The Best Islands To Visit From Athens You Don’t Want To Miss (In 3 Hours Or Under)

Picturesque view of the harbour in the island of Aegina, with boats, sea and houses on the coast in the background.

Ready to Discover the Best Islands to Visit from Athens?

If you’re staying in and around Athens, you probably won’t want to take a long ferry trip or plane ride to visit one of the thousands of stunning islands that make up Greece. In fact, it can be rather overwhelming trying to choose the best islands to visit from Athens.

Luckily, many islands can be accessed in three hours or even less from the Greek capital – so a relatively easy ferry ride from one of the city’s ports.

The good news is that as someone who has spent a lot of time in Greece and taken numerous trips to explore the islands close to Athens, I can help you pick the top option for you.

In this blog, I’ve only highlighted the best islands to visit from Athens in three hours or under, so you can rest assured you’ll avoid super long stressful ferry rides. And planes? Nah, forget it (unless flying is something you enjoy!)

A visit to Greece’s remarkable capital is rich with opportunities for exploration and one of them is taking a trip to one of the many islands near Athens worth visiting.

From the islands of the Saronic Gulf, such as Hydra, Poros, Spetses and Aegina, to the hidden secrets of the Cyclades Islands – you’re definitely spoilt for choice when it comes to trips to idyllic escapes close to the Greek capital. So read on to discover more about which island best suits your requirements!

Table of Contents

Closest Island from Athens

Before we get started let’s take a quick look at the closest islands from Athens.

Many of you will want to know which islands you can access easily and quickly during your Athens stay. After all, as tourists, you don’t always have all the time in the world to explore, so you have to stick to a strict itiniary.

So, without further ado, the top four closest islands to visit from Athens via ferry are Salamina, Agistri, Aegina and Poros – which can all be accessed in under an hour and 30-minutes from Piraeus, the city’s busiest port.

All of these islands are beautiful with unique characteristics and well worth a visit during your time in Athens.

When people tend to think of Greek islands, they often consider bigger, better-known options like Santorini, Mykonos and Kefalonia. But the truth is there are many more options available and the opportunity to discover hidden gems during your Athens stay is hard to resist!

Now, let’s get on with examining the best islands to visit from Athens in three hours or less…


A stunning floral shop on a winding street in Aegina Town, Aegina, Greece.
One of Aegina’s lovely flower shops

Aegina is roughly 40 minutes from the port of Piraeus, so one of the closest islands to Athens – and among my favourites to visit.

Part of the Saronic Island archipelago, Aegina is surrounded by the clear, azure waters of the Saronic Gulf.

When you initially arrive in Aegina, it’s almost as if you’ve arrived in another century – as with many of the islands close to Athens, horse and cart is a favoured way to get around!

With its quaint winding streets, colourful homes, cafes, cute shops, delicious and unique ice cream shops and of course, local pistachio nuts, Aegina is definitely one of the best day trips from Athens. It’s no surprise so many Athenians own second homes on the island.

Taking a trip around the island on a horse is a treat, as is sampling the traditional Greek food in the tavernas along the promenade in Aegina Town – tip: try the eggplant cheese on mushrooms at Dromaki.

In the evening, you can sample some of the cocktails on offer at the bars in the area overlooking the port.

Selection of delicious ice creams on Aegina island, Greece, one of the best islands to visit from Athens.
Take your pick from the delicious ice cream selection available to you on Aegina (the Ferrero Rocher and Oreo flavours are my faves)
Author sipping a cocktail at the Inn on the Beach bar, overlooking the Saronic Gulf, Aegina island, Greece.
Me, sipping on a delicious cocktail at the Inn on the Beach, overlooking the sea

As with many of the best islands to visit from Athens, you will have a LOT of options when it comes to exploring historical sites. Here are just a few of my top activities to do in Aegina.

Best Things to do in Aegina

  • Visit the Temple of Aphaia – a Doric temple build around 500 BCE. The Doric order is one of the three orders of ancient Greek architecture.
  • Check out historical Paleochora, the old capital of the island until about 200 years ago. Located on a hillside a few kilometres from the town of Aegina, explore the 365 Byzantine churches and their stunning frescoes. The churches of Episkopi, Agios Georgios and Metamorphosis are particularly appealing.
  • The Agios Nektarios monastery (that’s Saint Nektarios) is one of the most important religious monuments on the island and was established around 1904 to 1910 by the Bishop of Pentapolis Nektarios.
Aphaia Temple on Aegina island, Greece, which is located in the Saronic Gulf and one of the best islands to visit from Athens.
The Aphaia Temple on Aegina island on a summers day

Top tip: If you fancy exploring further afield, check out Perdika village, a gorgeous picturesque town famous for its class whitewashed homes or Moni, a deserted island just close by with outstanding natural beauty.


