Greece is famous for its beautiful islands, but sometimes you want to explore mainland Greece and Athens. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out visiting some of the islands, too! If you’re looking to do some Greek island hopping, but you’re based in the city, then here are the best Greek islands near Athens for you to visit. And if you’re short on time, you can see all three in a single day!
Aegina is a large island about sixteen miles away from Athens. Pulling up into the harbor, it’s breathtaking to see how far the island stretches out in front of you. Sunset here is especially gorgeous, with the light flowing in over Aegina’s hills.
If you’ve seen the Parthenon and the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, then this island should be high on your list to visit. When you see the Temple of Aphaea (Aphaia or Afea) located here, you’re seeing the third temple in a great holy triangle of these three temples that were important to ancient Greeks. Other cultural highlights of Aegina include the Cathedral of Saint Nectarios of Aegina (my personal favorite) and Temple of Zeus Hellanios.
Popular activities here include taking in dinner at one of the tavernas overlooking the water and walking through the fish market. Make sure to taste something made with locally grown pistachios.
Because this is a large island, if you come and spend a few hours here you’ll be able to see the major sites and feel the overall general vibe. However, there’s always more to see and do here, so don’t stress if you leave wanting to see more.
Centered around Hydra Port, the island is smaller than Aegina and has a total population of only two thousand. The island is hilly, and cars and motorbikes are not allowed here, and the only motorized vehicles permitted are garbage trucks. That’s why you see so many donkeys and horses lined up along the waterfront. It’s the only method of transportation that’s legally allowed here.
During my afternoon in Hydra, I enjoyed a lovely walking tour, including beautiful squares, the gorgeous Kimisis Tis Theotokou Cathedral, and learning about local desserts. I also spent time walking through the picturesque harbor, which really does seem to be right out of a postcard. I know that’s cliche, but it is absolutely that striking.
This is a great place to enjoy a nice meal on the water or a gelato as you stroll through the old town.
Located about thirty-four miles away from Athens, Poros is actually two separate islands connected by a bridge. The two halves are Sphairia, which is where the city is and where most tourists go, and Kalaureia, which is mostly homes.
Of the three islands I visited near Athens, Poros is the one I most want to come back to for a weekend away. Poros is lovely and small, with amazing sea views everywhere and charming houses covering the hillside in orange roofs. A hike up to the famous clock tower is a must. From here you can see marvelous views of the island and the sea, along with getting a glimpse of the life of the locals. I saw an older man feeding about a dozen orange cats and one very dirty, very fluffy dog.
There’s also sweet little church near the clocktower that I highly recommend you visit. It’s small, but just by getting a glimpse you will understand more about what life is like on Poros.
Looking for More Ideas? Read: Greek Island Hopping: The Best Island to Visit
How to Visit the Islands of Poros, Hydra, and Aegina In A Day
On a Greek Island Cruise
During my first trip to Greece, I spent a month based in Athens and took multiple day trips to explore the area. One thing on my Greek bucket list was to do some island hopping, but I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. I decided to book an island cruise that visited three nearby islands so that I could get a great sample of the different islands. This eliminated the need for me to coordinate different ferry schedules or to pick just one to visit.
The cruise left early in the morning (although not too early!). We sailed to Poros, where we had free time to walk the island, climb up to the clock tower, and enjoy ourselves.
After Poros, we sailed to Hydra. This part of the trip was stunning. Leaving Poros, we watched as the little harbor melted away, passing sailboats and beautiful natural rock formations. I stayed outside on the deck for most of this section, and I took a lot of videos which I still need to put together!
In Hydra, I went on a walking tour of the old town, including the Cathedral and a dessert shop. I also had time to walk through the city on my own and eat some amazing gelato.
Next, we had a buffet lunch on the ship, which added a bit of real “cruise” atmosphere.
Finally, we went to Aegina, where I visited the Temple of Aphaea and the Cathedral of Saint Nectarios and then I had some time to walk the harbor.
On the way back to Athens, we were given a special treat. Some of the staff performs a show of traditional Greek dancing, which I hadn’t realized ahead of time. This was a great way to sit back and unwind after a long day of sightseeing! Click here to see prices, availability, and reviews.
By Ferry or Hydrofoils
If you want to DIY your own island getaway, or you want to focus all of your time in one place, use the excellent Greek ferries and hydrofoils to get from Athens to the island of your choice. Note when searching for ferry tickets that you’ll leave from the main Athens port which is Piraeus. If you decide to go on your own, I would suggest picking just one or two islands and focusing your attention on them. Since Poros is in the middle, I would choose either Hydra and Poros or Hydra and Aegina. Personally, Poros and Hydra were my two favorites.
When is the Best Time to Visit the Islands?
Greece is a beautiful destination year-round, but each season is slightly different. I went during the end of October when the weather was cool but not cold. I wore jeans and sandals, but I had a rain jacket with me just in case!
The weather in this part of Greece in spring is also lovely and not yet too hot. The summer will be the prime beach season, so if you’re looking to escape to an island for the beaches, I would suggest going from May through September.
5 Things to Bring With You to Poros, Hydra, and Aegina
We are in the process of creating packing lists to help you know what to pack for Greece, but until then, here are some items you don’t want to leave home without:
- A Lonely Planet guidebook, to help you plan when on the ground.
- Seasickness pills and Seabands if you get seasick easily. The cruise ships are fairly stable, but the ferries are more choppy.
- Sunscreen since you will spend a lot of your time walking outside on the islands and sitting on the ship deck.
- Cash since you’ll want to pay for little extra and activities throughout your day, and fewer businesses here take credit cards than in Athens. If you choose to book the island cruise, some of them cost a few Euros extra. If you do your trip on your own, you’ll need money for meals and any tours you choose to do when you get there.
- Your travel insurance information in case anything happens during your day trip!
Headed to Greece? Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
If you’re planning a trip to Greece, make sure to travel with a valid travel insurance policy. If you’ll be spending time in the city or doing any outdoor activities like hiking or swimming, you need to be covered in case of an emergency. Travel insurance covers you in case of theft or an accident, which can save your trip if there’s an incident.
For travel insurance, I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.
Did we leave out any islands near Athens that someone should visit? Planning a trip to Athens and looking to escape to some nearby islands for a day? Leave your travel tips and questions below!
Stephanie has been living in and traveling around the Balkans for the past three years. She’s written for National Geographic Online, appeared on CNN Arabic and in the New York Times, and ridden more Balkan buses than is good for a person.