A Guide to Spetses Island, Greece

The wonderful thing about vacations in Greece is that they are incredibly versatile. Many gorgeous Greek islands are only a couple of hours away from the coastline. Of them, the island of Spetses is queen.

Even if you planned to just visit Athens, you can still visit and enjoy Spetses with just a couple of hours’ drive and 15 minutes of ferrying! You won’t be disappointed. It’s no accident that Spetses is considered a gem by the locals, picturesque, romantic, full of history, and with great food.

This guide will tell you everything you need to know to best enjoy Spetses and make the most of your vacation there.

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How to get to Spetses

The verdant island of Spetses is part of the Saronic Islands group, located very close to the Peloponnese. It is so close that a ferry from the Porto Heli port in the Peloponnese’s Argolis peninsula only takes 15 minutes to arrive at the island of Spetses.

There are different ways to travel to Spetses, all of them taking roughly 3 hours:

First, as already mentioned, you can drive to Porto Heli and take the 15-minute ferry to Spetses.

You can take a ferry from Athens’ Piraeus port to take you directly to Spetses. Usually, the ferry is a high-speed catamaran or hydrofoil but make sure you check what vessel you’ll be booking a seat on before you buy. Different high-speed ferries have different amenities and specifications.

Click here for the ferry timetable and to book your tickets.

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When is the best time to visit Spetses

Like everywhere in Greece, Spetses’ climate is Mediterranean, which means hot, dry summers and mild, damp winters. Climate change is making both a tad more extreme, however, so keep in mind that the summers may be hotter and the winters may be colder than what’s typical for Greece.

Temperatures can go as high as 35 degrees Celsius in the summer and as low as 5 degrees Celsius in the winter. However, during heat waves in the summer, temperatures can go as high as 40 degrees Celsius.

Generally, the weather is mild in Spetses, with pleasant winds and sunny, bright days. The best season for visiting Spetses really depends on what vacation you’re going for: if you want to explore the island comfortably, then spring (from March to late May) is ideal since the weather is warm but not scorching, with cool evenings and nights.

If you want to lounge at the beach, summer is when you want to go. Opting for late summer (roughly September) is even better because the crowds won’t be as dense and the weather will be mellow while still hot.

Winter is exceptionally mild in Spetses, with several sunny days, so visiting then is also an option. However, you have to keep in mind that the selection of accommodation, eateries, and attractions is more limited than in Spring, Summer, and Autumn.

Getting around Spetses

Spetses is an extremely picturesque island with gorgeous, iconic architecture that heralds back to Venetian times and Greece’s neoclassical era. That excellent ambiance is preserved by strictly forbidding cars on the island!

That’s right. You won’t be able to use a car while you’re in Spetses, especially not within city limits, so keep that in mind when booking ferry tickets if you have rented a car in Athens.

The available transportation that is allowed is as follows:

  • Taxis and private transfers

Some taxis and private transfers are available. You can book them by calling any of the phones listed here. If you need to call from a non-Greek number, the code for Greece is +30. However, getting a Greek phone number for your vacations is the best and cheapest option.

  • Bikes

If you are the biking type, Spetses is the island for you! You can bicycle anywhere in Spetses as that is one of the main modes of transportation. You can also use a motorbike, but during certain times of the day, riding motorbikes is not allowed in certain areas (such as the coastal road). Make sure to be informed about when and where you can use a motorbike from Spetses’ tourist police (phone number is 2298073100).

  • Water taxis

These small vessels (some traditional and some modern) will take you anywhere around Spetses’ coasts and nearby areas. You book them like you would any taxi, mostly from Dapia port, but you can find them elsewhere. You can book one by calling the water taxi numbers here.

A brief history of Spetses

Spetses boasts 8000 years of continuous habitation, with evidence of Mesolithic and Neolithic settlements having been found scattered around the island. There were also Mycenean settlements and as time moved on, Spetses was used for erecting stone observatories by the Ancient Greeks. At the time, Spetses’ name was Pitiousa which means “the one with many pine trees”.

During Byzantine times, people fleeing from the Goth raiders came to resettle on the island. Later on, when a considerable part of Greece came under Venetian rule, the Venetians called the island Spetses, signifying the importance it had due to its position in the spice trade routes.

When the Ottoman Turks took over the island, soon unrest began by the local settlers there, which made the Turks sack the village they had on Spetses and force the settlers to desert the island. It was resettled in the late 1700s when the Russians needed a safe haven in their maritime trade routes.

That’s when Spetses acquired its characteristic profile as a hub of a highly successful seafaring community that quickly became affluent thanks to its ever-growing fleet of commercial ships. During the Greek War of Independence in 1821, Spetses island was one of the first to raise the revolutionary flag.

The famous captain and war heroine Laskarina Boumboulina was local to Spetses and led the war waged at sea against the Ottomans. The Spetsiote wealth by captains and ship owners like her was poured into the Revolution and the Spetsiote fleet became devastating for the Turks on many occasions.

After the war, the seafaring community in Spetses progressively declined. In the 20th century, Spetses rose up again as a wealthy resort for rich Greeks and international cosmopolitans. Currently, Spetses remains a popular holiday destination for locals and tourists alike.

Things to do in Spetses

Spetses is the epitome of elegant vintage: from its beautiful Venetian style and neoclassical buildings to its winding streets and romantic quay, it lends itself to walking and simply experiencing it as you immerse yourself in its unique atmosphere. In Spetses, there is cosmopolitan flair and ample tradition and heritage, which creates its aristocratic beauty.

