Information about the island of Spetses

spetsesSpetses is one of the Saronic Gulf islands located 98 kilometres south west of the port of Piraeus Greece and just a 15-minute boat hop from the Peloponnesian coastline. It’s the greenest of the Saronic islands with pine forests that sweep down from the central hills to picturesque coves which attract foreign tour groups along with hordes of Athenian weekenders.

In antiquity the island was called Pityoussa (meaning pine tree island) but the forests were decimated largely by the lucrative ship building industry which brought great riches to Spetses in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Wealthy philanthropist Sotirios Anargyrios, who was born on Spetses in 1848 but made his fortune in the USA, bought two thirds of his barren homeland and set about creating the pine-covered slopes which greet today’s visitors.

The most popular and crowded beach on the west coast, Agios Anargyri, takes its name from the island’s great benefactor as does the English-style boarding school on the outskirts of Spetses Town.

The Anargyrios and Korgialenios College is only used for the occasional conference and summer course these days but is of enduring interest to fans of renowned author John Fowles who taught English here for two years in the 1950s. The island was the inspiration for one of Fowles’ greatest works, The Magus.

spetses-chora-mansionLike its neighbour Hydra, Spetses retains much of the grandeur and old-world elegance of its heyday as an important shipbuilding and maritime trading centre. The main town is peppered with imposing 200-year-old mansions with pebble mosaic courtyards, built by wealthy sea captains and successful merchants many of whom made their fortunes by running the British blockade during the Napoleonic Wars.

Spetses is not a totally traffic-free island like Hydra but only residents are allowed cars and the use of them is severely restricted. Mopeds and motorbikes, however, zip around the town in large numbers and are the most popular way of getting around the island.

A fairly decent 25-kilometre road, mostly paved, loops around the entire coastline of the island and with a mountain bike you can explore the winding trails which zigzag across the interior. If you don’t want to join the pesky moped mob you can get around town in a horse-drawn carriage and use a water taxi to visit the island’s numerous pine-fringed coves.

You’ll find a plentiful supply of good quality eateries and ouzeris in Spetses Town and come nightfall the picturesque old harbour becomes a hive of activity with swarms of locals and visitors packing the numerous music bars and dance clubs that proliferate on and around the waterfront.

The island is served by a daily ferry to and from Piraeus (four and a half hours) and frequent Flying Dolphins which cut the journey time to two and a half hours (most stop at Hydra en route). Costa, on the eastern arm of the northern Peloponnese, is only 3.5 kilometres away – you get can there by water taxi in quarter of an hour.


spetses-historyBased on the archaeological finds, Spetses was first inhabited around the third millennium BC.In ancient times, Spetses was called Pityonissos and Pityousa because of the many pine trees on the island. The Franks, from whom the island gets its current name, called it “Spezia” which meant perfumed island.

During the Frankish period, the island was dominated by the Venetians, who were succeeded by the Turks. The original medieval settlement of Spetses was located in today’s Kastelli area. The current city was built at the end of the 18th century.

Since 1770, the people of Spetsiota have been fighting with the rest of the Greeks to win their independence. In 1821, Spetses is one of the first islands, along with Hydra and Psara. who raise the flag of the revolution and thanks to the large merchant fleet they had, they played a decisive role in the struggle.

At this time, the fighters of Specios are particularly distinguished, the most famous being Laskarina Bouboulina, Hatzigiannis Mexis and Kosmas Barrbatsi, who achieve heroic feats such as the burning of the Turkish Armata.

This commercial fleet of Spetses was until then a source of income for the island, which after the revolution is slowly being led into decline, and its population is decreasing.

What to See

poseidonionThe main harbour of Spetses, where the ferries and hydrofoils arrive, is studded with cannons dating back from the War of Independence (1821-1822) and is a perfect place for people-watching from one of the many bars and cafes which line the waterfront.

The islanders played a crucial role during the 19th century uprising against the Turks, dedicating their impressive fleet and many a bold warrior to the cause. The well-preserved black and white pebble mosaic on Dapia’s main square commemorates the moment during the war when the first flag bearing the motto “Freedom or Death” was raised.

One of the boldest and most colourful characters of the War of Independence was an extraordinary Spetsiot woman called Laskarina Bouboulina. She was the daughter of a naval sea captain and after being widowed by two wealthy seafarers she devoted her time (and sizeable inheritance) to building her own war fleet.

