Athens is the heart of Greece; brimming with culture, beauty, and energy, it's a city bursting with life all year long, especially in the summer. If, however, you find yourself craving a swim in the sea, or a stroll down a quiet alley far from the heat and the noise of the city, there's nothing stopping you from taking a boat to one of the beautiful islands located within a heartbeat from Athens:
Aegina Island - credits: Greece.com
A walk in the city of Aegina, with its impressive 19th-century architecture, will instantly take you back in time. For a journey to the even more distant past, pay a visit to the Archaeological Museum of Kolonna, right by the port, or take a trip to the Temple of Aphaea for a breathtaking view of the island.
After walking around under the sun, the time has come for a swim. If you're looking for an organized beach with white sand and clear waters where you can have a cold drink at a beach bar or a bite at a tavern by the waves, Agia Marina, a blue-flag beach, might just be the place for you. For a calmer vibe, you can also check out the beaches of Marathonas and Moni at the southern part of the island, or Loutra Souvalas and Vagia at the northern part. An island of rich history and architecture and calm blue waters, Aegina is definitely the place to satisfy both your need for exploration and relaxation.
Agistri Island - credits: agistri-island.gr
Right beside Aegina, you'll find an island full of pine forests, hiking paths, and stunning wild beaches; Agistri. Only recently has Agistri become popular amongst tourists, as for many years it had been outshined by its more cosmopolitan rival islands. Don't miss a trip to the breathtaking beaches of Dragonera, Aponisos, and Mareza for a dive in paradise! Megalochori or Milos, the island's capital, is a picturesque village with small white houses, perfect for a relaxing walk between narrow alleys full of flowers. When night comes, take a walk in Skala, the port of Agistri, which is full of life, little taverns and even night clubs, just in case you miss the city nightlife.
3. Kea-Gia (or Tzia)
Kea Island - credits: Violeta Meleti/Shutterstock.com
Just one and a half hour from the port of Lavrio, Kea or Gia is a perfect place for one-day, or longer, trips from Athens. Kea has a large circuit of paths, marked with wooden signposts that cover most of the island and connect its most important landmarks. The most beautiful parts of Kea are those situated at its north-eastern part. The area is called Pera Meria (literally translating to 'the other side') and there you will find one of the most well-known beaches of the island, Spathi. Other incredible places for you to go swimming are Koundouros, which has been awarded a blue flag, Otzias, and Gialiskari. You will need a car to get to these beaches though so you might have to consider renting one. If this summer you end up visiting Kea, do not miss the chance to go to the 'Feast of Fairytales' or 'Giorti ton Paramithion' in Greek, one of the oldest folklore festivals in Greece.
Hydra island - credits: S-F/Shutterstock.com
Hydra surely is a quiet place. You won't be hearing any annoying car honking there and that is because..well, there aren't any cars! That's right; cars are officially banned from Hydra, as the city has been listed for preservation due to its great architectural and historical richness. The only way to move about is either on foot or on the back of a donkey, just like old times. So choose your means of transport and start exploring!
You may not find beaches with silky sand or waters of a magical blue color (though the waters are crystal clear), but the beauty and serenity of the city will surely compensate you. There you'll see some wonderful traditional houses with the typical blue doors and windows, as well as impressive mansions dating back to the early 19th century. The island is also the home of more than 300 churches and 5 monasteries, which are definitely worth admiring if you're interested in the island's religious culture and history. If you feel like hiking, there are a couple of paths you can follow, the easiest of which leads to Kamini and the more challenging one, for the riskier souls, which takes you up to the tip of Eros. Take in all the beauty of Hydra and appreciate your every step on its grounds. It's really worth it!
No matter what your heart desires, whether that's swimming all day, drinking ouzo by the sea or getting in touch with culture and tradition, you can find it just by jumping on a boat and taking a trip to one of these gorgeous islands. If you're looking for inspiration for more trips from Athens, take a look at our Athens travel guide. Remember: sometimes, what you're looking for may be right under your nose, or in our case, only a boat ride away!