Amidst the long and tiresome covid 19 lockdowns around the world. Greece was one country that reopened its borders to tourists in May 2021. Travelling has always been very helpful to alleviate my mood, so this was an opportunity I couldn’t miss, especially after such a long and hard year.
If knowing about a countries history and culture is your thing, then Greece has a lot to offer. The following guide will highlight some of my favourite day trips from beautiful Athens.
Meteora – It Takes around 3-4 hrs to reach Meteora from Athens. You can either hire a car or take a train from Athens which will end at the town of Kalambaka, from where you can take a tour or hire a guide to see the monasteries.
Meteora means suspended in air, it is famous for its monasteries perched on top of vertical rocks. Some of the monasteries are still inhabited, and around 60 nuns and monks reside there. It is surely a day trip I recommend especially to marvel at their extraordinary architecture. There are a total of six monasteries that are accessible by staircase and pathways.
•Great Meteoron Monastery – Also known as the Holy Monastery of Great Meteoro, it is the largest and oldest out of all of the six monasteries.
•Varlaam Monastery – Varlaam is the second largest of the monasteries. dedicated to ‘All the Saints’. Located across from the Great Meteoron.
•Holy Trinity Monastery – If you are a ‘James Bond’ fan you might recognize this from the film ‘for your eyes only. This monastery is the hardest to reach however it is also the most photographed one out of all six monasteries.
•St. Nikolaos Anapafsas Monastery – This is the first monastery we come across on our way to Holy Meteora, this monastery is built vertically on floors, one level on top of the other due to lack of space on the rock.
•Roussanou Monastery – The Roussanou Monastery dates to the late 16th century. It is one of the two active monasteries to be inhabited by nuns.
•St. Stephen’s Monastery – The Monastery of Saint Stephen is the easiest one to access thanks to a bridge. Like Roussanou, it is also inhabited by nuns.
Other than these tourist spots there are some spots and activities most tourists are not aware of these include, abandon monasteries which most tourists either don’t know about or would rather skip as the only way to explore these is by foot, but it is worth it. There are also several hermit caves and jail caves all having folklore and of course some unique stories to tell.
Hiking Meteora’s rock forest is also another activity I would suggest but try to do it with a guide, as they share some incredible stories, beautiful viewpoints and of course an incredible adventure.
Delphi – It takes about 2 hour’s drive to reach Delphi from Athens and there are numerous tour agencies which do guide tours as well, from Athens. Dedicated to the Greek god’s Apollo, Delphi is said to be the very centre of the world. It is a UNESCO listed world heritage and a must-visit for history and culture admirers due to the vast historical sites. Some attractions you should visit here are:-
- Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia, – Athena was the half-sister of Apollo and it was her duty to protect, Apollo. The most photographed structure here is a circular temple known as the Tholos of Delphi, this sanctuary is also close to Castalian springs, which consists of terracotta figurines which are one of the oldest archaeological discoveries.
- Sanctuary of Apollo, The “Sacred Way” will lead you to the most significant site of Delphi, the sanctuary of Apollo was home to the Oracle of Delphi and the priestess Pythia who was famous for foreseeing the future. Just up the hill from the temple of Apollo lies the ancient theatre. It can accommodate up to 5000 people. in the past and it has also hosted musical contests of the Pythian Games. Today it hosts many events in summer.
- Ancient stadium – Moving more uphill from the theatre is the ancient stadium it lies on the highest spot of the Archaeological Site of Delphi. It overlooks the entire Sanctuary of Apollo. Other than these you can also check out the Archaeological Museum of Delphi and Museum of Delphic Festivals. A guide would be nice while visiting these ancient sites as they can help enlighten you about the history and the importance of these places.
- Aráchova, is about 8 km away from Delphi and around 2.5hours away from Athens. Situated on Mount Parnassos it is a fabulous place to visit during the winter season and it is also a popular getaway destination chosen by the Greek locals. It has many ski resorts and it is a great option for a weekend break from the busy life of Athens, also known as the ‘Winter Mykonos’. Some good attractions to visit there would be, Church of Agios Georgios, Parnassos National Park, and Kalyvia Village especially if you are a fan of hiking and finally the Corycian Cave dedicated to the God Pana and the Corycian Nymphs which lies about 3.5km uphill from Arachova.