You can see the house where Bouboulina lived behind Dapia, just off the port. Guided tours in English take place daily. Her bones, adorned with the revolutionary flag, are kept in the local museum which is housed in an imposing mansion once owned by Chatzi-Giannis Mexis who was the first governor of Spetses. The museum contains archaeological finds, figureheads from Bouboulina’s ships and various other mementoes of the War of Independence.

spetses-port-viewThe Old Harbour is a wonderful place to explore with its 200-year-old mansions and many fine mosaics decorating the courtyards and streets.

The harbour is awash with luxury yachts, small fishing boats and the hulls of traditional caiques still being built with much the same tools and methods that were used to construct Bouboulina’s awesome Agamemnon.

The Monastery of Agios Nikolaos in the Old Harbour is the oldest church in town with a beautiful bell tower (on which the Greek flag was first raised on the island after the war) and some beautiful mosaics.

A plaque at the entrance to the church commemorates Napoleon’s nephew, Paul Marie Bonaparte, who died in the war and was pickled in a barrel of rum. The barrel was stored at the church for several years after the war.

The Museum of Spetses

The Museum of Spetses is situated in the mansion of Laskarina Bouboulina, one of Greece’s most celebrated heroines from the War of Independence against the Ottomans. This museum not only serves as a tribute to her life and achievements but also showcases an array of exhibits from the island’s participation in the revolution. Visitors can explore rooms furnished in the 19th-century style, maritime artifacts, old maps, and portraits of important historical figures, giving a comprehensive glimpse into the island’s storied past.

The Hatzigiannis Mexis Museum

This museum is located in one of the oldest and most prominent mansions in Spetses, belonging to Hatzigiannis Mexis, another significant figure in the Greek War of Independence. The museum houses an extensive collection of personal objects, documents, and artworks from the 17th to the 19th century. Highlights include historical documents, traditional costumes, and weaponry used during the revolutionary period, offering insight into the life and times of Spetses during its most tumultuous periods.

The Cathedral of St. Nicholas

Located near the port, the Cathedral of St. Nicholas is not just a religious landmark but also a historical one. It served as a meeting point for the leaders of the Greek Revolution in 1821. The church houses the remains of Bouboulina and is adorned with beautiful icons and a carved wooden iconostasis, reflecting the art and religious devotion of its era.

Anargyrios and Korgialenios School of Spetses

This historic institution was founded in the early 20th century with the aim of reviving the island’s educational heritage. The school’s impressive neoclassical buildings are set amidst a lush pine forest, offering not only a glimpse into the educational practices of the past but also stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Today, the school operates as a center for conferences and seminars, preserving its educational tradition while contributing to the island’s cultural life.


dapiaIn addition to the Old Port with its picturesque fishing trawlers and the beach promenade towards it with its magnificent and pale white two-storey captain’s houses, a word synonymous with the stately island of Spetses is also the characteristic and imposing square of Dapia, which is a point of reference, both for the locals , as well as for the island’s visitors.

It is the first thing one sees upon arriving here and is located at the port of the island. Historically, it was the old artillery of the island, with the many cannons you will see around testifying to this, while here, in fact, was the gathering place of the captains and nobles, during the Revolution of 1821.

Today, Dapia is the point where the ship arrives. From here a coastal road goes east to the Old Port and another west to Schools. It is also an ideal point to start your walk through the picturesque streets towards the interior of the island and towards the southern beaches.

It is worth mentioning that on its territory the exquisitely crafted mosaics made of round colored pebbles are admirable. Don’t forget that Spetses has faithfully preserved its architecture and knows how throughout time to arouse the admiration of every visitor with samples of excellent aesthetics.

Spetses Town

spetses-choraThe capital of Spetses is the homonymous city of the island.Since 1967, vehicle traffic has been prohibited on the island. These restrictions were deemed necessary as the traditional town planning of the island was not suitable for the mass use of vehicles and, among other things, they would protect the character of the island.

The heart of Spetses beats in Dapia, with its neoclassical mansions and cobbled streets. Around the square of Dapia are most of the shops, the port where the dolphins moor, but also the most important museums.

spetsesBased on the secular Dapia, the visitor can enjoy his walk in the old port with the tarsanades, in Kounoupitsa, or in the picturesque Kastelli and in the forest of Spetses.

Today, Spetses has two ports. The new central port of Dapia serves the island’s coastal shipping needs, while the water taxis of Spetses line up in the small bay just below the cannon station.

The Old Port of Spetses is located at the eastern end of the city and functions more like a marina. In this traditional port of Spetses with the old dockyards, you will also find the boats of the Spetses fishermen. It is a historical attraction of Spetses, one of the famous ports of the 19th century.

