Got some extra time in Athens? Seen the Acropolis?
Walked through the Plaka?
are all within easy reach of Athens for day-trips, half day-trips and even overnight if you prefer.
After the Acropolis, Delphi is the most popular archaeological site in Greece. Located 180 kilometers from Athens, a trip to Delphi is listed in just about every tour itinerary and is by far the most popular day trip out of Athens. You can go by public bus or rent a car and drive there in a couple hours, or you can hire George the Famous Taxi Driver to take
you. Fantasy Travel's 1-Day Delphi Tour is inexpensive and convenient. They pick you up and drop you off at your Athens hotel in an air-conditioned luxury bus, and provide you with a licensed guide and even feed you lunch.
See Matt's Delphi Page
Nafplio and the Argolis
Old Nafplio (or Nafplion) is one of the most beautiful towns in Greece. The former capital of the country may remind visitors of the Plaka in Athens, but it's on the sea. With two mountains crowned by medieval fortresses overlooking the town and the small island fortress called the Bourtzi that once protected the harbor, Nafplio is full of restaurants, shops, cafes, beautiful old buildings,hotels of all catagories and a beach that you can walk to in ten minutes.
For people who want to visit an island but don't like boats, Nafplio is a good alternative and just a 2 hour drive from Athens. It is also convenient to the important ancient sites of Myceneae, Epidavros, Nemea, Argos and Corinth. Nafplio has a mild winter (they grow oranges here) and is one of the best places to visit in the off-season. You can get here by public bus, rental car or with George the Famous Taxi Driver if you want to get a lot done. Fantasy Travel's Argolis Day Tour includes Nafplio, Myceneae, Epidavros, Corinth and provides a licensed guide.
See my Guide to Nafplion and the Argolis
The ancient city of Corinth, known at least by name from the Apostle Paulís talks to the Corinthians in the Bible, is now famous for the Corinth Canal, one of the more impressive feats of 19th century engineering. Acrocorinth is the Acropolis of Corinth, which rises up from the ancient city. It is the largest and oldest fortress in the Peloponessos. You can't go to Corinth without stopping to see the site of Ancient Corinth or head southeast to the ancient site
of Isthmia. Corinth is less than 2 hours from downtown Athens and you can take a bus or train, though getting between the sites may be a nuisance. Alternatively you can rent a car, use George the Famous Taxi Driver or do Fantasy Travel's Half Day Ancient Corinth Tour though you don't go up to Acrocorinth.
See my Guide to Corinth and the Argolis
If tourists only knew about Nemea it would be on the itinerary of every traveler to the Peloponessos. It would also be a popular day trip from Athens for every lover of antiquity and Greek wine. There are few places in Greece that combine Ancient Greek temples with what feels a lot like the Napa Valley of California. Throw in a trip to the endless beaches of the nearby Corinthian Gulf and lunch at a seaside taverna, and maybe a stop at Ancient Corinth and Acrocorinth
and you have it all: archaeology, sea, fresh fish, Saint Paul and wine. Lots of wine. Getting to Nemea is easy even for those who don't have a car or can't afford a taxi. Just take the KTEL bus from Athens that goes to the modern town of Nemea and get off a Archaea Nemea where the archaeological site is. Getting around may be a chore so you may want to rent a car. You can also use George the Famous Taxi Driver and Fantasy Travel offers a Tour of the Wineries of Nemea
The Temple of Posideon at Cape Sounion
The temple at Cape Sounion was the first
and last sign of 'civilization'
Athenian sailors would see to and from
their journeys. It's a magnificent
site on top of a hill on the tip of
the Attika peninsula. Not a bad place
to watch the sunset either after a
late lunch at a beach side taverna and there are two pretty good ones right below the temple.
