Athens has something for everyone. From ancient sites to trendy bars and sandy beaches, the city has it all. If you have had the good fortune of exploring the city and now wish to discover a different part of Greece, it’s worth taking one, or even a few, of these top 10 day trips from Athens.
Day Trip from Athens to Cape Sounion & Athenian Riviera
Wind your way along one of the most picturesque routes on a day trip from Athens to Cape Sounion & the Athenian Riviera. At the southernmost tip of Athens, atop the steep cliff rests Cape Sounion. Here, in 600 BC, ancient Greeks built the enormous Temple of Poseidon of locally quarried white marble. Legend has it that King Aegeus leapt to his death from these cliffs after seeing his son Theseus’s ship in black sails, which was meant to be a sign of his passing. Theseus, however, had not perished but was instead getting drunk with the other sailors and had simply forgotten to raise the victorious sail. Sixteen Doric temples still remain from Pericles’s reconstruction in 440 BC. Carved into one of the pillars of the monumental structure, you will find Lord Byron’s name. Approximately 300 m northeast of the temple of Poseidon is the somewhat deteriorated Temple of Athena Sounias.
The Cape has a few striking beaches and upscale summer homes. The beaches along the Athenian Riviera between Athens and Cape Sounion have a lively atmosphere on summer weekends. Glyfada, Vouliagmeni and Lagonisi are considered the most beautiful suburbs of Athens with beach views and hipster crowds.
Day Trip from Athens to Delphi, the Oracle of Apollo
Have a taste of the mountainous part of Central Greece on a day trip from Athens to Delphi, the Oracle of Apollo. The entrance to the UNESCO site of Delphi declares, “Every intellectual human being of free will deserves to be regarded as a citizen of the town of Delphi.” The numerous travelers who come to admire Delphi’s marvels soon realize that even today the locals take this mindset to heart. This small town was once so important that Greeks felt it was the navel of the earth. Legend holds that Zeus released two eagles, one towards the east and one towards the west. They collided right over Delphi where a sacred stone now marks the spot. The remarkable sanctuary of Apollo, home to the most important oracle of antiquity, stands as a centerpiece nearby. Gaia (Mother Earth) was worshipped here until around 800 BC.
The Archaeological Museum of Delphi houses a notable collection of artifacts from the ancient city. Among the exhibits are bronze shields, the Siphnian Treasury frieze, the altar from the temple of Athena Pronaia, the Charioteer of Delphi and the Sphinx of Naxos.
Peaceful Arachova is especially magical. Join the locals as they gather along the cobblestoned sidewalks to enjoy delights such as Boeotian honey, red wine or tsipouro, a potent pomace brandy.
Day Trip from Athens to Ancient Corinth & the Corinth Canal
Life in Corinth has always been about location. The ancient city was an active commercial crossing, which meant the control of trade as its position on the isthmus separates the Peloponnese from the Greek mainland. Wealthy merchants stopped here for business and to socialize with the famous courtesans (hetairai), in the service of Aphrodite. Emerging from the cliffs is the fortress built in the 10th century and whose walls encircle the ruins of 14th - 18th century buildings. Past the first three gates at the summit is where the Temple of Aphrodite’ was located. Now, only a small chaurch of Saint Dimitrios remains. However, the stunning views of Corinth makes the day trip from Athens to Ancient Corinth & the Corinth Canal worthwhile, even for the lesser historically inclined. The rest of the fortress contains towers, mosques, gates and walls.
The Archeological Museum of Ancient Corinth traces the city’s history through Greek, Roman and Byzantine rule. It exhibits a remarkable collection of statues, scarophagi, frescoes, mosaics, pottery and has an open-air courtyard.
Day Trip from Athens to Nafplio & the Palamidi Fortress
Nafplio’s old town has the reputation of being one of the most romantic gateways in Greece. The Old Town’s picturesque alleyways are decorated with traditional tavernas, flower-filled balconies and curious strollers. In the heart of the Old Town, Syntagma square boasts a Venetian mansion, a Turkish mosque and a Byzantine church, while Ottoman fountains, cannons, monuments and statues sit in the alleyways. In 1821, Nafplio served as headquarters for the Greek revolutionary government and as Greece’s first capital between 1821-1834. President Kapodistrias was assassinated in Saint Spiridon Church here. One can still see the bullet hole in the church wall.
The first to attract your attention on a day trip from Athens to Nafplio & the Palamidi Fortress is the Palamidi Fortress towering high over the terracotta rooftops. The 999 steps to Palamidi Fortress begin from Polyzoidhou St and are marked by two cannonballs. The spectacular views from the fortress of the town and gulf make the climb well worth it. The fortress is extensive, well preserved, and enjoyable to explore. The signs “Prison of Kolokotrones” lead to the small underground cell where the famous Greek general was imprisoned by King Otto.
