Aegina Paleochora Ghost Village

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Location: Kontos

Around 7 kilometers from Aegina Town, facing the hill of Agios Nektarios Monastery, there lies a hidden gem - Paleochora, the island’s medieval hillside town, which served as the capital of the island for nearly a millennium. Though abandoned for the last 200 years, the site of Paleochora is a must not only for its historical significance but also for its architectural and natural beauty.


Early on, Aegina evolved into an important commercial center, which meant that it was often the target of devastating pirate raids. Thus, in the 9th century AD, its inhabitants were forced to seek refuge on the hill of Palaiochora, which was naturally fortified, besides offering an unimpeded view of the whole Saronic Gulf and any approaching enemy ships.

Thanks to the technique and the materials used, the settlement blended with the landscape and remained invisible. Invasions continued for many centuries, as the island was a site of contest between the Franks, the Venetians, and the Turks, and, more than once, Paleochora was besieged and laid waste.

The fortification of Paleochora was completed in 1462 and stands on the remnants of an ancient Greek town. Like that of the famous Mystras, the castle of Paleochora was comprised of three rows of walls.
The first, low one standing on the steep hill slopes simultaneously formed part of the people’s houses, affording them greater protection. So did part of the walls of the Agia Kyriaki Monastery.
The middle row safeguarded the noblemen’s houses, the public buildings and the squares, while the defenses at the top of the hill were particularly reinforced with round and square towers.

By the early 1700s, there were more than 800 stone houses, as well as a mosque. Parts of the walls, three of the water tanks, as well as the ruins of various other buildings, can still be seen on the eastern side of the hill.

Eventually, as the danger of attacks faded, the residents began to move towards the coastal areas again, especially after 1826, when the town of Aegina was designated as the first capital of the Free Greek State. Paleochora was deserted and gradually went to ruins, wrapped in an eerie silence.

What to see and do

Legend has it that 365 churches were built in Paleochora, one for each day of the year. Historical research, however, argues that the number only amounted to around 50, 33 of which still withstand the wear of time. They were erected between the 12th and the 18th centuries, and most of them are small, single-aisle, belonging to the type of the basilica.
There are also some cross-in-square ones and others dedicated to two saints and different religious doctrines. The stone lintels, ornately carved with crosses, geometrical patterns and rosettes are just stunning. The churches are connected by winding, cobblestone paths, with pine trees popping up here and there.

A unique feature of Paleochora is its belfries, as these were normally destroyed in places under Ottoman rule. Today, some of the temples and parts of their frescoes have been restored. The best-preserved ones are the church of Agios Nikolaos, with remarkable wall paintings dating back to 1330, and the churches of Agios Georgios Katholikos, Agia Kyriaki, Agios Stephanos, and Timios Stavros (Holy Cross). Visitors can also see the cell where Saint Dionysios of Zante lived from 1567 during the three years he was archbishop of Aegina.

That point offers an amazing view both of the valley below and of the opposite hillside, with the sea visible off to the west.

For those who are into hiking, Paleochora is a great choice. Walk along its cobblestone streets and enjoy the verdant landscape with its running waters and cisterns. Lemon trees, sunflowers and olives add a unique touch to the scenery. Here you can marvel at the fabulous view of the mountainous Mesagros village, as well as of eastern Aegina’s fantastic pine forest.

Bonus info: Every year on Easter Monday, a celebration known as Lampri is held in the grassy area beside the Timios Stavros church from midday until the afternoon, with traditional Greek food, music and dances, which is free to the public.



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