The small beach has sea almost as clean as you will find on the islands. Its one of the nicest beaches within striking distance of Athens. It is split into 2 sections and one appears to be a private beach owned by the Hotel Aegeon Beach. But guess what. You can't own the beach in Greece
so don't feel you have to sit in the little stretch of sand outside the hotel property. If you are looking for a hotel on the mainland with an island
feel (even though there is no village nearby, just Lavrion which is more of a city) the Hotel Aegeon Beach is not a bad choice though it is a long way into Athens to see the sites. Again, if you are coming here on a day trip with three or more use
George the Famous Taxi Driver. You can even combine this was a transfer to or from the airport and stop for a swim and something to eat at a seaside taverna. Otherwise you can catch
the bus at the same place as the buses
to Rafina at the bottom of Pedion Areos Park or in Syntagma and on Filelinon Street. (Look for the KTEL bus stop sign. Try to find Lord Byron's
name carved in the marble. Most Travel Agencies offer a trip to Cape Sounion at sunset for a pretty reasonable price. See Fantasy Travel's Cape Sounion Afternoon Tour
also my pages on Sounion
Besides having just about the best beach
within an hour from Athens on the Gold
Coast, the amazing healing lake Vouliagmeni is the closest spa to the
city. You may even have noticed it when
you fly over Athens, just before your
plane touches the runway, or seen Lester Holt swimming in it during the Olympics.
The water that pours into the lake from
underground natural caves supposedly help
relieve different ailments such as
Osfialgia, Gynecological Problems,
Salpingitis, Psychological disturbances
etc. In the early seventies some American servicemen from the base disappeared looking for the caves that connected Lake Vouliagmeni to the sea. We always thought this was some kind of Greek urban myth but in 2006 their bodies were found.
more see my page on Lake Vouliagmeni
I can almost hear you say "What? Thebes? Why Thebes? It is just an ugly agricultural town on the way to Delphi". Yes that is true. Thebes will never be on anyone's list of idyllic towns in Greece. But Thebes has an amazing archaeological museum, one of the best in Greece, chock full of stuff because almost everyone has been in Thebes from Paleolithic times through the Ottomans. So now it is time for the tourists. The center of the city is built on top of the ancient city, there is a Mycenaean palace there, and the center is one long platia with restaurants, cafes and shade trees. You can stop there for a couple hours on the way to Delphi. See Matt's Thebes Page
|Here are some more places you may not know about...
One of my favorite places is Rafina on
the other side of Mount Pendeli and
Himitos. It's like driving to an
island. Every year I visit Athens,
whether it is summer or winter, I make
a point to spend one afternoon in
Rafina. If I can't get my family or
friends to come I go alone. But it's
almost like a pilgrimage for
me. There are numerous restaurants that
specialize in fried squid
(kalamarakia), small fried
fish(mareedes), shark with garlic
sauce (galeos me skordaya) and other
things from the sea. The most popular
one is Agoni Grammi, the last one on
the dock or the first one you come to
when you get off the ferry. If you love fried fish,
beer, ouzo, wine and afternoons where
you can drink and relax and not worry
about tonight or tomorrow, spend an
afternoon in Rafina.
There are ferries going to the
Cyclades and Evia, going in and out of
the harbor and lots of fishing
boats. It's just like being on an island.
There is a long beach there that is
usually only crowded on Sunday. The
town itself has a few too many
apartment buildings for my taste but
the waterfront is nice. There is
nothing like spending the day with
some close friends, some fried fish
and several bottles of ouzo.
If you are going to the Cyclades
islands the boat trip is two hours
shorter from Rafina and boats leave
later in the day though if you are coming from Athens you will lose most of the time you save. In the summer it's a
very busy port with ships going in and
out and the restaurants full of
people. In the winter it is much
quieter and much more enjoyable. The plan is that now that nearby Venizelos Airport has been completed,
many people going to the islands will
be leaving from here and the port of
Lavrion further south, where they have done extensive expansion of the
harbor. There is also a catamaran that
makes it to Mykonos in less then 2
hours. The town has a fishing fleet and there
are several fish markets with the
freshest of fish and the biggest
crayfish I have ever seen.
There are a couple ways to get there.
The easy way would be to call my taxi
George the Famous Taxi Driver
invite him to be your host. If you
split the cost between three or four
people it will be quite inexpensive
and you will have George there for
translations and advice, not to
mention entertainment. (Get him to stop at the Sanctuary of Artemis on the way back). You can also go by
. Take the metro to Victoria Square
and walk up Heiden Street at the top
of the square. The first large street
you will come to should be 28th of
October Street. If it's not you are
walking in the wrong direction. Keep
going up Heiden until you come to
Areos Park and can't go any further.
Find the bus that says Rafina and get
on the one that has passengers on it.
It's a forty minute drive depending on
traffic. They usually leave every half
hour. Another option instead of the
metro is a yellow trolley from
Venizelou (or Panapistimiou street)
Take the number 18,13,11,5, or 3 and
get off at Alexandras Ave, just beyond
the Archeology museum. You will see
the park and the buses one block up.
