There are plenty of day trips from Athens that you can consider adding to your travel schedule if you have a little extra time to spare in the Greek capital. Though many of the islands and attractions surrounding the city are not very well-known or publicised internationally, they are every bit as idyllic, charming and beautiful as more popular spots like Santorini or Mykonos.
There are day trips from Athens to suit every travel style – whether you are interested in history and archaeological sites, or you prefer reveling in a little R&R by the sea.
Taking Day Trips from Athens
I love Athens. There is a reason that I have been living here for over a year now. The Greek capital is jam-packed with plenty of fascinating historical and cultural sites, as well as being home to a host of cool neighborhoods each with their own quirky personalities and styles.
You will certainly not be short of things to do during your Athens itinerary. That said, if you are spending a few days here, it’s worth venturing a little further afield and heading out on one of these day trips from Athens in order to gain another perspective of Greece.
Getting Around Mainland Greece
Renting a Car in Greece
Mention to anyone that you are considering renting a car and driving around mainland Greece and they look at you bewildered as if you have just told them that you have a prized collection of human skulls that you polish nightly. It seems that many people have this idea that driving here is super dangerous.
While yes it’s true that there are the occasional mad-head motorbike drivers that zip around the narrow streets of Athens without helmets, driving in Greece is not as crazy or stressful as you might expect.
Renting a car in Greece is easy enough and road rules are generally adhered to. You may well see people driving past you at 20 miles more than the speed limit along major roads and highways, but every country has that to some extent.
If you can’t drive or prefer not to for whatever reason then it is not a problem. Greece has a pretty cheap and efficient public transport network of trains and buses.
Timetables vary and services run more frequently during the summer months, but transport in Greece is generally pretty reliable. For each of the day trips from Athens suggested below, I have provided advice on how to get there by public transport.
The Best Day Trips From Athens
The picturesque coastal city of Nafplio was once the capital of Greece. It is also considered as being the country’s most romantic city and whether you are travelling here alone or as part of a duo, you will certainly fall in love with all of the winding cobbled streets and passageways that twist and turn around the city like a maze.
Nafplio’s architecture is beautiful and the structures here date all the way back to the Middle Ages. Visit Akronafplia – Nafplio’s old castle, and embark on a steady walk along the craggy coastline while admiring views over the Argolic Gulf.
While in town, stop by the central Arvantia square to enjoy a Greek mezze and a glass of locally sourced wine at one of the quaint eateries here. Nafplio is one of the best day trips from Athens because it remains relatively undiscovered by most tourists.
Getting to Nafplio from Athens:
You can take the bus from Athens to Nafplio. The buses depart from central station hourly at every half past hour. The journey takes 2 and a half hours.
Piraeus is often viewed as a simple extension of Athens – an area which is only necessary to pass through if you are en route to the port. In reality, Piraeus is its own city, and although somewhat gritty, Piraeus boasts plenty of charm and interesting sites.
It’s easy to reach Piraeus from Athens airport and the city, by simply hopping on board the green metro line and following it to the final station. The scenes that greet you at Piraeus metro station are the chaotic hustle and bustle of city life. Venture a short distance though, and you are met with beauty and tranquility.
Head to Piraeus’ glamorous Marina Zeas and sip locally-sourced wine while admiring the sea views surrounded by luxury yachts. From there, walk to the old neighbourhood of Kastella – whose pastel-coloured houses, neoclassical mansions, and narrow cobbled streets are a photographer’s paradise. Climb up to the Profitis Ilias Orthodox church for incredible panoramas, especially at sunset.
A UNESCO world heritage site, Delphi is one of the most important and best-preserved ancient sites in Greece. Understandably, Delphi is one of the most popular day trips from Athens with several tours and buses heading here daily in the high season.
The settlement dates back thousands of years and is of great importance in Greek history and mythology. Legend has it that Zeus sent two eagles from the ends of the universe to discover where the centre of the world was. It was here where they flew and thus, Delphi was born!
Today the Delphi site has several spots of interest, including the ancient Temple of Apollo, an ancient amphitheater and the Delphi archaeological museum. The latter displays a fascinating chronology of Delphi’s history and its halls are filled with recovered artifacts.
Delphi is actually close enough to Meteora monasteries that you could tie in the two sites together as part of a two day trip from Athens. The beautiful village of Arachova is a great Greek winter travel destination to stop at en route also.
