There are many fascinating places to visit near Athens, the Greek capital. Here's a look at ancient sites and places of interest close to Athens, Greece.
Places to see near Athens
Athens, the Greek capital, has plenty to see and do. Who couldn't visit this ancient city without spending time at the Acropolis and marveling at the Parthenon?
Athens is also a great base for several day trips where you can explore Greek history and culture. The surrounding regions are packed full of ancient sites, quaint towns, and natural wonders.
Here are some interesting places to visit near Athens on day trips.
Take a half-day trip to Sounion
Sounion is a cape located on the coast of Attica region, 69 km (43 miles) from Athens. Here, you can visit the Temple of Poseidon, the God of the Sea in Greek mythology.
Once you are up on the temple, allow for enough time to enjoy the view of the Aegean Sea. This is one of the most picturesque sunset spots in the whole of Greece.
You can easily visit the archaeological site on a half-day trip from Athens. Unless you have a rental car, it's probably better to take a guided tour, as public transportation is not very frequent.
Read more about it here: Cape Sounion day trip from Athens
Visit the Archaeological Site of Delphi
The ancient site of Delphi is located in the Fokida region in Central Greece, about 3 hours from Athens.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece. Ancient Greeks considered it to be the center of the known ancient world.
Here, you can see the remains of the Temple of Apollo, as well as several other temples and monuments. The large stadium, where games were held every four years, is really impressive.
The fantastic Delphi archaeological museum is home to impressive artefacts from the 8th century BC to Late Antiquity. One of the most famous exhibits is the Charioteer of Delphi, an impressive bronze statue dating from the 5th century BC.
Taking a guided tour of Ancient Delphi will enhance your experience, and you will learn more about the cult of the Greek God of light, prophecy, arts and healing, Apollo.
Explore the Majestic Meteora Monasteries
If you're looking for a unique destination in Greece, consider visiting the area of Meteora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This incredible landmark is known for its impressive landscape, with huge rock formations, and six majestic monasteries perched on top the rocks.
The Meteora monasteries have a long and interesting history. The first hermits probably moved here in the late 10th century AD. In the 14th and 15th century, there was a total of 24 monasteries up on the rocks.
Six of these monasteries are still fully operational today, and they are a popular tourist attraction. A visit to the Meteora monasteries is a unique experience that you'll never forget.
If you have time, it's best to spend at least two days at the Meteora monasteries, and visit all of them. However, it's possible to go on a organized day trip from Athens. You will then have the chance to appreciate the unique landscapes and see the most important highlights.
Follow St Paul's footsteps in Ancient Corinth
If you're interested in history, consider visiting Ancient Corinth. This archaeological site is located close to the Isthmus of Corinth in the Peloponnese, in Southern Greece, and it's about an hour's drive south of Athens.
Corinth was one of the city-states in Ancient Greece. One of the ancient monuments that have survived is the Temple of Apollo, which was likely built around 550 BC.
Ancient Corinth remained an important city during the Roman period. It was here that Saint Paul, the Apostle of the Nations, lived for a year and a half during the 1st century AD, and preached Christianity.
You can follow his footsteps in the ancient site, and also visit the small archeological museum.
Many visitors choose to visit Corinth on an organized tour including other attractions in the Peloponnese, like Ancient Mycenae, Epidaurus and Nafplion.
Explore the Ancient City of Mycenae
Ancient Mycenae is a popular archaeological site in the Peloponnese. It is located about one and a half hours away from Athens.
The ancient Greek city was one of the most important centres of Greek culture during the period from 1600 to 1100 BC. The king was the mythical Agamemnon, who was the leader of the allied Greek tribes during the Trojan War.
The archaeological site includes the large Cyclopean walls, the famous Lion's Gate, ruins of the royal palace, as well as the iconic Mycenaean tombs. You can easily spend a couple of hours walking around the ancient ruins.
When you visit the archaeological museum, you will see several artefacts from that era, and learn more about the lives of the Mycenaeans.
The easiest way to visit Ancient Mycenae is on an organized tour including other nearby places, like Ancient Corinth and Nafplion.
Check the acoustics at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus
The Theatre of Epidaurus is a well-preserved ancient monument located inside the incredible archaeological site of Epidaurus, in the Peloponnese. Epidaurus is a 2 hour drive from Athens, and you will get there through a fantastic landscape full of pine trees.
The site of Epidaurus was the largest sanctuary of Asklepios, the ancient Greek god of healing and medicine. The site was the equivalent to a modern wellness / healing center. The ancient theatre was built to accommodate theatrical and musical performances to honor the god.
Visitors are always impressed by the theatre's exceptional acoustics. During the summer months, you can catch a live performance here – it's a really unique experience.
A guided tour will enhance your experience. You will learn more about ancient healing methods, and how theatrical performances were part of the healing procedure for patients in ancient times.
Walk around the narrow streets of Nafplio
Nafplio, a picturesque coastal town in the Peloponnese, was the first capital of modern Greece. It is located 2 hours from Athens and 30 minutes from Epidaurus Ancient Theatre.
