spetses

Spetses... What? Where? Who?

Spetses is the southernmost of the Greek Argo/Saronic islands that stretch away hugging the coast to the south and west of Athens.It's a tiny island - still largely pine forested - an emerald jewel sitting about two or three kilometres from the Peloponnese mainland. There is one small town, a couple of tiny settlements and the perimeter road is just 26 kilometres around. The island isn't noted for spectacular scenery, ancient ruins or even wonderful beaches. It is not perfect, but it has a gentle beauty, an atmosphere and combination of features that make it, for me, a place that I love to be.

If you want the technical bit, then Spetses is on the edge of the Pindos Zone and is made up of sedimentary rocks laid down in the Neogene and Pleistocene eras; which if you know you your geology means that the island is (geologically speaking) fairly new (about 1 to 2 million years or so!). In fact the island is geologically very different from all of the other islands in the Argo/Saronic group. Now given that geology is not my subject and that I read that bit in a book; if you know more than me about this then I will quickly and humbly defer to you.

But I expect that what you really want to know... is the more practical stuff like; how far is the island from the airport? How do I get there? Where can I stay? And so on.

Measured in a straight line, Spetses is just about 100 kilometers from central Athens. Trouble is that unless you have a helicopter you actually have to travel a fair bit further to get here. The road trip for example is quite scenic but is around 200 kilometers. And not only that, the airport at Athens is on the 'wrong' side of the city; a fact which I have heard one or two holiday companies trot out as a lame excuse for not including us in their schedule.

If you are arriving with a tour company, the next bit should be taken care of for you. If not, read on.....



Getting here...is not really as difficult as it sounds!

Athens airport is generally rated by travellers as a good experience, which should at least help to make your arrival reasonably pleasant.

Most people arriving independently get from the airport to Spetses by sea.... which of course means first of all you have to find the sea.The relevant port is at Piraeus. There are several ways to get there; see the top of the side column for more details......

From the port, the most popular, quickest and indeed just about the only option (around two hours at sea) is to travel by Flying Dolphin - either a hydrofoil or a high speed catamaran; and these do run throughout the year.

Other methods? Well, sadly the surface ferry no longer comes this far... it seems that folk nowadays just don't want to sit on a boat for five hours. But from time to time a new company pops up offering a cheaper or faster boat to the island. if you see one on offer in Piraeus then maybe give it go... just don't count on it for the return trip!

As an alternative to all this
; you can pre-arrange a taxi from the airport to the nearest mainland pier at Kosta; this is expensive but can be convenient and it's not so bad if you can spread the cost among a group of you (don't try this with a standard yellow cab from the airport unless you agree a fixed a price first; or you may have to take a mortgage to pay the bill).

Renting a car or using the intercity bus to get to the pier at Kosta are also viable options.... but you need to work a bit at those methods.

The bottom line is that unless you have access to that helicopter, it is probably going to take you at least 5 hours to get to Spetses from Athens airport. In theory it can be done quicker - maybe 3 to 4 hours - but in practice the timetables nearly always conspire to make you hang around for the next bit of the ride.



Accomodation

After all that build up I'm afraid that I don't have a lot to say in this slot, as I am not in the pay of any agency.t Big tour companies used to go there en mass; they don't anymore and the reasons for that have been known to fuel many a slanderous debate in the kafes and bars! One reason for the tour companies pulling out is apparently down to Spetses lack of massive 'all inclusive' resort type hotels.... Personally I rate that as one of the reasons FOR coming here, but each to their own.Try this page for links to help you.

Nowadays Spetses usually escapes the brochures of the major package tour companies .... as far as I can tell. If you prefer the convenience of a package tour though, then check with your local agent .... you never know. Small specialist companies sometimes advertise Spetses in the holiday columns of the newspapers. If you are shopping around though, just bear in mind that a cheap package holiday may be just that - 'cheap'.

If you arrive independently then you can usually find a place to stay without too much trouble. Apart from the big holidays such as Orthodox Easter, the Panagia National Holiday around August the 15th and the Armata festival in early September there is usually accomodation available. We have a full range from (some very) basic rooms through to boutique and high grade hotels - you generally get what you pay for although the current fashionable status of Spetses has generally led to an improvement in quality of accomodation.

A lot of people offer rooms to rent; a legacy of the 'boom' days of mass tourism here in the 1980s. Look out for signs in shops... or if you get accosted on the pier by someone touting rooms to rent.... well then, look 'em in the eye and use your judgement..... Hey! You can always move out the next day.


arrival_dapiaGetting to the Port

So, you're at the airport and you want to be at the harbour in Piraeus?

In order of price, you have the following options......

The X96 bus is right outside the arrivals hall. It's frequent, quick, cheap and runs 24 hours. It can be crowded and bumpy... but, hey! It's a bus, what do you expect?

The Train is more comfortable, less frequent but almost as cheap. The downsides? Well, you have to change trains in the city centre and you still end up 10 minutes walk from the right bit of the port.

Taxis are plentiful and not too expensive when compared with many other places in Europe. More comfortable and private, but probably not much faster than the bus in traffic.

dapia_harbour
Athenian taxis?

Is there a city in the world where the taxi drivers have a good reputation? Most here are okay; although there are the odd rogues who will try to fleece the unsuspecting tourist (watch out for that third time round the Acropolis). BUT even cheating you at their worst, I have yet to meet one who would have the gall to try and charge the prices that London black cabs are officially entitled to...... Make sure the meter is running and if you really think you are being cheated just shout for the Tourist Police (+30) 171 if you have a cell phone with you... Drivers usually want to keep their licences.


palio_limani
When to come?

Admittedly, I am the wrong person to ask. I like Spetses all year round! But, for visitors, our season runs basically from Easter until the end of October. Everywhere will normally be open by Greek (Orthodox) Easter and this is usually a lovely time to be here. Peak season is July and August, running through to 'Armata' in early September. After that businesses start closing up for winter. In mid winter, the weather can be glorious - but also damp and cold; there is limited accomodation available and some tavernas are open - but not many.

The biggest problem in the winter can be getting on and off the island;
Flying Dolphins are infrequent and when the sea is rough they sometimes cancel everything anyway.


spetses_storm
Can you get to Spetses in the middle of Winter?

Of course you can! Sitting down in a favourite taverna for Christmas dinner a few years ago we found ourselves sitting next to a Spanish tourist. He had arrived with no booking in the middle of Christmas day and quickly found both a hotel room and one of the best tavernas on the island.... so it can be done.