In Rafina the bus will let you off in
the harbor. Traffic can be heavy at
certain times. Going there on weekends
can be hell. Go during the week and
leave Athens early on days when the
stores close at 2.
Actually these days Rafina is not a bad place to base yourself since you can easily take a bus or taxi into Athens and see the sites and then come back for a swim and dinner. The Avra Rafina Smartotel
(photo) is a Three-star hotel convenient to the ferries to the islands. Other hotels in the area include the Hotel Aquamarina, the Hotel Mati, the Cabo Verde, the Myrto Hotel, the Attika Beach Hotel and the Miami Hotel, all on the beach in the area of Mati just a couple kilometers from Rafina. (The town of Mati was heavily damaged by a tragic fire in the summer of 2018 but hopefully the area will have recovered by the time you read this).
between Loutsa and Porto Rafti is the town of Vravrona or Brauron, known for the giant
resort Hotel-Spa Mare Nostrum. Its also known for the 6th Century BC Temple of Artemis in a
beautiful setting right by the crossroads from Markopoulo. Monday it is
closed, in fact I must always go by there on Mondays because the last three
times I have seen it I have had to take photos from the other side of the fence.
But it is one of those quiet magical places you find around Greece and to make
it even more attractive the area around it has very little if any development.
Its all farms, vinyards, olive and fig trees as well as rocks and bushes, trees
and wild plants and looks like much of Attika used to look like. If you have
some extra time in Athens I would suggest maybe visiting a winery or two, taking
a swim at Avlaki, stopping at the temple and then having lunch either in Loutsa
(also called Artemida after the temple and sanctuary). Actually if you have a
stopover for 4 or 5 hours you could probably do this in about three hours with George the Famous Taxi Driver. I would
say just grab a cab at the airport but then if you could not find one for the
return trip and you missed your flight then I would feel like it was my fault. There is also a brand new museum here with artifacts from the area. The pay beach at Avlaki is beautiful and has a Greek island feel. Not as much as it did when it was a quiet beach with one taverna on it and you did not have to pay, but it is still as nice a beach as you will find near Athens.
Lavrion which is the closest town to Sounion, has a lively waterfront and town center full of restaurants, ouzeries, cafe-bars and a very nice fish market. In fact you should stop and see the Lavrion mineral museum as well as the ancient site of Lavrion which has
one of the best ancient ampitheaters. If it were not for the silver mines of Lavrion the ancient Greeks would not have defeated the Persians in the battle of Salamis since that was how they were able to build their fleet. Lavrion is the gateway to the island of Kea, another nice place for a day trip and you can also get ferries to the Cyclades and the North Aegean Islands. They have spent a fortune upgrading the port and in the future there will be a train here since it saves two hours ferry travel to the islands.
Lavrion is one of the up and coming towns and the coast around it is dotted with small coves and beaches. See my Lavrion pages
Everyone has heard the story of the
Persian defeat at Marathon at the
hands of the Athenians. Imagine
marching several thousand miles only
to be wiped out 27 miles from the city
you came to conquer by an army a
fraction of your size. Marathon is an
interesting place to visit. There is
not much to see of the battlefield
really. There is a burial mound in an
olive grove and a plaque that
commemorates the great victory and a nice statue. You are not supposed to climb up the mound but from the looks of the worn footpath many people do, including me. There
is also the place where the race
begins. The beach at Marathon is pretty nice and nearby Schinias is even better. But the most amazing thing
about Marathon is the marble dam that
holds the water that supplies Athens.
It is the only marble dam in the world
and it is quite spectacular. Just
beyond Marathon is the seaside town of
Nea Makri. Formerly a US Navy
communications base, it is now a very
nice place to come for lunch or a
swim. The nearby town of Oropos is about 45 minutes
from Athens. There are beaches, cafes,
restaurants and you can catch one of
the ferry to Eretria in Evia. Its also the kite-surfing capital of the universe on a good day. The
waterfront is a very nice area for
strolling on summer evenings. There
are hotels on the coast and though not
very well known to American travelers,
the area is popular with Greeks and
tourists from Eastern
Schinias is the most beautiful beach in Attika. It is one of the few beaches that has a pine forest that comes right down to the sea. The sea is shallow, generally clean, and if you come in the off-season which means anytime but August
and weekends in July, you may be
surprised at how few people are here. Because it is shallow you don't need more than a few days of sunshine for it to be warm enough to swim and this is usually the first and last place I swim every year. If you don't have a rental car or go with George the Famous Taxi Driver you can take one of the KTEL Attika buses at the
bottom of Pedion Areos, or take the bus to Nea Makri and take a local taxi from there. Make sure you give him a time to pick you up. For some
reason Schinias has traditionally been the favorite beach of American and European x-pats living in Athens and every year various groups come to clean the beach of the plastic and paper that the winter winds and seas have deposited on the beach or blown into the trees. There were several fish tavernas which ran on diesel generators since there is no electricity there. They were all shut down and bulldozed so if you are hungry stop at one of the shaded tavernas on the road or in the nearby town of Marathon Beach. (I really liked Panormitis Psarotaverna.)
