Venturing to one of the many islands close to Athens is a nice change of pace during your time in the Greek capital. In less than two hours, you can find yourself away from the bustling city streets, and relaxing on the shores of white-sand beaches.
- 1 Islands Close to Athens
- 2 Islands Close to Athens:Places Less than 3 Hours from Athens
- 3 Islands Close to Athens That Require an Overnight Stay
- 4 Understanding Athens’ Ports
Islands Close to Athens
There are lots of lovely Greek islands close to Athens. Sailing out to Hydra, Spetses, or Kea for the day is a pleasant addition to any Athens itinerary.
“Close” is somewhat subjective. A number of the Greek islands mentioned below await just one or two hours away from Athens. It is possible to board a boat from Piraeus port in the morning, spend your day on a paradise island, and be back in Athens for evening drinks.
Other Greek islands are easily accessible from Athens. However, they do necessitate an overnight stay as they are a little farther out.
Islands Close to Athens:
Places Less than 3 Hours from Athens
The Saronic and Argolic islands are just 2-3 hours away from Athens. These islands are popular weekend getaway destinations for Athenians.
The Saronic islands can also be enjoyed as part of a Saronic Gulf sailing itinerary. If you have a little more time to spare, you can hop from one island to another over the course of a week or so.
Travelling to Hydra feels like adventuring back in time. There are no cars on the island and people get around by bicycle or horses.
Hydra’s port is widely regarded as being the most beautiful in all of Greece. Spend some time navigating your way through the labyrinth-like network of Hydra’s narrow cobbled streets.
Next, step inside the charming artisan workshops and boutique stores tucked away down secret passageways. It is easy to get from Athens to Hydra.
Boats depart from Piraeus as early as 6.30 am. It is possible to get an early boat, spend a day on the island, and get back to Athens for supper if you want to avoid paying for a hotel.
- Follow the coastal walking paths to the fishing villages of Kamini and Vlychos
- Enjoy the breathtaking panoramas from the Prophet Elias Monastery
- Visit the Museum of Hydra
- Tuck into traditional Greek cuisine at Paradosiakó restaurant
Spetses floats within the Argolic Gulf. It is technically closer to the Peloponnese than to Athens.
You can get from Athens to Spetses within three hours. This may well be the Greek island for you, especially if you prefer mountains and the great outdoors, to beaches and sunbeds.
The port town is very chic and affluent. Think sprawling neoclassical mansions and elegant apparel stores.
However, Spetses is very sparsely populated. Outside of the port area, the island is essentially just one big national park.
Hiking trails run through the entirety of Spetses. There are countless trails that you can follow. What’s more, you are unlikely to encounter many other travellers as you do.
- Zip-around the island on the back of an ATV
- Rent a bicycle and cycle along the coastline
- Hike to secluded beaches and hidden woodland monasteries
- Swim into the mysterious Bekiris Cave
Kea (Tzia in Greek) is the closest Cycladic island to Athens. Despite being just two hours away from the Greek capital, lovely little Kea feels a million miles away from the chaos of city life.
Kea is one of the best islands close to Athens for hiking and immersing yourself in nature. As a matter of fact, Kea has one of the highest concentrations of hiking routes on any Greek island.
Ioulis is the capital of Kea – a beautiful Cycladic hill village. A highlight of travelling to Kea is the hike to the ancient city of Karthea on the southeastern coast of the island.
The route takes 1.5 hours and leads you past beautiful coves and isolated churches. At its climax, you arrive at the ancient city of Karthea.
Here you can wander along ancient columnated promenades. Look out for the crumbling remnants of the Temple of Apollo, the Temple of Athena, and an old amphitheatre.
- Marvel at the sunbleached ruins in the city of Karthea
- Relax on the beaches of Gialiskari, Otzias, and Gialiskari
- Sip Greek coffee with locals in the squares of Ioulis
- Dine at the seafront restaurants of Livadia
- Follow the coastal walking paths to Gialiskari and Vourkari
Gorgeous Aegina is the closest island to Athens. Many affluent Greeks have summer homes here where they will opt to spend their weekends during the warmer months. Aside from Aegina’s countless beaches, this island is a great travel destination for history buffs.
You can get to Aegina in just 45 minutes from Athens. The streets of Aegina town are lined with picturesque pastel-coloured buildings housing traditional tavernas and ouzerias.
