5 Must-Visit Areas in Greece, starting from Athens
Greece and particularly Athens is an all year around destination. Explore amazing archaeological sites, experience its vibrant nightlife, discover breathtaking locations and be immersed by its unique urban vibe. Athens is also the most ideal location to start your day trip from. In this article you will find out everything you need to know about the best options for a day trip, next time you are going to visit Athens.
- Evia Island – Chalcis and Eretria
Chalcis is the chief town of the island of Euboea or Evia in Greece. The name is preserved from antiquity and is derived from the Greek word for copper “chalcos”. Fun fact: there are no traces of any mines in the area. Located only 80 kilometres away from Athens, Chalcis is one of the Athenians favourite destinations for a short break from the city’s pace.
Visit the Ottoman Karababa’s Castle, the archaeological museum of Chalcis – filled with many artifacts from different times, the Church of Saint Paraskevi – patron saint of Chalcis, check out the bust of the worldwide famous philosopher Aristotle from Chalcidice, which was a colony of Chalcis and last but not least the two bridges connecting the island with the mainland Greece.
Take a stroll by the sea and enjoy your ouzo, or tsipouro accompanied by a local delicacy in one of the many tavernas of the area. During the summer do not skip a visit to the nearby beach of Alykes Drosia, where you will find many beach bars and tavernas, where you can relax and enjoy your time by the sea.
Continue your trip to the south and visit the traditional fisherman’s village of Eretria, located only 20 kilometres away from Chalcis. Eretria has a long history going back to the Neolithic times with a continuous inhibition up to the Roman times. Take a stroll down the promenade, visit the abandoned island of dreams, as locals call it, and end your walk visiting the ancient theatre of Eretria, the Macedonian tombs of Erotes and the archaeological museum hosting findings from the ancient Acropolis of the area.
Hop on to the ferry boat from Eretria’s port, which has frequent departures (every one hour) and within 20 minutes you will be in the village of Oropos. Drive for another 50 kilometres and return to Athens late in the afternoon.
Photo credits to: Theo Maroulis Brand Mazed
- Aegina Island
Aegina is one of the Saronic Islands of Greece in the Saronic Gulf.Tradition derives the name from Aegina, the mother of the hero Aeacus, who was born on the island and became its king.
Head to the port of Piraeus, hop on the ferry and in about 1:30 hours you will reach Aegina Island, which has many things to offer, besides its great beaches and amazing food in the local tavernas by the sea.
When on the island do not miss the Temple of Aphaea, dedicated to its namesake, a goddess who was later associated with Athena. The temple was part of a pre-Christian, equilateral holy triangle of temples including the Athenian Parthenon and the temple of Poseidon at Sounion.
Head to the Monastery of Agios Nektarios, dedicated to Nektarios of Aegina, a recent saint of the Greek Orthodox Church. Check out the statue in the principal square commemorates Ioannis Kapodistrias (1776–1831), the first administrator of free modern Greece. An off the beaten path visit would be the Orphanage of Kapodistrias, a large building, known locally as The Prison, constructed in 1828-29 by Ioannis Kapodistrias as a home for children orphaned as a result of the Greek War of Independence. The building also housed schools, vocational workshops, the National Public Library, the National Archaeological Museum, a military academy, the National Printing Office and the National Conservatory for Choir and Orchestra. From about 1880 it was used as a prison, and housed political prisoners during the Greek Junta (1967-1974) – hence its local name. There are currently plans to restore the building as a museum.
The Tower of Markellos was probably built during the second Venetian occupation, 1687–1714, as a watch tower in anticipation of a Turkish siege. A castle, fortified walls and numerous watchtowers were built at this time. The tower was abandoned after the Turkish occupation of 1714, until revolutionary leader Spyros Markellos bought the tower as his residence in around 1802. In 1826-28 it was the headquarters of the temporary government of the embryonic Greek state. It subsequently was used as a police headquarters and housed various government agencies until it was abandoned again in the mid 19th century. It is currently owned by the Municipality of Aegina.
Last but not least the Temple of Zeus Hellanios, near the village of Pachia Rachi, is a 13th-century Byzantine church, built on the ruins of the ancient temple to Zeus Hellanios, built in the 4th century BC. The staircase leading up to the church, some of the original walls, and loose stones from the earlier temple remain.
