There are many temples, monuments and other must-see sights in Athens. – And we know what we’re talking about – however, if you’re looking for a different, perhaps more immersive and relaxing experience, we highly recommend a visit to a Greek island.
Taking a short getaway to an island near Athens, where you’ll enjoy crystal clear waters and fully immerse yourself in Greek culture (which Santorini and Mykonos certainly don’t), is a lot easier than you might be thinking. Now then:
- What are the nearest islands to Athens?
- How can you reach them?
- Which island is the most beautiful or which one do you like the most?
- Which islands can you visit in just 1 day, is it worth it?
I will give you ALL the information you need, as well as sharing my personal experience, so that you can make the best decision and enjoy a wonderful excursion.
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Greek islands to visit from Athens
These are, from my experience and feedback from many other travellers, the 4 best islands you can visit in a day or two (from Athens).
From the elegant Hydra to the tranquillity of Agistri, from the exuberance of Poros to the vibrant Aegina. Let’s talk about each of these islands, I’ve ordered them from the closest to the furthest:
Known as the pistachio island, Aegina is the most convenient option due to its proximity. Taking a ferry from Piraeus, the port of Athens, will get you to this island in about 40 minutes – a joy – however the boat will drop you off at the main port/town of Aegina Island, and my personal recommendation is that you do NOT stay there.
Why do I say this?
Well… There you’ll find cute beachfront cafes and restaurants, as well as plenty of stalls where you can sample the local pistachio nuts and all their by-products (pasta, creams, oils…), all of which are delicious.
However, it is also by far the most touristy area of all, which is not a bad thing, but you won’t find the tranquillity and Greek atmosphere that characterise a Greek island. So after spending some time discovering the city, I recommend moving to a more secluded and hidden village (e.g. Souvala), where you can take a relaxing dip in the sea and eat in a traditional ouzeria.
If you don’t know what an ouzeria is, I’ll tell you now, as it is a very important part of Greek gastronomy.
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New Athens Free Tour
Experience Athens through history and mythology on our free walking tour. We cover the major classical sights, infusing a touch of modern Greek life. Discover the heart of ancient Athens as you stroll through Plaka, past the Acropolis, and ancient theaters.
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An ouzeri is a Greek restaurant specialising in fish, which is a high quality food on the islands and is cooked very well. The name of the place comes from “ouzo“, which is a typical alcohol drunk while eating fish. – Although there are Greeks (especially the older ones) who can drink it at any time and in any circumstance… But back to the subject – this drink has a very strong taste similar to aniseed or chapa, I recommend you to try it, you probably won’t like it, but you have to try it (because it is a very Greek experience).
Another attraction of this island, as interesting as it is unknown, is the temple of Aphaia: Dedicated to a nymph with such a beauty that Minos himself pursued her for it, to the point that in order to escape Aphaia was forced to throw herself into the sea. There the nymph was rescued by a fisherman, who used his nets to pull her out. Aphaia was also considered the inventor of hunting nets, which were an indispensable element for the people of Aegina to carry out their main trade.
Aegina is the closest island to Athens, it also has two factors that set it apart from the rest: pistachios (it seems appropriate to mention it here because of the great importance the islanders attach to this nut) and the temple of Aphaia. Culturally, Aegina is the most culturally rich island on our list, but if you’re looking for dreamy beaches and a more relaxed atmosphere, the other options have better things to offer.
Agistri is the second closest island to Athens, one of my favourites and certainly the most frequented by Greeks and/or residents of the Hellenic capital.
Why is Agistri so popular with the Greeks, and what are visitors looking for?
The answer is simple: nothing. And it is precisely this lack of pretension that makes Agistri a special place. This island is not exploited for tourism and therefore does not attract large crowds of foreign visitors. Instead, on Agistri you will usually find Greeks looking to get away from Athens and young people camping during the summer.
In my view, Agistri’s greatest virtue is precisely its tranquillity and authenticity. You won’t find big hotels or fancy restaurants here, but rather a simple and relaxed atmosphere. For some, this may be “nothing”, but for others, it can be a unique opportunity to disconnect and enjoy nature and the simplicity of life on a Greek island.
If you are looking for absolute tranquillity, almost empty beaches and crystal clear water, Agistri is the best island near Athens for you, hands down. You can get to a few interesting places on foot alone, but you can also take a taxi or bus (although using public transport on a Greek island is as unique an experience as it is problematic),
A very interesting option is to rent a bike and cycle around the island, or at least until you find your Greek paradise where you can “settle down” and enjoy yourself. You don’t need to be a great athlete to do this, as this island is the smallest of all the islands I am recommending.