The ancient sanctuary of Amfiaraion is near the town of Kalamos which is
near Oropos, in north Attika, where you catch the ferry to Eretria, Evia. It was
a healing center and the most important religious sanctuary for the nearby city
of Oropos during the classical period. There is a temple to Amphiaraus with some
columns still standing, a sacred spring which still has water, baths, an
ampitheatre, a long stoa, and the remains of dwellings and shops on each side of
a small stream in a wooded area in the hills that lead to the sea. It reminds me
of a small version of Delphi or Olympia but its just half an hour from Athens.
It was excavated in the thirties but the archaeologists lost interest and much
of it remains undiscovered. But it is a beautiful and peaceful setting and
nobody visits there. We were there for over an hour and the only other people we
saw were the guy selling tickets at the gate (2 euros) and the caretaker in the
old museum, which has been closed for years but still has statues, columns and
pieces of the ancient buildings. It is an important site, there is even a book
about it written by Basil Petracos, the Ephor of Antiquities. Once you see the
site you can go to Agio Apostoli or Oropos for a swim and lunch at one of the
many fish tavernas.
Swift told me a story a few years back. A friend of his met an archaeologist who took
him to a site that was just being excavated. "It was unbelievable! An entire
city of which I was walking down its ancient streets!" he had told Elias and
Elias had told us. Follow the signs from Schinias and follow the road through an
unspoiled valley of olive groves and farms until you reach the turn-off for the
Archaeological Site of Ramnous. Walk up the hill to the ancient Temple of Nemesis, goddess of
retribution and mother of Helen of Troy. There is not much left besides the
foundation and some broken columns and walls but it is still impressive because
of its size and age. But just below is a gate that is slightly ajar and a path
that looks like it was an old road, that goes past some ancient buildings. As
you reach the crest of the hill you will see below the ancient city, the foundational
walls and streets still visible. Walk down and try to capture
some of the enthusiasm Elia's friend had when he walked through the ancient
streets. I went in mid-August during a heat-wave and though there was
a nice breeze blowing, the thought of having to climb back up the hill was enough to keep me at a distance. The site has a connection with the Iraq war. When Brady Kiesling, the US diplomat, stationed in Athens, resigned from the state department in protest of the invasion, he came here with a bottle of wine to contemplate his actions and the path his life would take.
Besides being somewhere to go for the day, Vouliagmeni is close enough to Athens so that you can stay on the beach and still get into the city to see the sites. Astir
beach at Vouliagmeni is one of the nicest
beaches near the city and it is one of the
few beaches in the world that has the
ruins of a temple, to Apollo, the Sun God,
of course. You have to pay to get into the
beach but once you get in there are
umbrellas, cabanas to change, beach chairs
and a bar and snack bar. You can get here
by taxi or by taking the A2 bus from
Panapistimiou (The University) getting off
at Glyfada square and taking the 114 or
the 116. (Take a taxi). Don't get it
confused with Astir beach in Glyfada which
is also nice but does not have an ancient
temple. The town of Vouliagmeni has many
restaurants and tavernas, especially fish
restaurants, most of them located on the
sea. There are also some great hotels on the beach like the Luxury Divani Apollon Palace and the equally luxurious Astir Palace Hotel. For those who want to pay less and don't mind a short walk to the beach there are the Electra
Hotel Apartments and Amarilia Hotel. See
Athens-Coast Hotels for more hotels on the coast. See also my Guide to the Athens Coast.
the street from the Astir beach is
Vouliagmeni beach one of the most popular
beaches of Athens. As you continue along
the road towards Cape Sounion you will
pass the coves of Varkiza and the long
sandy beach there, then the beach at
Lagonissi and various other smaller
beaches like Agia Marina. During weekends
these beaches are packed as are the buses
going to them. Most of them have snackbars
and some have nice fish tavernas too. The town of Anavissos is famous for its fish restaurants which are open year round.
