Best Island Day Trips From Athens By Ferry
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Being in Greece and not visiting one of its stunning islands is like sightseeing Paris and missing Eiffel Tower. You should definitely check out at least one of the Greek islands. They not only offer beautiful beaches, but are rich in history, Greek culture, nice people, and the best food.
Perhaps you don’t have too much time for Greek island hopping. Still, you can make some of the best island day trips from Athens. It’s one of the easiest options for visiting Greek islands. This article will give you top tips for island day trips you can make from Athens. It’ll also reveal options on how to get there and introduce the ferry system in Greece. Let’s explore amazing Greek islands.
How Do Ferries Work In Greece?
Many ferry companies provide transport all over Greece and its islands. Some of them are fast ferries, so you can get to all these islands within 2 or 3 hours. But these are also going to be the most expensive.
If you travel on a budget and want the cheapest ferries possible, it’ll take longer to get to these islands. Therefore, plan more than 1 day for these day trips. It’ll take you 3 days to make these trips. So count one day for getting there, another day for spending time on an island, and the last day getting back to Athens.
Please note that I’ll be introducing the fastest way for getting to these islands in this article since these are day trips from Athens. But you can check for yourself different ferries, prices, and duration.
Where To Buy Ferry Tickets In Greece?
The best website for checking out and booking ferries in Greece is the ferry hopper.
If you want to book a ferry to one of these islands, use ferry hopper. Or you can buy tickets directly at the port. But I recommend buying tickets in advance on the ferry hopper.
Piraeus Port In Athens
The main port in Athens is Piraeus, from where most of these ferries and boats depart. There are also other ports, but you’ll most probably have to go to Piraeus.
You can take a taxi, which is not so expensive in Greece. Or take a local bus from the center of Athens directly to the port.
Popular Ferry Companies In Greece
The most popular ferry companies that operates trips from Piraeus port to these Greek islands are:
- Blue Star Delos
- Worldchampion Jet
- Santorini Palace
List Of The Best Island Day Trips From Athens
Without further I do, below, I am giving you the best island day trips from Athens, a description of each one, interesting facts, and things you can do on each island. There is no particular order in the list. Just read through and decide which island day trip from Athens sounds the best to you.
Welcome to Naxos, one of the most surprising and beautiful islands for many. It’s the biggest of the Cyclades islands. The Greek god Zeus was raised here as a child in a cave below the highest mountain, Mount Zas, called as Mount Zeus, as it’s mentioned in Greek mythology.
It’s also the most green and fertile island with growing agriculture producing many local goods. The most popular ones are potatoes, cheese, and Kitron lemon liquer.
If you’re a sports lover, this island might be for you. It’s quite windy, so kite-surfers will find their spots here.
You can mainly enjoy its beautiful beaches, traditional villages, delicious food, kite-surfing, hiking, and archaeological sites on this island. One of the most famous is the Great Gate, a temple originally built and dedicated to the Greek god Apolo. After, you can head to the Portara, the Castle of Naxos, which became the island’s landmark.
Of course, you are coming for the beaches as well. Here on Naxos, you can visit Plaka, Mikri Vigla, or Agia Anna.
Naxos is as beautiful as Mykonos and Santorini, but it’s less crowded and more authentic. So if you want to avoid crowds, Naxis is the island day trip from Athens.
Sightseeing in Naxos
- Chora city
- Portara – Temple of Apolo
- Mount Zas
- Apiranthos (flower village)
- Apano Kastro – ancient castle
- Vallindras distillery – taste Kitron liquer
How To Get To Naxos From Athens
The fastest ferry from Athens to Naxos takes about 3 hours and 20 minutes. It’s normally operated by Blue Star ferries.
The last ferry from Naxos to Athens is usually around 6pm. Alternatively, there is also an overnight ferry that leaves around 10:30pm and is cheap. You’ll then get back to Athens around 5am on the next day.