Here are some must-see and must-do things for when you’re in Spetses:

Explore Spetses

Taking long walks or hopping on one of the pretty carriages waiting to take you everywhere in Spetses is a great way to surround yourself with the feeling of long history and high-class elegance that are so iconic on the island.

Visit the Old Harbor, called Baltiza, and its gorgeous turn-of-the-century houses, age-old palm trees, and beautiful port where traditional ships and yachts bob. Walk along the entirety of it and take in the sounds and sights. On its right side, you will see the Lighthouse, which is one of the oldest lighthouses that ever operated in Greece, with its first operation taking place in 1837.

Visit Spetses’ Museum

Spetses’ Museum is housed in a two-floor mansion that was initially owned by Hatjiyiannis-Mexis, Spetses’ first governor, and was built in the late 18th century. The house itself is a gorgeous artifact, with amazing island views and beautiful construction.

The house has been perfectly preserved as it was during the Greek War of Independence when it was a hub of revolutionary activity. Walk through its doors and be transported back in time when Greece was fighting for existence.

The household artifacts, traditional costumes, weapons, and tools aside, you will also find the museum’s archaeological collections from Mycenean times to modern times.

Bouboulina Statue Spetses
Bouboulina Statue

Visit Boumboulina’s Museum

This museum is the actual mansion where Laskarina Boumboulina lived, the world-renowned war heroine of the Greek War of Independence. Perfectly maintained and preserved as it was in her time, the tour of this house around its garden and interior is a real treat.

You won’t only have a chance to admire the exquisite specimens of early 19th-century Greek art and international influences but also listen to Boumboulina’s fascinating story, which has everything an action movie and thriller would envy: political intrigue, intense battles at sea, kings, emperors, and astounding defiance, love, hate, and revenge.

The tour is in English and Greek, but you can also read the story in 19 more languages.

Visit the churches

Aghios Nikolaos - Spetses Greece

Aghios Nikolaos: This gorgeous church is the most popular one in Spetses. You can admire its tall marble bell tower made of marble from Tinos and its lovely yard with the beautiful archway.

This church was originally a monastery and it is where the island of Spetses declared its participation in the Greek Revolution in 1821. It is also where the body of Paul Marie Bonaparte, Napoleon’s younger brother, was kept in a barrel full of rum for five years before being given to the French Navy!

Church of Panagia Armata: This church was built to commemorate the defeat of the Ottoman fleet by the Spetsiote one in 1822. Construction began in 1824 and ended in 1830. It is a beautiful little chapel with a gorgeous view of the harbor and town. Go here for a stunning sunset.

Church of Aghion Panton: Walking through a beautiful forest of cypress trees, you will find the monastery of Aghion Panton with the impressive marble gateway. It is an active convent of nuns who paint gorgeous religious icons. Next to the church, you will find the cemetery where several famous or historical people are buried.

Hit the beaches

Spetses is known for its gorgeous beaches, usually lined with trees that offer shade and offering beautiful vistas for you to enjoy as you lounge by the emerald waters.

Aghioi Anargyroi beach Spetses
Aghioi Anargyroi beach

Aghioi Anargyroi beach: This is the largest and most popular beach of Spetses, around 12 km from the port of Dapia. Enjoy crystal clear waters that lap against sand and pebble. It is partly organized and very family-friendly. Don’t miss out on looking for and finding the famous Bekiri’s Cave to which you need to swim.

Kaiki beach: This is a popular beach close to town. It is a gorgeous pebbly beach with azure waters. During the summer there is a beach bar and decent organization with sunbeds and umbrellas to protect you from the sun.

Xilokeriza beach in Spetses
Xilokeriza beach

Xilokeriza beach: 8 km to the southeast of Dapia port, you will find this verdant, gorgeous beach with trees that kiss the cyan waters. It is family-friendly and has some sunbeds and umbrellas and a quaint tavern for when you feel hungry!

Aghia Paraskevi beach
Aghia Paraskevi beach

Aghia Paraskevi beach: About 10 km west of Dapia port you will find this rather secluded, quiet sandy beach surrounded by lush vegetation and crystal clear, emerald, and blue waters.

See the Armata Festival

If you are planning to visit Spetses in September, don’t miss out on the bombastic festival of the Armata! It takes place on the second week of September every year, and it is the most important festival of Spetses. It commemorates the victory of the Spetsiote fleet over the Ottoman one on September 8th, 1822.

Armata festival Spetses

There are many artistic events, folklore dancing, music events, and theatrical performances over the entire week. But the festival peaks on Saturday with a dramatization of the naval battle being commemorated, complete with real ships that take part and a big flagship built for this purpose. At the end of the battle, the flagship is burned in the sea under a massive fireworks display that closes the festival.

Watch a film in the open-air cinema

Watching films in fragrant, picturesque open-air cinemas is a Greek summer staple, and Spetses’ open-air cinema is historic. Enjoy the latest movie or a children’s event while nibbling on local delicacies and sipping refreshing cocktails.

Where to eat in Spetses

Liotrivi: This beautiful restaurant specializes in local and Mediterranean cuisine. Housed in an old 19th-century olive press and having a beautiful outdoor yard right over the lapping waters, you won’t be disappointed with the food or the view.

Mourayio Bar and Restaurant: Another beautifully historical building has been converted into an excellent restaurant and bar. A 19th-century munitions storehouse and owned by the descendant of one of Spetses’ Independence War heroes, this is where you begin a vibrant party night!

On the Verandah: If you’re looking for fine dining, look no further than the historic Hotel Poseidonio’s restaurant. Degustation menus, vegan or gluten-free options, excellent presentations, and gorgeous surroundings will make dining at On the Verandah an unforgettable experience.

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