The National Gallery, Nafplio Annex, was opened in 2004. It houses a wide array of 19th-century oil paintings that depict the 1821 Greek Revolution. There is also a section for temporary art exhibits. The captivating Komboloi Museum allows the visitor to explore all types and styles of Greek komboloi (worry beads). There is a shop/workshop downstairs which is run by Aris Evangelinos, the museum craftsman and founder. Nafplio’s Folklore Museum features an award-winning collection of Greek textiles, clothing and furniture from Nafplio’s 19th- and early-20th-century history. The Military/War Museum displays a collection of historic firearms.
Day Trip from Athens to Mycenae
The spectacular remains of ancient Mycenae, which according to legend was founded by Perseus, blanket most of the rocky hill between Mount Prophitis Elias and Mount Zara. Gigantic Cyclopean walls surround the place and its structures. Outside the fortified city, several immaculately preserved tombs. The “Treasury of Atreus” shows the architectural skills of the Mycenaeans. The ruins date back to 1280 BC, when the city was the center of the Mycenaean Empire. The relics unearthed here are among the most celebrated archeological discoveries in modern history, including many jewels and the famous Mask of Agamemnon. When on a day trip from Athens to Mycenae, you will pass through the portal into the ancient city. This magnificent Lion’s Gate has two lions carved in relief above the lintel and is estimated to weigh 20 tons. After the gate are the shaft graves, remnants of homes, businesses, shrines, the palace and royal apartments, ancient temples, the Artisan Workshops and the underground cistern. The Tomb of Agamemnon, or the “Treasury of Atreus”, is the largest and most impressive tholos.
The museum displays an extensive collection of pottery and ceramics, which show evidence of trade with areas as far as Spain and Afghanistan, as well as a detailed history of the ancient city and its excavations.
Day Trip from Athens to the Epidauros Theater
Built into a hillside in the 3rd century BC, the Theater of Epidauros is, without doubt, a most splendid structure. It was originally constructed to accommodate 6000 people, however, its capacity was eventually expanded to 12 300. The 55 rows of the theater face the striking mountain views while the theater itself is remarkable. Stand at its highest point and attempt to grasp how magnificent it must have been in its heyday. The theater’s acoustics defy belief. On your day trip from Athens to the Epidauros Theater, don't miss testing its acoustics by throwing a coin to the orchestra. The secret to the theater’s acoustic perfection is its symmetrical architecture as the amphitheater was built in proportion to the Fibonacci sequence.
Every summer, the theater comes alive with the Epidauros Festival. It is one of the most famous festivals in Greece. The festival includes musical, theatrical and other cultural events.
Day Trip from Athens to Patras
Patras, the third-largest city of Greece sprawls down from its ancient hilltop ruins to a modern, busy harbor. The city’s wide-ranging shops, cafés and restaurants have literally been built on the foundations of ancient times. Throughout the city there are cobbled pedestrian streets, charming alleys, and large buzzing squares.
No day trip from Athens to Patras is complete without a visit to the Achaia Clauss Winery. Uphill through grapevines and shaded countryside, a narrow road leads to the internationally renowned winery which was founded in 1861 by German-born Baron Gustav von Clauss. Take a tour of the old wine cellars and enjoy a sample of its famous Mavrodaphne, the sweet dessert wine.
Agios Andreas, the largest Orthodox church in Greece, bears a 46m-high dome and has a capacity of 5000 people. Saint Andreas was martyred here in the 1st century AD on an X-shaped crucifix. Relics of Saint Andreas are stored in the church. In 1964, the Catholic Church returned Saint Andreas’s holy skull to his place of martyrdom. The church’s Byzantine-style frescoes, gold mosaics and decorated windows are considered artistic masterpieces. Behind Saint Andreas is the original church which was built between 1836 and 1843. This building has a small well supposedly built by the saint. Legend has it that anyone who drinks from the well is sure to return to Patras.
Day Trip from Athens to Kalavryta & the Monastery of Mega Spilaio
The village of Diakofto combines fresh waters, picturesque houses and mountains overflowing with lush vegetation. Nestled in a valley among the pine-filled ridges of the Chelmos Mountain, this small village has access to dramatic historical and religious monuments. Among its natural beauties is the River Styx, where the Olympian gods are said to have taken their most sacred oaths. Visitors on a day trip from Athens to Kalavryta & the Monastery of Mega Spilaio take the rack train here, which climbs over the Vouraikos Gorge to the village of Kalavryta.