From here, you can venture out to the island’s many ruins and archaeological sites. Stop by the Temple of Aphaia, the ancient city of Paleahora, and the ruins of Kolona.
- Stroll through the harbour or take a tour in a horse-drawn carriage
- Check out the pastel pink Tower of Markellos – a 17th century Venitian fortification
- Explore the abandoned stone churches of Paleahora – the island’s former capital
- Dine at a fish taverna in cute Perdika
- Join Orthodox pilgrims in their trek to the Monastery of Agios Nektarios
Agistri is the smallest island in the Saronic Gulf and one of the easiest to explore independently. You could actually drive from one end of Agistri to another in less than 20 minutes! Despite its tiny size, Agistri certainly packs a punch in terms of the plentiful activities it offers travellers.
Agistri is one of the best Greek islands for hiking. Countless hiking trails twist and turn through its lush green landscapes.
The routes here lead travellers through fragrant olive groves and quaint stone villages. Follow the uphill trail to the church of Panagia for the best panoramas over the island.
- Go swimming in the Cerulean waters of Aponissos, Skliri, Chalkiada, Dragonera, Mareza, Skala and Megalochori beaches
- Rent a kayak and tour the island from the sea
- Hire a speedboat for the day and explore the island’s secret coves and lagoons
- Hike through Agistri’s pine forests and woodland trails
- Admire the vivid frescoes inside the churches of Agios Nicolas, Saint Anargiron, and Zoodochos Pigi
Poros is one of the nicest islands close to Athens to head to if you are in need of a little rest and relaxation. It is actually made up of two islands that have come together: Sferia and the larger Kalavria.
Poros sits directly across from Lakonia and the Peloponnese region of Greece – separated only by a narrow body of water. For a couple of euros, you can take a wooden boat from the port area and sail across to Galatas on the other side of the bay.
- Organise a day trip to Methana and soak in the island’s thermal spas
- Rent a kayak and sail across to the uninhabited island of Daskalio (Teacher’s island)
- Swim off the coast of Monastiri beach
- Visit the clock tower – the most iconic structure in Poros
- Relax at Love Bay and Megalo Neorio
Islands Close to Athens That Require an Overnight Stay
The islands below sit a little farther out. Technically you could visit some of them in a day, but it would be a little hurried and not all that pleasant. For many of the islands here, including the Cycladic islands of Santorini and Mykonos, there are different options available for the boat.
You can opt to take the “high speed” sea jet ferry from Athens to Santorini in just 5-6 hours for example, or take the slow ferry. If you are prone to seasickness though, you may prefer to take the slower boats.
Kythnos is a beautiful off the beaten track island in the Cyclades. The island’s name comes from the ancient Greek word “Keftho” which means hidden. Quite a fitting name, eh? Have you ever heard of Kythnos?
Hora is the island’s capital. You will note that most Greek islands refer to their capital settlements as the Chora/Hora.
Kythnos’ Hora is a higgledy-piggledy maze-like network of blue and white Cycladic houses. It provides a perfect example of just how tranquil and idyllic Greek island life can be.
The narrow streets open out into cobbled piazzas where locals play backgammon as they sip Freddo espressos. The architecture here is stunning; ancient windmills and tiny churches are scattered throughout the town.
For an indulgent experience on Kythnos, head to the town of Loutra. This region is filled with natural thermal springs that were once beloved by Greek royalty. Centuries ago, King Otto and his wife Amalia would frequent the springs here.
Ferries to Kythnos are infrequent and depart from Piraeus just seven times per week. As such, if you wish to visit Kythnos, you should plan in advance accordingly.
- Take a dip in the hot springs of Loutra
- Fall in love with the villages of Chora and Driopida
- Visit the Monastery of Panagia Kanala: protector of the island
- Observe the weird and wonderful rock formations inside Katafiki Cave
Santorini is the idyllic Greek island that appears on most people’s Greece bucket lists. It is globally renowned for its majestic sunsets and characterised by its blue and white Cycladic houses that are so quintessentially Greek.
Santorini is every bit as charming as the guidebooks make it out to be. Try to travel here in the shoulder season if you can.
During the off-season, you can find flights between Athens to Santorini for as little as $20 per person, per way. Boats also depart from Piraeus to Santorini all year round.
Don’t be deterred by Santorini’s popularity. The island still provides plenty of opportunities to get “off the beaten path” and explore its quaint backstreets and residential areas.
