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 near Athens that will offer you the sandy beaches of your dreams.
Greek islands are always the best idea!
The Greek island of Aegina
Aegina Island - credits: Greece.com
One of the most well-known islands near Athens is the striking island of Aegina. 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 in the southern part of the island, or Loutra Souvalas and Vagia in the northern part.
A Greek 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.
The tiny island of Agistri
The mountainous island of Agistri - credits: agistri-island.gr
Just a short ferry ride that will last 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 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 in the western part of the island.
A must-see attraction of the island, and generally the islands near Athens, 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 on the western coast of the island, Dragonera beach is the favorite spot for free campers.
A pebbled beach consisting 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 by 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)
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. It is the only one of the islands near Athens that is a Cycladic island and yes, it is the closest Cycladic island to the Greek capital.
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 on the island, Spathi.
Other incredible places for you to go swimming are Koundouros, which has been awarded a blue flag, Otzias, and Gialiskari.
Dolphins in the Aegean Sea around the Greek islands - credits: GEORGE-RIGOUTSOS/Shutterstock.com
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
Poros - credits: S.Borisov/Shuttestock.com
One of the less-known Greek islands near Athens, especially among tourists is the island of Poros, part of the Saronic Gulf complex.
Poros is an ideal destination for both short excursions and summer vacations. The options you have on the island for relaxation and fun are many.
The Saronic island’s ancient name was ‘Kalavria.’ It is located a short distance from the mainland and the opposite village is Galatas.
In fact, these are two islands that comprise Poros, Sfairia, and Calabria, which are separated by a very small sea canal just after the Naval Station.
Greek islands close to Athens - credits: Igor Tichonow/Shutterstock.com
Sfairia is of volcanic origin (the city of Poros is built right on the vaulted crater), while Calabria is sedimentary and is dominated by limestone and shale rocks.
The historic clock, high on the hill, in the center of Poros, is a trademark of the island. In the southeastern part of Poros is the historic Monastery of Kalavria, or the Monastery of Zoodochou Pigi Poros, built in 1713.
Poros has an area of 31.3 sq. Km., A population of about 4000 inhabitants and is only 32 nautical miles from Piraeus. It has a developed tourist infrastructure and modern hotels and rooms for rent, which serve many guests.
The port of Poros, the center of life on the island, presents a lively and pleasant spectacle with its anchors and cannons and magnificent shops.
Traveling around Greece - credits: Krivosheev Vitaly/Shutterstock.com
An event not to be missed is the nautical week organized during the summer months. The island of Poros is very accessible and an ideal destination, not only for summer holidays but also for travel and excursions all year round.
Poros has both popular and secluded beaches of unique beauty such as ‘Mikro Neorio,’ ‘Limanaki tis Agapis, ‘ ‘Monastery,’ ‘Paralia,’ and the beautiful beaches of Plaka and Alykes in the famous Lemon Forest, which is a must-visit spot during your stay on the island.
Hydra island - credits: S-F/Shutterstock.com
Hydra island 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 in old times. So choose your means of transport and start exploring!
Cliff jumping - credits: EpicStockMedia/Shutterstock.com
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 reward 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.
This gem of the Greek islands 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
Spetses - credits: Konstantin Sokolov1973/Shuttestock.com
Another Greek island near Athens that is among the most scenic, cosmopolitan, and bougie Greek islands, in general, is the island of Spetses. Apart from its breathtaking beauty, the island is known for its rich history and culture, as it played an integral part in the Greek Revolution.
Among its long list of assets, we cannot overlook the tranquil vibe of Spetses that is a result of the ban on all transportation apart from motorbikes and horse carriages (yeap, you hear that right!
Spetses is the ideal destination if you want to spend a three-day relaxation, away from the bustling Athens. It is the most remote of the Saronic islands, which however remains a breath away from the city.
The Greek island of Greek Revolution hero Bouboulina (one of the two female leading figures in the famous Greek war) is famous for its many, beautiful beaches, its neoclassical architecture, and the cosmopolitan feeling it leaves to its visitors. Besides, it is not unjustly called "little Mykonos".
Turquoise icy and refreshing waters, sandy and pebble beaches, and beach bars for every taste will give a different meaning to your Spetses beach experience.
The center of Spetses gathers the greatest interest of visitors in their evening excursions. The city is full of shops for food, coffee, drink, and dreamy cocktails on a fairytale background.
Whether you are looking for intense fun, or you prefer to relax in a tavern and enjoy your raki accompanied by good food, you will be satisfied.
In recent years the Greek island has also starred in the field of sports, due to the famous Spetsathlon. This is not accidental since the island is suitable for hiking, due to its excellent trails in green landscapes, but also for cycling. Our suggestion is to rent a bike and go on excursions, next to nature.
The Greek island of Salamis - credits: travelgreecetraveleurope
The tiny island of Salamis is the largest Saronic island, and one of the most historical Greek islands. 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 beautiful 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 had been 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.
Airplane above Greece - credits: ivan bastien/Shutterstock.com
Which of the Greek islands near Athens is the closest to the Capital?
Without a doubt, the Greek island closest to Athens is Salamis or Salamina. While it is not the most gorgeous of the bunch, it may make do if you want a quick fix of island life and you don’t have spare time to spend on other Greek islands.
Are the islands close to Athens more expensive than other Greek islands?
It depends. As a general rule, it is quite the opposite. For example, Salamis, Poros, Aegina, and Agkistri, are affordable destinations both in regard to accommodation and cost of living.
On the other side, the cosmopolitan Saronic islands of Hydra and Spetses are known for being luxurious and are considered high-end islands close to Athens.
Can I go on an island-hopping adventure around the nearby islands close to Athens?
Of course! In fact, we highly recommend you do! The nearby islands to Athens are all gorgeous and worth a visit, even if it is just for a stop on your island-hopping adventure! That way, you will get to see all the Saronic islands and cosmopolitan islands and swim on sandy beaches.
Cats on a beautiful island in Greece- credits: Katho Menden/Shutterstock.com
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 close to Athens. If you're looking for inspiration for more trips from Athens, take a look at ourAthens travel guide.
Remember: sometimes, what you're looking for may be right under your nose or in our case, only a boat ride away!