It is such a shame when people visit Athens and do the typical tour of the mainland before whisking off to the more popular island destinations like Santorini, Crete or Mykonos and miss out on the beautiful islands just off the shores of Athens waiting to be discovered. In fact, there are many islands that are so close to Athens that they can be reached in a couple of hours — or even less than an hour in some cases. All you need is to take a high-speed ferry or take a tour boat via the One-Day Cruises which are in service 364 days a year.
However, many of the islands are so enchanting that you will find that a few hours or even an entire day visiting just isn’t enough, so be sure to check out your destinations before hand online and see if you might consider staying over night or spending the weekend there! Here are the best islands to visit that are close to Athens:
On a clear day you can actually see the outline of this island from the mainland, Athens. The trip to Aegina can be done by the high-speed Flying Dolphin or the standard ferry. Once there, this island is perfect for cycling, relaxing on the beach, visiting the Temple of Aphaia above the port town of Aghia Marina and enjoying fresh seafood along the small coastal village of Perdika. In all, a great day trip, but also a nice alternative if you want to visit Athens as a day trip and stay on an island about an hour or less away from the mainland.
Travel time from Piraeus: 40 Minutes
This island is smaller and located near Aegina. It has amazing beaches and sparkling clear water. Perhaps this is why it was one of the first islands in Greece to have a nudist beach, which is still open today. The island as a whole is quiet and quaint with much of the less traveled parts being mostly agricultural. The village of Limineria, named after its lake, is made of local Greeks who devote themselves mostly to farming and fishing. These islands near Athens are also a good choice for the winter months when weather is unpredictable and you don’t want to be too far from Athens.
Travel time from Piraeus: 55 Minutes
Although Hydra is not known for sandy beaches, that doesn’t stop locals and tourists from swimming along the rocky shorelines of this unique island. The waterfront is lined with cafes, restaurants and shops, while the town has been restored and is exactly as it was in the 1800s when the islanders built it following financial gains from piracy and blockade running. Since there are no cars allowed on the island, you will genuinely feel as though you are in the 1800s with donkeys passing you by on the narrow walkways. However, if you grow tired of walking, there are water-taxis at your service. Also there are some wonderful seafood restaurants in the village of Kamina. Again, you can go for the day, or stay the night, with excursions to Ancient Mycenae, Epidavros and the beaches of the Peloponnese where there is plenty to be seen.
Travel time from Piraeus: 1.5 to 2 Hours
Poros is ideally located for those wanting to be in close proximity to Athens, Nafplio, Myceneae, and Epidavros. It takes less than an hour by ferry from Piraeus to get there, but when you arrive, you will feel a complete separation from the hustle and bustle of the mainland. There are beautiful forests on Poros, water sports, beaches as well as small inviting town squares lined with shops, restaurant sand cafes.
Travel time from Piraeus: 1 Hour
Spetses is a beautiful island with a long naval tradition, a picturesque old harbor and in the town center of Dápia, tourists can find town squares lined with shops and cafes. There are many beautiful beaches on this island and many are drawn to it because of its romantic allure, as you can take a romantic trip around the island in horse-drawn carriages — a must do when visiting this stunning island. Also, Spetses is a popular destination for sports lovers as every year the triathlon, “Spetsathlon,“ takes place where thousands of athletes from around the world participate in a race of swimming, biking and running.
Travel time from Piraeus: 2 to 3 Hours
Kea is the nearest island of the Cyclades to the mainland, and much of its coastline has holiday homes built with the locally quarried green-brown stone where Athenians go to get away for the weekends. One place you must check out is one of the most iconic landmarks on the island, the Lion of Kea — an ancient sculpture you have to hike up a hill-side to see but worth it! Also a popular place to visit on the island is the Panagia Kastriani Monastery which is breathtaking and has amazing sea views. If you want to check out some ancient ruins, go to Ancient Karthea where you will find the remains of a temple and theater overlooking the sea.
Travel time from Lavrio: 1 Hour
Andros is at the far north of the Cyclades archipelago and is a mountainous island with some beautiful beaches such as Agios Petros Beach and Achla Beach. The island has everything from museums which boast artefacts from antiquity, such as the Archeological Museum of Andros, to the The Museum of Contemporary Art and Clyclades Olive Museum, which is an authentically restored olive mill! Another place you want to be sure to check out is the Holy Monastery of Panagia Panachrantos, which is a Byzantine monastery built on top of a mountain and has great views of the island and sea. Many people come to Andros not only for the beaches but to hike, snorkel and scuba dive — so be sure to pack the proper clothing!