One of the greatest things about a trip to Athens is its proximity to beautiful whitewashed Greek islands, charming villages and ancient historical cities. Each has a distinct character, culture and color. The residents themselves, known for their filoxenia or, graciousness and hospitality, will welcome you with a smile and invite you to try their local specialties.

Even if you are in Athens for just a few days, we urge you to spend a day or two at one of the following destinations. You will be glad you did.

When in Athens, hop on over to one of the islands of the Argosaronic Gulf.

The islands off the coast of the Saronic Gulf are ideal one-day getaways. Agistri, Aegina, Hydra, Poros and Spetses are popular destinations among the Athenians, indicating their special standing amongst Greece’s many islands. Cruises that tour the islands in one day are available, as are easy connections from each, should you prefer to explore them at your leisure.

Agistri

Where: 32 km (20 nautical miles) south of Piraeus (5 miles from Aegina)

Why: For its pristine, unspoiled and uncrowded island beauty and nature walks

For information: Port of Piraeus +302104147800

How to get there: by high-speed hydrofoil from Piraeus. Connections are available from neighboring Aegina.

Approximate travel time from Athens: 1 hour by hydrofoil

Don’t miss: A walk from Skala all around the island to Limenaria and the secluded Aponissos beach. There are beautiful trails to follow in the pine-forested interior of the island with some stunning views.

Beaches: Skala, Megalochori, Xekofti, Dragonera, Aponissos, Maghisa, Bariama, Skliri, Chalikiada

Aegina

Where: 27 km (17 nautical miles) southwest of Piraeus

Why: Picturesque houses, winding alleys, horse-drawn carriages, fertile plains, olive trees, aquamarine waters and an abundance of fragrant wildflowers in the spring.

How to get there: By high-speed hydrofoil from Piraeus. Connections are available from neighboring islands Agistri, Poros, Hydra and Spetses.

For information: Port of Piraeus +302104147800

Approximate travel time from Athens: 40 minutes by hydrofoil

Don’t miss: Afea Temple, the oldest surviving temple in Greece; the Folklore Museum; Archaeological site and museum of Kolona; Waterpark and nearby Moni Island, accessible in the summer by small boat from Perdika.

Must try: The world-famous Aegina gourmet pistachios, homemade rizogalo (rice pudding), marmalade and local cheese, mytzithra

Beaches: Agia Marina, Aiginitissa, Avra Beach, Aqua Loca, Kima Beach, Marathonas Cantina Beach, Marathonas Beach, Sarpa Beach

Did you know? The pistachios of Aegina are considered to be one of the world’s greatest varieties. The island produced the first Greek coins, known as the silver “tortoises” that subsequently gained great financial leverage throughout the Greek world. Nikos Kazantzakis wrote “Zorba the Greek” here. Nobel laureates Giorgos Seferis and Odysseus Elytis lived on the island, finding its natural environment inspiring.

Hydra

Where: 65 km (40 nautical miles) south of Piraeus

Why: Forget noisy cars and motorcycles. Think water taxis, donkeys and hiking. The approach to one of the most picturesque ports in Greece is sure to remain in your minds forever. Artists, writers and actors of international renown frequent this sophisticated and cosmopolitan Greek island. Maybe it’s the brilliantly colored flowers that graciously spill over the white washed 18th and 19th century mansions, or the myriad of art galleries and cliffside beaches. Summer or winter, this amphitheatrically built island near Athens is a window into the undying tradition of Greek island life.

How to get there: By high-speed hydrofoil from Piraeus. Connections to Poros, Ermioni, Dokos, Spetses, Porto Heli and, in July and August, connections to Epidavros

For more information: Port of Piraeus +302104147800

Approximate travel time from Athens: 1.5 hours by hydrofoil

Don’t miss: Hydra Historical Archives and Museum; Zoodochos Pigi Monastery; Agios Nikolaos Monastery; Lazaros Koundouriotis House; and the many mansions on the island

Did you know? Leonard Cohen has a house on Hydra.

Special events: International Marionette Festival in July; annual Miaoulia celebration at the end of June

Beaches: Bisti, Vlychos, Mandraki, Agios Nikolaos

Tip: Leave your stilettos at home and opt for comfortable shoes to enjoy the hilly, curvy streets.

Poros

Where: 50 km (31 nautical miles) southwest of Piraeus

Why: One of the closest of the Greek islands to Athens it offers a quick tranquil escape. It is overgrown with pine trees, lemon groves, olive trees and houses of neoclassical architecture. Close to the Peloponnese, Poros is an ideal base for visiting Epidavros, ancient Troezen (modern Trizina), Nafplion, Mycenae, and Tiryns.

How to get there: By high-speed hydrofoil from Piraeus. Connections are available from neighboring islands Hydra, Aegina, Agistri and Spetses.

For information: Port of Piraeus +302104147800

Approximate travel time from Athens: 1 hour by hydrofoil

Don’t miss: Zoodochos Pigi Monastery; Archaeological Museum of Poros; Lemonodassos (the lemon forest); Poseidon’s Temple

Beaches: Monastiri, Askeli, Canali, Perlia, Neorio, Alyki

Must try: Poros Lemonade

Did you know? Prominent literati including Giorgos Seferis, Kosmas Politis, Kostis Palamas, Ioulia Dragoumi and Henry Miller have praised the beauty of Poros.

