While there is a lot of history in Athens, hence the many archaeological sites and museums, depending on your interests the Greek Capital may not occupy your entire holiday. Or maybe you have a lot of time to spend when you visit the city of Athens. Either way, it would be nice to explore the surrounding treasures without venturing out too far from the hotel you’ve already paid for. So here are 12 amazing day trips from Athens, to really get to know Greece! The list starts with the usual recommendations, but you’ll find the off-the-beaten-path experiences towards the end!
1. Catch the sunset at Sounion Cape
This day trip from Athens takes you only 70 kilometers away from the Greek Capital, to the southernmost point of the Attica region. Here, you can visit the Temple of Poseidon, sunbathe or swim in the sea.
Standing at 60 meters above sea level, the Temple of Poseidon is surrounded by the sea on three of its sides. Raised between 444 and 440 BC, the temple was built around the same time as the famous Parthenon. Today, only a part of its columns still stand, but in the past, it may have resembled a lot the Temple of Hephaestus on the Acropolis.
Other things to visit in the area are the Temple of Athena and the Sounion Fortress. Oh, and try searching for Lord Byron’s name inscribed on one of the columns of the Temple of Poseidon during one of his visits.
At the end of the day, make sure you are by the temple, ready to watch the beautiful sunset from Sounion Cape.
Want to make this day trip from Athens more intense?
You can make this trip a bit longer and more intense by arriving at Sounion Cape for the sunset after visiting Vravron and Thorikos, too. At Vravros, you can visit an open-air archaeological site, while in Thorikos you can explore the Mycenaean ruins of the settlement established in the 5th century BC.
2. Go sailing in the Saronic Islands: Hydra, Poros & Aegina
The great advantage is that you get to see three Greek islands in only one day trip. There are many cruises to choose from which can take you to Hydra, Poros, and Aegina, the gorgeous islands of the Saronic Gulf. These islands are full of history, but they also have a certain cosmopolitan vibe.
Hydra is a very small island, and when you get there you feel as if you’ve stepped into a living museum. Its traditional buildings remain yet untainted by any modern interventions.
You can wander on paved streets and discover the important mansions which once served as fortresses to the locals. They were used as havens against the pirates, but also during the liberation struggles in 1821.
On Poros, you can climb on the hill with the historic clock tower on top. Built in the year 1927, the clock tower is actually the city’s most prized landmark. And, from the top of the hill, you get a pretty awesome view of the harbor and the coastline. This will give you a chance to discover why Poros has been called the island of romance.
In all honesty, this is probably my favorite Saronic Island to plan day trips from Athens.
Aegina is the largest of the Saronic Islands and it takes its name after a nymph who is said to have fallen in love with Zeus. Going from myth to history, in 1826 Aegina became the first capital of Modern Greece. The island is well-known for its culture, religious sites, antiquities, and… pistachios!
When on Aegina, make sure you visit the Temple of Aphaia, referred to as the first Parthenon of Greece. Considered an inspiration for the iconic building on the Acropolis of Athens, the Temple of Aphaia is thought to be one of the wonders of ancient architecture. Together with the Temple of Poseidon on Sounion Cape and the Acropolis, it forms the “sacred triangle” in antiquity.
You can also visit the Monastery of St. Nektarios, one of the most famous Greek monasteries.
3. Go sailing in the Saronic Islands: Agistri, Moni & Aegina
An alternative to the one-day cruise in the Saronic Gulf from above is to travel to Aegina and two other islands: Agistri and Moni. This option for day trips from Athens is more relaxed than the one above. Since you have the Aegina information above, I’ll focus on Agistri and Moni next.
A small island only 10 minutes away by boat from Aegina, Agistri only has three settlements: Megalochori, Skala, and Limenaria. With a total population of around 1,500 inhabitants, it’s a great place to relax away from the crowded city of Athens. The best place to do it is the long golden beach between Megalochori and Skala.
On Moni, you can go swimming and even do some snorkeling. While the waters are of an enchanting blue, the beaches are mostly rocky, which may seem like a minus for some. For those, I mention that there is also a small sandy beach available!
And for hikers and World War II enthusiasts, I recommend going up to the highest point. It’s an easy hike, and besides a great view at the end, you’ll also find two stone sheds built and used by the Germans during the Second World War.
4. Go on a day trip from Athens to Argolis: Mycenae, Nafplio, and Epidaurus
Argolis is an area in northeastern Peloponnese, rich in archaeological sites. On your way to Mycenae, Epidaurus, and Nafplio, you will also come by the Corinth Canal. This narrow canal connects the Aegean Sea to the Ionian Sea. It is worth a short stop to watch the boats passing through during your day trips from Athens.
Mycenae is located around 120 kilometers away from Athens. As mentioned in Homer’s epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, it is the place where you can visit the ruins of one of the most important settlements of the Mycenaean civilization. Make sure you don’t skip on the Lion’s Gate, the Cyclopean walls, and the royal tombs!
Nafplio is a picturesque seaport town in the Argolic Gulf. Once the capital of the First Hellenic Republic and of the Kingdom of Greece, Nafplio is now just the capital of the region of Argolis. Here, you should visit the Palamidi Fortress and Acronauplia, the oldest region of the town.
In Epidaurus, you must visit the 4th-century BC theater. It s one of the most important monuments of ancient Greece, and very well-known for its incredible acoustics. The theater is still used to this day for various performances, including ancient dramas, operas, modern dance performances, and symphonies.