- Book a tasting at one of Santorini’s wineries
- Indulge in traditional Greek cuisine in the scenic Ammoudi bay
- Hike from Fira to Oia
- Browse the independent boutique stores in classy Fira
- Catch a world-famous Santorini sunset
The ferry route from Athens to Sifnos takes between 2.5 and 5 hours depending on which specific service you choose. If you choose carefully, Sifnos is a perfect place to spend a day or two as an extension to your Athens itinerary.
Sifnos is a sleepy, traditional island in the Cyclades that is famous for its whitewashed houses, pristine beaches, friendly locals, and quaint Orthodox chapels.
Not only that but Sifnos is rumoured to boast some of the best gastronomy in the region. Venture here to take cooking classes or sample Greek dishes that are quite unlike anything you will find elsewhere.
- Visit Kastro village and enjoy the spectacular panoramas it boasts over the Aegean sea
- Enjoy evening cocktails in the charming bars of Apollonia village
- Hike to the 16th century monastery of Panagia Chrissopigi
- Enjoy a picnic on the shores of Vathi, Platis Gialos, and Kamares beaches
- Learn about the islands history at the Acropolis of Agios Andreas
The beautiful island of Naxos is the largest island of the Cyclades. Unfortunately, Naxos is often overshadowed by the neighbouring islands of Santorini and Mykonos. However, it is just as deserving of your time. Naxos can be reached within 5 hours of sailing from Piraeus port, or 5 hours from Rafina.
Opportunities for both hiking and historical sightseeing are plentiful at Naxos. Here you also have the added bonus of the fact that there are no crowds and tourists!
Outdoor enthusiasts can try their hand at completing the hiking trails at Mount Zeas – the tallest mountain in the Cyclades. Many interesting ruins are scattered around the island, including an array of excellently-preserved temples that date back to the 6th century BC.
Those who are interested in snorkelling and diving will find a paradise in Naxos. The waters that surround the island boast incredible vibrant coral reefs and cerulean waters that conceal fascinating historical remnants beneath the surface. As an example, diving at Naxos reveals the wrecks of wartime seaplanes and torpedo bombers.
- Go kitesurfing on the beaches of Plaka, Laguna and Mikri Vigla
- Hike to the peak of Mount Zeas
- Watch an old movie beneath the stars at the Naxos open-air cinema
- Take a tour to Delos and Amorgos islands from Naxos
- Take a cooking workshop and learn to cook like a local
Mykonos, like Santorini, is one of the most popular Cycladic islands. The island is synonymous with glitz, glamour, and the idea of living the high life. Mykonos is also known for its raucous nightlife scene, and its countless upscale bars and clubs.
That said, you don’t have to be a party animal to enjoy Mykonos. This picturesque little spot has a little something for everyone.
The windmills at Chora are perhaps the landmark of Mykonos. Perched atop a hill, they offer incredible views over Mykonos island and out to sea.
For dinner and evening cocktails in an elegant setting, head to Little Venice. This area is a promenade of stilted, colourful houses that seemingly float in the waters, just like at Venice.
It takes approximately four and a half hours to get from Athens to Mykonos. Alternatively, you can fly, and this journey takes just 35 minutes.
- Sample the glamorous Mykonos nightlife and party until the early morning
- Visit the Kato Myloi ( Lower Windmills) that overlook the sea
- Stroll around Mykonos old town and the old port area
- Search for the famous churches of Panagia Paraportiani and Agios Nikolaos in Chora
- Stop by the Monastery of Panagia Tourliani in Ano Mera
Tinos is a lovely little island in the northern part of the Cyclades that has something of a magical air about it. What Tinos lacks in size, it more than makes up for in charm and character.
This is one of the best islands near Athens if you are looking for a peaceful summer getaway. The beaches here are calm and relaxed and lack the crowds that plague many of the more popular Cycladic islands.
The beaches of Agios Romanos, Agios Sostis, and Agios Ioannis Porto are all idyllic spots that should certainly be on your Tinos radar. Chora is the main town of Tinos, but dozens of charming villages are scattered throughout the island.
- Hike to abandoned monasteries, pristine woodlands, quaint villages, and secluded coves
- Spend an afternoon in Pyrgos – one of the most beautiful and traditional villages on the island
- Admire the views from the hilltop town of Kardiani
- Get lost in the narrow streets of Volax
The island of Paros is a popular stopping point for many travellers who embark on Greek island-hopping adventures through the Cyclades. The island provides an interesting juxtaposition of traditional island life meets modern living – pairing quiet rural villages and idyllic beaches with a colourful nightlife scene.