The waiters actually stand on the road and becken you in. Between Sounion and Rafina there are
several nice beaches including Avlaki,
Vavrona and Loutsa and there is a temple
to Artemis somewhere along the way. There
are also many beaches heading back towards
Pireaus including Voula and
Glyfada. If you go back to Athens by way of the airport you can stop at the Cave of Penonia on Mount Hymitos.
Be sure to visit www.athensguide.com/beaches too. Photos and descriptions of almost all the beaches in Attika. Also take a look at my Guide to Attika. The E22 bus starts at the University (Akadamia)
and stops on Amalias Street right by the intersection with Souri Street across from the National Gardens and goes down the coast as far as Saonida-Anavissos.
Germano is the best place to swim in Attika. The sea is postcard blue in color
and the beach and town sit at the end of a large bay that faces west, with pine
covered mountains on three sides. There is a modern looking town with houses and
small apartment buildings, like condos, but the impression, at least in early
May, is of a small coastal village somewhere more remote than Attika. If you have a free day
and want to swim in the kind of sea you usually find in the Sporades, its worth
the trip. But the most impressive part of Porto Germano is the fortress and
ruins of ancient Egosthena. The 4th Century BC fortress itself is the
most impressive in Greece from that period with much of the walls and the towers
still intact. There is a small church and the remains of a monastery within the
fortress and inside the church are frescoes, the latest being from the 1830s,
but they are replacing paintings that were damaged and much older, some of
which can still be seen though they have been darkened by centuries of candles
and oil lamps. To get here you need to drive to Elefsina and take the road to Thebes and follow the signs. This is a good daytrip to do with George the Famous Taxi Driver. See Matt's Porto Germano Page
Ideas for Day Trips from Athens
Wine Tour in Nemea
Live the ultimate wine experience! Join us for a full-day private tour that takes you step by step inside the world of Greek wine and its secrets. We will be visiting the architectural marvel that is the Corinth Canal and proceed to Nemea, the most famous wine region in Greece. There, a winery tour will expose you to the full wine production experience,
from harvest to bottling. The fluent in English, driver/guide that we use for these tours, holds a degree in wines from the "Oenology and Technology of Alcohol Spirits" University of Athens with many years of experience in the wine business (production, tasting and selling) that included working in the wine and alcohol industry in San Francisco, California. To complete a wonderful day, you last stop will be the romantic coastal city of Nafplio, the first capital of Greece, where you will have the opportunity
to enjoy a traditional lunch. Click Here for More Information
Pahi is the port of Megara a few miles south of Athens and has some nice fish tavernas, beaches and there are a couple museums in Megara. See my Megara and Pahi Pages.
An excellent way to spend a free day is doing the One-day Saronic Gulf Cruise to Aegina, Poros and Hydra. The Spa-Resort town of Loutraki is famous for its beaches,
spring water and world famous casino. The city of
the mountains of the Peloponessos offers the
countries best skiing, the Cave of the Lakes, an
amazing train ride through the Vouraikos Gorge and
one of the worst tragedies of the Second WorldWar.
See also Islands Near Athens
George the Famous Taxi Driver
transportation and beach excursions. You can visit
several beaches in a day and a few cafes and
ancient sites like Sounion and have a nice lunch
in a seaside fish taverna before heading back to
your hotel to rest up for the
The Island of Evia is just 45 minutes from Athens and it is the second largest island in Greece. It is a great place to go for a day-trip or overnight or even longer. You can see the ancient sites, museums, beautiful beaches, eat at inexpensive seafood restaurants, or do like the Athenians who go to the mountains to eat roast lamb. See my Matt's Guide to Evia
The island of Kea is much quieter and more traditional than you would expect from an island so close to Athens. See Matt's Guide to Kea and also see Fantasy Travel's 1-Day Trip to Kea.
Take a look at Fantasy Travel's Guided Tours which are inexpensive, easy and include a licensed guide, some meals and pick-up and drop off at your hotel in Athens.
For car rentals I recommend Swift Rent-a-car who will not only bring the car to your hotel but they will also drive you to the national road so you don't waste time dealing with Athens traffic.
Form overnight stays in these places see Matt's Best Hotels in Greece