Epidaurus is also the home of the Asclepion. Asclepion was the son of Apollo, and he had very strong healing powers. The Epidaurus Asclepion was a healing center used in the Greek and the Roman world. Starting with the 6th century BC, people would come to the Asclepion to go to sleep on one of the many prepared beds. It was said that the god himself would whisper in their dreams what actions to take in order to heal themselves.
5. Discover Ancient Olympia and/or the Corinth Canal
Once you get to the Corinth Canal, you can follow the route above or do something entirely different on your day trip from Athens. You can spend more time in the area of the Corinth Canal and go on an off-road safari on the Kineta route.
This will give you the chance to visit the Osios Patapios Monastery, from where you’ll get a stunning view of the Gulf of Corinth. Afterward, you can explore the archaeological site Heraion of Perachora, passing through many picturesque traditional Greek villages on your way. You can finish the day with a walk to Vouliagmeni lagoon, followed by a well-deserved swim.
You can, of course, spend less time in the Corinth Canal area, and head towards Ancient Olympia. This is where the ancient Olympic Games were born in Classical Greece. Besides the archaeological site, you can also visit the Archaeological Museum of Olympia and the Museum of Olympic Games.
Make sure you don’t skip the Temple of Zeus, the Temple of Hera, the Pelopion, the Phillipeion, and the Phidias workshop. And the stadium, of course!
6. Visit the cliff monasteries of Meteora
Included in the UNESCO World Heritage list, the Meteora is a rock formation located in the center of Greece. At the top of its tall cliffs, several complexes of Orthodox monasteries were built, similar to those on Mount Athos.
Queen Mary of Romania (you may remember her from the article about Balchik, in Bulgaria) was the first woman to be allowed inside the Great Meteor Monastery. This is also the most important monastery complex at Meteora Kalambaka.
7. Go snorkeling on day trips from Athens to Marathon
You can also opt for a day trip to learn about the battle of the Marathon and to visit the Marathon Tomb. And in case you were wondering, marathons got their name from a legend about a soldier who ran from Marathon to Athens… and died. But that shouldn’t discourage anyone from running a marathon!
While you’re here, you should also head to Lake Marathon to see its pure marble damn. Another option is to head to the bays of Marathon Cape. The latter makes a great destination for those who love to go snorkeling or cliff-diving. With the help of a boat, one can also explore the fantastic waters by the isolated island of Dipsa.
8. Relax on day trips from Athens at Loutraki Thermal Spa
About 85 kilometers away from Athens, there is the ancient town of Thermae, now known as Loutraki. You can start your day trip from Athens with a soothing spa treatment, followed by some sightseeing, as Loutraki is a wonderful seaside town.
Not far, are the archaeological site Heraion of Perachora and the Vouliagmeni lagoon. If you haven’t visited them during a day trip from Athens to Ancient Olympia, you should really go this time! And, as you can see above, catching the sunset is also a good idea on these day trips from Athens.
9. Visit Greek wineries and enjoy a wine spa treatment
Speaking of spa treatments, maybe thermal baths aren’t your thing. Not sure you’ve tried it yet, but maybe a wine spa treatment is for you! It is supposed to help with skin renewal and make you feel more energetic.
You can try this on a visit to Evia, an island bridged to the Greek mainland. The wines in the region have earned medals in both national and international competitions. While you can enjoy wines which you can find almost anywhere in the world, I suggest you try the local varieties: Malagousia and the rare red Mavrokoundoura of Evia. Pair them with some local savory treats, too, while on one of your day trips from Athens..
10. Go on a scenic train journey to a century-old wine production site
The day starts in the historic city of Kalavryta, about an hour and a half away from Athens. An interesting visit here is the Museum of the Kalavritan Holocaust.
Like the day trip to Meteora, you’ll find here a route which is really interesting to do by train. Starting in Kalavryta, a small train will take you through the stunning Vouraikos Canyon.
This day trip from Athens is also great for wine lovers, as it gives you the opportunity to visit the monastery of Mega Spileon. This magnificent eight-story monastery complex is a century-old wine production site.
You can walk through the vineyards, admiring the canyon, and, of course, taste the wonderful wine on one of your day trips from Athens!
11. Explore Kapsia Cave and the Mantinia wine region
Kapsia is one of Greece’s most impressive caves, a true wonder of nature. Besides visiting Kapsia Cave, this day trip from Athens is a great opportunity to discover Mantinia, one of the famous wine regions in the Peloponnese.
Here, you can wander through the vineyards and visit some wineries. If you prefer white wine to red, you should definitely taste the Mantinia wines on one of your day trips from Athens, produced from the aromatic varieties Asproudes and Moschofilero. The latter is a type that is very acidic and can also produce sparkling wines.
12. Go hiking in the National Park of Mount Parnitha
If you’re into hiking, you probably already went up Lycabettus Hill and Philopappos Hill, in Athens, and want to get a taste of something outside the city. My suggestion is an easy hike of about three hours, on which you can even take the kids if you have any.
The route takes you from the Bafi Refuge to the Mola plateau and back. On your way, you will pass the Koromilia and Mesiano Nero springs, and several points from where you can snap some gorgeous photos.
If you’re lucky, you might even get to spot a fox or a red deer on one of your day trips from Athens!
So this is the end of my list of 12 day trips from Athens. I hope these suggestions will help you in discovering the best of Greece.