Athens has always been a popular tourist destination due to the incredible historical sites which have survived there. With several days in Athens you’ll have plenty of time to visit the city’s best ancient landmarks and most picturesque spots. After their short time in the Greek capital, many people quickly move on to Greek isles, but there’s value in sticking around Athens a day or two longer.
With more time in Athens, you have the opportunity to make one or more day trips to classic attractions in this part of Greece. The best day trips from Athens tend to showcase the country’s phenomenal ancient culture and exquisite landscapes. These day trips allow you to find many of the best things to see in Greece outside of Athens, whether on the Greek mainland or islands close by they are not to be missed.
Without a doubt, the ancient site of Delphi is one of the most popular Athens day trips out there. Start exploring this UNESCO world heritage site by visiting the huge ancient theater there and taking in the wonderful mountain views from its top row of seating. Down below lies the famous Temple of Apollo, home to the fabled Oracle of Delphi. Other major landmarks here include the Treasury of Athens and the Tholos of Delphi in the separate site of the Athena Pronaia Sanctuary. After walking back down the scenic Sacred Way, make your way to the nearby Museum of Delphi where you can see cultural artifacts and archaeological finds from the area. On the way back to Athens you may want to stop in the picturesque mountain town of Arachova for views of the impressive figure of Mount Parnassus.
Getting there: To reach Delphi from Athens there are several buses per day that make the 3 hour journey. If you’d prefer not to worry about transport and learn more about the significance of this ancient site, you should visit Delphi with a guided tour.
2. Cape Sounion
Combining beautiful coast with ancient landmarks, Cape Sounion is easily one of the best places to visit from Athens. Situated south of Athens at the southern tip of the Attica peninsula, Cape Sounion is mostly known for being the site of the historic Temple of Poseidon. On cliffs overlooking the sea, this ancient temple is one of the most treasured ruins from the Golden Age of Athens. Long a tourist destination, you can find the name of poet Lord Byron carved into one of the columns. Since it doesn’t take long to explore this archaeological site, people often time their visit to coincide with sunset so they can watch the sun go down over the water.
Getting there: The journey from Athens to Cape Sounion is two hours by bus but there aren’t many departures. A much easier option for visiting is to go with a guided tour for sunset.
3. Saronic Islands
Some of the best day tours from Athens involve hopping aboard a sailboat and cruising to nearby islands. The closest option from Athens are islands in the Saronic Gulf like Agistri, Moni, and Aegina. Not only do you get to visit each of the islands but you get to unwind on deck with music and drinks. Swim and relax at the beach near Skala on the island of Agistri. Near Moni you can snorkel in the crystal clear water or swim over to the uninhabited island nearby. Saving the largest island for last, Aegina is home to traditional villages and rugged volcanic landscapes. And yes, it has another beach for one last swim before sailing back.
Getting there: Since you’re going to spend your day out sailing, visiting these islands with an organized tour is really your only option.
4. Hydra and Poros
Another pair of island destinations that you may like to visit in the Saronic Gulf are Hydra and Poros. Your first stop after setting out from port will likely be Poros, the smaller of the two. Upon arrival you have the choice of exploring the town, taking in wonderful views from up by the clocktower, or lounging out on one of Poros’ beaches. Next is the island of Hydra, which makes an impression even before you land. Once there, wander the idyllic, narrow streets of the island’s main town, window shopping as you go. You also won’t have to go far along the seafront promenade to find beaches which are perfect for swimming and relaxing.
Getting there: There are several ferries each day that connect the port of Piraeus near Athens with Hydra and Poros, but going this way will mean adapting to the ferry schedule. A more relaxed way to see these islands and others is by simply taking a day cruise that handles all the transportation for you.
5. Argolis (Mycenae, Nafplio and Epidaurus)
Rather than sticking to just one specific spot, regions like Argolis are home to a collection of sites that together make a great day trip. Sitting on the eastern side of the Peloponnese peninsula, there are several fantastic historic destinations begging to be explored. Start your visit with the UNESCO-recognized ancient city of Mycenae that was once a major hilltop stronghold. Sights here include the Lion Gate, the Tomb Agamemnon, and the on-site museum. Next, make your way to Epidaurus to see the marvelously preserved Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus where performances are still held to this day. Last but not least is a stop at Nafplio to see the Palamidi fortress which looms over the town.
