While Athens can fill a complete itinerary with exciting venues and activities by itself, there are several trips worth taking around the capital. Around Attica you will find plenty of little towns and seaside resorts for day-trips, and of course a host of archaeological sites to keep you busy.
Day Trips by Car
From Athens you can make day trips to many interesting places like Sounio, Delphi, Mycenae, Corinth, and Epidaurus.
Sounio is about one hour drive from the center of Athens through the coastal road and can be done in one afternoon or morning.
It would take about 45 minutes to get there, and many visitors prefer to go in the afternoon to watch the sunset from the ancient ruins. There is a cafeteria where you can have a light meal or a drink with the moon over temple of Poseidon in your view. Click here to visit our Sounio travel guide.
Tip: Keep the Sounio visit for you last night in Athens, and plan to watch the sunset from the Temple of Poseidon. It would be the perfect exclamation mark to your holiday!
Other major archaeological sites near Athens, such as Delphi, Mycenae, and Epidaurus would require an entire, and really long day for a visit.
These are extensive archaeological sites which require at least one hour for each visit, so our advice would be to only opt for a day trip if you have no other option. Otherwise, we would advise at least an overnight stay in Delphi and a three-day trip in the Argolis.
Going to Delphi for a day-trip from Athens would make for a really long day, mainly because the road to Delphi is only partially highway, and the longest part alternates between rural and mountain roads.
We would therefore recommend that you make Delphi a destination in itself for at least one overnight.
But if you don’t have the time and you want to visit Delphi badly, your best options would be either with a hired ride, a dedicated bus tour, or a rental car. Public transportation would not be a good option unless you stay in Arachova or Delphi overnight, and there is no train connection with Athens.
If you only have time to visit one archaeological site outside of Athens, the site at Delphi would be the best choice because it is historically important, the ruins are extensive, and the landscape beautiful. The Museum of Delphi houses some of the most important artifacts from ancient Greece.
This would be another long day-trip, but if you want to see the ancient sites around Corinth, you can use the “Proastiakos”–the same metro line that connects the center of Athens to the Airport. Once you reach Corinth, you can get around with taxis.
The biggest attractions of Corinth are the archaeological site and the spectacular Corinth canal that separates the Peloponnese from the rest of the Greek mainland.
Mycenae and Epidaurus
Mycenae and Epidaurus could be visited together during a long day trip if you are pressed for time. However, as we mentioned before a three -day visit would allow you to enjoy the multitude of sites and landscapes of the Argolis much more comfortably.
If you opt for a day-trip, having your own wheels, and leaving Athens early in the morning would be best to visit both Mycenae first, and Epidaurus second.
The road to Mycenae from Athens is mostly highway, and the archeological site has exactly zero shelter from the sun, the walking is mostly uphill, and it gets very crowded after 10:00 AM. So visiting and departing by mid-morning is a worthy goal.
Click here to visit our Mycenae travel guide
Epidaurus on the other hand has lots of tree coverage, it’s mostly on level ground, and more expansive, so the crowds would be an issue only on the theatre orchestra.
The road back to Athens after visiting Epidaurus would take you through some rural landscape at first, and a scenic winding coastal road before you reach the highway near Corinth.
Click here to visit our Epidaurus travel guide
For a more ambitious tour of the area, you could also visit Tyrins, Argos, and Nafplio which is a beautiful town with nice beaches near Tolo. If you do go to Nafplio, the Archaeological Museum of Nafplio is worth a visit.
Day Trips by Boat
You can take a slow ferry there, but a “flying dolphin” (catamaran) will make the trip in a fraction of the time, so you can be back to Athens for dinner.
All of these islands are excellent day-long destinations, but if you have the time you might want to schedule a day or two at Hydra island.
One-Day Cruises from Athens
There are several companies that offer daily cruises to the Saronic gulf islands. They usually leave around 7:00 AM from Faliro and sail to Aegina, Poros, Hydra, and then they return to Athens early in the evening.
Some of these small cruise boats make a stop at Spetses after Hydra.
The service varies from boat to boat, but it is usually a far cry from the cruises that sail the Aegean islands for three to seven days. You can expect to be packed among many, many passengers with nothing to do besides drinking.
These day-cruise boats are a lot slower than the regular ferries and catamarans, but they offer you the choice of seeing several islands without the hustle of changing boats, and chasing ferry schedules.