By Vanessa Castellon

In the class meetings before arriving to Greece, some of the girls and I talked about potentially taking the weekend to visit the iconic islands of Santorini or Mykonos. But as it turned out, we found that we only had one free day to do as we please. As such, we looked into visiting an island easily accessible from Athens because we wanted to get more out of our visit to this gorgeous country.

Aegina is an island about 40 minutes away by ferry from Athens’ by way of the port of Piraeus. I first heard about this island when doing research about Athens and common day trips; it was popularly known as the “pistachio island.” Although I didn’t buy any the pistachio products this island is famous for, I did fall in love with the island itself.

Port of Aegina. (taken by Vanessa Castellon)

The day-cation began with the 40 minute boat ride to the island. I was asleep for the majority of it because waking up so early is something I am not used to in San Diego. When we got there, we decided it would be best to rent bicycles. However, we ultimately decided to rent two quads for four of us, and four bicycles for the rest. I was one of two people (the other being my roommate, Silvia Saldivar) to drive the quads, as I happened to bring my license with me. Driving the quad was slightly difficult at first, as it was the first time I had ever done so, but I felt so free and in control once I got the hang of it. This is how I’ve been able to feel throughout this trip, as this is the first time I’ve traveled without family members. Although traveling with family can be great, doing so with friends or by yourself is such a different experience. You can choose to go out or stay in. You can choose to eat gyros or pizza. You can choose to take a day trip to Aegina or Santorini. You can choose to drive a quad or take a bike.

Picture of me on the quad I drove.

Our first stop on this new island was the beach! We drove for roughly seven kilometers (about 4.5 miles) before deciding to return to a beach closer to the port. The beach we chose was near Bocampo Beach Bar, and it had the classic umbrellas and beach chairs.

Picture of a seemingly abandoned resort on Aegina.

Although the water was cold like those in San Diego, it was like glass, my untanned feet were visible through even three feet of water depth. This was the moment I fell in love with Aegina. The views while on the quad forced my appreciation, but the crystal clear water tipped me over the edge.

The beach.

After tanning and spending some time in the water, those of us on quads decided to take them to the Temple of Aphaia. This temple happened to be at the highest point in Aegina, making it quite the trek. We followed the coast, accidentally making the 12 kilometer trip a 17 kilometer one. The drive there was filled with breathtaking views of the beautiful greenery and stunning architecture.

The view from the Temple of Aphaia.

When we arrived, Abby Castro (who was on my quad) and I found that Silvia Saldivar and Kaylee Hammond (those on the other quad) had already arrived. We decided not to spend the six euros each for the entrance, and instead we took pictures from outside, and then headed back to the port to return the quads and get ready for our ferry back to Athens.

Temple of Aphaia from outside the gate.

The way back, through the city, was just as filled with spectacular views. We passed by the gorgeous Monastery of Agia Kyriaki that we, unfortunately, didn’t have time to visit. In the end, I really enjoyed the entire day trip. Despite the fact that we didn’t get to visit Santorini or Mykonos, Aegina had its own personality, which made it just as special to visit. That’s the thing about Greece. You don’t have to visit the most reviewed island or places in the guidebook. Everywhere you go is beautiful, has its own cultural charm and ruins seem to be everywhere you look.