Postcard from Poros: 5 Things to Enjoy in the Greek Saronic Islands
Back in early October I took a well-earned break with my boyfriend to the Greek island of Poros. It was our first time in Greece so we really had no idea what to expect, but happy to say that our first experience has left us wanting more.
The Greek flag at Poros clock tower
Greece is a vast country comprised of more than 200 islands, spanning the Aegeon, Ionian, Cretan and Mediterranean seas. I have to admit, choosing where to go as a first time visitor is hugely overwhelming task!
We were looking for a week of sun and simple relaxation to escape the city and clear the mind after a busy summer. Put off by the cost of the more popular destinations of Crete and Santorini (although it's definitely on my list!), we started looking for something a little more off the beaten track.
Vista overlooking the sea and mountains from Poros town
Just an hour's boat trip away from Athens, with balmy temperatures into the autumn, we discovered the lesser known island of Poros in the Saronic Gulf. The more we read about this bijou destination situated at the edge of the Peloponnese region, the more it seemed the perfect bolthole for a relaxing short break.
For such a small place there was suprisingly enough things to see and do in the space of a week, in and around the island. Here's my pick of top things to see or do if you find yourself in this special part of the world.
1. POROS TOWN
Catching the ferry boat from Galatas to Poros
Our airport transfer took us on a 2-hour journey around the atmospheric Saronic coast until we reached Poros' neighbouring town, Galatas. Just a stone's throw away from the mainland, Poros town is reachable over the narrow causeway by local ferry boat.
Pomegranate trees bursting with fruit
Here you can get lost in its warren of pretty streets and painted houses where you'll find pomegranate trees bursting with fruit and fragrant jasmine bushes.
Picturesque streets in Poros Town - wearing Stylecamp's Ginger Dress in red
Being a port town, the main visitors to Poros come from yachts drifting from port to port, exploring the calm waters of the Saronic coast. Look on with envy at the array of sizeable luxury yachts and fishing boats that dock at the harbourside daily. Cafes and restaurants thrive in the area as a result, serving up lots of delicious Greek cooking.
Grand yachts line the harbourside in Poros
Up some steep steps is situated the town's clock tower, providing great views out to sea and the mountains. With the proximity of the mainland so close, Poros really feels like you're sat on the edge of a lake, even though it actually overlooks the Saronic Gulf.
Stunning views out to sea from Poros
Poros offers some of the most spectacular views of the Saronic region, with ever changing colours as the sun rises and sets. We never tired of the views from our apartment and terrace. It's what many of the famous artists and writers who have frequented the island rave about when they recount their time spent in this special place.
Beautiful scenery from around Poros town
2. GET ACTIVE
Cycling around Poros
With the island being barely big enough to have any real need for a car, we decided to rent a couple of mountain bikes to get get around for, you know, 'health' benefits. We set off with a picnic in tow to find the various beaches dotted around the island.
Love Bay, Poros
Feeling pumped after cycling past picturesque Love Bay and taking in views of the island round to the old Russian Naval Base (once used during the Greek Revolution, now an eerie ruin), I had the brilliant idea of cycling the entire loop of the island. For the non-infomed, it turns out Poros is quite hilly and mountainous in places.
The eerily deserted beach at Russian Bay
Despite the hard leg work, a journey around the back roads of the island is well worth it. We discovered a farmland plain at the island peak, lots of hidden bays, stunning views over the Peloponnese mountain ranges, and that we did have the stamina for mountain biking after all.
Cycling to Monastiri beach in Poros
Our favourite spot to cycle to was the sandier Monastiri beach, located on the coastal road heading farthest east. A beautiful olive grove leads up to the crystal clear waters, looking out towards the mainland. A lovely spot for an afternoon's swimming.
Monastiri beach, Poros
Picturesque Monastiri beach - wearing Stylecamp's Ava beach set in red
And of course, what goes up must come down, so for our all our efforts we were treated to an exhilarating 10 minute ride whizzing down the mountain through the island's fragrant pine forests - the smell was incredible.
Food with a view! Cake and baklava from Poros
One of things I was most looking forward to when visiting Greece was sampling the food. Lots of fresh, flavourful salads topped with expertly cooked meats, hearty stews and the inclination to put olive oil on (almost) everything.
Poros is one of those places that does attract tourism, so a lot of the restaurants do bear the hallmark 'menu touristique'. However, have a closer look and you can get a really good taste of authentic Greek cuisine.
There's a lot to like: feta cheese pastries drizzled with local honey; superb meat and vegetable platters; a Santorini chicken salad sprinkled with sweet paprika; melt in your mouth lamb stifado with all the cinnamon-y goodness; flavoursome pork tenderloin; orzo; noodles; we had it all (can I go back?).
