PRIVILEGED BY NATURE
Vouliagmeni is a small coastal town with an impressive stretch of bays and beaches, some 30 kms South of Athens. A couple of peninsulas, ruins of ancient temples scattered here and there, a lush pine forest, shores, rocky inlets and of course the impressive natural formation of Vouliagmenis Lake with the lukewarm thermal waters are the highlights of this Mediterranean paradise. Quiet rather than hectic as Mykonos, it is arguably the most classy and exclusive place on the Athens Riviera, a glimpse of an eye away from the buzzing Greek capital.
There are 5 and 6-starred suite hotels, organized beaches and nautical clubs, good options for fine fish dining, sport grounds, and other amenities. Not overtly touristic, yet, it is home to some prominent and well-off Athenians that commute for work. Some families have vacation homes there, whereas others pay weeekend visits. Although it certainly is an expensive area, anyone can enjoy its beauties as it offers some more economic options as well. Vouliagmenis Lake could be a luxury exclusive retreat but on the contrary, it also offer quite affordable solutions to people with all kind of budgets. Just beyond the town settlement, a series of inlets and rocky coves can be enjoyed at no cost, and the same stands for a couple of great beaches between Vouliagmeni and Kavouri. Also, there are some souvlaki eateries or other fast food options.
SEA OR LAKE?
Vouliagmeni stands out for its very mild climate, which turns it into a yearlong destination. In springtime and in fall you can enjoy it avoiding the crowds of Athenians and summer tourists. There is an old winter sea swimmers club as well, if you fancy a swim. If winter sea won’t lure you the lake maybe will, with some very strong cards on its side: a renovated bar-restaurant and deck, the already mentioned lukewarm thermal waters (there is a constant flow of sea salty water, and it does not smell at all), the endemic fish doctors Garra Rufa that breed there and will be happy to peel you off your dead cells, the occasional jazz music concerts, theatre or yoga by-the-lake events. The hill above the lake provides opportunities for trekking and panoramic views over the bay and the Saronic Sea.
THE GREAT 1983 GIG
The popularity of Vouliagmeni has always been high among Athenians, when they daydream about sea and sun. It has also hosted one of the greatest Athens gigs ever. It was 1983 when local chansonnier Loukianos Kilaidonis (now aged 70) organized a one-day festival on the main beach of Vouliagmeni. It was a very hot day of July and the concert was planned for the fullmoon night. Ticket price was low, but some people made it through even from the sea. A floating stage was set in the middle of the sea, at a 15 meters distance from the shore. The public was standing on the beach, many were playing in the sea. Helicopters of state television were there to shoot the great event. Main act was of course Kilaidonis, who had invited friends and like-minded artists (Greek popular singers and troubadours of the time: Germanos, Savvopoulos, Zorbala, Dalaras) to ensure some coherence in the show. But finally it really ended up as a total beach party. It lasted until late night. It is reported that more than 70,000 people attended the gig, one of those perfectly liberating moments that Greek people were striving for in the post-dictatorship era. It eventually went down to history as “the party of a generation“, and it still lingers strong in the memory of the Athenians.
EXTRA TIPS: Look for the minor lake hidden under the rocks, close to the main Vouliagmeni Lake. It is not always accessible, but check out for special events. Also, go after the ruins of the Apollonas Zostiras temple lying on Astir Beach.
FOOD: Try Ithaki restaurant (28 Apollonos Str.) and Rafale Ai Nikolas for seafood, with its astonishing sea view, or Baku restaurant in the patio of the Margi Hotel (11 Litous) for creative cuisine. A great budget option for traditional Greek comfort food is Loizidi taverna (2 Ermou Street).
Vouliagmeni is included in many Beyond Athens tours, themed stays and city-breaks.