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.
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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.
You can always check our Aegina guide.
Agistri Island - credits: agistri-island.gr
Just an hour away from the port of Piraeus, Agistri is a wonderful picturesque small island in the Saronic Gulf. An ideal weekend city escape, Agistri is dearly loved by Athenians because of its lush pine forests and its crystal clear waters. During antiquity, the island was known as Cecryphaleia.
Many of the ancient settlements of the island nowadays are found under the sea of Agistri, mostly at the western part of the island. A must-see attraction of the island is the Folk Art Museum at Megalochori, a small museum that will transport you back in time and introduce you to the past everyday life of Agistri islanders.
Dragonera beach - credits: agistrigreece.com
Following the coastal road after Megalochori and located at the western coast of the island, Dragonera beach is the favorite spot for free-campers. A pebbled beach consisted of two coves, this is the place where the pine forests of the island meet the sea, creating mesmerizing scenery! A small cantine on the beach provides refreshments and snacks, making Dragonera a popular, family-friendly destination.
Chalikiada beach, Agistri - credits: seastars.gr
Right next to the port of Skala, lies the beach of Chalikiada. With large white pebbles and turquoise waters, it certainly is one of the most beautiful beaches on Agistri. Even though it is within walking distance from the port, it is also accessible following the road northeast to Skala.
Access to the beach is hard and demands quite an effort, therefore, it is not suitable for young children. An option not for the faint-hearted, Chalikiada will definitely compensate you for any trouble!
Kea-Gia (or Tzia) island
Kea Island - credits: Violeta Meleti/Shutterstock.com
Just one and a half hours 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 in 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 Greek folklore festivals.
Read on: Our guide for Tzia island
Hydra island - credits: S-F/Shutterstock.com
Hydra surely is a quiet place. You won't be hearing any annoying cars 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!
Read more: Our detailed travel guide for Hydra
Island of Salamis - credits: travelgreecetraveleurope
The island of Salamis is the largest island of the Saronic Gulf and one of the most historical islands of Greece. It is world-renowned for its ancient past and more particularly for the naval Battle of Salamis in 480 BC. Then, an alliance of Greek city-states (with Athens in charge) faced King Xerxes and his mighty Persian fleet at the Strait of Salamis, a narrow sea passage between Attica and the island.
Less than 2km away from the port of Perama, your ferry-boat ride will take you there in just 15 minutes! Explore the island and discover landmarks and monuments from the past related to Greece's modern history!
The Monument of the Battle of Salamis
According to ancient literature, it is believed that the naval battle happened between the islet of St.George and the Kynosoura peninsula. There, 378 Greek ships fought against a fleet of over 1200 Persian ships under the leadership of the Athenian general Themistocles and Eurybiades from Sparta.
The great tragedian of Athens, Aeschylus also participated in this battle. According to him, just before the start of the battle, all the allied Greeks sang together the following hymn (paean):
Sons of the Greeks, go,
Liberate your country, liberate
Your children, your women, the seats of your fathers' gods,
And the tombs of your forebears: now is the struggle for all things.
The outcome of the battle was the destruction of the Persian fleet and the withdrawal of the Persian army. It is said, that the allied Greeks lost just 40 ships while the Persians suffered losses of more than 200, while many of them drowned in the waters of the Saronic Gulf. Nowadays, at the spot where the naval battle occurred, a monument commemorates the event, created by Greek sculptor Achilles Vasileiou.
The cave of Euripides
At the south of the island, close to the village of Kolones, is the Cave of Euripides, situated in a beautiful pine forest near the sea. According to tradition, this is where Euripides, the latest of the great three ancient Athenian tragedians became a recluse and wrote many of his tragedies.
After his death, a cult honoring the playwright was established. Archaeologists, during excavations in the area of the cave, realized that the cave and its surrounding area were used since Neolithic times and have many Mycenaean burials, classical past, roman offerings, and artifacts from the Frankish occupation. Some of the findings are on display in the Archaeological Museum of Salamis.
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!