IMPORTANT: I suggest you bring cash and maybe something to eat, as you won’t find ATMs or many restaurants open that easily. The latter also depends a lot on which area of the island you are in, however I recommend it from my own experience.
As you can see this island, despite being very close to Athens, perfectly symbolises “deep” Greece. By boat from Piraeus it will take you 45-75 minutes, depending on the type of ferry you choose (the faster ones cost more). I do not want you to opt for Agistri and then this island does not meet your expectations, so I want to make it clear that it is NOT a typical tourist destination (with its respective advantages and disadvantages) and maybe it is not for everyone. In any case: Let’s continue with our list!
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Discover the historic gems of Athens and step into a world of legend. Our adventure starts at Lord Byron’s Statue, leading you through the ancient wonders of Hadrian’s Arch, the Temple of Zeus, Monastiraki, and Plaka. Would you like to join a local Athenian guide for an incredible journey back in time?
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Poros is a stunning destination for those in search of dream beaches. Its crystal clear waters and fine sand create a very comfortable and pleasant atmosphere, ideal for enjoying the moment and de-stressing. In addition, the beaches of Poros are surrounded by incredible rows of pine trees, which together with the above create a true spectacle of colours. It’s as if nature has designed the perfect postcard for you, really.
Now comes the “BUT”, because everything has to have a “BUT”… The beaches of Poros are quite small, as is customary on the islands, however, in this case the lack of space can be more detrimental. Because Poros itself is a rather touristy destination, it is necessary to share its beautiful beaches with, in my opinion, too many people.
By the latter, I simply meant to convey that you are not going to have a lot of personal space. However, if you don’t mind being surrounded by a lot of people, the beaches of Poros are still a perfect choice for you.
Not to focus only on the beaches, I always recommend visiting the odd village on the island. It’s not that it has “things to see” per se, I just find it culturally interesting to explore its streets, squares and houses. Besides, you will get a very different view of the “Greek life” than the one you have already seen in Athens, it will be a huge contrast.
Also, as a further point of differentiation, it is possible to take a mini-ferry that takes you to the Peloponnese peninsula. I seem to remember that the ticket costs less than 3 euros and the journey takes less than 5 minutes, with very frequent departures (although it depends on the season). This could be a good opportunity to, albeit very briefly, set foot on the Peloponnese and explore this coastal area.
On the other hand, and fortunately for us, getting to Poros from Athens is just as easy as getting to the aforementioned islands; the same ferry that first passes through Aegina and Agistri will arrive in Poros about 15 minutes later. It is worth noting that the price of the ticket gets more expensive the further you go, however it is quite similar for these 3 islands, as they are all quite close to Athens (unlike Hydra).
Poros has EVERY good thing a tourist is looking for when visiting a Greek island, the only “drawback” (and I say this from a subjective point of view) being the amount of people on its beaches. Plus, there is the interesting option of a short visit to the Peloponnese.
Still, wait to hear about the latter island before making your decision:
The last island on our list is Hydra, the least close to Athens but, for many, the most beautiful of all the Saronic islands (which also include Aegina, Agistri and Poros).
In Hydra everything looks like something out of a painting; the typical whitewashed houses, a beautiful crescent-shaped harbour, little stone paths leading to the village, restaurants (or ouzerias) on the beautiful coast, donkeys and mules for transport….
It turns out that, with the exception of the waste collection truck (a necessary service), all motorised vehicles are banned on the island. I find this a very interesting point, which sets it apart from the other islands mentioned above.
The ferry from the port of Athens, Piraeus, takes just under 2 hours and is a very frequent trip every day of the week. Hydra can also be reached from Nafplio, which is a very interesting town to visit in the Peloponnese.
It is worth mentioning that ferry tickets (from Athens) are considerably more expensive than for other destinations, costing approximately 80 euros (for both legs). Also, in general terms, Hydra is a much more expensive island than the others. However, for your reference, these prices are cheaper than Santorini and Mykonos.
If you are looking for a day trip, Hydra may not be the most convenient island to visit… Between the two ferry journeys, plus the trip to and from Athens port, you will have already used up 5 hours of your day.
However, in case you want to spend a night outside Athens, Hydra is still an ideal option. On the other hand, you can also combine this island with a drive to Nafplio and perhaps other places in the Peloponnese.
Thank you for reading this far and I wish you a great trip. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us or leave a comment, we will be happy to answer you.