An Aristocrat Among Islands
With its easy access from Athens by car and water taxi, or fast and frequent hydrofoils, Spetses is to Athenians is what the Hamptons are to New Yorkers.
An island of pines, bougainvillea and heady jasmine, of grand neo-classical mansions – built with the prosperity from its merchant sailors 200 years ago – an island of proud history, of great contribution to Greece’s 1821/2 Revolution for Independence from domination by the Ottoman Turks, Spetses has long been the playground of influential wealthy Athenian and local families with their house parties. Spetses radiates out from its picturesque, car-free main port up into gentle hills covered with pine forests. It is easy to get to and easy to get to know. Boating activities, watersports and excellent shopping by day, and a huge variety of cafes, bars, tavernas and nightspots for sundown and later offer entertainment for all ages. As a weekend destination, the island stays open practically all year round making it an ideal choice for off-season visits, when more remote islands can be rather too quiet.
If you are a fan of that 1970s cult novelist, John Fowles, this island was the model for his mythical Phraxos in The Magus.
Car free for the main part, elegant ladies drive around on scooters, and the horse-drawn carriages still clop and tinkle their way past the high white-washed walls hiding interior courtyards of pebbled mosaics and lush gardens, and the allure of another life. Water taxis provide fast, fun and glamorous transport to secluded bays and to the archaeological sites of Mycenae, Nauplion and Epidauros. The lovely island of Hydra just half an hour away by hydrofoil. In spite of the intrusions of modern life, the essential character of the island is indestructible, and the place a magnet for those who can afford its real estate prices.
Accessibility. The climate is mild, and it has activities and interests for everyone year round. A good off-season choice. The wining, dining and shopping are good, and calm summer seas, traditional caikis for hire and water taxis allow wonderful swimming, boating, fishing and snorkelling.
Not many good beaches, and the ones that are good get very crowded in summer. The island is charming and pleasant rather than scenically dramatic.
Well-heeled sophisticates, visitors interested in Greek history and culture, and those who enjoy social life. Teenagers and young people are well catered for.
Honeymooners looking for a remote romantic hideaway all to themselves, or guests wanting to discover a backward Greek island.
Dappia at dusk - one of the great café-terraces of Greece. Ouzo at the old port at sunset. Thanassis and Byzantino. Afternoon tea complete with pianist at the landmark Poseidonion Hotel. A glimpse into the swashbuckling marine past at either Bouboulina's Museum or the Marine Archaeological. A repast at the oldest - and still the best fish taverna - Patralis, on the water's edge at Kounoupitsa. Sioras at the old port on a wooden balcony over the sea, offers home-grown vegetables, excellent Greek cuisine and fresh fish.
One is spoilt for choice on Spetses: sea taxis to wonderful bays and inlets with crystal water, traditional caikis can be hired to go to beaches, a perfect island for bicycling - from the old port to the other end of the town it is 2.5km, the seafront road is completely flat, and one can also do the tour of the island in one and a half hours.
Horse riding, a trip to a theatre-experience of a lifetime at Ancient Epidauros (July/August festival) across on the mainland. Waterskiing and watersports from Aghia Marina beach and Aghii Anargiri.
July and August are explosively busy - predominantly Greek visitors, and the harbour fills up with spectacular yachts.
Mild days, balmy nights, warm seas, perfect for a little culture or gentle rambles. If you are here early September you can join the festivities of the Armata - where a mock battle commemorating the Spetsiots defeat of the Turkish fleet in 1822 is staged, with cardboard Turkish flagships burned in the middle of the harbour, with splendid fireworks and dancing by all. Bouboulina is Greece's national heroine, a Spetsiot woman who took command of her husband's ship upon his slaughter, fought as bravely as her fellow male captains, and was also famed for her beauty, strength and love affairs!