Poros (Πόρος) is a small Greek island-pair in the southern part of the Saronic Gulf, separated from the Peloponnese by a 200 m wide sea channel, with the scenic town of Galatas (Γαλατάς) on the mainland. Poros consists of two islands, Sphaeria (Σφαιρία), the southern part, which is of volcanic origin, where the town of Poros is located, and Kalavria (Καλαυρία) (meaning gentle breeze in Greek), the northern and largest part. A bridge connects the two islands over a narrow strait.
Because of the proximity with Athens (31 nautical miles from Piraeus), Poros has always been a favourite place for vacations for the Athenians, either for a weekend escape or for longer periods. Poros, although relatively small, hides many hidden treasures. Behind the shiny and impressive facade of the town and the port, with the expensive sailing yachts, the taverns, the bars, the cafes and the non-stop movement of the boats in the canal, lays a mosaic of many colours. Poros has many beautiful beaches and most of it is covered by dense vegetation (pines, olives trees but also small crops).
The history of Poros starts in the Early Bronze Period. In the northeastern part of the island, in a location called “Kavos Vasili”, the archaeologists have discovered the ruins of a settlement of this period, which is the oldest of the wider area of Trizinia in Peloponnese. During the Ancient Period, the historians of that time stated that the town of Kalavria (or Calauria) on the island was the centre of an amphictyony, a religious alliance between its city-state and those of Athens, Aegina, Epidaurus and other cities. Poros played also an important role during the Greek Revolution, because of its strategic position. The Greek revolutionary leaders often met in Poros to discuss and plan their actions.
After the Revolution the first Greek Naval Base was founded in Poros, which in 1846 was transformed to the summer palace of King Otto. Until today the Hellenic Navy still has facilities on the island used as a training centre for naval personnel. During the 20th century, Poros was one of the first places in Greece to be developed touristically and especially in the 1950s and 1960s became a popular destination for artists and writers. Most of them stayed at the famous Villa Galini (Βίλλα Γαλήνη) near Mikro Neorio (Μικρό Νεώριο), which had became a cultural hub and a place for free expression.
After this brief retrospective of the island’s history, let’s take a tour of the island and find out the reasons that make this small island so unique. Begin your tour from the city of Poros, which is built on two hills. The city from a distance looks white, like a village in Cyclades. But as soon as you come close and walk in its streets and alleys, you realise it looks more like the old neighbourhoods of Athens. At the seafront, you see big houses built in neoclassical style, while in the streets that lead to the top of the two hills you meet two-storey humble houses. Two buildings that stand out in the city are the Town Hall (Δημαρχείο), built on designs by Ernst Ziller, and the Metropolitan Church of Agios Georgios (Μητροπολιτικός Ναός Αγίου Γεωργίου) with wall paintings by the famous Greek painter Parthenis. At the top of the first hill stands the timeless landmark of the island, The Clock (To Ρολόι) built in 1927.
The seafront of the town is full of taverns, restaurants, cafes and bars. But apart from these places, there two almost obligatory stops you must make. The first is the pastry shop Daglis (Δαγκλής). This patisserie established in 1976 is located in Karamanou Square, and is famous for its traditional amygdalota (αμυγδαλωτά), which are a kind of macaroons made with almonds and flowerwater. The second stop is the pastry shop Th. Vessala (Θ. Βεσσάλα). This small shop was established in 1994 and since then, Theodora and Sotiria keep combining their extensive experience in traditional pastry baking with advanced technology in order to provide customers with fresh quality products of nutritional value and signature taste.
If you want to see a beautiful sunset and a unique view of the city, climb to the top of the second hill, at the centre of the island of Sphaeria, where the ruins of an Οld Windmill (Παλιός Ανεμόμυλος) are located. There, from the courtyard of the Chapel of Agios Athanasios (Παρεκκλήσιο Άγιου Αθανάσιου), you have a 360-degree view of the entire town, the canal and the town of Galatas across the sea.
Leave the town and continue your tour to the second bigger island of Poros, Kalavria. After crossing the small bridge that connects the two islands, continue with eastern direction and meet Askeli (Ασκέλι), a village that has a good sandy beach and is full of hotels, rooms to let and taverns. From there move on and reach the most famous beach of the island, called Monastery (Μοναστήρι). The beach owes its name to the Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi (Μονή Ζωοδόχου Πηγής) which is hanging from the cliff above the beach and was built in 1713. Τhe monastery played an important role during the Greek Revolution and after the war, the first Greek orphanage was established here by the governor Ioannis Kapodostrias. Just before the entrance of the Monastery, at the cafe Melistalakto (Μελιστάλακτο), you can relax under the trees and have a cup of Greek coffee along with a syrupy piece of galaktoboureko.
From the Monastery drive to the centre of the island and reach the Sanctuary of Poseidon (Ιερό Ποσειδώνα), and the ruins of the ancient city of Kalavria (Καλαυρία). The Sanctuary was built in 520 BC and was the centre of the amphictyony (we mentioned before). Therefore, it soon became a prestigious and Panhellenic place of worship. Demosthenes, the ancient great orator, came here demanding his right of sanctuary when he was being chased by Philip the King of Macedonia. Finally, he killed himself here by drinking poison in 322 BC. Next to the Sanctuary, you can see the remains of the city, which was completely destroyed because the ancient rocks were used for the construction of many buildings in Poros and the nearby island of Hydra (Ύδρα). From the Sanctuary you can also see the ancient port of the island, which is called today Vayonia (Βαγωνιά). It is a beautiful pebble beach with clear waters and green landscape with pines, located inside an idyllic bay overlooking Aegina.
From Vayonia continue west to reach the impressive small bays with the turquoise waters around the Russian Dockyard (Ρωσικός Ναύσταθμος). It is an area of incredible natural beauty with continuous small beaches and the islet of Daskaliο (Δασκαλιό), a favourite landing of sailing boats. The Russian fleet maintained a naval base in Poros since 1770, in the area where the naval training centre is located today, and in 1834 after the concession of those buildings to the Greek state, built a dockyard in this location. The buildings, although desolate, are impressive and located on perhaps the best beach on the island, with velvet sand and clear waters. Continuing the route to return to the city you meet three more sandy beaches with pine trees to the edge of the sea – Mikro Neorio (Μικρό Νεώριο), Megalo Neοrio (Μεγάλο Νεώριο) and the idyllic Port of Love / Limanaki tis Agapis (Λιμανάκι της Αγάπης).
Poros has also many places where you could taste excellent Greek and European cuisine. Our favourite ones are : Primasera in Pounta (very close to the town centre) is an excellent choice for fish. Askeli on the beach of the same name is a great choice for creative Greek cuisine. And finally Casanova is the perfect choice for Italian food and especially pizza near the port.
During our visits to the island we have stayed and highly recommend two hotels : Golden View Beach Hotel in Askeli (photo below) and Sirene Blue Resort in Monastery (both have wonderful private beaches).
Poros is unique because it combines traditional colour, beautiful beaches, and green nature. Although not very far from Athens (160 km to Galatas and ten minutes from there on the ferry boat) it is worth visiting not only for a weekend getaway but to spend more time and discover its hidden beauties.
Map of the tour of the island :