Getting to Delphi from Athens:
You can take the bus from Athens to Delphi. You need to get to the KTEL station B at 260 Liossion street (Gousiou street entrance). The journey takes approximately 2 and a half hours.
Perched almost precariously at the edge of the jagged rocks that jut out across the Aegean sea, the temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounio is quite a sight to behold. The temple dates back to 44 BC and is dedicated to Poseidon, Goddess of the Sea. The views across the water are undoubtedly one of the highlights, particularly as the sun begins to set and the skies are illuminated in hues of warm orange and red.
Exploring the temple in itself is an interesting experience. In the warmer months, it is possible to swim in the translucent waters here or relax by the sea. After you’ve worn yourself out, head to one of the seafront tavernas to enjoy some traditional Greek food.
Sounio is one of the best day trips from Athens because it is located just 69km away from the capital. Its location makes it a great place for a full day trip from Athens, or for half a day away.
Getting to Sounio from Athens:
You can take a bus from Mavromateon Athens central bus station to Sounio. The buses depart every hour starting from 7.05 am and running until the evening. It takes 90 minutes to reach Sounio from Athens (Temple of Poseidon stop).
Meteora has to be one of the most beautiful places in mainland Greece. Meteora means “suspended in the air” and once you arrive here, you will certainly understand how the area got its name. Here, ancient monasteries and nunneries balance precariously on the summits of craggy rock pillars.
Monks settled here around the 11th century and many of the monasteries remain today. 24 monasteries were built here initially and today, six remain. They are The Varlaam monastery, Great Meteoron, Roussanou, Holy Trinity, St. Stephen’s and St. Nikolaos Anapafsas. It is possible to enter the monasteries and marvel at the frescoes and ornate decorations within.
Between the monasteries, there are incredible scenic hiking trails and beautiful spots for watching the sunset. A Meteora day trip is one of the best day trips from Athens. It is advisable to spend at night one night here though, in the charming nearby town of Kalambaka, in order to break up the long journey.
Getting to Meteora from Athens:
It is relatively easy to get to Meteora from Athens. Take the subway to Athens Larissa station and from there take the train to Kalampaka. Services run frequently between the two destinations. You can opt to take a Meteora day trip, or return via Delphi.
Awaiting the intrepid traveller in the midst of the barren foothills of Mount Agios Ilias are the crumbling ruins of Mycenae. Mycenae, as the name suggests, was home to the important Greek civilisation of the Mycenaeans. For hundreds of years, this was the most important city in Greece.
Some parts of Mycenae still remain today and are very well preserved. This includes the old amphitheater, the lion gate and the treasury of Atreus (a royal tomb). The old stone walls that encapsulate Mycenae are so large that legend states they were built by a cyclops. The archaeological museum here contains various artifacts discovered in the region, most notably the gold death mask of Agamemnon and other Mycenaean kings.
Getting to Mycenae from Athens:
To get to Mycenae from Athens, take the bus to Fichti Station. The journey takes around an hour and a half.
A rocky island situated in the Saronic Gulf, beautiful Hydra is packed with character and charm. Its cobblestone labyrinth-style alleyways lead travellers through quirky, picturesque neighbourhoods and along the scenic harbour that is filled with colourful fishing boats and views of the crystal clear waters across the Aegean sea.
Hydra is known for its classy, sophisticated atmosphere something like the Greek answer to taking a day trip to Capri if you will. With impressive mansions dotted in and amongst the traditional buildings, the architecture and atmosphere are unique.
Hotels in Hydra can be a little on the pricier side so try and book in advance to reserve a deal. Nonetheless, this is a stunning place to spend a night during your adventures in southern Greece.
Getting to Hydra from Athens:
Ferries depart for Hydra daily from the port of Piraeus. There are around 5-6 boats each day running between Hydra and Athens and the journey takes approximately 2 hours.
Ancient Olympia, as the name suggests, is synonymous with the Olympics. In fact, this is the very first place that the event ever took place! Visiting the ancient town is certainly one of the best day trips from Athens. Remnants of sites where games were played centuries ago still stand and interesting sporting artifacts are displayed in the Archeological Museum of Olympia.
Similarly, Olympia houses the Museum of the Olympic Games which gives a more thorough overview of the chronology of the Olympics and why the Greeks invented the event, Olympia is not just about the Olympics though.