Try the amazing pistachios that grow only on the island of Aegina. The quality of “Fistiki Aeginis” (Aegina Pistachios), a name that was established as a product of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) in 1996, is considered internationally excellent and superior to several foreign varieties, due to the special climatic conditions of the island (drought) as well as soil’s volcanic characteristics. Pistachios have made Aegina famous all over the world.
Head south to the settlement of Perdika and take the boat to the small uninhabited islet of Moni. You will be amazed by its crystal clear waters, the beautiful secluded beach and last but not least the fact that Moni island is actually a game-breeding natural park – where animals wander around freely, blend with the tourists and provide memorable moments of fun by the sea! The sail takes about 10 minutes, costs 5 euro per person and is totally worth it.
Photo credits to: Emily Karakis, cmalikakos, Xenofon Tsantilas
- Argolis (Nafplion, Mycenae and Epidaurus)
Argolis or Argolida is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Peloponnese, situated in the eastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful parts of Greece, because of its majestic archaeological sites, its incredible cities and villages architecture and its gorgeous plains and beaches.
Drive along the coastal national highway from Athens and stop at the Corinth Canal, which connects the Aegean Sea with the Corinthian Gulf and has great strategic importance for Greece. Enrich your photo portfolio by taking amazing shots with a breathtaking view over the canal.
Continue your journey with a visit to the ancient theatre of Epidaurus, one of the best-preserved classical theatres all over Greece, which is still being used today for performances and plays due to its amazing acoustics.
Visit the Asklepion of Epidaurus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the birthplace of the healing and philanthropist God Asklepios, protector of human health and son of God Apollo and immerse yourself in the myths and tales of the area. As part of the annual Athens and Epidaurus Festival, the Epidaurus theatres come alive with the works of great Greek plays from Aeschylus, Euripides, Sophocles and more. These ancient sites welcome more than 90,000 theatre-guests each year and are generally spread across eight weekends in summer. Experiencing a midsummer play at Epidaurus is an absolute highlight for both locals and tourists alike.
Arrive at Mycenae and explore its Acropolis, the archaeological site and its museum. Mycenae was one of the major centres of Greek civilization, home to the kingdom of mythical Agamemnon, a military stronghold that dominated much of southern Greece, Crete,the Cyclades and parts of southwest Anatolia.
The period from about 1600 BC to about 1100 BC is called Mycenean in reference to Mycenae. Marvel at the Royal Tombs, the Cyclopean Walls, the Lion’s Gate and the Treasury of Atreus, a unique beehive tomb structure, built around 1250 BC.
Last but not least pay a visit to the picturesque city of Nafplion, the first capital of modern Greece. Here you can enjoy your lunch, in one of the many traditional restaurants of the city, enjoy a perfectly made ice-cream from a proper italian gelateria and then take a walk around the old city, admiring the Venetian fortress of Palamidi and the fortified islet of Bourtzi.
The fortress of Palamidi commands an impressive view over the Argolic Gulf, the city of Náfplio and the surrounding country. There are 913 steps in the winding stair from the town to the fortress. However, to reach the top of the fortress there are over one thousand. Locals in the town of Nafplion will say there are 999 steps to the top of the castle, and specials can be found on menus that incorporate this number to catch a tourist’s eye.
Continue your tour around the old town and be astonished by the unique architecture, the multicoloured old houses and the narrow graffitied alleys.
End your day in Nafplion by taking a walk along the promenade, or even head to the Acronafplia area, which until the thirteenth century, was a town on its own. The arrival of the Venetians and the Franks transformed it into part of the town fortifications.
Photo credits to: Yana Marudova, Despina Galani, Sofia Papageorge, Theo Maroulis Brand Mazed, Victor Malyushev, J zeerak, George Girnas
- Cape Sounion
Cape Sounion is the promontory at the southernmost tip of the Attic peninsula, 8 kilometres south of the town of Lavrio (ancient Thoricus), and 69.5 km southeast of Athens. It is part of Lavreotiki municipality in East Attica. Cape Sounion is noted for its Temple of Poseidon, one of the major monuments of the Golden Age of Athens. Its remains are perched on the headland, surrounded on three sides by the Aegean sea.
Drive along Attica’s scenic coastal road, which offers a great view of the Saronic Gulf. Pass through some of the most beautiful suburbs of Athens, such as Glyfada, Vouliagmeni and Varkiza and admire the idyllic beaches and the small islands offshore. Stop at the most famous spot in the Riviera of Athens and enjoy the breathtaking view.