Local Culture

Spetses boasts a vibrant local culture that reflects its rich history and maritime traditions. This small island is deeply connected to its past, celebrating it through numerous festivals, traditions, and daily practices that offer visitors a genuine insight into the local way of life. Here’s an expanded view on how culture is interwoven into the fabric of Spetses:

The most iconic cultural event on Spetses is the Armata Festival, held every September. This spectacular festival commemorates the naval battle of 1822 during the Greek War of Independence, where the islanders played a pivotal role in defeating the Ottoman fleet.

The highlight is a dramatic reenactment of the battle, featuring a mock sea fight and ending with the burning of a boat, all set against a backdrop of fireworks. The week-long celebration also includes traditional dancing, music performances, and other cultural exhibitions, attracting visitors from across Greece and the world.

Easter in Spetses is an experience of its own. The island celebrates with a mix of solemn religious rites and joyous community gatherings. One of the most poignant moments is the Good Friday procession, where the epitaphios (a symbolic bier of Christ) is paraded through the town, adorned with flowers and accompanied by locals carrying candles. Easter Sunday brings a more festive atmosphere with communal feasts, where roasted lamb and traditional sweets are shared amongst families and visitors alike.


Spetses offers a diverse array of activities that cater to all tastes, from the leisurely explorer to the adventure enthusiast. Whether you’re interested in immersing yourself in the island’s natural beauty, indulging in water sports, or exploring local traditions, there’s plenty to do. Here’s a more detailed look at the activities you can enjoy on this charming island:

spetses-moving-aroundDue to the restriction of private vehicles, cycling becomes a favored mode of transport and a wonderful way to explore Spetses. Rent a bike and take a leisurely ride along the coastal road from the Old Harbor to the historic lighthouse at the far end of the island. This route offers stunning sea views and passes by several of the island’s famed beaches and coves.

For a taste of old-world charm, a horse-drawn carriage tour is a must. These carriages, which are part of Spetses’ tradition, offer a romantic and quaint way to see the town, especially beautiful at dusk. The clippity-clop of horses’ hooves along the cobblestone streets enhances the magical, timeless feel of the island.

The crystal-clear waters of Spetses are ideal for a variety of water sports. Kayaking, paddleboarding, and snorkeling are popular, providing both fun and a unique way to view the island from the water. For the more adventurous, sailing and water skiing offer thrilling experiences. The island’s beaches, such as Agia Marina and Agioi Anargyroi, provide excellent bases for these activities with equipment rentals readily available.

Spetses is not only about its stunning beaches but also its lush pine forests and hilly terrain, which are perfect for hiking. There are several marked trails that offer scenic walks suitable for all levels of hikers. One of the most popular trails leads to the top of Profitis Ilias, where you can find the monastery and enjoy panoramic views of the Saronic Gulf.

Local Cuisine

local-spetzofaiThe local cuisine of Spetses is a delightful reflection of its rich maritime history and cultural influences. Known for its fresh seafood, local delicacies, and traditional Greek dishes, the island’s gastronomy is deeply rooted in Mediterranean flavors enhanced by the freshest local ingredients. Here’s a deeper dive into what makes the gastronomic scene in Spetses so special:

Given its location surrounded by the azure waters of the Aegean Sea, it’s no surprise that seafood is the star of Spetses’ culinary show. Tavernas along the waterfront serve up the day’s catch which can include everything from grilled sardines and fried calamari to more sophisticated dishes like red mullet and sea bream. The island’s signature dish, “Spetsiota,” is a must-try. This baked fish dish is typically made with grouper or snapper and is seasoned with onions, tomatoes, garlic, and plenty of olive oil, reflecting the island’s love for rich, flavorful, yet simple cooking.

No meal in Spetses is complete without a selection of mezes—small dishes perfect for sharing. These include local cheeses like the spicy kopanisti, olives, dolmadakia (stuffed grape leaves), and tzatziki. These dishes are not only a staple in local dining but also offer a palate-pleasing introduction to the flavors of Greece.


spetses-beachSpetses features a range of sandy shores and secluded pebble coves, all surrounded by the clear, turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea. On the more popular beaches like Agia Marina, visitors can enjoy a lively atmosphere with plenty of amenities including sunbeds, umbrellas, and water sports facilities. These well-organized spots are perfect for families and those looking to enjoy a full day of beachside relaxation and activities.