You can also fly to Naxos, which will take you only 40 minutes. However, it’s slightly more expensive. If you don’t mind the price, then fly there in the morning, and take a ferry back to Athens in the evening.
One of the most picturesque Green islands is also just ahead of Athens. Mykonos is everything you imagine to be a Greek island. White buildings with blue roofs, tiny pebble streets in the old town, great beaches, and stunning views. Mykonos has it all.
As a result, it has also become an attractive shooting location. Some movies have been shot here, including Shirley Valentine or Bourne Identity.
Any guesses why Mykonos has almost all houses white and blue? It’s not an accident. You might already know that white houses remain cool during hot summer months. It’s also the reason for casas blancas in Spain. But why blue? Because the island has a set color code, which comes from the past. Sailors used to paint their doors and roofs blue, farmers in green, and everybody else used red color.
Sailors used to paint their doors and roofs blue, farmers in green, and everybody else used red color.
Mykonos used to be a rather poor island, and its only resource was agriculture. So you’ll also see many donkeys. It was the main form of transport back in those times. It only changed in the 1950s, when after WWII. celebrities and royal families discovered it and started visiting it. But the donkeys are still there.
You can explore its Chora windmills or local monasteries. After, head to Elias beach and enjoy the vibes. Art lovers will also find nice galleries and interesting pieces.
Mykonos also offers one of the best nightlife experiences in Greece, so stay for the night if you’re into it.
Sightseeing in Mykonos
- Mykonos town
- Little Venice neighborhood
- Chora windmills
- Monastery of Panagia Tourliani
- Panagia Paraportiani Church
- Beaches – Kapari, Agios Sostis, Ornos, Lia, Paradise Beach
- Cape Armenistis with its lighthouse
How To Get To Mykonos From Athens
You can get to Mykonos by ferry from Athens within 2 hours & 30 minutes. One of the companies that operate this route is, for example, Superexpress or Worldchampion Jet.
Taking a flight is also a great option as it’s not so expensive. There are flights from Athens to Mykonos departing around 6am, and you’ll be on Mykonos island in 50 minutes.
PRO TIP: I recommend flying to Mykonos in the morning. This way, you’ll have the entire day to explore the island. After, you can either fly back to Athens or take a ferry in the evening. Mykonos has the advantage of being one of the most beautiful islands, not so far from Athens. This makes it one of the best island day trips from Athens.
Poros is another charming, rather small island close to the Peloponnese peninsula. It’s a great option for you if you just want to chill on a beach for a while, experience a typical Greek atmosphere with its seaside town center, cafes, and bars. I recommend you rent a bike for a while, ride on the island for some nice views, and get to nice beaches and the famous Love Bay.
The island is believed to be the home of Poseidon, the Greek god of the Sea. You can visit its sanctuary on the hill on foot.
You can reach it taking the ‘Flying Dolphin’ boat from Athens within an hour.
Sightseeing in Poros
- Poseidon temple
- Love Bay
- Clock Tower in town center
- Monastiri beach – most beautiful one
- Askeli beach
How To Get To Poros From Athens
Poros is the closest to Athens on this list. So the best way to get to Poros is by taking a ferry. You’ll take the Flyingcat speed ferry, and just within 55 minutes, you’ll be on Poros island. After, rent a bike and explore its hidden gems and beaches.
Hydra island is mainly famous for its exciting donkey rides. It’s also called an ‘unspoiled island’ since there is no other transportation than donkeys.
Its name translates to English as ‘water.’ However, it’s also believed that the island was home to a mean monster called Hydra. So you decide which reason you’ll use for the island’s name.
Hydra has rather pebble beaches, among which the most popular ones are Palamida, Molos, and Kaminia.
Besides, it’s also a great place for doing some water activities such as snorkeling or scuba diving.
Hydra island belongs to the less visited, yet one of the closest to Athens on this list. It has a special vibe, so if you want to experience another authentic Greek island, where life stops and you drive on donkeys, then Hydra is your choice.
