We reach Spetses on the local ferry from Kosta, the pretty sea front houses slowly growing in size as we speed towards the island. The Poseidonion Grand is instantly recognisable. A Spetses landmark for a century now, the regal hotel stands centre stage, demanding attention. The morning sun breaks through the clouds, spraying shards of bright light on Spetses harbour. We have arrived.
There is a tranquility about Spetses I have rarely experienced before. It has a true ‘island life’ feel to it. And for twenty four hours it felt like it was ours. No cars, just the odd motorbike or horse drawn carriage. Very few tourists. Seagulls circle ahead, waiting for the fishermen to return. Locals greet each other with a gentle nod and a ‘Kalimera’. Palm trees line the promenade of Dapia (the new harbour), swaying gently in the breeze.
At lunch we walk along the seafront from Dapia to Palio Limani (Old Harbour), a 20 minute stroll at most. We pass simple but pretty white-washed houses, pink Bougainville spilling from balconies, a bright white church and dome visible behind red roofs. A small pebble beach appears around the bend, a young father playing with his son in the clear blue sea. It paints an idyllic picture. As the sun rises higher in the sky we reach the old harbour, passing a string of traditional tavernas. We are looking for Tarsanas, famous in Spetses for its good fresh fish. We find it, but it is shut. Next time, we say, as we wonder to Kapelogiannis and find a table in the shade, with views of the old harbour and the sparkling sea. Here we gorge ourselves on thick tzatziki, roughly sliced fresh bread, a Greek salad and grilled sardines. The waiter proudly explains they are on Tripadvisor as we thank him and leave. Spetses is traditional, but it clearly moves with the times.
The irony is that while from our (too) brief experience Spetses feels down to earth, quiet and unpretentious, it is in fact a well-disguised rich man’s playground. Just one of two yachts moored by the harbours give a sense of what Spetses can be like. Especially in July and August (but also for bank holiday weekends, we hear) the island changes. The wealthy Greeks, predominantly from Athens, pile in. Many have weekend houses, others moor their yachts. This explains the expensive boutiques which line the sea front: Polo Ralph Lauren, Vilebrequin, swimwear by Melissa Odabash. A contrast perhaps to the idyllic picture painted, but while there are smarter bars, the island retains it’s simple charm. This is probably what has drawn not only the rich Athenians, but also royalty, for all these years. They too must appreciate the benefits of an island not tainted by huge hotels and package holidayers.
For dinner we walk the road to the Old Harbour again, the burnt orange sun slowly setting, turning the sky and white washed houses a pink hue. Local kids gather in rocky coves with fishing rods, shrieking in delight at the tug of a hook. We eat at Orloff, a pretty sea front restaurant (part of the Orloff Hotel) with views of Greek main land and the sparkling sea. Fish is of course the most recommended on the menu; nothing beats fresh grilled fish. The prawns in our risotto & linguini melt in our mouthes. Our waiter tells us laughingly that of course they had been caught today, ‘this is not London’.
How to get there
Ferry from Kosta (right next to Porto Heli). Five times a day to and from the island. 1.50 Euros per person.
Water Taxi: Run 24/7. 20 Euros per journey.
How to get around
Rent a moped/bicycle/Quad bike from a number of the bike shops set back from the sea front
Horse drawn carriages are the more romantic way of getting around. But at 20 euros per person, no matter where in Spetses you want to go, it might be an expensive mode of transport.
What to do
Beaches – It’s all about enjoying the beaches while you’re in Spetses. While Dapia & the Old Harbour have a few cute pebble beaches, head further out to Paradise and Kaiki Beach. Kaiki Beach is sandy, offering sun loungers and parasols, as well as a good taverna if you get peckish. It’s definitely one of the more sociable beaches on the island. At 20 minute walk from the town, it’s easy to get to.
Bike rides – a great way to see the island.
Shopping – Dapia has some great boutiques
Where to Eat
Tarsanas – Famous for its fresh fish and atmosphere
Orloff Restaurant – Sublime service, with excellent Greek food. Part of the Orloff Resort, which looks pretty lovely too. Kapelogiannis – Another charming taverna in the Old Harbour. Simple Greek good, great for lunch. Roussos – A very local place in Dapia, perfect for people watching and a hearty breakfast.
Where to Drink
Dapia Porto Cafe – Perfect for a drink as the sun sets.
The Living Room, Poseidinion Grand – A bar and restaurant, this is the ideal lunch & cocktail place. The terrace is a real selling point here, with views of the Greek mainland and most of Spetses old & new harbour. Prices not ridiculous considering it’s a five star hotel
Mourayo – Probably one of the most lively bars in the old harbour.
Poseidinion Grand – The best hotel on the island, dating back to 1914. Renovated in 2009, this elegant hotel is one of a kind. Prices start from a very reasonable 200 euros. Deserves it’s own blog, which will be posted on City Turtle soon.