Peaceful, authentic, and old-fashioned, Poros is popular with Greek families but often overlooked by tourists. Only an hour from Athens, this under-the-radar island is perfect for a laid-back family getaway.
By Diane Shugart
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Poros may lack the glamour of Hydra, the cachet of Spetses, and the artistic allusions of Aegina, but it evokes the fondest memories among Athenians as the holiday destination of their childhood.
At first glance, Poros barely qualifies as an island at all. The channel separating it from the northeastern Peloponnese is just 200 metres wide and the crossing, by ‘floating bridge’ or brightly coloured skiff, takes less than 10 minutes.
In fact, Poros was once two islands: Spheria, a small headland on which the harbour town stretches into the sea; and ancient Kalavria, a larger isle now sprinkled with pine-shaded beaches and low-key resorts. The channel’s beauty and calm have inspired the likes of George Seferis, John Craxton, and Henry Miller, who wrote that “coming into Poros gives the illusion of the deep dream.”
Poros is ideal for walking and cycling, as there’s little traffic outside the town and only mild inclines on the 35-kilometre road circling the island. Get your bearings with a hike or ride around Spheria, from the Navy Training Centre (originally the summer palace of King Othon) through the town down to Stavros, a chapel at the southern tip of the strait with a massive cross that’s lit up at night.
Continue around the headland, pausing at the top of the hill for a view over Bourtzi islet and the ruins of a 19th-century fort. Cycle on down to Kanali, a shallow, sandy beach. Cool off in the sea, then pad over the sand to Kanali Beach Bar & Restaurant for lunch; the seasonal menu covers everything from generous club sandwiches to seafood risotto.
Poros is famous for its sunsets behind the Aderes ridge, also known as ‘the reclining maiden’. Watch dusk fall, mojito in hand, from the balcony of the Regatta Cocktail Bar. It’s right above the open-air Cine Diana, which usually shows kids’ movies at the weekend. Poseidon Taverna on the square below is famous for its fresh fish, straight from the owner’s fishing boat moored a few metres away. While waiting for your order, watch the octopus being grilled to succulent perfection by your table.
When you’re ready to call it a night, Sto Roloi offers a choice of three residences furnished with local antiques, which can be rented singly or in combination. If you’d rather admire the town than stay in it, an alternative is Niki’s Village, a group of serviced apartments and studios arrayed around a small pool, a ten-minute walk from Kanali beach.
Start the day with a creamy bougatsa (custard-fllled pastry, dredged with powdered sugar and cinnamon) from Glykisma. Or indulge in the amigdalota (marzipan cookies) from Daglis on the waterfront. No need to ask for directions, the aroma will guide you; but go early because they only make one batch a day.
Then hop a water taxi to Neorio, glancing back for a glimpse of the fading 19th-century VillaGalini, a former artists’ retreat whose “stillness and solitude” inspired the likes of Marc Chagall, Greta Garbo, and Arthur Miller.
Hop off at Anasa, a beach bar where you can alternate dips in the sea with sips of iced coffee as the kids bounce off the waves on a banana or wakeboard at the Passage water ski school. Pad to the far end of the sheltered bay for lunch at Taverna Petros, a reassuringly old-school seaside taverna. There’s no need to peruse the menu — just poke into the kitchen to choose among classic Greek dishes like pastitsio and lamb kleftiko.
Early evening is the best time to explore the harbour town. Start from the Hatzopouleios Library, which houses an intriguing collection of shells and fossils. From there, it’s 140 steps up to the Clock Tower (Roloi), the island’s landmark since 1927. Meander through the lanes towards Agios Georgios square, a handkerchief-sized plaza dominated by a 19th-century church with some remarkable frescoes. Agios Athanasios, a small church hovering over the town, has glorious views in all directions.
Descend into Pounta, the old fisherman’s district for dinner at Spiliada. Just pick whatever takes your fancy from the large serving tray hoisted by owners Jenny and Lakis. The tantalising choices include cheese-stuffed peppers, pan-fried pork, and crispy whitebait.
Stop for a scoop of dark chocolate and tahini ice cream from Vessalas, as you stroll back into town. Not ready to call it a night? Sip a mastiha on ice at Destino while the kids run riot on PlatiaDimarchiou, an unofficial hangout for families.
Sunday: Inland Adventures
Cycle (or take the bus) seven kilometres to the Zoodohos Pigi Monastery. Founded in the early 18th century, it’s tucked away between velvety green pines and the silky blue sea. In the courtyard, spot the graves of local heroes from Greece’s war of independence.
Cool off at the white-pebble Monastiri beach below, or head to Sirene Blue Resort for a dip in the pool and lunch on the terrace with a calming view over the open sea. (There’s a paddling pool and playground for kids.)
Magestic Monastiri beach, surrounded by pine and olive trees, brushed by azure waters.
Pick up handmade souvenirs at Ergani.
Before you catch the boat, pick up handcrafted souvenirs at Ergani. You’ll find one-of-a-kind fabric toys, tote bags, and accessories woven at the loom in the shop or handmade by friends of the owner, Eleni.
Hellenic Seaways offers hydrofoil (1 hour) and catamaran (1 hour 20 mins) service from Piraeus daily, with between two and four sailings daily. Check schedules and book on Viva or Ferryhopper.
Saronic Ferries offers a ferryboat service via Aegina and Methana daily in summer, weekends only in winter. The journey takes between 2.5 and 3 hours. Check schedules here.
Alternately, you can reach Poros by car. It’s a 2-hour drive from Athens to Galatas, then a 10-minute crossing by car ferry (last sailing varies by season) or water taxi (24 hours).
For bicycle and motorbike rentals, check out Moto Stelios (near Cine Diana in Poros Town and at Askeli) Tel. +30 229 802 3206, or Moto Kostas in Perlias, Tel. +30 229 802 3565.
A bus service runs every hour from 7am until midnight (mid-June to October) from Plateia Iroon in town to Zoodohou Pigis Monastery and Neorion Beach.
More information about Poros is available here.