- Galaxidi, another gem of a place that is just 15km away from Delphi. Away from the hustle-bustle of the touristy locations, lies this serene town. Built on a natural double harbour, there was also a time when the town could only be accessed by boat, due to its island-like characteristic. I loved walking around its narrow cobblestone paths and by the promenade of the Hirolakas square. Some other places to visit in this quaint town are Nikolaos Mamas Square, the Nautical Museum of Galaxidi, the Church of Aghios Nikolaos and the church of Aghia Paraskevi.
Ghost of Harmena which is a carnival festival held in Amfissa is a celebration dedicated to ghosts and lost souls celebrated every year, known as Ghost of Harmena the root of this event is said to be a tragic love story and if you are around during that time, you should surely check it out.
Nafplio – A two hour’s drive from Athens will get you to the most romantic city of Greece the Nafplio. It was the original capital of Greece until King Otto decided to move the capital to Athens. This coastal city is one of the most picturesque places in Greece. It is a must-visit for walking enthusiasts. Take a private walking tour to explore most of the beautiful narrow alleyways which the city is most recognized for. This city is most famous for is its Venetian castle, called Palamidi. A little hiking is required to reach the top but you will be rewarded with a wonderful view of the city and the sight of the endless sea. Other than that, you can take a Boat Ride to Bourtzi which means the “Island – Fortress” and it is exactly what the name suggests. It was originally built to defend the city from any sea attacks but it is now open to the general public. You can reach this isle by a tranquil boat ride.
You should also take a walk by the Arvanitia Promenade, it is incredibly pretty, also for the history lovers you should consider visiting the Komboloi museum and the museum of Nafplio.
Mycenae – It takes roughly about 1hr 30min from Athen to reach this ancient city. It is also one of the most popular day trips chosen by tourists. Mycenae also known as the city of Agamemnon named after a king. Mycenae holds a great part in the history of Greek civilization and has a lot of historic sites and monuments you can visit. A few of them are Cyclopean masonry which makes up the walls of Tiryns and Mycenae, the famous lion gate is also worth checking out, it is the entrance to the citadel of Mycenae. The lions on the gate are said to be a symbol of power however their heads are missing as the heads were made of metal and later stolen. My favourite though is the Treasury of Atreus also known as the Tomb of Agamemnon this is the best-preserved tomb compared to the other nine tombs in Mycenae.
Another tomb worth a visit is the tomb of Clytemnestra, Clytemnestra was Agamemnon’s wife it is not confirmed that it was her tomb but is highly speculated due to the amount of gold Jewellery found buried and finally you can may be even interested in vising the Archeological Museum of Mycenae too.
Island hopping at Agistri, Aegina & Moni – You can reach these beautiful islands in the Saronic Gulf by ferry from Piraeus port or by booking a easy day Tour, I booked one from greeceferries.com
- Agistri is a small island filled with lush pine forests. Apart from the number of beaches to swim and relax on, you can also have fun activities like kayaking, scuba diving or horseback riding. Other than that, this island also has a few beautiful churches you can visit like Agioi Anargiroi Church, the Church of Panagia and The Church of Zoodochos Pigi.
- Aegina is one of the largest islands in the group of Saronic islands of Greece the places you can visit while on this island are The Temple of Aphaia which is a well-preserved temple dedicated to the goddess Aphaia, the view of the ocean from here is just divine and makes a popular tourist site in Aegina. Agios Nektarios is also a church with the remains of Saint Nektarios popularly known as Greek Orthodox Saints, It is one of the most visited tourist sites. People from all around the world come to visit this church to seek his blessings. Just adjacent to Agios Nektsrios lies Paleachora which means the old town. This village has a castle and numerous old churches but only 5 are restored and are in good condition. Perdika is a simple Seaside Town with an old-time charm to it, it is around 9km south of Aegina. It is known as a fishing town and claims it is the best place where you can eat fish and enjoy the pleasant sea views.
- And lastly, the magical Moni was my favourite island of the three islands, a great place to unwind amidst the flora and fauna, after all the hiking and exploring. The island smells of pine and is surrounded by crystal clear water, but my highlight was seeing the wild peacocks and deer’s on this island which gave the island such a surreal feeling. Also this island is abandoned so it makes for a perfect day trip for swimming and exploring.
These few destinations are easily accessible by train, cars and if you do not want the hassle of transportation then you can find many popular day tours from Athens. Do let me know which ones are your favourite places!