The Agia Lavra Monastery was built on Chelmos Mountain, near Kalavryta, in 961 AD and is the oldest monastery in the Peloponnese. The monastery is famously linked with the Greek War of Independence, since it was the monks of Agia Lavra who officially initiated the Revolution against the Ottoman Empire on March 25, 1821. The monastery was burnt down by the Ottomans, the armies of Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt and the Nazis, however, some religious relics, including a 16th-century icon of the virgin Mary survived.
Sixteen centuries of religious history lie hidden in a monumental cave near Kalavryta. Built in AD 362, the Monastery of Mega Spilaio is the oldest monastery in Greece. It is home to a wax and mastic icon of the Virgin Mary, believed to have been sculpted 2000 years ago by Saint Luke. According to the monks, the icon was miraculously discovered in the cave by Saint Efrosini. The 7th-century church hosts mosaic floors, outstanding frescoes and a bronze door with relief decorations.
Day Trip from Athens to Olympia
Set among the cypress and olive trees, Olympia is most famous as the birthplace of the Olympic Games. Along with a unspoiled natural setting, the modern village is full of tourist shops, restaurants and hotels. Nonetheless, it retains a relaxed pace that makes any day trip from Athens to Olympia a pleasure.
Ancient Olympia was one of the ancient world’s most important religious, political and sports centers. Participants from Greece, Macedonia, Asia Minor, North Africa and Sicily assembled here to worship and compete in the Olympic Games. Every four years for 1169 years, warring city-states called a sacred truce in order to travel to Olympia for the grandest Panhellenic assembly of the ancient world. The Olympic complex was surrounded by various facilities for administrators and participants, including the Olympic stadium, the gymnasium, the Palaestra, the workshop of Pheidias, the sculptor of the ivory and gold statue of Zeus so magnificent that it became one the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the Temple of Zeus. Today’s Olympic flame is lit for each Olympiad at the Altar of Hera. From here, it is borne by various means to the designated site of the modern Olympic Games.
The Archeological Museum of Olympia is quite a revelation. Most of what has been removed from the excavations in the ancient site of Olympia is exhibited in the museum. A most impressive military display is a Corinthian helmet from 490 BC. This helmet has an inscription that reads “Miltiades dedicated this to Zeus”. Miltiades the Younger led the outnumbered Greeks to victory over the Persians in the Battle of Marathon in 479 BC. The museum’s collection of sculptures includes some of the greatest surviving pieces worldwide. The major pieces in the museum are the sculpture of Hermes and the Infant Dionysus, attributed to Praxiteles, the sculpture of Nike of Paionios, items from the Temple of Zeus and a wine jug that belonged to Pheidias.
Day Trip from Athens to Meteora
A day trip from Athens to Meteora offers the unique opportunity to experience nature’s grandeur in connection with man’s desire to connect with the Divine. The 21 gravity-defying monasteries of Meteora, meaning “hanging in the air”, rest atop awe-inspiring columns which ascend to the sky. Meteora is believed to have been inhabited by hermits as early as the 11th century. Only six of the 21 Eastern Orthodox monasteries are still in use and are open to the public. The largest and most popular of the monastic community are the Grand Meteoro and the Varlaam. The other 4 monasteries may be less visited, however, they remain interestingly more intimate.
The exact origins of the settlements on Meteora are unknown. One story claims that the first recluse was a hermit named Barnabas, who founded the skete, the small, isolated monastic cell or cave. Later, other hermits and ascetics followed his example, moving to the pinnacles and crevices of Meteora. Access to the monasteries was originally deliberately difficult. It required either very long ladders tied together, or large nets used to pull up goods or people. Now a road leads close to the base of the pinnacle and a rock staircase provides access to modern-day visitors.
Athens’ surrounding attractions are by no means less spectacular than the city itself. Discover ancient temples, medieval monasteries, lush landscapes and the most stunning coastlines on one, or even several, of these top 10 day trips from Athens.
- Cape Sounion & Athenian Riviera Beach Escape
- Delphi, the Oracle of Apollo – The Navel of the Earth (full day)
- Ancient Corinth & Corinth Canal Photo Stop
- Nafplio on Foot & Palamidi Fortress - A Walking Tour (3-4h)
- Nafplio with a Visit to Ancient Mycenae (4h)
- Nafplio - Mycenae - Epidauros & Photo Stop at Corinth Canal (8h)
- Achaia Clauss Winery & Church of Agios Andreas in Patras (full day)
- Kalavryta & Monastery of Mega Spilaio (full day)
- Ancient Olympia Private Day Tour from Athens
- Meteora Full Day Tour From Athens - Columns in the Sky