A view of the beautiful Greek island, Hydra, one of the best islands to visit from Athens. There is a fishing boat on the foreground and some local architecture on the background.
A view from the sea of Hydra’s mesmorising coastline

Hydra – which means many-headed serpent or monster in Greek mythology – is undoubtedly one of the best islands to visit from Athens.

About an hour and a half via ferry, like Aegina, Hydra makes up part of the Saronic Island archipelago. With its aristocratic charm and cosmopolitan elegance, Hydra is the perfect escape for a weekend away from the hustle and bustle of the Greek capital.

Hydra certainly doesn’t disappoint those looking for some old-fashioned appeal. As soon as you step foot on the island it’s like entering a time capsule. With no cars on the island, the preferred way to get around is by horseback, which makes you feel a bit like you’re in the 19th century!

View of horse by the island of Hydra's port. Hydra makes up part of the Saronic Gulf and is one of the best islands to visit from Athens.
Vehicles are prohibited on Hydra Island, but you can take a horse ride instead!

With its 18th-century mansions, ancient churches, and marble-flagged steps that serve as streets on this steep island, there’s so much to explore on Hydra, it’s hard to know where to start. So, here’s a useful summary of some of the best attractions and activities in Hydra.

Best Things to do in Hydra

  • Visit the primary settlement, where you’ll find an array of stately homes and fascinating museums.
  • Experience the enchanting trails leading to the wilderness and various pristine beaches, such as Vlichos, Kaminia, Bisti, and Agios Nikolaos.
  • The convent of Saint Eupraxia and the nearby monastery of Prophet Elias, which is an excellent journey for hikers and is perched on Mount Eros (the highest peak on the island) from where you can take in breathtaking views of the Saronic Gulf.
  • Pay a trip to the fishing village at Kamini which you can access by taking the coastal walking trail.

Finally, if you do decide to pay Hydra a visit, you’ll be in good company. The island is a favourite with legendary artists like Pablo Picasso, and the great, late Leonard Cohen!


Beautiful beach on Spetses, in the  Saronic Island archipelago, near Athens, Greece.
The clear, green waters of a Spetses beach

The island of Spetses is probably one of the more famous islands near Athens. Located in the Saronic Gulf, Spetses takes around two hours and a quarter to access from Piraeus, so is better-suited for those who are looking for a weekend break rather than a day trip.

Spetses is more upmarket than other islands close to Athens and a favourite of the international jet-set, many of whom have homes there.

With its mixture of neoclassical mansions, boutique hotels and upscale eateries and bars, Spetses attracts a well-heeled clientele and in turn, has developed sufficient tourism infrastructure to attract visitors from all over the world.

At the same time, Spetses still maintains a parochial feel (cars are also banned, similar to Hydra).

In my view, you’ll need at least two full days to enjoy Spetses. This should give you enough time to sufficiently soak up the atmosphere, visit the many cultural attractions on the island and check out the bars and restaurants.

Best Things to do in Spetses

  • Explore the museum in Kasteli, the city’s oldest district, where you can marvel at exhibits honoring the remarkable life of Laskarina Bouboulina, the world’s first female admiral and one of the key figures in the Greek War of Independence.
  • Unwind and savor the ambiance of the trendy Dapia neighborhood by visiting a cosy cafe or lively pub.
  • Indulge in a range of outdoor activities, including swimming, cycling, and horse riding, to make the most of the island’s natural beauty and adventures.
  • Visit one of Greece’s oldest lighthouses, situated to the east of the main town and beyond the old harbor. It’s a leisurely stroll that takes approximately 45 minutes from the heart of town.

If you visit Spetses, don’t forget to try the local food. Argyris, a traditional Greek restaurant found in a charming square in the centre of the island, offers a delightful dining experience with its warm and welcoming vibe.


Landscape image of sea and lighthouse in Salamina Island, part of the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea.
View of the Aegean sea and landscape of the island of Salamina

Salamina, or Salamis Island, is the closest island to Athens and the biggest Greek island in the Saronic Gulf. Just a 15-minute ferry ride (for one euro per person!) from the Greek capital and two kilometres from Piraeus, Salamina is famous for the Battle of Salamina in 480 BCE, where a Greek fleet defeated much larger Persian naval forces in the straits at Salamis.

