Poros Island in Greece is perfect for anyone wishing to combine exploring Athens with the experience of a gorgeous Greek island. Like all the Saronic islands, it’s a great option for a quick dash to an island when locals seek to escape the city. But it’s also great for lovers of lush verdant landscapes, colorful architecture, crystal-clear waters, and sandy beaches.
If you are looking for flexibility in your vacations, and to satisfy the need for adventure, leisure, utter relaxation, culture, heritage, and easy access to the mainland, then Poros is the perfect choice. In short, Poros has it all and this guide will help you make the most of your vacation there!
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- A Guide to Visiting Poros Island
- Things to do in Poros
A Guide to Visiting Poros Island
Where is Poros?
Poros is located in the Saronic Gulf, right between the Aegina and Agistri islands. In truth, it’s not a single island, but a pair! One of the two islets is called Sphaeria and the other Kalavria. Poros’ Chora or the main town is on Sphaeria. A bridge connects Sphaeria to Kalavria.
Sphaeria is of volcanic origin, which means the lands in Poros are very fertile. That’s why Poros has rich vegetation, complete with a pine forest. It also combines a mountainous landscape with flat valleys and low hills. Poros’ mountain is called Vigla and it’s located at the center-west of the island. Its valley is towards the north, while most of the sandiest beaches are towards the south.
Poros is very close to Athens, which is why it’s so popular for short vacations. It’s so close to the shore you can literally go there by car!
When to visit Poros
The best time to visit Poros is from late May to late September. These are roughly the summer months in Greece where you can enjoy everything Poros has to offer with all of the available amenities, accommodations, and venues.
Peak season is roughly from mid-July to late August. If you plan to go then, expect more tourists and make sure to book well in advance as you will be competing with the locals as well as foreigners for rooms and tickets. Also, keep in mind that during peak season prices are at their highest, and finding bargains is the hardest.
The best time to enjoy Poros if you want to avoid peak season is June or September. September is the better choice as the sea is quite warm and the summer mellow, with most being back to school and back to work, but all the services of peak season are still going.
How to get to Poros
You can go to Poros by ferry and by car! Yes, you read that right.
If you opt to go by ferry, you need to go to Piraeus. If you are in Athens, it’s easy to do by taking the train (the green line) to Piraeus station or the X80 bus route. Both options can take you to Piraeus from Athens Airport or from Syntagma.
Once you are at Piraeus, you need to choose between taking the regular ferry or a hydrofoil. The regular ferry takes roughly 3 hours to take you to Poros while the hydrofoil only 1. There is also a difference in the ticket price and availability.
If you want to take the hydrofoil, it’s best to book your ticket in advance because you might not secure a seat in your chosen time slot during peak season. You also can’t have too much luggage or a car to transport.
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If you opt to go by car, you need to drive from Athens to Poros, you must first drive to the town of Galatas in the Peloponnese. Take the Athens-Corinth highway (the Greek National Road of Athens-Corinth) and pass through the Corinth Canal at the Isthmus. After that, follow the signs to Epidaurus until the ones directing you to Galatas start popping up.
Once you are at Galatas, take the 10-minute car ferry that will transport you from Galatas to Poros. Taking a car to Poros is an additional asset that gives you more freedom to explore this gorgeous island! Therefore, consider renting a car and booking what you need in advance so you get your choice of vehicle at a great price.
I recommend booking a car through Discover Cars where you can compare all rental car agencies’ prices, and you can cancel or modify your booking for free. They also guarantee the best price. Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.
A Brief History of Poros
During ancient times, Poros was recognized as the two separate islands Sphaeria and Kalavria. Sphaeria means “circular” and Kalavria means “where the good wind blows”. During Mycenean times, it was Kalavria that was the most powerful of the two islands, and it was dedicated to Poseidon.
Kalavria was an important naval base which later was annexed by the Persian Empire. When Athens helped these regions revolt against the Persians, Kalavria was included and participated in the Persian Wars.
Even later, after Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, Kalavria and Sphaeria became part of the territories of the Ptolemies, and thus part of Egypt. It is said that the great orator Demosthenes traveled to Poros, and ended his life on the island.