This town is actually a history buff’s dream. The Temple of Zeus and the tomb of Pelops also stand here. The former lavishly decorated with colourful columns and statues of Zeus.
Getting to Olympia from Athens:
It is a long journey from Athens to Olympia and so it is preferable to stay overnight. Take the bus from Athens to Pyrgos and from there change for Olympia.
Epidaurus is one of the most famous historical places in Greece. It was the home of a healing spa built by Asclepius. Today, you can still gaze upon what remains. For half a millennium (sixth century BC right up to Roman times), Epidaurus was a popular pilgrimage site.
There are a number of archaeological sites dotted around the area and of course, a museum that discusses the findings. Perhaps the highlight of Epidaurus is the ancient theatre that is exceptionally well preserved and dates all the way back to 330 BC. Every year, theatrical performances are still hosted here and are worth a visit, even if you do not speak Greek.
The annual Epidaurus Festival takes place from June until August and tour buses run regularly from Athens during this period.
Getting to Epidaurus from Athens:
You can take the bus from Athens to Epidaurus from the central bus station in Kifisos.
Known as the “Hellenic Hamptons”, Glyfada is an upscale suburb just south of Athens. Though technically it can be considered as being part of the city, it is situated 40 minutes away from the city centre.
Hosting tree-lined promenades filled with designer boutiques, French patisseries, and beautiful coastal walks and beaches, it is definitely worth spending a day here. During the warm summer months, travellers can enjoy day trips from Athens on the beaches of Glyfada.
Public beaches in the area can get crowded, but if you are willing to pay for the comfort and luxury of spending a day at a private beach club, the experience is worth the price tag (prices range between 5 and 30 euros).
Visit the glamorous Astir Beach, a favourite among the Athenian Jetset, or the locally loved Balux House Project – a beachfront restaurant and bar with a private beach sector and pool.
Getting to Glyfada from Athens: It is possible to take the tram from Syntagma central square all the way to Glyfada.
Aegina is perhaps the most conveniently located island for taking day trips from Athens. The journey across the water takes just an hour, and the island is the embodiment of the authentic Greek atmosphere and lifestyle. Beyond the island’s bustling port, Aegina packs a lot of charm.
Explore the abandoned, eerie streets of the ghost town of Paleochora, fall in love with the seaside towns of Perdika and Vagia, and enjoy some of the best beaches in Southern Greece.
Getting to Aegina Island from Athens:
Boats run frequently from Piraeus port in Athens to Aegina island. The journey takes 45 minutes by catamaran.
Poros is arguably one of Greece’s best-kept secrets and offers a perfect choice for day trips from Athens away from the tourist hordes. Poros is made up of two islands – Kalavria and Sphairia. The former is an area of greenery sprinkled with pine trees, while the latter is made up of volcanic rock. The town centre is believed to be one of the prettiest island capitals across all of Greece.
At its central point, the large clock tower dates back to the 1920s is visible from across the entire island. Hiking to the top of the hill where the clock stands offer incredible views across the Aegean and towards the neighbouring Greek islands.
With beautiful white-washed traditional Greek houses and quaint little streets, it is hard not to fall in love with Poros. For something “off the beaten path”, consider travelling out to Lemonodasos – a beautiful lemon forest five minutes from Poros port.
Many beautiful orthodox churches are scattered throughout Poros and are worth a visit during your day trips from Athens – particularly the temple of Saint George, and the Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi.
Getting to Poros Island from Athens: Travellers can easily take the boat to Poros from Piraeus port. Boats depart hourly.
The mystical Lake Vouliagmeni is still technically within the grasps of Athens, yet is not so well known among tourists. The mineral water lake is said to have healing properties, particularly for those suffering from skin ailments.
The beautiful lake is surrounded by sun chairs and cabanas and is the perfect place to relax on a summer’s day in Southern Greece. Several spa facilities also encircle the lake, and hiking trails from the lake lead to nearby Faskomilia hill, and incredible views over the Attica coastline.
When the sun sets, head into the sophisticated nearby Vouliagmeni town and enjoy dinner at an upscale restaurant by the coast.
Getting to Vouliagmeni from Athens: Take the red line on the metro to Ellinikon terminal station. From there, take bus 122 to Vougliameni.
Though Hydra island may often be considered as the gem of the Saronic Gulf, Spetses island is equally breathtaking. The upscale island does not see any cars or vehicles and has a population of just 5000 people. Aside from the elegant Spetses town that is situated at the port, Spetses is essentially just one huge national park.
