With more than 3,000 years of history and culture, it’s no surprise that there’s plenty to see and do in Athens. But the capital of Greece is also an ideal starting point to explore the underestimated landscape more deeply.
An eclectic mix of places like 16th century cliff monasteries to Meteora, the paradisiacal Greek islands along the Saronic Gulf (including Aegina) and the ancient oracle house in Delphi can be explored on day trips from Athens.
A typical Athenian holiday itinerary includes a visit to the Acropolis, a feast of fresh Greek cuisine and a visit to one or two museums. Although these are undeniable must-sees for a first visit to Athens, I also recommend a day trip or two outside the city.
These 5-day excursions from Athens show remarkable sights of ancient and modern Greece that will take your Athens vacation to the next level.
1. Meteors: Monasteries on a cliff from the 16th century
Meteora, which means “hanging in the air”, is home to otherworldly limestone landscapes that rise up to 600 meters into the perfect blue sky. High up on some of these rocky cliffs there were once 22 artfully built Byzantine monasteries. After a series of disasters, including temblor and looting by Ottoman soldiers, many monasteries were leaved and eventually finished. There are only 6 of them left and now they function as Greek Orthodox monasteries.
2. Delphi: famous temple of Apollo and residence of the ancient oracle
Delphi occupies an important place in Greek history and mythology, which dates back to 800 BC. It housed the Sacred Temple of Apollo and his oracle Pythia, who was entrusted to share future predictions with the people of Ancient Greece.
I visited Delphi on a day trip through Fantasy Travel. The tour included a 2-hour bus ride from Athens to Delphi and made a stop in each direction for a coffee break. Our guide Effie shared myths and stories relevant to Delphi and the regions we passed through along the way.
3. Aegean coast: Sailing and swimming in the Cerulean seas
Is it just me, or have you dreamed of sailing on a luxury yacht among picturesque rocky islands, jumping into idyllic blue water to swim while sipping a glass of world-class plonk?
I was able to live this dream when I booked the Manawa day trip from Athens. The tour left Athens from the Kalamaki marina, where we met our captain Petros and his crew Kostas and Konstantina, who did all the hard work of sailing for us while we relaxed, ate mezze and enjoyed the scenery.
This private tour usually sails along the Athenian coast and makes 2 stops next to small islands for swimming and snorkeling. On the day of our visit (early April) it was a little cold, so we decided to stay on the deck and enjoy the yacht, which was not difficult at all with the luxurious interior, rousing music and delicious food from Konstantina.
4. Aegina, Poros and Hydra: explore 3 Greek islands
Deciding to visit Athens or the Greek islands can be an extremely difficult decision, you may want to know that several islands can be visited on a day trip from Athens. I visited 3 islands in the Saronic Gulf: Aegina, Poros and Hydra on a full-day cruise in Athens.
The 3-deck ferry left Athens at 8:15 am from the day cruise terminal next to the Yacht Club Amfitheas. Tickets are available in standard or VIP class, with standard ticket holders having access to all areas of the ferry except the VIP lounge. The day of my tour was quite windy and cold (end of March) and there was hardly any free space on one of the 3 decks. I can only imagine that the tour will be visited even more in the most popular summer months.
Breakfast, snacks and drinks can be purchased in the café or at the bar on board. Although the food I bought was fresh and delicious, it was also very expensive, so I recommend that you bring your own breakfast and snacks.
5. Temple of Poseidon: along the Athenian Riviera to Cape Sounion
A frequent recommendation I received from local Athenians was to visit the Athenian Riviera and Cape Sounion, which they assured me were very beautiful, especially at sunset. I didn’t have time to spend a whole day on the beach, so I booked a half-day trip to the temple of Poseidon through Athens Walking Tours.
The tour included a 70-minute bus ride along the Athenian Riviera, which, as promised, is extremely beautiful. On the way past coastal towns, green hills, 2,000-year-old olive trees and small fish farms, while our guide Melina told stories from Greek mythology.
When we reached our destination, the Temple of Poseidon, there was a lot of wind. This is definitely a summer visit (instead of April, OOPS!). Despite the strong wind, we stayed until the spectacularly persistent temple of Poseidon.