Sun, sand, sea and the warm, reputedly restorative waters of a natural lake make for relaxing days and evenings centred on eating out.
The coastal town of Vouliagmeni has undergone a relatively rapid development over the last 70 or 80 years, from a simple string of beaches to the clean, calm resort it is today and, while it may lack the ancient world charm of other destinations, its growth has been careful and considered. Owned by the church, the land has been given over to residential buildings, villas and some top quality resort hotels set among palm-shaded, flowery pathways and soothing fountains. Its picturesque, harbour, overlooked by Mount Hymettus, is home to a collection of expensive-looking yachts rather than the more usual colourful cluster of fishing vessels.
The town sits between two small peninsulas, Kavouri and Lemos, both of which offer lovely beaches with good swimming, and protection from the urban sprawl surrounding Athens; many come to Vouliagmeni to enjoy the first clean seas and sands after leaving the city. In cooler months, winds create suitable conditions for watersports and an influx of visitors arrive to indulge their passion.
Vouliagmeni means ‘sunken’, a name which describes the famous lake a short walk from the town square. It is surrounded by the tall, limestone cliffs of a collapsed cavern and is fed by warm, subterranean springs which mingle with water from the sea. Protected on three sides, it maintains a constant 25c temperature and this, coupled with its composition of minerals and sea salt, bestows the waters with softness and a reputation for alleviating the pains of rheumatism or arthritis.
Around the bay, the choice of eateries is wide with sea-food restaurants, traditional tavernas, Italian trattorias, ice-cream parlours and pastry shops offering quick snacks or the pulse-slowing pleasure of people-watching over a languorous lunch in front of a glittering sea. In the town square is the popular Xaxos restaurant, famous for its fabulous chicken, served with fresh lemon juice and herbs. At the higher end, literally as well as metaphorically, Ithaki, perches on a cliff looking down over the beach, where the cuisine combines traditional Greek ingredients with a French or Italian twist. A coffee beneath the branches of a large tree, at the Playground Café opposite Vouliagmeni beach is the perfect way to end the day