Activities In Hydra
- Donkey Ride
- Pebble beaches
- Prophet Elias Monastery
- Water activities
How To Get To Hydra Island From Athens
Like Poros, Hydra is very close to Athens, so the best way is to take a ferry. You can take the Flyingcat speed ferry, which will get you to Hydra island in 1 hour and 35 minutes. It departs in the morning, so you’ll again have the entire day to explore the island.
PRO TIP: Hydra Island is small, so it’s the perfect island day trip from Athens if you don’t want to be in a rush and experience everything the island has to offer.
Syros island’s special is its numerous churches and stunning views from the main cathedral. From the cathedral, you’ll be able to see other surrounding Greek islands such as Mykonos, Paros, Delos, or Naxos, some of which are also on this list.
The island has two other names. So if you spot the name Siros or Syra, it all refers to Syros island.
Enjoy its center with cafes and small bars. Try local specialties such as salad with capers (Kaparosalata), Frisoura appetizer, stuffed grilled squid (kalamari gemisto), or dessert Loukoumi. Then get a delicious Greek ice cappuccino and make your way back to Athens by ferry.
Sightseeing in Syros
- Agios Stefanos Chapel
- Kastri archaeological site
- Ano Meria – best tavernas and calm environment
- Ermoupoli cultural center
- Gria Cave
- Paralia Kini beach
How To Get To Syros From Athens
You can take a ferry from Piraeus port in Athens, which will get you to Syros within 2 hours. It’s the best way to get to Syros island.
There are also flights from Athens to Syros, but only once per day. Unfortunately, it usually operates around 10am or lunchtime, so you would get to the island only in the afternoon.
PRO TIP: I recommend taking the first ferry from Athens to Syros, around 7am. This way, you’ll be on the island already, around 9am, and have the whole day to explore it.
Santorini is slightly further away from Athens, but it’s one of the most iconic Green islands that must be on the list. If you wake up earlier in the morning and really want to see Santorini in a day, you can manage it. There are ferries that’s take you these within 4 hours.
Santorini is originally a volcanic island. Back in 1600 BC, it experienced an eruption, which is believed to be the biggest one ever in the world. The island was torn down, and only the caldera was left, which you can visit today. It’s also the only inhabited caldera worldwide.
The volcanic eruption also contributed to the extinction of the Minoan civilization living on Crete island, 110 km away from Santorini.
Nowadays, it’s still an active volcano, and you can swim in hot springs in the center.
As with other Greek islands, Santorini hosts beautiful white and blue houses. However, there is another reason they’re painted in white on this island. In the past, it experienced severe cholera, and locals believed the limestone in the white color prevented the disease from spreading further.
Santorini has specific beaches that you won’t find on any other islands. They have particular colors because of their volcanic origin as well.
One thing you can do on the island is going to the wine museum and taste local wine samples. It’s a family-run business that produces some of the best wines in the country.
Sightseeing in Santorini
- Fira – capital of Santorini
- Oia – best place for sun set watching
- Hike from Fira to Oia
- Boat trip around the island to the surrounding smaller islands & hot springs
- sail on a catamaran
- Visit beaches: Vlihada, Red beach, Kamari, Perissa, Agios Georgios
- Do a wine tour
- Amoudi Bay – charming fishing village
How To Get To Santorini From Athens
You can reach Santorini from Athens within 4 hours & 45 minutes, taking a ferry from Piraeus port. It’s the fastest way by ferry but also one of the most expensive ways.
Alternatively, you can also fly, which is actually a pretty good idea if you want to visit Santorini just for a day. The flight from Athens to Thira, Santorini, takes 50 minutes. So it’s the fastest way. If you get a good deal, you can fly for only 15 Euros.
PRO TIP: I suggest booking a flight early in the morning, around 6am, from Athens to Santorini. That way, you’ll have the whole day to explore the island. Then, in the evening, you can take an overnight ferry back to Athens. This way, you’ll experience even the ferry and get the most of your time in Santorini.