Tip: Visit in the spring when the lemon trees are in bloom.

Spetses

Where: 85 km (53 nautical miles) southwest of Piraeus

Why: Horse-drawn carriages through Venetian influenced architecture, cosmopolitan nightlife and a favorite among Athenian aristocracy.

How to get there: By high-speed hydrofoil from Piraeus. Connections are available from neighboring islands Hydra and Poros.

By car: Drive to Costa (3 hours) in the Peloponnese and take the 15-minute ferry ride over.

For more information: Port of Piraeus +302104147800

Approximate travel time from Athens: 2 hours by hydrofoil

Don’t miss: The mystical Villa Bourani from the John Fowles novel ‘The Magus’; Spetsopoula the small island opposite Spetses; Bouboulina’s historic 300 year-old mansion; Spetses State Museum, housed at the Hatziyiannis-Mexis 200 year old mansion.

Special events: The Armata festival in September and accompanying traditional “Burning of the Boat” re-enactment, commemorates the sea-battle of September 8, 1822 when joint naval forces with Hydra defeated the Ottoman fleet.

Beaches: Anargiri, Agia Marina, Agios Mammas, Anargirios, Kosta, Zogreri, Ligoneri, Xylokeriza, Agia Paraskevi, Kouzounos, Agios Nikolaos, Garifalos

Did you know? John Fowles’ The Magus took place here. Spetses was the home of Laskarina Bouboulina, the legendary heroine of the Greek War of Independence.

Halkida

Where: 88 km (55 miles) from Athens

Why: For the drive over the swing bridge, crossing over the narrow Evripos Straits and subsequent view of the tidal current below (which Aristotle tried hard to explain in ancient times) and for the fresh fish tavernas and ouzomezedopoleia.

How to get there: By car, bus or train

Approximate travel time from Athens: 1.5 hours

Don’t miss: Archaeological Museum of Chalkis; The Karababas Castle, built by the Turks in 1684; the Emir Zade Mosque; the Archaeological Museum and the Folklore Museum inside the castle; The Byzantine church of Agia Paraskevi.

Beaches: Visit the nearby seaside towns of Eretria and Kimi for crystal blue waters.

Did you know? The town’s name is said to originate from Halkos (copper), which the residents once processed on the island. The ancient city was a renowned trading center, which established several colonies and contained famous temples dedicated to Zeus, Apollo and the goddess Hera.

When in Athens, take a peek into the plains of the Peloponnese home to the first capital of Greece, Nafplion; the birthplace of the Olympic Games in Ancient Olympia; several of the world’s most ancient archaeological sites, the Ancient Theater of Epidavros, Mycenae and Tiryns, Ancient Corinth; and, in recent years, a coastline of casinos in Loutraki.

Nafplion

Where: 145 km (90 miles) southwest of Athens

Why: The first capital of modern Greece, Nafplion, has one of the most pleasant ports and marble paved promenades in Greece. The Venetian fortress above and the mini-castle on the tiny island in the harbor are elements that have made Nafplion one of the most charming cities in the Peloponnese. It is also your ideal home base for day trips to the ancient sites at Argos, Nemea, Mycenae, Tiryns, Epidavros, and Ancient Corinth.

How to get there: By car, bus or train

By car: From Athens, head south towards the Corinth Canal

By train: There are several trains a day from Athens to Corinth and Argos, from where you can catch a bus to Nafplion. For train schedules to the Peloponnese: +302105131601.

By bus: For bus schedules to the Peloponnese: +302105134110

Approximate travel time from Athens: 3 hours

Don’t miss: the Venetian Fortress of Palamidi; Bourtzi, the mini castle on a mini island in the harbor (a boat will take you there in the summer).

Beaches: Arvanitia, Karathonas

Must try: An ice-cream sundae at one of the many cafes on the promenade

Corinth

Where: 90 km (55 miles) west of Athens

Why: To visit the extensive remains, dating mostly from the Roman period, dominated by the imposing ruins of the Archaic Temple of Apollo at Ancient Corinth. To visit the Isthmus of Corinth, the narrow land bridge which connects the Peloponnese peninsula with the mainland of Greece. To try your luck at the coastline casinos of nearby Loutraki.

How to get there: By car, bus, train

By car: From Athens, head south towards the Corinth Canal

By bus: Bus station servicing the Peloponnese: +302105134110

By train: There are several trains a day from Athens to Corinth and Argos. For train schedules to the Peloponnese: +302105131601

Approximate travel time from Athens: 2 hours by car

Don’t miss: the Loutraki Folklore Museum; the Archaeological Museum of Ancient Corinth; the ancient settlement of Schinous; the Roman villa at Katounistra, in Loutraki; the monasteries on the slopes of the Gerania.