Getting there: It is possible to visit Mycenae and Nafplio by bus from Athens as there are hourly journeys along that route, but Epidaurus is hard to reach. The far easier option to see all three is visit as part of an organized tour.
Situated in central Greece, the monasteries and landscape of Meteora are one of the best side trips from Athens. Found near the mountains in Thessaly, Meteora is known for its strange pillars of rock and large boulder-like mountains. This natural phenomenon would be reason enough to come visit this part of Greece, but perched on top these steep rocky formations are six ancient eastern Orthodox monasteries. Visiting Meteora you’ll want to visit each of these still-active monasteries as they all have their own frescoes, scenery, and views. There are also natural observation decks between the monasteries that offer the best views for seeing several monasteries at once.
Getting there: Reaching Meteora with public transport for a day trip isn’t really possible, so unless you have a car the only way to visit the area from Athens is with a guided tour.
If you’re looking for an easy trip from Athens to one of the best places to visit in Greece, Corinth is the perfect place to go. Home to the preserved ruins of Ancient Corinth, it’s best to start your visit with this expansive archaeological site. It’s easy to picture the town as it was as you walk through, admiring landmarks like the Pirene Fountain, the Temple of Apollo, and the ancient Agora. Watching over all of this on a nearby hill is the Acrocorinth fortified acropolis, one of the most significant castles of the region. To learn more about the site, visit the Archaeological Museum of Ancient Corinth for information and artifacts which document Ancient Corinth’s history. While passing through modern Corinth, be sure to make a stop at the Corinth Canal to see this deep channel and the ships passing through.
Getting there: Since both the Corinth Canal and Ancient Corinth are not close to the modern city, public transport isn’t much use in reaching these sites. Instead, your best option for visiting here is by going with a guided tour.
Greece is famous for being the birthplace of the Olympic Games, and you can visit the actual sight where the ancient Olympic Games took place when you visit Olympia. Over near the small town of Elis, this vast archaeological site was not only where the games were held every four years, but was also an important place of worship in ancient Greece. Among the sights to see here are several temples as well as an ancient stadium. Once you’ve walked through the site, there are two museums for you to visit if you like. One is the Archaeological Museum of Olympia which focuses on the ancient site and archaeological artifacts found there, while the other specifically details the history of the Olympic Games.
Getting there: With no regular tours and slow public transport, the only way to visit Olympia for the day is to rent a car and drive there yourself.
Only a short trip from Athens, Vouliagmeni is a good idea for a day trip if you want to see some more of the coast. Actually one of the seaside suburbs of Athens, start your visit here by simply walking through the neighborhood, envying the glamorous houses of locals as you go. Next, head for the Αkti Vouliagmenis beach in the center of town to swim and relax. To see more of the coast, walk up past the ruins of the Temple of Apollo Zoster and enjoy the views from the Lemos Peninsula. Before you leave the neighborhood, make your way around to the far side of the bay and visit the scenic Lake Vouliagmeni at the edge of town.
Getting there: To reach Vouliagmeni you can take the metro to Elliniko and then the bus, the trip should take roughly an hour.
10. Mount Parnitha
To escape the city for the day and find somewhere full of nature for hiking, head north to Mount Parnitha. The highest mountain in the Attica region, Parnitha is covered in thick pine forest and is an outdoor playground for locals and tourists alike. Inside the national park, people regularly go hiking, mountain biking, and even climbing. There are over 75 hiking trails which run across the mountainside as well as several mountain huts where you can have lunch while looking out towards Athens in the distance. One of the most popular hikes here is to the Ayios Petros Church because of its gentle climb and great views.
Getting there: A combination of metro and local bus will bring you to the foot of Mount Parnitha. From there you can either start your hike or hop aboard the cable car up to the Mont Parnes Casino which is part of the way up. You can also join a guided hiking tour from Athens.
That just about does it for day trip ideas from Athens. With such variety on offer, visiting one of these places for the day is sure to add another element to your Greek vacation.