The pine-covered island of Spetses is the southernmost island in the Saronic. The actual name of the island is a derivative of "Isola de Spezzie", the Island of Perfume. The name was given by the Venetians because of the many and heady aromas of the herbs growing on the mountains that filled the air. It is an island that offers a tranquil and cosmopolitan life, wonderful beaches, quaint small bays, remarkable historical sites, a charming old harbour and everything one would need to enjoy a pleasant get away from it all stay.
Spetses is an island with a long history and naval tradition. It was historically wealthy and the harbour is lined with the mansions of Captains from way back then. The old Harbour is called Baltiza and is located about 2km away from the New Harbour, known as Dapia. It was an important shipbuilding center during the 18th and 19th century. The lighthouse (although is just a lighthouse), historically speaking is of quite important significance as it is one of the oldest lighthouses that ever operated in Greece. It can be located on the right side of the old harbour.
The ports have a vibrant life. Don’t miss a visit to the island’s traditional shipyards (tarsanades) in the old port, where craftsmen who have been passed down the skills of their forefathers still build and repair wooden vessels. Carry on towards the Navy Park, where pine trees meet the sea and wooden sculptures, including an owl and a mermaid are on display. Take the alleys and look out for pebble mosaics which decorate the courtyards of houses. They all carry a maritime theme mainly that of frigates, mermaids, octopuses, billowing sails and anchors.
The brainchild of Sotirios Anargyros was the Poseidonion Grand Hotel. It first opened its doors in 1914, and it soon it not only became one of the islands landmarks but also a firm favourite for high society, royalty and wealthy Athenians. For a bit of fun try the whimsical springtime Tweed Run which is a bicycle ride organised by the hotel where participants dress in tweed!
The best part about Spetses is that there are very few cars and most people get around by bike, scooter, or horse drawn carriages. Cars are forbidden with the exception of those that belong to residents, so expect to do a lot of walking. The roads don’t have too much of an incline so aarenting a bike to go exploring won’t be too physically tiring. The most famous church in Spetses is Ayios Nikolaos church. It is found in a picturesque location a short walk from Dapia. Its distinguishable trademark is the tall bell tower made of Tinian marble.
Other than great Greek cuisine, if it’s nightlife you’re after, Spetses has a reputation of being a party island, so seek and ye shall find. There are clusters of bars and clubs all along the waterfront and mainly in the old harbour. As for celebrations, the Armata, is held every September and involves a fleet of the island’s boats, music and fireworks in honour of a naval victory during the Greek revolution. In the old port, you will find the chapel of the Virgin Mary of the Armata, which legend says miraculously prevented an Ottoman invasion of the island in September 1822.
“The Island’s History”
“The Island’s History”
Like Hydra, Spetses island had an important role to play during the Greek Revolution of 1821 and was the birthplace of the famous heroine Lascarina Bouboulina. The private museum in her honour used to be her home and displays a collection of her personal objects and household furnishings. This traditional Spetsiote mansion is really interesting to visit for its collection but also for the astonishing wood-carved Florentine ceiling in the main room of the house. Bouboulina is one of the few strong and commanding women in Greek history.
Other than the museum of Bouboulina, the Museum of Spetses is located in the Mansion of Hatzigianni-Mexi, a local tradesman of the 19th century. The artefacts on display depict the history of Spetses from yester year to modern times.
There are numerous wonderful sandy beaches and lovely secluded bays and caves on the island. Apart from the main pebbly beach in the town which is lined with fish tavernas, there are many organised beaches in Spetses great for swimming and for enjoying a day in the sun.
Snorkeling is an awesome experience as the colours are so vibrant and surreal. The pink and mauve patterns on the walls of small caves is entrancing. Meanwhile the cave at Agioi Anargyri on the island’s biggest beach is quite special, because, as the story goes, it is allegedly where women and children hid during at least one Ottoman raid. The cave of Bekiris is a gorgeous place to visit although a little tricky to access. You can go by boat or take the path from from Agioi Anargyroi beach. The cave has a tiny, sandy beach inside and formations of stalactites and stalagmites.
The beach at Agia Paraskevi is on the western side of the island. It is partly organised, sandy and is family friendly. It is rather secluded and has soft sand and crystal clear water. The same can be said of Zogeria beach on the northern side of the island and Xilokeriza beach on the southern side of the island. The added beauty surrounding Xikokeriza is the lush green backdrop! Agia Marina beach, Agioi Anargyri beach and Kaiki beach are much livelier beaches especially during the peak summer months with access to watersports centres, hotels and facilities, bars and restaurants nearyby.
For those with a sweet tooth Spetses has irresistible sweets, including the island’s famous ‘amigdalota’ almond sweets. Fish fanatics may opt for grilled octopus without frills at the Fish Market near Kounoupitsa. Black ink pastas and risottos are popular choices. But for traditional, no frills, home cooking follow where the locals go! These family run tavernas offer hearty food every day of the year.Skippers Tip
Captain Toby: For some of the most of the most amazing sea food on the island, Tarsanas right there on the shore is my go to on this island if we can get a table!