Salamina is perfect for any type of tourist looking for a quick trip to an island, as there are many activities and accommodations to choose from. It is also accessible by car, bus or boat, so you could rent a car if you plan to drive to Salamina during your stay in Athens.

It’s worth adding that if you’re looking for a typical tourist experience, Salamina is probably not for you. It’s lack of shops and hotels and plethora of summer houses and tavernas, makes it feel more like an extension of Athens rather than an island escape.

This is why it’s often left out of typical lists of best islands close to Athens – but I decided to include it on mine because it offers something a bit different from other island day trip options and will appeal to a particular visitor seeking out a more authentic experience.

Best Things to do in Salamina

The two key attractions are the Faneromeni Monastery and the Euripides Theatre, both significant cultural and historical landmarks on the island of Salamina.

Faneromeni Monastery Facts:

  • Located on the island of Salamina, Greece, the Faneromeni Monastery stands as the most significant religious monument. This basilica showcases a striking architectural design, boasting three domes and a central dome.
  • Originating in the first half of the 18th century, the monastery has been subject to multiple restoration endeavors aimed at safeguarding its rich historical and architectural heritage.
  • As a result of its profound historical and religious significance, the monastery draws hordes of tourists and holds the distinction of being the island’s most frequented and revered site.

Euripides Theatre Facts:

  • Salamina is also renowned as the birthplace of the famous Greek playwright Euripides and there is a temple dedicated to him on the island.
  • In addition to the temple, Salamina has several caves named after Euripides, which have become subjects of study due to their association with the playwright.
  • The Euripides Theatre, serves as a reminder of the island’s rich cultural heritage and its ties to ancient Greek drama.

If relaxing in the sun is more your thing, there’s also a number of attractive beaches for tourists to visit that are easily accessible by car, bus or boat. Along the south coast, you’ll encounter a ton of beautiful beaches such as Kanakia, Pyrgiakoni, Lambrano, Saterli, Kolones, Peristeria, Kyriza, Lymniona, Giala, and Selenia.


The famous chapel on the island of Poros, Greece in the summer.
The famous clock tower on the island of Poros, overlooking the Saronic Gulf

Poros is a little island located in the centre of the Saronic Gulf and sits across from the port of Lakonia and the Peloponnese region of Greece. Just a one and quarter hour ferry journey from Piraeus, you can also reach Poros by car from Galatas.

Poros has a distinctive vibe, with lush vegetation, pristine beaches and a vibrant atmosphere and is perfect for an island trip from Athens. With its small tavernas, yacht marinas, neoclassical buildings, and pine forests stretching to the sea, Poros has a serene and relaxing atmosphere. There’s no wonder it’s a top destination for day trips from Athens!

General view of coastline and colourful houses of Poros, Greece, from a boat on the Saronic Gulf.
View of the awesome Poros coastline from our boat

Best Things to do in Poros

  • Take a leisurely stroll through the port town and admire its beautiful historic homes, along with the charming clock tower that carries a century of history.
  • Immerse yourself in Poros’ rich past by visiting the city’s Archeological Museum.
  • Explore the fascinating ruins of the Poseidon Temple.
  • Marvel at the captivating paintings displayed at St. George’s Cathedral.
  • Discover the stunning Zoodochos Pigi Monastery, truly a sight to behold.
  • Relax on the enticing shore of Monastiri Beach.

Poros is a must-visit if you’re in Athens for any length of time. It’s especially suitable for nature enthusiasts, who can enjoy cycling, hiking, and swimming in the island’s shimmering waters throughout their stay, making it an ideal destination for those seeking a harmonious connection with nature.


Floral landscape of Andros island, Greece, one of the best islands to visit from Athens.
The gorgeous floral landscape of Andros Island

Andros is one of the Cyclades Islands and can be accessed in just one hour from Athens’ Rafina port by ferry. It’s also close to other, more famous Cycladic islands like Mykonos, Paros and Naxos, offering the perfect opportunity for those looking for an island-hopping tour.

Following Naxos, Andros is the second-largest island in the Cyclades, with a wild and hilly landscape and is blessed with over 170 lovely beaches, charming tiny towns, and an array of activities to enjoy.

