Back to Greece: Spetses, a one of a kind gem-island – World Meanderings (n°92)
By Annick Dournes & Frédéric de Poligny
Since the early years of the twentieth century the tiny and secret island of Spetses has been a trendy destination reserved for Athenians and international insiders. This small island where cars are forbidden has kept all its charm and offers an authentic concentrate of the Greek cool way of life. Easily reached from Athens, Spetses is an ideal change of scenery.
Being less famous than its sister islands of the Argosaronic Gulf Hydra or Aegina, Spetses has escaped mass tourism. With beautiful beaches, charming ports, simple yet delicious food and beautiful typical Greek houses Spetses has many assets to conquer your heart. This island is a real no-car island, only a few taxis and some trucks. No way to rent a car! But you will only find bikes (choose an electric one, that helps).
Laskarina Bouboulina, a Greek heroine from Spetses
Laskarina Bouboulina is a real historical figure but her life is like a picaresque novel. She was born in 1771 in a prison in Constantinople. At that time Greece lived under domination of Turkey and Lariska’s family had been jailed because of its revolutionary actions against the Ottoman Empire that ruled Greece for almost four centuries. She was 4 years old when her mother remarried and the new family moved to Spetses. Laskarina Bouboulina got married twice. Her second husband was a captain and ship-owner but he died prematurely, killed by pirates who, at that time, infested the Mediterranean Sea.
She was left alone with seven children and with a huge fortune. She turned out to be a great businesswoman owning several merchant ships and getting even richer. But since her childhood she had always been faithful to the revolutionary ideal of her father. She took an active role in the 1821 war of independence paying for arms and ships for the Greek fighters and also leading her men aboard her largest ship, the “Agamemnon”. After the Ottoman’s defeat she came back to Spetses where she enjoyed a quieter life in her beautiful palace. She died in unexpected circumstances shot by a member of the Koutsis family of which daughter had eloped with one of Laskarina’s son.
Today her elegant home has been turned into a museum that is one of Spetses main places of interest. The manor was open to the public in 1991 by one of Bouboulina’s descendant. Nicely decorated with period furniture, paintings and pieces of art the museum plunges us into the ambience of Laskarina’s life and of the Independence War.
Exploring Spetses Island
Spetses is a small and quiet island where people go to find restful holidays in beautiful sceneries. The best way to discover the island is to rent a bike. There are several bike rental shops in Dapia Port, the main port where all ferries arrive. Biking is very safe here since there are almost no cars on the island. Following the 26 km coastal road you will discover lovely sandy beaches waiting for you for a refreshing stop. There also are tracks going into the heart of Spetses and you can thus get to the island highest point from where you’ll get a panoramic view over the Argosaronic Gulf. A great place at sunset!
You can also go hiking or have a wonderful day on a fisherman boat, cook your own catch and enjoy a tasty kakavia the local traditional fish soup. In Spetses town centre many shops await you in the maze of small cobbled streets lined with typical white and blue houses half hidden under lush Bougainvillea bushes. Don’t miss to walk a little further away to the old port where you will find many restaurants serving simple but tasty food.
Poseidonion Grand Hotel, a must since 1914
Ideally located near Dapia Port and facing the sea the Poseidonion Grand Hotel is a 5-star hotel that welcomes royals, jetsetters and mere tourists seeking understated and elegant luxury on a beautiful Greek island far from mass tourism. The hotel has been entirely restored a few years ago respecting the spirit of the original hotel. A complete success!
The main lounge, directly linked to the Library, with its plush armchairs, is a tempting place to have a coffee or a drink, depending of your mood, or even just to enjoy reading one of the beautiful books put on table at your disposal. The Library Brasserie offers a tasty gastronomy with its all-day dining options serving a range of light meals, snacks and desserts. The Library Brasserie is the perfect choice for relaxing throughout the day.
The rooms are exceptionally big and offer an elegant mix of period and modern furniture. The suites are really fabulous. After a good night sleep in a top-quality bedding you will be ready to enjoy a great buffet breakfast filled with fresh local produce, breads and pastries of the day and a range of organic eggs from the Bostani Organic Farm cooked at your liking.
During your stay don’t miss going to the “farm-to-table” restaurant, the Bostani. Located in the hills of Spetses the restaurant is set on an outside terrace of the Bostani Organic Farm that belongs to the hotel. Here enjoying a wonderful view over the island and the sea, bathed in the scent of the pine trees you will be served extra-fresh produce cooked following ancient traditional recipes. Not to forget a fine wine pairing. All the seasonal ingredients grown at Bostani Farm are sustainably produced and turned into healthy and nutritional delicacies. The Botani Farm is also the main provider of daily fresh fruits, vegetable and eggs for the hotel restaurant.
The hotel also proposes a wide range of activities such as day boat tour, day cruise to Hydra, cycling, fishing, natural soap making workshop, horse riding, bread making course, tai chi chuan, beekeeping initiation, hiking… Due to the Covid-19 the hotel spa is not open but guests can have all the treatments in their rooms on request. In town the small streets shelter so many little charming shops that shopping addicts have only to walk a few steps…
Poseidonion Grand Hotel also is the perfect place to enjoy Spetses special events such as the Greek Orthodox Easter Holy Week during which many events are organised in a contemplative yet joyous atmosphere. Every year the Spetes Classic Yacht Regatta offers a spectacular sea show gathering for four days classic boats, traditional caïques, traditional Lateens or Dragons. The Poseidonion Grand Hotel supports the event and is a great place to live the spirit of the regatta at its best.
Every year in September Spetses celebrates the Greek War of Independence. During the Armata dozens of boats parade on the clear blue sea and the celebrations culminate with a re-enactment of the burning of an Ottoman flagship in the harbour followed by a big firework display. This year the Armata will last from September 7 to September 13.
More information and booking at www.poseidonion.com/en/
Getting to Spetses
There are direct speedboats linking Athens port to Spetses in less than 3 hours. If you are touring in Greece with a car remember that you won’t be able to get on the island with your car. The best thing to do is to leave your car in the paid guarded parking lot in Kosta, a small harbour close to Porto Heli. From Kosta port you will take one of the numerous charming taxi-boats that will take you to Dapia Port in just a few minutes. If you choose to stay at the Poseidonion Grand Hotel, your private taxi-boat will directly drop you in front of the hotel and the hotel porter will wait for you and your luggage.
A few days stay in Spetses can be an attractive extension from a city break in Athens, but often for international travellers it’s part of their Greek journey that most of the time includes a complete Peloponese tour visiting Epidaurus, Corinth, Mycenae, Naflio or Olympia just to name a few.
Organizing such a tour can be tricky for individual travellers. To make it simple why not call in a Greek expert travel agent such as “Yalos Tours” that for years has worked for thousands of international tourists and tourism professionals. They can provide for everywhere in Greece hotel booking, car rental, ferry reservation… and any special request you may have.
For individual travellers: www.yalostours.gr (with English version)
For travel agents: www.yalostours.net (BtoB platform available in English)
Aegean Airlines, the obvious way to fly to Greece:
Aegean Airlines whose daily flights from London have already resumed, propose many destinations through Greece (mainly via Athens and Thessaloniki) is expected to have more flight options during this high season from Dublin and later on from Manchester and Edinburgh. It’s a good value-for-money company even if due to this sanitary crisis the on-board service had to be made simpler than before. All info on Aegean website:
Text and Photos ©Frederic de Poligny and Annick Dournes