The island of Spetses administratively belongs to the Prefecture of Attica to the group of Argosaronikos islands, although its proximity to the Peloponnese mainland puts it geographically in Argolis. It is extremely popular due to the high-society Athenians, who retreat to their villas on the island of Spetses every Easter, summer and the weekends throughout the year. Spetses is in general a very tranquil and remote island but the island’s main city Dapia is a very lively place.
Although private cars are barred, the authority of the island does allow other vehicles on the narrow streets including taxis, buses and delivery trucks.
The tiny port of Dapia is overlooked by whitewashed, neoclassical houses and fringed by smart cafés and stylish boutiques. There is something timeless about the city, and indeed the island itself.
It is as close to the idyllic hellenic picturesque as you can imagine: fishermen lay out their catch by the seafront as the locals stroll along the promenade, past impressive villas, domed churches and traditional taverns with tables lining the road.
This is an island where your senses immediately come alive: the air, refreshingly warm, blows the breeze of the sea on one moment and the freshly baked pastries on the other. The secluded beaches, pine-clad hills and ancient pretty churches are within walking distance of Dapia. The island has an authentic charm, having remained relatively undiscovered by visitors despite only being a two-hour boat ride from Piraeus.
The Spetsiots are very proud of the natural beauty and history of their island. Visiting the museums of Spetses, everybody can see and admire the long and glorious naval history and tradition of it. The House of Hadjiyannis Mexis who was one of the local leaders during the 1821 War of Independence is located to the southwest of the town-a five-minute walk from the harbour. It is a late 18th century mansion which hosts a museum exhibiting relics including objects from the 1821 War of Independence, letters of war heroes, a folk art collection and many others. More than a 4,000-year history of the island is displayed into this museum.
The Bouboulina Laskarina’s mansion was built in the 17th century and its shape, the wood curved Florentine ceilings and its furniture are indicative of the importance of its owner. Nowadays is the privately-owned Bouboulina’s Museum, who was a significant heroine of the 1821 War of Independence, and mainly exhibits artefacts from that period as old weapons, fine porcelain, and rare books and so on. It is open daily in high season, with guided tour provided in Greek and English several times a day. Did you know that streets all over Greece and Cyprus are named after Spetses’ famous daughter and heroine, Bouboulina?
Other interesting attractions include the Mansion of Sotirios Anargyros, an early 20th Century neoclassical building which is the most brilliant construction of this century in Spetses. Sotirios Anargyros (1849-1929), who was the local benefactor of the island, built his mansion to resemble an egyptian mansion or temple. It is located just behind the waterfront cafeterias in Spetses Town.
To the north of town are the Poseidonion Hotel and the Daskalakis Electricity Factory. The Poseidonion was constructed in the early 20th century and attracted the rich and famous of Athens in its heyday, but has fallen into disrepair as of late. Renovations began in 2006 to convert it back into a luxury hotel. The Daskalakis factory, which used to provide the island with electricity and ice, has been converted into a luxury hotel.
The Anargyrios School, built on the principles of a British Boarding School in the mid-20th century.
The Chancellery is the first building one comes upon on disembarking at Spetses Town port. It was the meeting place of town elders before the War of Independence. In the first year of Independence it functioned as the Town Hall. The ground floor is now a shop and cafe.
The Aghioi Pantes nunnery, a half-hour walk from Spetses Town, commanding spectacular views over the beach of Aghia Marina and the neighbouring privately-owned island of Spetsopoula. On a clear day the views stretch out to the island of Hydra and the Mountain of Parnon on the Peloponnese.
The tiny church of the Prophet Elias on the mountaintop of Spetses. It’s a steep climb from Spetses Town, but the view from the top is fascinating. The dirt road continues down the other side of the island to the beach of Aghioi Anargyroi.
Other interesting sights to visit are the fortified former monastery of Aghios Nikolaos, now the Cathedral of Spetses. This was where the Spetsiots declared the War of Independence, on Palm Sunday (3 April) 1821.
A walk to the Old Harbour is considered a must for visitors to the island. The coastal road is closed to vehicles in the evenings during summer season, making it a pleasant outing all the way from Spetses Town, passing by some of the most spectacular mansions, the marina with all the luxury yachts and cruise ships, all the way to the little church of the Panaghia Armata and the Lighhouse, one of the first to be built in Greece, in 1837, and still in use.
The celebrations of the Panaghia Armata (a church that was built to honour the victory of the Greeks against the ottoman fleet) are the highlight of the summer season on Spetses, attracting as many as 40,000 visitors and culminating in the re-enactment of the 1822 naval battle between the Greek forces and the Turkish Armada. The week-long celebrations culminate on the second weekend of September each year, and also include concerts and other cultural events.
Easter is also a very popular time for visiting the island. Holy Week traditions are lovingly passed on from generation to generation, with the highlights being the Good Friday mass, where funeral processions from all parishes converge on Spetses Town for a final open-air mass, and the Saturday midnight celebrations of the Resurrection with fireworks.
Let’s take a look at the natural beauties of Spetses isle. The most popular beaches are Aghioi Anargyroi and Aghia Paraskevi on the west side of the island. The Bekiris Cave at Aghioi Anargyroi with its stalactites and stalagmites, its amazing blue-green water and a sandy beach on one side, is a must-see.
It is well worth climbing into a water taxi to explore the very picturesque Zogeria Beach, on the north edge of the island. Hidden in a cove at the foot of the hills, the small beaches feels like a secret shared only by those fortunate enough to have discovered them. Kaiki Beach so called from the beached hulk marking it and is as popular as Ibiza, water sports and taverns, is suitable for families, as also Xylokeriz beach with its untouched waters. Other picturesque beaches are Ligoneri (with sand and pebbles), Vrellos beach thriving in clubs, live performances and good diving and other beaches about a twenty minute walk along the main island road west of the main Dapia harbour such as the College Beach.
The island is offered for hiking and running. A comfortable trail runs from the top of Spetses town up to the central ridge of the island, where there are excellent views and a small church. (It takes just over an hour from the centre of town=mporei na paraliftei). From the ridge, trails lead off to other parts of the coast. The road that loops the island is very good for running. The surface is in good condition and the scenery is often stunning. For serious runners, the whole circuit is over 24km with 500m of ascent.
Restaurants abound in Spetses, especially in the high season, all in a walking distance from Dapia city. Several remain open even winter time.
Many of the popular bars of Spetses are located around the old harbour, which is the place to see. There are also several popular cafes and ouzeries clustered around the main Dapia harbour, and several more scattered along the coastal road leading northwest from town.
You can reach Spetses island by boat from Pireaus , or by driving up to the Kosta area in Peloponnese. But the highly recommended and the most comfortable and easy way to get to Spetses is flying with a helicopter which saves you time and giving you the opportunity to see and admire the beautiful Saronic picturesque.