- Visit the Byzantine Monastery of Panagia Ekatontapiliani – one of the most important churches in all of Greece
- Obtain a history lesson at the Venetian castle at Parikia
- Schedule time to visit the villages of Naoussa, Parikia, and Lefkes
Syros is a breathtaking island in the South Aegean. It somehow manages to be simultaneously glamorous and cosmopolitan, and historic and traditional.
Syros is known as the ‘Lady of the Cyclades’ and the ‘Nymph of the Aegean Sea’.The island is small but it is actually home to one of the largest populations in the Cyclades.
Despite that, it exudes a small-town feel and an air of tranquillity. The island remains relatively off the beaten path among international tourists. It takes between 2 and 4 hours to reach Syros from Athens depending on which ferry service you choose.
- Visit the gorgeous 13th century Venetian settlement of Upper Syros
- Admire the views from the hilltop Roman Catholic cathedral of Agios Giorgios
- Check out the stunning neoclassical architecture in Ermoupoli
- Rent a boat, swim and snorkel in the translucent waters of hidden coves
- Relax on the shores of Armeos and Galissas beaches
Understanding Athens’ Ports
There are only a handful of Greek islands that have airports and unfortunately, most of the islands close to Athens do not. That is, with the exception of Santorini, Mykonos and Poros.
So, the easiest way to get to most of the islands near Athens is to do so via ferry or as part of an organised day tour.
To access most of the islands close to Athens, you will depart from the port at Piraeus. It is the most convenient port for departures to the Dodecanese, the Saronic, the North Aegean, Crete, and Kythira.
From Central Athens and the Airport, you can take the X96 bus which stops right outside the port.
Similarly, Athens metro line 1 (green line) connects Monastiraki with Piraeus. It is important to note that since this is Athens’s main port, Piraeus can get extremely busy and crowded.
This is particularly true during the Greek summer months. You should try to purchase all of your ferry tickets online in advance if you can.
Try to arrive at the port at least an hour before your scheduled departure. There are places to store your luggage at the port if you do so wish.
Check with the port staff to determine which gate your ferry will depart from.
Athens is also home to Rafina port. This is a little farther out of the city and slightly trickier to get to.
Rafina serves a number of commercial routes, particularly in the Cyclades. However, you will also find quaint Greek fishing boats and private yachts docked in the bay here.
Rafina is situated on the eastern side of the Attica region some 40km away from central Athens. It is advisable to avoid travelling from this port if you can.
The only exception is perhaps if you have a car and you will be driving to Rafina. Similarly, if you are headed straight from Athens airport to the islands, you may find it easier to go directly to Rafina than to trek through the city to get to Piraeus.
Many departures to Mykonos leave from here. Rafina port services routes to Amorgos, Andros, Evia, Ios, Koufounisia, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Santorini, Syros, and Tinos.
Additional routes may be added or amended each year, dependent on the season. Rafina is much smaller than Piraeus port.
However, you should still try and arrive at the port plenty of time before your ferry departs, especially if you need to pick up tickets at the port office. There are several great coffee shops and tavernas by the sea where you can stop for a quick drink/snack before you head off.
A KTEL bus runs from Central Athens to Rafina. It departs regularly from Pedion tou Areos and costs €3.
Lavrio is located 60km away from Athens and 30km away from Eleftherios Venizelos airport respectively. It is situated in the most southern part of Attica close to Cape Sounion.
For convenience, if you see a ferry service departing from Lavrio, it is worth checking to see if it departs from Piraeus or Rafina first. However, due to Lavrios’s location, some islands in the North Aegean and the Cyclades can be reached from here in the shortest amount of time.
For instance, it takes just one hour to get to Kea, and only 2.5 hours to reach Kythnos from Lavrio. Public transport in Greece is excellent and it is relatively easy (if time-consuming) to get to Lavrio by bus.
KTEL Attikis operate a bus from Pedion tou Areos to Lavrio that departs every 2 hours. The journey takes approximately an hour and 40 minutes and a ticket costs €6.
Do you have any further questions about these islands close to Athens? Alternatively, do you need help planning a Greece travel itinerary in general?
I’ve been living in Athens for the last four and a half years. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.
Feel free to drop me a comment below and I’ll get back to you ASAP. Safe travels! Geia sou! Melissa xo