia Paraskevi is a popular stop for visitors as it offers food, a nice view, and a shallow sandy beach on one end. There is a nice white church strategically placed adjacent to the waterfront. A taverna, beach bar, and sun chairs complete the scene, but the overcast day put a damper on our beach minded activities. So off we went to Vrellas/Vrellos, also known as “paradise” beach. This is a perfect pebble and sand beach surrounded by a pine forest tucked away on Spetses’s west coast. Hammocks and a cool beachfront lounge area account for this beach’s popularity. After leaving Vrellas, we passed by two more beaches. The first was Ligoneri Beach (which looked perfect to us but was only accessible via a steep path), and the second was Kaiki Beach (within walking distance from Spetses).

We were in the mood for some drinks, so we figured we would zip back into town to stock up on some beverages, and head back towards Ligoneri Beach for an afternoon siesta. Too bad the locals were already one up on us in that department, unbeknownst to us! We soon found out that most stores close around 1530 – 1730 for an afternoon break, so we were unable to pick up any beverages. A corner kiosk stand met our needs, and we decided we’d ride into the Old Harbor for a quick peek before relaxing at Ligoneri. The Old Harbor was quite interesting as it was crammed full of vessels, ranging from just-started skeletons shells to pricey private yachts. The rows of houses behind the long harbor front are quite picturesque, as is the Monastery of Agios Nikolaos.

But we were in the mood for some beach time, with the sun making a run for it and breaking through the looming dark clouds. Ligoneri Beach was the perfect spot to spend a few hours just before sunset, as we almost had the entire place to ourselves. On our way back to town, we figured we’d drive around Dapia to find Taverna O Lazaros, which specialized in homemade Greek cuisine. After zooming up and down Dapia’s back streets, we finally found Lazaros Taverna and met the gracious hostess who informed us that the restaurant would be open at 8 pm. We had about an hour to kill, and decided to drive back down to Old Harbor for a drink or two, before returning the scooters and walking back up to Lazaros. Boy were we glad we made a special effort to return to Lazaros! The food was excellent. The homemade tsatsiki sauce was the best we had in all the Greek Islands (extra garlic), and their goat in lemon sauce was super tender and tasted like lamb. Just inside the restaurant, several barrels holding homemade retsina were on display, so we ordered a pitcher of retsina which had a strong pine taste. Two thumbs up for Lazaros…we really enjoyed the service and food at this excellent eatery. As we were walking down Dapia’s hills back towards our cruise, we all agreed that Spetses was a fun and relaxing island to spend our day.

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