During medieval times, Poros was a target of pirates until the late 1400s when the Venetians took over. They used Poros as their strategic port in their fights and dealings with the Ottomans. Poros prospered so much that it became the most powerful city in the region and boasted 15,000 inhabitants, making it one of the biggest cities in Greece at the time.
Therefore, unlike the rest of Greece, Poros remained outside the influence of the Ottomans until the early 1700s. In 1715 the Ottomans occupied Poros. During the Greek War of Independence in 1821, Poros played a very important role as a strategic port against the Ottomans.
It was also a meeting place for the leaders of the Revolution as well as any other forces supporting the Greek effort for independence. Greece’s first state leader, Ioannis Kapodistrias, met there with representatives of England, France, and Russia to determine what the borders of the new Greek state would be in 1828.
Poros was also an official Russian naval base, which was then taken by Kapodistrias for the purposes of the Greek navy. Instead, Kapodistrias gave the Russians a new area in Poros which was better suited to their needs.
This new area remained active throughout the 19th century and made Poros a hub of Russian activity and Russian civilian life. The base was abandoned in the early 20th century and its facilities were declared an architectural monument of Poros by the Greek state in the 1980s.
Things to do in Poros
There are many things to see and do in Poros, as it is traditionally considered one of the prime vacation venues for the locals as well as tourists. From several activities to different sights to enjoy, here is a short list of what you should include in your list to really immerse yourself in the experience of this gorgeous island:
Explore Poros’ Chora
Poros’ main town is an architectural gem. Explore its stone-paved streets that weave in and out of beautiful neoclassical buildings that remain as monuments to Poros’ lush modern history and its part in the birth of the modern Greek state.
Walk along its stunning and well-maintained seafront promenade along its port, enjoying the view of the various yachts bobbing in the calm protected waters and the timeless mansions on the other side.
Stop for refreshments, coffee, or a meal in one of its many cafés and restaurants. To best enjoy the seafront promenade, opt to go in the late afternoon or early evening. Not only will you not have to worry about the relentless sun, but you will also get to enjoy the playful lights that reflect off the sea surface and the other people who will also be walking leisurely with you.
See the temple of Poseidon
Poros was dedicated to Poseidon, the god of the sea. Its temple was extremely important as it was the center of the region’s amphictyony. This means that the temple and its surrounding area were responsible for religious and civic administration for the entire surrounding region.
Today not much is left of the temple, but you can still see its foundations and the proof of how old and powerful it was, as it was built in the early, Doric style but had influences of the Ionian rhythm.
This temple is said to be where Demosthenes ended his life. He fled to the temple to seek sanctuary when he was being chased by King Philip of Macedonia for his anti-Macedon speeches. It is said that he eventually committed suicide by poison while in the temple.
While you are there, make sure to take in the beautiful view of the sea!
Visit the Archaeological Museum of Poros
Complete your immersion in the powerful past grandeur of Poros by visiting the archaeological museum. Founded in 1960, the museum is housed in a beautiful neoclassical building donated by the Koryzi family.
It has exhibits excavated from the temple of Poseidon and the rest of Poros and Argolida in the Peloponnese. The collections date from the Mycenean to Roman times. Make sure you take a look at the funerary style and the items retrieved from one of the most powerful temples of antiquity, including the remaining foot of a five-meter statue of Poseidon.
Visit the Public Library
At the main square of Poros’ Chora where the Archaeological Museum is, you will also find the Municipal Library. This is also housed in a beautiful neoclassical building and has some interesting exhibitions to enjoy, as well as a small cinema room used for displays.
One of the permanent collections you should check out is the Seashells and the Sea exhibition of Poros’ sea bed and other geological information about its volcanic and sedimentary islands.
Go to Poros’ Clock Tower
One of the first landmarks you will see coming into the port of Poros is its iconic, beautiful clock tower. It reigns over the buildings of the main town. Getting there is a bit of an upward slope, but it’s worth it!