The island of Spetses boasts secluded beaches, scenic hiking trails, ancient churches, and mysterious caves. One of the best things about travelling to Spetses is that is relatively off-the-beaten-path as far as Greek travel goes. You may see some adventurers here that are sailing around the Saronic Gulf but for the most part, if you head here in Spring or Autumn you will have many parts of the island to yourself.
Take a Saronic Gulf Cruise
The Saronic Gulf islands of Spetses, Poros, Aegina, Hydra, and Agistri are all delightful in their own way. Each island is well worthy of a day trip and an overnight stay from central Athens. With that said, you may be limited on the amount of time you have available for taking day trips from Athens and exploring Southern Greece.
If you want to visit all or several of the Saronic Gulf islands yet you are limited on time, you can consider doing a day cruise. Several tour companies offer affordable excursions like this one that departs from Piraeus port early in the morning and does a “whistle-stop” tour of the Saronic islands – spending a few hours at each location. Get Your Guide is one very reputable company that offers such a tour.
Parnitha, home to the mountain of the same name, is one of Southern Greece’s premier hiking spots. Parnitha can be reached via a short bus journey from central Athens. Numerous trails twist and turn along the slopes of Mount Parnitha. There are hiking trails here which are suitable for travellers of all abilities.
Each Parnitha route offers the chance to admire a diverse blend of incredible natural scenery – from dense pine forests to natural springs, and open fields where wild deer graze. For those hoping to complete the ascent to the top, the bafi refuge makes a nice place to stay en route and break up the journey. Parnitha is one of the best day trips from Athens for hiking and nature lovers.
Lamia is a city in central Greece that sits just two hours north of Athens. With a history that spans back over thousands of years, Lamia is an interesting place to visit on one of your day trips from Athens.
Central Lamia is distinguishable by Eleftheria Square – a crowded piazza filled with vibrant coffee shops, tavernas, and bars, all of which were seemingly built for people watching. The city’s iconic site is the medieval castle that sits on a rocky rise, watching protectively over the city. Several picturesque hiking trails lead you on an adventure around the city limits and through the lush green hills of Archangels Michael-Gabriel-Raphael, and Agios Loukas.
Day Trips From Athens: The Best Time to Go
Owing to its Southern European location, Greece sees pleasant climates and weather conditions all year round. That said, during the winter months, temperatures do drop so are not the optimum time to visit if you want to catch some sun, top up your tan or hang out on the beaches.
The best time to visit Greece is somewhat subjective, and dependent on the types of activities you hope to do when you arrive. For reference, I have provided an overview of what to expect in Athens during the different seasons below.
Spring (March to May)
The spring months of March through to May are a pleasant time to visit Athens and embark on day trips from Athens. The temperatures are around the mid to late twenties during this time – perfect for hiking and exploring ruins without getting too hot.
Since this is shoulder season, travelling now means missing many of the tourists. Greeks celebrate Orthodox Easter (usually a week after traditional easter) and many shops close during this period, although local festivals and celebrations make it a fascinating time to travel.
Summer (June to August)
Athens and its surroundings get very hot and humid during the summer months. Temperatures during this time are between 30 and 40 degrees Celsius.
Many places in Greece do not have air conditioning (excluding hotels of course). This is a great time to visit the islands and beaches but book accommodation in advance.
Autumn (September to November)
Autumn is a great time to take day trips from Athens. Like spring, temperatures are a little cooler than the summer months but still warm and pleasant. Tourist numbers drop significantly and hotel/Airbnb prices are cheaper.
This is a great time to take a Meteora day trip or embark on a hiking trip. As the end of September approaches, it gets a little colder and windier. Fewer boats run to the islands and vacation destinations start closing up.
Winter (December to February)
It gets cold in the Athens area during the winter – think daytime temperatures of 10 – 15 degrees Celsius and dropping as low as 2 or 3 during the day. Dig out your big snuggly coat and bobble hats and don’t be deterred. Sure you can’t exactly lounge on the island beaches but southern Greece still has plenty to offer.
Have any questions about these day trips from Athens? I have lived in Athens for the last two and a half years and would be happy to assist with any questions and queries you may have. Feel free to drop me a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Safe travels! Yiassou, Melissa xo
This article on the best day trips from Athens was last updated on 22.09.2019.