Best Things to do in Andros

  • Discover the Venetian fortress in Chora, Andros’s largest city.
  • Immerse yourself in art and history at Chora’s Archaeological Museum and Museum of Modern Art.
  • Visit the Cyclades Olive Museum in Ano Pitrofos, dedicated to the cultivation of olives and the production of olive oil.
  • Explore the extensive hiking paths that weave through the island’s beautiful terrain.
  • Unwind on the breathtaking coves and beaches that grace the entire island.
Paraporti sandy beach Chora city of Andros island, Cyclades, Greece
Paraporti Beach is just one of the many attractive beaches on the island of Andros

With its breathtaking scenery, cosmopolitan main town, traditional villages, and incredible beaches, Andros has become a perennial favorite for Athenians seeking stunning getaways. It stands among the closest Cycladic islands to the Greek capital and is one of the best islands to visit from Athens.


Stunning sunset with boats silhouette in the sea on Kea Island, Greece.
Boats silhouette in the sea at sunset on Kea Island

Kea, also known as Tzia, belongs to the Cyclades group and is a charming island located south of the historical region of Attica.

I would describe Kea as the best-kept secret of the Cyclades Islands, because it’s the smallest island and has a slow-pace that is the total opposite to the hustle and bustle of Athens.

This makes it a sought-after weekend getaway spot from the Greek capital and a great option if you want to avoid the crowds that populate better-known islands like Spetses and Hydra.

Easily accessible by ferry from Lavrio in one and a half hours, Kea stands out with its unique architectural style featuring neoclassical houses in earthy tones – which makes a bit of a departure from the iconic whitewashed cubic houses and blue-domed churches commonly seen in the region.

Best Things to do in Kea

  • Stroll around the picturesque villages of Ioulida and Vourkari.
  • Hiking is a popular pursuit on the island, with a range of different trails you can follow that lead to unique sites, such as the hike from Ioulida to Ancient Karthea, an archaeological site. Here, you can explore the Temples of Athena and Apollo, as well as an amphitheatre.
  • Visit the Monastery of Kastriani, built in 1700 by shepherds (according to local legend).
  • If hiking isn’t your thing, take a swim on Koundouros, one of the island’s most popular beaches!

If you decide to pay a trip to Kea, you can use it as a convenient starting point for island hopping to neighbouring Kythnos and Syros if you decide to extend your stay a bit longer.


View from the sea of Kamares town on Sifnos island, Greece, at sunset.
Sunset at Kamares, Sifnos

Sifnos can be found in the western part of the Cyclades and truly captivates visitors with its traditional architecture, delectable culinary scene, and glorious beaches.

Roughly a two hour and 30-minute ferry ride from Piraeus, Sifnos is well connected via ferry to other nearby islands like Serifos, Kythnos, Milos, Santorini, Naxos, Paros, and more. The closest airport can be found on Milos island.

Sifnos’ serene vibe makes it a favourite destination for families and couples seeking a peaceful weekend retreat, so ideal if you’ve a couple of days to spare during your Athens trip.

Best Things to do in Sifnos

  • Take a trip to Panagia Chrissopigi, built in 1640 and one of the most famous spots on the island, located on a rock!
  • Explore the island on foot via the many hiking trails on the island, such as from Glyfos Beach to Apokofto Beach in Chrissopigi.
  • Visit the capital, Apollonia and enjoy the delicious food and bars.
  • Check out Artemonas, a traditional settlement outside Hora.
  • Visit the historic settlement of Kastro, which is built on a rock with a magnificent view of the Aegean.


Panoramic view of the Kolona double sided beach at Kythnos, Greece as viewed from Aghios Loukas islet.
View of Kolona, the unique, double-sided beach at Kythnos

Kythnos can be found nestled in the western Cyclades and is a three-hour ferry ride from Piraeus or Lavrio.

With its close proximity to Athens, Kythnos has become a popular choice for short trips and weekend getaways and is particularly appealing to those seeking a genuine experience.

With its elegant buildings, narrow-cobbled streets and flower-filled gardens, Kythnos is a treat for those who are looking for a more serene escape, even if it’s not as busy with as many activities as other islands.

Its history traces back to the Mesolithic period, and today, Kythnos stands modest yet hospitable, surprising visitors with its unexpected beauty and authenticity.

Colourful outdoor street in island of Kythnos, Greece.
Kythnos is an authentic Greek island full of colourful streets such as the one above

Best Things to do in Kythnos

  • Take a swim on one of the secluded beaches on the island, such as the double-sided Kolona beach.
  • Go for a hike from Chora or Driopida, the two main villages of Kythnos.
  • Visit the Castle of Oria, in the northern part of the island and one of the medieval landmarks of the island.
  • Check out the archaeological site of Maroulas.