On your way to Cape Sounion, drive through the National Park of Sounion and admire the Mediterranean landscape, a few kilometres away from Athens. Pass by small vineyards, olive tree gardens and stop at the traditional village of Agios Konstantinos to explore the majestic “Incuse Chaos”. This unique geological phenomenon was created by the collapse of some of the many mining stoas of the area. Pass by ancient quarries and find out more about the history and geology of the area.
Arrive at Cape Sounion and be astonished by the monumental Temple of Poseidon built in the late 5th century BC. This Doric temple was erected during the Golden Age of Pericles. It was devoted to Poseidon, the Olympian God of the Sea, and is located at the edge of Cape Sounion at the southern coast of Attica, with a spectacular view of the Aegean Sea. Along with the Parthenon and the temple of Aphaia, on nearby Aegina island, Poseidon’s mighty monument completes the Sacred Triangle of antiquity. It has been welcoming visitors to Piraeus for 2,500 years, since it’s the first ancient Athenian landmark one sees when approaching by sea. Prior to the temple’s construction, the location was cited as holy grounds by Homer and Herodotus and signs of habitation stretch back to 2,800 BC. Due to its strategic point, it also served as a watchtower, guarding the passage to Piraeus and the rich surrounding silver mines.
According to the myth, this is the site where Aegeus, king of Athens, fell into the sea because of a misunderstanding. Theseus, the son of Aegeus, had travelled to Crete to kill Minotaur, the legendary monster who lived in the palace of Knossos, and to release Athens from the obligation to send seven boys and seven girls every year to the king of Crete, only to be eaten by Minotaur.
Theseus thus had said to his father that if he killed Minotaur, he would hoist a white sail on the return home. Theseus killed Minotaur and was returning to Athens safe and sound but unfortunately, he forgot to hoist white sail and had a black sail on his mast. Aegeus saw the black sail from Cape Sounion and believed that his son died during the battle. His despair made him fall into the sea and commit suicide. Later on, the Athenians gave the sea his name, the Aegean Sea.
At the foot of Mount Parnassos, within the angle formed by the twin rocks of the Phaedriades, lies the Pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Delphi, which had the most famous Oracle of ancient Greece. Between the sixth and fourth centuries BC, the Delphic Oracle, which was regarded as the most trustworthy, was at its peak. It was delivered by the priestess Pythia and interpreted by the priests of Apollo.
Delphi in ancient times was a sacred precinct that served as the seat of Pythia, the major oracle who was consulted about important decisions throughout the ancient classical world. The oracle was international in character and also fostered sentiments of Greek nationality, even though the nation of Greece was centuries away from realisation. The ancient Greeks considered the centre of the world to be in Delphi, marked by the stone monument known as the omphalos (navel). The sacred precinct was in the region of Phocis, but its management had been taken away from the Phocians, who were trying to extort money from its visitors, and had been placed in the hands of an amphictyony, or committee of persons chosen mainly from Central Greece. According to the Suda, Delphi took its name from Delphyne, the she-serpent (drakaina) who lived there and was killed by the god Apollo (in other accounts the serpent was the male serpent (drakon) Python).
The sacred precinct occupies a delineated region on the south-western slope of Mount Parnassus. It is now an extensive archaeological site, and since 1938 a part of Parnassos National Park. Adjacent to the sacred precinct is a small modern town of the same name. The precinct is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in having had a great influence in the ancient world, as evidenced by the various monuments built there by most of the important ancient Greek city-states, demonstrating their fundamental Hellenic unity.
The archaeological site of Delphi is located roughly 170 kilometres away from Athens. On your way to Delphi stop at Kryas Springs, an extremely picturesque valley near the city of Levadia. Streams, limestone formations, stone and wooden bridges, as well as walking routes along the banks, create the perfect scenery for a short walk. Take a stroll up to the hill and see marvel at the ancient theatre of Levadeia.
Visit the archaeological site of Delphi and marvel at some of the most important and unique archaeological monuments, such as the Treasury of the Athenians, the Temple of Apollo, the Athenian Stoa, the Polygonal Wall and do not miss the Archaeological Museum of Delphi, which hosts globally known pieces of Art like the Naxian Sphinx, the statue of Antinoos, the frieze of the Treasury of the Sifnians and the bronze Charioteer.
Head to the picturesque multicoloured village of Arachova, located only 10 kilometres away from Delphi, on the slopes of mount Parnassus. There you can have your lunch, in one of the many traditional restaurants of the village, take a stroll around its narrow alleys, admire the hand-woven carpets and buy local delicacies, such as Formaela cheese and traditionally made pasta.