Who’d want to visit Salamina, you might ask, this rather dejected Saronic Gulf Island known for shipbuilding and other heavy industry activities that lies just a stone’s throw from the port of Piraeus?
Well, history buffs shouldn’t miss it, and it’s convenient for inquisitive travelers, too; you can explore the entire length and breadth of the island, from the peninsula of Kynosoura in the northeast (where the Naval Battle of Salamina took place) to the cave where Euripides sought shelter in the south.
Salamina is also a great fit for families looking for an easy and affordable overnight trip near Athens, or for friends who would relish an alternative three-day adventure driving around its weather-beaten roads.
Who should skip Salamina? Travelers demanding luxury accommodation and fancy restaurants, or folks hoping for a vacation that requires no planning.
Among the hundreds of amazing destinations that Greece has to offer, Salamina has its own, distinct identity: an island once ruled by King Ajax of Telamon (of Trojan War fame) and immortalized by Euripides. It is a place of warriors and poets, steeped in incredible history, the crowning chapter of which was a great naval battle between the Greeks and the Persians 2,500 years ago.
Great legacies, however, often weigh heavily on the present, and Salamina often seems too small to bear both its past glory and the demands of modern life. Nonetheless, curious travelers will find much to discover here.
15 stops in Salamina
1. The fish market
Its façade is painted in shades of white and blue, and the lettering on the sign above the entrance has an art deco vibe. The main fish market of Salamina Town is, in short, quaint and inviting, a great place for a quick look around or for getting fresh fish at good prices. You’ll find cod, blue whiting, blotched picarel, cuttlefish, flying squid, octopus and other species from the waters around nearby Saronic islands, such as Aegina, Poros and Hydra.
Open daily except Sun 7:00-15:00.
2. Kolones: A notable ancient monument
Salamina has a strange relationship with its antiquities. On the one hand, the dozens of markers and placards designating ancient sites indicate that the island is proud to showcase them. On the other, some appear to have been abandoned entirely.
One firmly in the former category – well tended and quite unusual – is Kolones, in the south. Locals used to believe it to be a temple dedicated to Ajax, though it was later identified as a 4th-century AD funerary monument with four graves belonging to members of a wealthy family. It is circular in shape and has been restored using 99 ancient and 22 new stone blocks.
Although it isn’t open to the public, you can see it clearly through the fence that surrounds it.
3. Horseback riding through the pines
The Salamina Riding Club, located in the middle of a large pine forest, offers a range of activities. This is a great place to spend the day as a family, taking riding and jumping classes. The club, which was founded in 2010, has both horses and ponies available. If you don’t feel like saddling up, the club has a café where you can enjoy a fresh fruit juice, a chocolate drink, or a glass of tsipouro or mastic liqueur while enjoying a view that stretches all the way to Agistri and Aegina.
Tel. (+30) 697.201.6052.
4. Diving for everyone
The Salamina Diving Center is open all year round, and while it maintains an office in the island’s main town, in the summer its base of operations is at the Aias Beach Club in Maroudi. It offers snorkeling (from ages 8 and up); the Discover program (ages 10+) for novices, with dives at two meters; three-day courses (free diving or scuba); boat excursions for certified divers; and diving classes for people with mobility or vision problems, or for those with Down’s Syndrome. All of the instructors are lovely people who will make you feel safe and comfortable.
Tel. (+30) 210.465.0563.
5. Stock up
There’s a store in the main town called Evexia (meaning “wellness” in Greek), which sells organic products and traditional goods from Greece and other parts of the world. Thyme from Volos, mountain tea from Mount Olympus, honey from Argos and sugar-free bread snacks are just some of the items you’ll find, so stop by and pick up a selection of goodies for your cupboard back home or a picnic here. And if you want fresh and fruit and vegetables as well, visit one of the island’s farmers’ markets. We happened to stumble onto the one held at Aiantos, where we picked up pears from Volos, sour apples from Zagora, and oranges and mandarins from Laconia. There were some local products, but not many; Salamina is rocky country which, a market seller informed us, produces mainly “cabbages, parsley, dill and onions.”
Evexia, 235 Salaminos, Tel. (+30) 210.464.0334, open daily 09:00-14:00, and 17:30-21:00;(Mon & Thu only 9:00-14:00) & all day Sat and limited hours Sun.
Aiantos Farmers’ Market, Sat from 07:00-15:00.
6. Snacking on platetsi and kougoulouari
At the Begnis bakery and sweet shop in Salamina Town, you’ll find halva, glazed donuts, crostini, Hydra-style sweet almond pastries and, of course, two classic local savory treats known as platetsi (bread made with olive oil and sometimes feta cheese) and kougoulouari (zucchini pie with raisins). For a quick snack or breakfast, you can also choose from savory pies stuffed with feta or kaseri cheese, with ham and cheese, or with spinach.
Begnis, 1 Zoodochou Pigis,
Tel. (+30) 210.465.6100,
open daily 08:00-22:30.