The pretty town is known for its magnificent Palamidi castle, which offers fantastic views of the wider area, and the beautiful neoclassical architecture. You can also explore Akronafplia castle, visit a few interesting museums, and spend some time on the beach. Check out my guide here on things to do in Nafplio.
Nafplio is one of the most popular day trips from Athens, often combined with the archaeological sites of Mycenae and Epidaurus.
Take a boat trip to the Saronic Islands
Even if you only have limited time in Greece, you can always visit one or more of the Greek islands on a day trip from Athens.
The islands that are the closest to Athens are the islands in the Saronic Gulf, known as the Saronic islands. Aegina is the closest to Athens, followed by Agistri, Poros, Hydra and Spetses.
You can visit each of these islands on a ferry / sea dolphin from Piraeus port near Athens. There are also organized day trips that include a tour of three islands in one day.
Best Islands To Visit Near Athens
Here's a quick look at the island day trips from Athens and what to expect:
Highlights of Aegina island
Aegina's undisputed highlight is the temple of Aphaia. This impressive Doric temple up on a hill dates from 500-490 BC.
Other places of historical interest include the ancient site of Kolona and the local archaeological museum. People interested in religious spaces should visit the Greek Orthodox monastery of Agios Nektarios, and the byzantine churches, like the one built on top of an ancient temple of Zeus Hellanios.
Apart from that, Aegina has some lovely beaches to explore, and many traditional tavernas where you can eat fresh fish. The island's local specialty is the pistachio, so make sure you have a taste.
Highlights of Agistri island
Agistri is a small, pretty island, best known for its wonderful, natural beaches. It's one of the best day trips from Athens if you want to spend your day on the beach and swim in crystal-clear waters.
Agistri is a popular weekend break with Athenians, so if you have a choice visit on a weekday.
Highlights of Poros island
Poros is one of the greenest Saronic islands, and it's ideal for people who want to hike, swim and spend time in nature.
Visitors should also spend some time at the port town, and walk around the beautiful neoclassical houses. Some of the old mansions are really fascinating.
Other highlights include a visit to the Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi, and St George's Cathedral, where you can see some impressive frescoes.
Highlights of Hydra island
Hydra is one of the most cosmopolitan Greek islands. Located an hour and a half from Athens on the ferry, Hydra is entirely car-free. It offers a combination of peace and quiet, along with classy restaurants and refined nightlife.
Hydra is the homeland of many Greek heroes who participated in the 1821 Independence War. Many of their houses, like the Tobazis and Koundouriotis mansions, have been transformed into interesting museums.
Visitors can also go hiking, and enjoy the beaches in Hydra, some of which are best accessed by sea taxi.
Highlights of Spetses island
Among the Saronic islands, Spetses is the furthest one from Athens. You can still visit on a day trip, as the flying dolphin takes 2 hours 15 minutes on this route. Like Hydra, Spetses has a rich naval history, and many of Greece's war heroes were born here.
The main town has several outstanding neoclassical houses and mansions. Among them, you will find a few historical museums, like the Museum of Spetses and Bouboulina Museum.
Visitors will enjoy the cosmopolitan ambiance, with upscale restaurants and bars.
On Spetses, there are no cars, but you can hire a moped, bicycle, or sea taxi to get to the island's beaches.
Things to do in Athens
As for Athens itself, most people spend at least a couple of days, to explore the place where western civilization was born. The city center is quite compact, so you can explore on foot and maybe even take a walking tour.
Here are a few ideas for things to do in the Greek capital:
- Climb up the Acropolis Hill and visit the Parthenon, the most famous monument in Greece, dedicated to Goddess Athena
- Find out more about the Acropolis in the Acropolis Museum
- Stroll around the Ancient Agora and the excellent museum, and find out more about life in Ancient Athens
- Explore Ancient Greek pottery, statues and jewelry in the National Archaeological Museum, the largest museum in the country
- Check out the Changing of the Guards in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, just opposite Syntagma Square
- Sit for a picnic in the National Garden
- Explore the Plaka area, the oldest neighborhood in Athens city center, and enjoy walking around its narrow streets, picturesque squares, charming boutiques and traditional restaurants
- Visit the Varvakios central food market, either on your own or with a food tour, and enjoy the delicious Greek cuisine!
Frequently asked questions about day trips from Athens
Here are a few questions that I've been asked in the past:
What day trips can you do from Athens?
Popular day trips from Athens include Delphi, Meteora, Mycenae – Epidaurus – Nafplio in the Peloponnese, and the Saronic islands, like Hydra and Aegina.
What is the closest island to Athens by ferry?
The closest island to Athens by ferry is Aegina. The flying dolphin from Piraeus only takes 40 minutes. Other islands in the Saronic Gulf include Hydra, Agistri, Poros and Spetses.
Where should I travel after Athens?
It depends on how many days you have, and what you would like to do. One idea is to hire a car, and travel around the Peloponnese, visiting sites like Ancient Corinth, Ancient Mycenae, Ancient Epidaurus and the town of Nafplio.
Is Mykonos or Santorini closer to Athens?
Geographically, Mykonos is closer to Athens than Santorini. However, a domestic flight to either island only takes 40-50 minutes, so you could even visit on a day trip.