For those seeking tranquility and natural beauty, Spetses also offers quieter, more secluded beaches such as Zogeria and Vrellos. These are less commercial and provide a peaceful escape surrounded by lush greenery and the soothing sounds of the sea. Zogeria, in particular, is considered one of the most picturesque spots on the island with its stunning bay framed by pine trees.

Adventurous visitors can explore remote beaches like College Beach, accessible only by boat or through a hiking trail, offering a private and serene beach experience. Similarly, Agioi Anargyroi on the west side of the island draws those interested in exploring underwater caves and natural beauty.


Nightlife in Spetses offers a delightful variety of options that cater to different tastes, combining the island’s traditional charm with modern flair. From lively bars and elegant lounges to romantic seaside spots, Spetses provides an enchanting setting for evening entertainment. Here’s a closer look at what you can expect from a night out on this picturesque Greek island.

The heart of Spetses’ nightlife is along the harbor, particularly in Dapia and the Old Harbor area. Here, chic bars and clubs line the waterfront, bustling with locals and tourists alike. These venues often feature outdoor seating areas where you can enjoy the cool sea breeze while sipping on expertly crafted cocktails or local wines. The atmosphere is lively yet relaxed, with music ranging from international hits to traditional Greek tunes, ensuring a fun and engaging night for everyone.

During the summer months, beach parties are common and highly popular among the younger crowd. Agia Marina Beach and other coastal spots frequently host these events, where DJs spin everything from house to techno under the stars. These parties usually start late and go on until the early hours of the morning, offering a unique way to experience the island’s vibrant energy.

How to Get to Spetses

Getting to Spetses, is relatively straightforward, offering several options depending on where you are coming from. Here’s a detailed guide on how to get there, whether you’re flying in, taking a ferry, or driving from the Peloponnese.

By Air

For international travelers, the nearest major airport is Athens International Airport (Eleftherios Venizelos Airport). Once you land in Athens, you’ll need to transfer to the port of Piraeus to catch a ferry to Spetses.

By Ferry from Piraeus

From the port of Piraeus, which is easily accessible by taxi, bus, or metro from Athens airport, you can take a ferry to Spetses. The journey can vary depending on the type of ferry you choose.

High-speed ferries take about 2 to 3 hours and are the quickest way to reach the island. These are more frequent during the peak tourist season (summer months).
Conventional ferries are slower but can be more economical, taking about 4 to 5 hours.
It’s advisable to book your tickets in advance, especially in the high season, as ferries can fill up quickly.

By Car from the Peloponnese

If you are coming from the Peloponnese, or prefer to rent a car upon arriving in Greece, you can drive to the town of Kosta, which is directly opposite Spetses. Kosta is about a 2.5 to 3-hour drive from Athens, and the route is quite scenic, offering views of the Saronic Gulf as you near the coast.

From Kosta, you can take a very short water taxi or ferry ride to Spetses. The crossing takes just about 10 minutes. Water taxis are available 24 hours a day, which makes this a flexible option regardless of your arrival time at Kosta.

Best time to visit Spetses

Spetses enjoys a typical Mediterranean climate, making it a year-round destination with each season offering its own unique attractions. However, the best time to visit largely depends on what you’re looking to get out of your trip.

Spring, from late March to early June, is ideal for those interested in outdoor activities like hiking and cycling. The weather is pleasantly warm, not yet the peak heat of summer, and the landscape is vibrant with wildflowers and lush greenery. This time of year is less crowded, allowing for a more relaxed exploration of the island’s natural beauty and historical sites.

Summer, from late June to early September, is the peak tourist season. The island buzzes with energy as visitors from around the world come to enjoy the stunning beaches and vibrant nightlife. The sea temperatures are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and water sports. Spetses during summer hosts several cultural and sporting events, including the famous Armata Festival in September, which features a spectacular reenactment of a naval battle complete with fireworks. While summer offers the quintessential Greek island experience, it’s also when Spetses is most crowded and accommodation prices are at their highest.

Autumn, particularly September and October, is another great time to visit. The sea remains warm enough for swimming, and the weather is mild and pleasant. The summer crowds have dispersed, giving a more laid-back atmosphere and making it easier to enjoy local restaurants and attractions without the wait. This season also often features lovely sunny days ideal for leisurely exploring the quaint streets and historic architecture.

Winter on Spetses is quiet and can be quite charming, with cooler temperatures and fewer tourists. This is a time to experience the local way of life at a slow pace. While some businesses and hotels might close for the season, you can still find open establishments, especially around Dapia and the Old Harbor. The winter months can be perfect for cultural immersion, allowing you to enjoy the island’s history and natural scenery without the distraction of bustling tourist activities.