5 Charming Island Day Trips from Athens

5 Charming Island Day Trips from Athens

Pack your sun lotion, throw on a hat and skip onto a boat for a refreshing, technicoloured escape from urbanity.

Where else can you take a short taxi or metro ride to a port and within just an hour or two, hop out and get a lung-full of the invigorating sea air on an island with a plethora of things to see and do? The Argosaronic islands are easy (and affordable) to reach and each one has its own singular history, rich culture, culinary style and plenty of varied landscapes to explore.

Here we guide you to Poros, Aegina, Spetses, Agistri and Hydra and suggest the best places to visit for a swim, food, nature and culture.




Often described as picturesque because of its quaint neoclassical and Venetian architecture, tall clock tower and lush greenery, amphitheatrically-shaped Poros was once made up of the islands Spheria and Kalavria. The bustling port is lined with cafes, tavernas and shops, its promenade overlooking the Peloponnesian mountains, and a main town that’s ideal for long strolls along pretty cobblestone alleyways.

Swim: For a refreshing swim in crystalline waters and a pine tree backdrop, go to Love Bay. At the larger, serviced Askeli Beach you’ll find watersports and sun loungers as well as a few tavernas for a hearty lunch. A little further on, traverse the forest to reach Monastiri Beach. If you prefer pebble beaches, visit Vagionia, with cool, clear waters.

Eat: Vassilis, at Megalo Neoriou Beach, is an old fashioned, classic taverna from 1939 serving tasty, home-cooked traditional fare. For more local dishes visit Platanos in the chora, known for its roast lamb and kokkoretsi (lamb intestines on a spit). For a more contemporary menu and cosmopolitan vibe head to Askeli all-day restaurant, which serves classic Greek and Mediterranean dishes with a modern twist.

See: Visit the northern part of Poros to see the site of the Temple of Poseidon (520 BC). At the Archaeological Museum in Koritzi Square in the chora see the finds from this site as well as items from Trizina, Kalavreia and Methana. Grab a pedalo or a boat and visit heart-shaped Daskalio island, or view it at a distance from the Russian Dockyard, built in 1834 and declared a historical monument in 1989.




Known for its delicious pistachios (and the pistachio ice cream you can try at stores around the island), wonderful archaeological monuments and close proximity to Athens (less than one hour), Aegina is an ideal stop for a swim, sightseeing and a fresh fish lunch.

Swim: Families often prefer Marathonas for its clear, shallow waters and being nearby to the main town. If you’d like to combine your swim with a seafood lunch, head to Perdika, which is lined with fish tavernas, while silence-seekers should visit the pebble beach in the village of Portes, which has a small marina and refreshing pine trees.

Eat: Kriton Gefseis in the main town serves home-cooked classics, while NOA restaurant on the pier, run by the island’s nautical club, has since the 1960s served Greek-Mediterranean food in beautiful seaside surroundings. For Greek cuisine with modern and creative touches, visit Kappos Etsi in the backstreets of the main town, and don’t miss out on Skotadis, a taverna-ouzerie that has been the favorite hangout of many artists since the post-war years and overlooks the water across the road.

See: There is much to see on Aegina but by far the most famous site is at the Temple of Aphaia, which, together with the Temple of Poseidon in Sounio and the Parthenon in Athens is said to be one of the three points of a perfect isosceles triangle. Another ancient site to visit is the Temple of Apollo, also known for the single column that remains standing as “kolona.” For a more in-depth study of the island’s history, visit the Archaeological Museum on the site where you can see finds from the above-mentioned sites as well as items from the Neolithic era. Another museum well worth a visit for art lovers is the Christos Kapralos Museum, once the workshop of the renowned Greek sculptor.

To get a feeling of the island’s cultural character and history, go to the Folklore Museum where traditional costumes and the household items and furnishings, books and maps of Aegina’s inhabitants through the ages are housed. Nature lovers can hop onto a boat and visit Moni islet right across Perdika fishing village, inhabited by peacocks, deer and wild birds, and is ideal for snorkeling.




Notably developed and modernised for tourism over the past few decades but still sweet, authentic and down-to-earth. Situated between Aegina and Methana (which is near Poros), the small island can be reached by boats arriving either at the touristy, bustling town of Skala, or at Megalochori, which is the main town. Culture vultures won’t find much to do on Agistri but if you’re looking for a pretty place to camp out on a beach for the day, this is just the ticket.

Swim: If you really want to take it easy, just rent a sun lounger at Skala, where you can order food from the hotels there straight to the beach or visit one of the nearby tavernas. For a less busy ambience, visit Dragonera, a quiet coastline surrounded by pine trees and favored by campers, or Halkida, which is a little harder to reach and thus popular among nudists who enjoy the large white rocks and clear waters. Meanwhile at Aponissos you’ll have to pay a low fee to enter but can enjoy soaking up the rays on large rocks with ladders leading into the cool water.

Eat: For a tasty fish dinner head to Alkyoni on the road to Halkida and dine on a terrace surrounded by lush greenery right on the sea. For traditional Greek foods like ladera (oil based dishes), moussaka, fish and meat stews, go to Toxotis in Skala. Oasis Seaside Club is for those who’d like to switch things up a bit by indulging in some modern Greek-Mediterranean fine dining, while Quattro Beach Bar will make your kids happy with its burgers, nuggets, sandwiches and sumptuous desserts. Talking of desserts, Copa Cabana is known for its delicious waffles, cakes and pies.