Santorini is definitely worth visiting for more days. As you can see, there is so much to do and see. But if you just want to see it and visit Fira, its capital, you can still make it an island day trip from Athens.
Do A Volcanic Islands Cruise
One of the best excursions you can do when staying in Santorini is a cruise around its volcanic islands. You’ll get to hike close to volcanos, see the hot springs, and visit traditional Thirassia town.
This excursion will show you the highlights of Santorini and its surroundings within one day, so check it out.
Thanks to its commercial activity, Sifnos is one of the busiest Greek islands. It’s also considered a ‘Green Island’ since agriculture is the main sector here contributing to the economy. Other than that, it’s also famous for silver and gold mining. Still, you’ll find quiet places to relax and admire beautiful churches with stunning sea views.
The island is mainly popular thanks to its churches. They are seriously everything you look at. It’s an iconic Chrisopigi Monastery on the island’s edge with beautiful views. It has also been associated with many miracle powers from the past.
Sifnos will also surprise you with its amazing beaches. It’s believed to have some of the most beautiful ones worldwide. You can visit, for instance, Kamareras and Faros beach. They also have restaurants and bars on the spot to enjoy delicious Greek food.
Sightseeing in Sifnos
- Chrisopigi Monastery
- Agios Andreas Acropolis & Museum
How To Get To Sifnos From Athens
You can get to Sifnos island in 2 hours, taking a Seajet 2 ferry from Athens. It’s also the only way to get to the island. There are no flights. The ferry departs around 7am, so you’ll again have the whole day to explore its beautiful churches and beaches. The last ferry from Sifnos back to Athens is usually around 6pm, which is great timing.
Milos island has been shaped by earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic activity. It’s also a part of the so-called South Aegean Volcanic arc created when the African tectonic plate moved under the Aegean Sea.
Thanks to the volcanic activity have, Milos coastline with beautiful rock formations. One of the most visited areas is the Sarakiniko beach, created by poured and frozen lava following a volcanic eruption.
You’ve most probably heard of or seen the statue of Aphrodite, also known as the Venus of Milo. It resembles the Greek goddess of love and beauty and was discovered in Milos in 1820. Nowadays, it’s in Louvre in Paris. You can also see its replica in the Archaeological museum on this island. Nobody really knows why the statue misses arms. Still, the theories say they were stolen and broken during their transport to Paris.
Another interesting thing you have to visit when you’re on the island is Kleftiko Bay, the pirates’ paradise during the Turkish occupation.
Milos island was invaded by Germany during WWII. There are still bomb shelters below Adamas. It’s a network of tunnels, which you can still explore nowadays.
Sightseeing in Milos
- Sarakiniko beach
- Kleftiko Bay
- Ancient Roman Theater
- Mandrakia fishing village
- Roman catacombs
- Gallery of Adamas – bomb tunnels
- Archaeological Museum
- Milos Mining Museum
How To Get To Milos From Athens
The best way to get to Milos island from Athens is by taking a ferry. The first one leaves around 7am. It’ll take you about 2 hours and 30 minutes to get there. You can also book a flight, which only takes 40 minutes. However, it’s over 100 euros per flight.
In the evening, there are ferries back to Athens. The last one is after 5pm.
More Tips For Greece Travel
These are the best island day trips from Athens you can do. They are within a few hours by ferry from Athens so you can make them as day trips. However, I would highly recommend spending more time on them, on average 2 to 3 days. This way, you’ll fully immerse into their beauty, Greek culture, meet locals, and enjoy unique nature and monuments.
If you want to explore more of Greece, take my Greece road trip itinerary for 10 days and travel the mainland, finishing with another Greek island.
Similarly, after visiting Greece, you can head to neighboring Albania and see its beauty with my Albania road trip itinerary for 10 days. Or choose your own itinerary based on your needs for your trip to Albania.
I hope you’ll get the most out of your time in southern Europe. Enjoy Greek food, culture, history, and all it offers. If you need more inspiration for European travel, check out my other travel itineraries.