The view from the clock tower is simply breathtaking: you will get to see the entirety of Poros’ Chora and the deep, azure blue of the sea. It’s a spot that’s extremely popular with photographers, especially during sunrise and sunset.
Visit the Russian Naval Dockyard
A powerful testament to Greece’s recent history and the importance of Poros to the Greek effort for independence, the Russian Naval Dockyard is the site of the old naval base the Russians had on the island. The gorgeous beach right opposite the main building is where the first Russian ships docked, having arrived to aid the Greek rebellion against the Ottomans.
The buildings are quite decayed by now, but still resist the passage of time enough to give you an atmospheric experience before you hit the beach!
Walk through the Lemon Forest
The gorgeous Lemon Forest of Poros is living up to its name. It’s a huge and dense grove of lemon trees that scent the air in May when they blossom, and stand proud and full of ripe lemons during the summer. The grove is beautiful around the year, offers thick, cool shade, and is great to walk through on your way to visit other important landmarks, such as the Monastery or one of the churches.
The gorgeous watermills and little waterfall that you will discover nestled between the trees once you are there are the extra treat in this unique experience.
Visit the historic Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi
This beautiful monastery is imbued with history and religious significance. It was founded in the early 1700s by Iakovos the Second, the Archbishop of Athens when he drank from the water of a spring at the site. This water cured him of his previously incurable, long-term illness.
During the Greek War of Independence, the monastery played a crucial part as a refuge for soldiers fighting against the Ottomans. Many of the most renowned captains and fighters of the Independence War were reported to have found solace in this Monastery.
Later, Ioannis Kapodistrias, Greece’s first governor, founded an orphanage for the orphans of the fighters who served in the war. You can still see its areas in the Monastery today.
When you visit, make sure you look out for the sundial at the southern wall, the Monastery’s gorgeous church with its stunning 5-meter tall iconostasis, and the tombs of two war heroes that are within. There are several old icons to admire and a silver oil lamp that is said to be in thanks to the Virgin Mary for the miracle of ending a lengthy drought on the island in the 1990s.
Visit the Bourzi island
The Bourzi island is located just outside the port, on the eastern side. On it, there is the Bourtzi Fortress, which was built in the 4th century BC and named after the Ptolemaic general serving there.
The Fortress was in use to protect Poros from pirates throughout the centuries that followed and maintained or completely rebuilt over time. Ioannis Kapodistrias himself had the fortress rebuilt after the war in 1827 to help with ship protection. You can even swim to the island, as do the brave!
Hit the beaches
Poros is renowned for its gorgeous beaches with turquoise or emerald, calm, crystal-clear waters. You will have your pick of silky, golden sandy ones or smooth, pebbly ones. There are too many to list them all, but here are the best you should visit at least once:
Love Bay Beach: This stunning beach with the emerald waters and the lush trees lining it has it all. There is a portion that has fine sand and a portion that is pebbly. It’s well-organized and family-friendly. It is exotically beautiful, despite the organization. There is also a camping site within the forested area, as well as other amenities to use.
Askeli Beach: This big, gorgeous beach is also lined by lush pine forest. It is one of the most popular beaches in Poros and is well organized. The sunbeds are free, and provided by the Municipality.
There are also sea sports and diving school services available, as well as a lot more amenities and beach activities such as beach volleyball courts and more. Askeli Beach is near the small village of Askeli, so you will have a selection of tavernas and cafés to pick when you’re ready to refuel!
Russian Bay Beach: Directly in front of the Russian Dockyard ruins there is the beautiful Russian Bay Beach. It is sandy and organized, with turquoise waters and beautiful, atmospheric surroundings. This beach is accessible and friendly to people with disabilities, featuring a certified ramp and SEARTRAC rolling chair, as well as appropriate changing rooms and restrooms.
Vagionia Bay Beach: This beach is located on the north of the island and is characterized by its thick sand mixed with fine pebbles. It’s famous for its pristine waters. They are so transparent that you can see far into the seabed. If you are into snorkeling, don’t miss this beach! Swim underwater and see the remnants of an ancient city and its cobbled streets.