The bakery in Poros
We also had sweet things. Tucked away along one of the main thoroughfares of the labarynthine streets of Poros is this little bakery. It served up all kinds of delicious baklava, rich walnut cake and fresh lemon sponges, all drenched in impossible amounts of syrup. Excuse me, while I head off to do another gruelling mountain bike ride...
Getting to know the local cats in Hydra - wearing Stylecamp's Marlene jumpsuit
Up early for the first ferry to the better known island of Hydra. Only 45 minutes away is the Greek equivalent of the glamorous French Riviera, a popular tourist destination also frequented by celebrities who come here for its picturesque streets, its timewarp feel and sense of pure escapism.
The ampitheatre setting of Hydra harbour
By law, vehicles not allowed here, a measure taken to preserve the integrity of the island, so the only way to get around these steep streets is by walking or by donkey.
Donkeys in Hydra
From the impressive port you can tell maritime culture is very important here, and it's worth a visit to one of the original elaborate Mariners' houses to view examples of 18th century island furniture from a more prosperous time.
At Lazaros Koundouriotis' mansion in Hydra - can I paint my house yellow?!
The port town itself is quite compact and it's wonderful to get lost in the myriad of cobbled streets with tumbling bougainvalia and the odd donkey passing you by.
Exploring in Hydra - wearing Stylecamp's Ginger dress in white
There are also plenty of restaurants and shops to keep you occupied. We loved restaurant Techne, just outside of the town, for it's delicious modern Greek cuisine and a chocolate pud to die for.
Techne restaurant, Hydra
If you fancy change of scene from the main town, you can walk the coastal route or take a water taxi around the island to the various shingle beaches and small villages that line the coast. Yes, I walked it in those heels!
Coastal walking route, Hydra - wearing the Ava two piece set in white
Taking the coastal walking route
With only a short day trip (the last boat left at 6pm) and a bit of a walk behind us, there wasn't enough time to truly explore, but in future I would definitely schedule a few nights stopover here, to see what else this historical place has to offer.
Athens vista with the Acropolis
On our last day, and with an evening flight home ahead of us, we decided to take the early 8am hydrofoil to Athens for a day exploring the city. I'd always wanted to see the ancient Greek ruins and this gave us the perfect opportunity.
I'm not going to lie, turning up at Athens' bustling Piraeus port first thing in the morning with all your luggage is HECTIC. However, once we'd found the place to store our luggage for the day, our worries lifted and we were free to explore.
After grabbing some breakfast in a quaint little coffee shop in bustling Monastiriki, we headed up the steep streets through the picturesque neighbourhood of Plaka to see the main event.
The Acropolis, Athens - looking very busy at midday!
Standing high up on its huge rocky plateau, the Acropolis is truly an awesome sight. On the walk up we took in some sprawling views over the city, taking in the still-standing architecture from the many civilisations that make up modern day Athens. There is ancient history everywhere you look.
The Roman market in Athens
Visiting the Acropolis and the awe-inspiring Parthenon was definitely one of my highlights this trip. It is still very much under restoration and it was fascinating to see the painstaking methods being used to jigsaw the pieces back together.
The Acropolis, Athens
The daily cruise ship crush brings huge queues here around midday so we decided to bide some time instead in the National Garden, around a 20 minute walk away, inhabited with wild tortoises and some very noisy parakeets. It was a place of relative calm in such a manic city and you can find lots of archaeological sites dotted around there too.
A very grumpy wild tortoise in the National Garden, Athens
On the way home we had a treat of a dinner at Greek restaurant Melilotos back in Monsatiriki, a traditional restaurant with a trendy, modern feel and interior. The emphasis was on the best produce and the freshest food, with a daily changing menu. Highly recommended if you're ever in Athens!
We absolutely loved our holiday in Poros, finding it to be a tranquil, friendly and picturesque base from which to explore the Peleponnese and Saronic Islands. We got some much needed R&R.
WHERE WE STAYED
This holiday was undoubtedly made what it was by the quality of the accommodation we stayed in. We stayed at Sto Roloi, a set of tastefully restored authentic island houses and apartments.
At this time of year (October) the out of season costs are more favourable, so you can really get a quality place to stay for your money. We were lucky enough to stay in two of their apartments during our break - the Anemone house with garden (and pool!) and the Terrace apartment with roof terrace - each beautifully decorated with their own special charm.
Sto Roloi Island houses - Pictures c/o Sto Roloi
The team at Sto Roloi were so friendly and accommodating, from organising our transfers from the airport, to housekeeping, maintenance and even meeting us first thing in the morning to collect our luggage when we got the early boat home.
In early October it's possible to get caught out by the weather, although I hear it rarely rains on Poros. It was quite overcast for the first few days, but when the sun did come out, we enjoyed temperatures around 24° - warm enough to wear lots of my favourite Stylecamp pieces!
Overlooking Poros town at dusk - wearing Stylecamp's floral Marlene jumpsuit