Harbour and a church in Skala village on Agistri island, Greece.
The harbour and a church in Skala Village, a popular resort on Agistri

Agistri is a tranquil paradise near Athens that can be easily accessed in a 55-minute speedboat from Piraeus, or via an hour and 30-minute ferry ride, so the perfect option for a quick day-trip if you’re short on time.

This charming destination offers pretty villages and captivating aquamarine beaches, guaranteeing an easily accessible blissful retreat from the dust and crowds of the capital city.

As part of the Saronic group of islands, its proximity to Athens makes Agistri an ideal base for exploring the wonders of the Saronic archipelago through island hopping.

Agistri offers a genuine haven, a real sanctuary of relaxation just a stone’s throw from Athens.

Best Things to do in Agistri

  • Why not sample the glorious beaches of Aponissos and Dragonera offering a soothing escape from everyday stresses?
  • For a more vibrant experience, head to Skala, the island’s most popular resort, where sandy shores and excellent tourist facilities await to ensure a comfortable stay.
  • Stroll along the scenic coastal road, you’ll be delighted to discover an array of inviting restaurants, cosy cafes, vibrant beach bars, traditional taverns.
  • For those seeking seclusion amidst nature’s splendor, the naturist beach of Halikiada awaits. Though reaching this gem requires a steep hike from town, the beach’s breathtaking beauty makes the effort truly rewarding!

Map of Best Islands to Visit from Athens

Best Islands to Visit from Athens – Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are many Greek islands near Athens to choose from. Choice is always good, but the main question for you is which one of these islands should you visit during your Athens stay?

If you’re unsure, I have a great tip…

If you’re staying in Athens for five days or under, pick from the list of the closest islands to Athens for an enjoyable day trip.

This will inevitably be one of the islands in the Saronic Gulf – choose from Salamina, Agistri, Poros, or Aegina, all of which you can access in one hour and 30-minutes or under.

If you’ve more time on your hands and can spend two to four days exploring islands close to Athens, you might want to do one of the longer tours of the Saronic Islands, including Spetses, or visit one of the Cyclades Islands.

Personally, I would generally avoid the day trip whirlwind tours of the Saronic Islands. You’ll only have a couple of hours on each island and it’s not enough time to fully absorb the atmosphere.

Whatever your choice, remember that you can always return and explore the wonders of all of the islands discussed above. Greece has so much to offer so you’ll never be disappointed!

Best Day Tours from Athens

If you’re looking to get out of Athens but don’t fancy an island visit, check out this list of the best day tours from Athens every traveller needs to discover. Whether you choose to rent a car or book a tour yourself, there’s so much to see in this beautiful country!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the quickest ferry route from Athens to the islands?

If you want to pay a trip to Salamina, which is the closest island to Athens and just a 15-minute ride by ferry, you can find tickets for as cheap as one euro from Perama (in Athens) to Paloukia. The second closest island to Athens in the Saronic Gulf is Aegina and the journey takes approximately 40 minutes by high-speed ferry from Piraeus. However, the duration of the journey may vary depending on the island you’re visiting and the type of ferry you’re taking.

Which Saronic island is better, Aegina or Hydra?

Aegina and Hydra are two of the most popular islands close to Athens, so it is often asked which one is the best to visit. The truth is both Aegina and Hydra are lovely islands with their own unique charm. Aegina is famous for its ancient Temple of Aphaia and pistachio nuts, while Hydra is best-known for its picturesque harbour and traditional architecture. Ultimately, the choice between the two depends on your personal preferences.

What is the best time to visit the Greek islands?

The best time to visit the Greek islands is from May to October. During this time, the weather is warm and sunny, and the sea is calm and perfect for swimming. July and August are the busiest months, so if you want to avoid the crowds, consider visiting in May, June, or September.

What is the best way to travel between the islands?

The best way to travel between the islands is by ferry. There are several ferry companies that operate in Greece, including Blue Star Ferries, Hellenic Seaways, and SeaJets. You can book your tickets online or at the port. If you are travelling during peak season, it is advisable to book your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.

What should I pack for my trip to the Greek islands?

When packing for your trip to the Greek islands, it is important to pack light and bring comfortable clothing and shoes. You should also bring a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and a swimsuit. It is also a good idea to bring a light jacket or sweater for the evenings, as it can get chilly. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture all the beautiful scenery!


For over a decade I've been exploring the beauty of Greece and, over time, I've fallen in love with the wonders of this rich, lively culture. And I want to share my discoveries with you! From where you should stay to the best day trips, restaurants and beaches - you're in the right place to experience the best of Greece!

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