See: A lovely way to end your day on Agistri is by sipping a cocktail at a beach bar or taking a horse and carriage ride in Skala while enjoying the sunset; or you can visit Limenaria village nearby for particularly rewarding panoramic views of the nearby islands. If you’re in Agistri on July 7th, this village comes to life with the Agia Kyriaki folk festival. For more spectacular views, head to the northern part of the island and trek up to Metochi where you’ll see traditional Cycladic style whitewashed houses with blue doors and windows, and splashes of colourful flowers.




Cosmopolitan, picturesque and romantic, it’s no surprise that Hydra has seduced writers, musicians, poets and artists with its singular allure for decades, and continues to do so today (check out Hydra Direct). Indeed, Henry Miller wrote: “Hydra is a rock which rises out of the sea like a huge loaf of petrified bread. It is the bread turned to stone which the artist receives as reward for his labour when he fist catches sight of the promised land.” 

Swim: Despite its many charms, the car-free island is not famous for its beaches, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a gratifying swimming destination. Visitors on Hydra commonly relax on the rocks, lying out at Hydronetta and Spilia or in the bay in front of Castello bar-restaurant, while Vlychos fishing village near Hydra town has a sandy serviced beach with straw umbrellas. On the western side of the town is Molos beach. Water taxis and caiques leaving from Roloi in the centre of the port can transport you to various sandy coves. For watersports, visit Bisti or Agios Nikolaos pebbled beach, both of which also offer sun loungers and umbrellas for rent.

Eat: For traditional Greek classics, visit Xeri Elia, To Paradosiakon or Taverna Christina, while seafood lovers should visit Psaropoula. For a sunset cocktail overlooking the sea visit Omilos (the yacht club) and sit on the seafront terrace that was a diving spot for party-animal artists in the 1960s. For true romance and elegant dining visit Sunset, where you can savour an aperitif at glow-time and modern Greek-Mediterranean cuisine, while for Greek as well as ethnic and vegan food visit Manna, a “new age cookhouse.”

See: Start at the Historical Archives Museum of Hydra to discover the important role the island played in the Greek War of Independence. Art lovers should visit the School of Fine Arts on Hydra, located in the manor of Admiral Emmanoiul Tompatzis and Xanthi Sachini since 1936. Also interesting is the large yellow Lazaros Koundouriotis Museum, a neoclassical mansion-turned-museum, once the home of a prominent politician where visitors can get a glimpse of the island’s 19th century society and history. For a scenic view over the port and a connection to Hydra’s history, walk up to the cannons on the bastions of Hydra, positioned on a high rock at the entrance of the island in the 18th century to protect it from the Ottomans.


[Yiannis Larios]


Historic, elegant and scenic, Spetses played a leading role in the Greek War of Independence and was the favourite summer playground for Greece’s aristocracy during the early 20th century. Like Hydra and Poros, the island’s allure has inspired artists and writers over the decades and even today the island is a favourite among the high-brow crowd. Enjoy exploring the narrow streets in Dapia, sit at the marina or the terrace of the luxurious Grand Poseidon Hotel to sip coffee looking out to the sea, and visit its many beaches and museums for a rewarding cultural experience.

Swim: For a swim near the picturesque port, swim at Agiou Mamma, a sandy serviced beach close to several cafes and tavernas, while left of the port is Kounoupitsa, in the island’s historic district. On the southeast side of Spetses is Agia Marina, one of the island’s most popular and lively swimming spots. Outside of the town is the quieter pebbled beach of Ligorneri, while for those seeking a more natural (non-serviced) and peaceful swim, there’s Zogeria Bay, which is surrounded by a pine forest and olive groves. Vrelos and Kaiki beaches attract a more youthful crowd.

Eat: Many of Spetses’ best restaurants are in the main town and old town, which are reachable by foot (or you can visit by taking a horse and carriage ride, one of the most enjoyable experiences to have on the island, especially around sunset). With tables set out on a concrete deck over the water, Mourayio is a favourite classic among returning visitors old and new and serves traditional Greek food. Tarsanas too, has quite the fanbase for its delicious and fresh range of seafood and local specialties, as do Patralis and Pachni.

On The Veranda at the Grand Poseidon Hotel, try modern and sophisticated Greek-Mediterranean cuisine and if you’d like to splash out visit Liotrivi for classic as well as modern renditions of Greek cooking using fresh local ingredients.

See: Spetses is very much represented by a fierce feminist icon, the Greek naval commander Laskarina Bouboulina, who was a leading figure in the fight against the Ottomans during the Greek War of Independence. Visit the Bouboulina Museum to see her own and her family’s home and belongings, as well as maps, documents and other historical items. Also visit her statue, standing tall on the seafront promenade at Dapia. At the Spetses Museum, also known as the Hatzigianni Mexi Mansion, see an exhibition of items such as ceramics, furnishings, paintings and more that relate the culture, traditions and 4000 years of history of the island.



This article first appeared in Greece Is (, a Kathimerini publishing initiative. 

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