Epidavros

Where: 145 km (90 miles) southwest of Athens

Why: Two of the most ancient archaeological sites in the world. Visit the ancient theater of Epidavros and witness up close the achievements of the ancient Greeks in theater construction. If visiting Athens in the summer, take time out to attend a performance. Mycenae and Tiryns: Ruins from two of the most ancient civilizations. Mycenae, 50km (31 miles) south of Corinth, bears the remains of the ancient palace and its findings testify that this center of the Mycenaean civilization has existed since 3,000 B.C. Tiryns: The earliest human occupation on the hill goes back to the Neolithic period (about 5000 B.C.). It was followed by successive settlements but their remains have been destroyed almost completely by the extensive construction arrangement of the Mycenaean age. Enough evidence survived from the settlement of the Early Bronze Age (2500-2000 B.C.) to prove the existence of a series of apsidal houses arranged around a very huge circular building on the summit of the hill.

How to get there: By car, bus or train

By car: From Athens, head south towards the Corinth Canal

By train: There are several trains a day from Athens to Corinth and Argos. For train schedules to the Peloponnese: +302105131601.

By bus: Bus station for the Peloponnese: +302105134110

Approximate travel time from Athens: 2-3 hours

Don’t miss: the Gateway of Lions, the entrance of the Mycenaean acropolis; the chance to attend a performance at Epidavros during the summer months; a visit to the nearby town of Ligourio for local gastronomic specialties.

Olympia

Where: Prefecture of Elia in southern Peloponnese 320 km (200 miles) south of Athens

Why: One of the sacred ancient centers of religious worship, Olympia, built in honor of Zeus was chosen as the birthplace of the Olympic Games. In times of peace and war, the Greeks would compete for a crown wreath made of olive leaves. The Olympic Museum housing such ancient sports artifacts including bronze athletes’ discuses; bronze strigils used by athletes to scrape the oil and dust off their bodies; and halters, stone or lead weights held by jumpers for greater momentum.

How to get there: By car, bus or train

By bus: Bus station servicing the Peloponnese: +302105134110

By train: For train schedules: +302105297777, quick dial from Athens: 1110, 1440; www.ose.gr

Approximate travel time from Athens: 4.5 hours by car

Don’t miss: The ancient stadium, the ancient gymnasium, the Temple of Zeus, considered one of the finest examples of Doric architecture.

Parnassos

When in Athens, take to the breathtaking mountain villages of Parnassos in Central Greece, the most popular of which is Arachova, and the nearby archaeological site of Delphi and coastal regions, Itea and Galaxidi.

Where: 220 km (140 miles) from Athens

Why: For a weekend of skiing the 20 runs at the Parnassos Ski Center and partaking in the apres-ski social scene.

How to get there: By car, by bus

Approximate travel time from Athens: 5 hours

Did you know? According to Greek mythology, Mt. Parnassos was the favorite stamping grounds of Apollo and Dionysos.

Arachova

Where: 157 km (100 miles) from Athens, 10km (6 miles) east of Delphi, clings to Mount Parnassos some 950m (3,116 ft.) above sea level.

Why: Arachova is a small mountain town built upon the slopes of Mount Parnassos. Visit in the winter for a cosy weekend at one of the most breathtaking sea and mountain vistas in Greece. Visit in the summer for the inspiring mountain fresh air and the Mediterranean waters brushing the shores of the coastal regions Itea and Galaxidi.

How to get there: By car, bus

Approximate travel time from Athens: 3 hours by car

Don’t miss: The hand-loomed rugs, including fluffy flokati, tagari bags, and blankets; The Agios Georgios church

Special events: Panigyraki three-day feast and celebration in honor of Saint George (Agios Georgios), Arachova’s patron saint and the victory by the Greeks over the Ottomans in 1826. Annually, April 22-25th.

Delphi

Where: 220 km (135 miles) from Athens

Why: This magical area is famous for its archaeological sites such as the ancient Oracle of Pithia and the Temple of Apollo where leaders of the ancient world sought spiritual guidance. Both sites are built on a hill that offers a magnificent view of the surrounding area. The newly built Archaeological Museum of Ancient Delphi is exquisite and contains findings from the site. Nearby are the seaside resorts of Itea and Galaxidi.

How to get there: By car or bus

By bus: From Athens station: +302108317096

Approximate travel time from Athens: 3 hours

Don’t miss: The Archaeological Museum in Delphi

Special events: The Music and Ancient Theater Festival that takes place at the ancient theater of Delphi in the summer.

Wine Country

When in Athens, take a tour of the modern winemaking facilities and sip varieties that are making headlines worldwide.

Where: The municipalities of Megara, Spata, Paiania, Koropi, Markopoulo, Pallini, Pikermi, Anavyssos, Kalyvia, Kouvaras, Stamata, Oinoi and Inofita

Why: The climate of Attica is ideal for winemaking and the modernization of the facilities has led to new varieties that have gained wide respect amongst wine connoisseurs, surpassing the retsina stereotype image of the past.

Approximate travel time from Athens: 1 hour by car

Did you know? Legend has it that Dionysus first entrusted the residents of Attica with the secrets for the cultivation of grapes and the art of winemaking.