7. Seafood by the seaside
Salamina is all about fish and ouzo by the sea. One of the best, if not the best, fish tavernas on the island is Kakias, renowned for its octopus, calamari, cuttlefish, prawns and langoustine. It serves a good selection of tsipouro (from Macedonia, Viotia, Kalamata, Tyrnavo, Volos, Kavala and Drama), as well as several brands of ouzo. Sunday lunch is its busiest time, so reservations are recommended. Another place that serves good food – and welcomes you with a bowl of kakavia fish stew – is the meze taverna Paralia. Both are in Salamina Town.
Kakias, 38 Akti Karaiskaki, Tel. (+30) 210.465.5821
Paralia, 56 Akti Karaiskaki, Tel. (+30) 210.465.7587.
8. More than 2,500 years of history
The old elementary school that’s now home to the island’s Archaeological Museum is one of the loveliest buildings on Salamina. Exhibits here present the history of the island (which in ancient times was named Salamis after the daughter of the god Asopus but also been known as known as Pitiousa, Skira and Kychreia), including its colonization by Aegina in prehistoric times. There are also displays on the stratagems of lawmaker Solon, who helped the Athenians take possession of the island after it had fallen to Megara and, of course, material concerning the famed naval battle. Among the other archaeological finds from different periods is a section of a vase engraved with the name of Euripides, found in the cave in Peristeria.
42 Lembesi, Tel. (+30) 210.464.0759,
open daily except Tue 08:30-15:30.
9. Euripides’ Cave
Make the trip out to the cave where Euripides, the ancient Greek playwright who was born on Salamina, is said to have used as a retreat. The cave is between Peristeria and Kolones in the south and is a bit hard to locate without the aid of a GPS. Park your car in the clearing with the pine tree, then take the footpath for a moderate 20-minute walk. Overlooking the sea and nestled among the pines, this is the loveliest spot we visited on Salamina. The cave was used by inhabitants of the island as far back as the Neolithic period (5300-4300 BC) as a place of worship; it became a burial site in Mycenean times and is now famous as the retreat where Euripides went to write in the Classical period. As you near it, you’ll spot a fenced-off area of ruins belonging to a sanctuary where both the god Dionysus and the ancient playwright were worshiped.
10. A pair of cafés
On the main town’s beach, just off the busiest part of the stretch of coast here, Puzzles and Belair Lines are two cafés that are open all day. They’re both good spots to enjoy a beverage outdoors while staring out over the sea on a warm day.
Puzzles Café-Bar, 15 Aghiou Nikolaou, Tel. (+30) 211.409.8780; Belair Lines, 11 Aghiou Nikolaou, Tel. (+30) 210.465.2115.
11. And a pair of bars
For a night out, check out either Rouky or Sparrow. The former organizes premium whiskey tastings and is known for hosting an autumn dance festival featuring various rock n’ roll and swing bands. Sparrow also has a good selection of whiskies, as well as good cocktails like the Spicy Margarita and the Pink Colada, while the music is jazz, funk and soul.
12. From Ai-Dimitris to Aghios Minas
As you drive around Salamina, you may notice that there are churches everywhere. The two best-known and prettiest ones are Aghios Minas (with an icon of the saint that is said to work miracles and is always adorned with offerings) and Ai-Dimitris. Both boast work by the renowned Greek sculptor Yannoulis Chalepas.
13. Naval history and traditional dress
Apart from its archaeological museum, Salamina also has two more noteworthy museums, one dedicated to its naval history and one to its folk customs, both located in the town hall of Salamina Town. The Museum of Folk Art showcases the island’s sartorial traditions with displays of period costumes like that of the charcoal seller with the black felt cap or the traditional wedding gown with brightly colored detailing, gold stripes and chiffon. The Maritime Museum has displays of maps and navigational instruments, among other items.
1 Konstantinou Karamanli, Tel. (+30) 213.202.7316,
open Mon-Fri 08:00-14:00 (on weekends by appointment only).
Admission is free.
14. Sunset at the poet’s house
For an idea of what Salamina Town looked like several decades ago (its older architecture has been replaced almost entirely by new apartment blocks), take a walk along Faneromenis Avenue to the home of the famous Greek poet Angelos Sikelianos (1884-1951) and his wife Anna. It overlooks the sea and boasts white walls that contrast well with the blue window frames and door. The best time to visit is at sunset, as the sky turns red and orange and the sea shimmers in the dying light of day.
15. Summer screenings
Our last item of interest on Salamina is an experience reserved for the summer, the open-air Cine Selini movie theater in Selinia. Last year’s program included a mixed bag of blockbusters and arthouse fare, including “Adults in the Room,” “Joker,” “Rambo: Last Blood,” “Downtown Abbey” and “Midsommer.” Athens movie guides list this movie theater among those in Piraeus, probably because they know that even if you’re not staying on the island, you can still head over for your movie night by taking the ferry from the Piraeus suburb of Perama.
17 Aghiou Nikolaou & Pantheas, Tel. (+30) 210.467.0011.