Athens, a city that blends centuries of history with a contemporary buzz, has plenty of attractions to keep travelers occupied -- the Parthenon, Acropolis, botanical garden, and Dimotiki Agora (the city’s busiest market), to name a few. Beyond the city walls, however, there are several day-trip destinations that also offer lots of fun -- not to mention, a deeper glimpse into Greece’s history. With that in mind, we pulled together a list of the best day trips to take from Athens.
It may seem tough to tackle as a day trip, but Athens is only two hours away from Hydra by ferry. An early morning ferry will leave you plenty of time to explore the island and its beautiful mansions, galleries, and swimming spots. And while Hydra has no single major sight to seek out, the island’s uniqueness can be found in what’s missing from its streets -- motor vehicles. That means bicycles and donkeys are the main modes of transportation around the quaint and quiet island, upping the charm factor even more.
Travel Time by Ferry: 2 Hours
Once you’ve caught the history bug with Athens’ archaeological wonders, prepare to have your mind blown at the UNSECO World Heritage site of Delphi. One of Greece’s most important archaeological sites, Delphi will excite both history buffs and those keen on embracing the country’s spiritual side. Once considered the center of the universe (according to Greek myth, it’s the place where heaven met the earth), Delphi is more than just ruins -- there’s a spiritual attachment to it. A day-long tour of the major sites is plenty. Highlights include the Treasury of the Athenians, the Temple of Apollo, the Oracle of Delphi, the Delphi Archaeological Museum, and of course, the beautiful surrounding landscape.
Travel Time by Bus: 3 Hours
To say that Greece has some stunning landscapes is to state the obvious, but no matter how many beautiful beaches, ancient ruins, and mountainous trails you’ve seen, something will surely surprise you. This is certainly the case at Meteora, home to gigantic rock columns that rise from the ground and provide the foundation for the Greek Orthodox monasteries that are built on top of them. Visitors can also tour the interiors of these captivating monasteries. Easily reachable by train, Meteora is a spectacular day trip that will not disappoint.
Travel Time by Train: 5 Hours
A charming town well within reach of Athens, Nafplio is the former home of the King Otto of Greece, who reigned the country from 1832 to 1862. Having moved his palace to Athens, he left behind a town that remains one of the jewels of the Peloponnese. Must-see attractions include the Venetian-style houses on the narrow, winding streets, the two fortresses atop the hills that surround the town, and the Bourtzi island castle that sits in the water. See it all, then spend some time leisurely strolling around the streets before making your way to the seafront for refreshments.
Travel Time by Car: 2 Hours
5. Cape Sounion
Easily accessible from Athens, Cape Sounion is home to one of the most epic ancient Greek archaeological sites -- the Temple of Poseidon. Perched on the edge of the headland, overlooking the Saronic Gulf, the temple’s remains are as much an attraction as the scenery around it. Built in the fifth century as a monument to the God of the Sea, the Temple of Poseidon is close enough to Athens that visitors can stay for the full day. We recommend swimming on the nearby beach and returning to the ruins to see the sunset, before heading back to the city after dark.
Travel Time by Car: 1 Hour, 10 Minutes
6. Epidaurus Theatre
What’s a trip to Greece without seeing a vast ancient amphitheatre? Located in the rocky hills of the Peloponnese, the ruins of the open-air Epidaurus theater are seriously impressive. Built from stone, the 14,000-seat stadium dates back to around the fourth century B.C. It still hosts productions today, which means you might even catch a Greek comedy or tragedy during your visit, if you’re lucky. Usually running from June through July, the Epidaurus Festival offers a chance to see live theater performances in the ancient space.
Travel Time by Car: 2 Hours
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