If you're planning a trip to Greece, as well as touring Athens, you can't miss some of the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. In total, the country's island territory is made up of thousands of islands, but only a little more than a hundred are inhabited and are major tourist attractions.
From the sunsets of Santorini to the white beaches of Mykonos and from the crystal clear waters of Zakynthos to the pine forests of Poros, the Greek islands have a wide range of attractions to discover and seeing some of them is one of the best things to do during your trip to Athens.
1. Two day trip to Mykonos from Athens
Mykonos is one of the most famous islands in the Aegean Sea and also one of the largest and most populated, as well as the one that receives the most tourism every year. On Mykonos you are sure to be amazed by its white sandy beaches , 17th century churches and narrow streets, crowned by windmills.
Given the distance between Athens and Mykonos, which is almost 200 kilometres, the shortest tours are two days.
These tours depart from the port of Piraeus and arrive by ferry in Mykonos at midday. You will usually have the afternoon free to visit the beaches of Elia, Ornos, Paraga and Psarou and to stroll around the centre of the island.
These excursions usually include return transfer and hotel pick-up, accommodation on the island and breakfast.
In Mykonos you can opt to take a guided tour at extra cost with the assistance of an expert local guide or enjoy some of the activities available on the beaches, such as water sports and snorkelling.
- Price of the excursion... These excursions cost approximately 410 euros per person, including return transfers with hotel pick-up, accommodation on the island and breakfast.
- Duration of the excursion... Approximately two days.
- Advantages of this excursion... An organised tour to Mykonos allows you to forget about booking your own accommodation and transfers and you can relax and get to know one of the most spectacular islands in the Aegean Sea.
2. Two day tour to Santorini from Athens
These excursions will allow you to discover why Santorini is considered one of the most beautiful islands in Greece.
You will be able to visit its cliffs, its terraced buildings with balconies facing the Aegean Sea and its beaches, among which Perivolos, Kamari, Perissa and Mesa Pigadia stand out.
You can also visit the ruins of Akrotiri and the ancient mountaintop city of Thera.
These tours usually include a return transfer from Athens with hotel pick-up and a choice of two, three or four star hotel accommodation including breakfast.
You usually arrive on the island after midday to enjoy one of the best sunsets in the world on Santorini. In your free time and for an extra cost you can choose to tour the local wine cellars, take a boat trip or visit the castle of Oia.
In Santorini you will spend a total of one full day during which you will be able to discover the beauty of the island.
If you travel to Athens in December you will also find the island decorated as it prepares for the Christmas holidays.
- Price of the excursion... These excursions have a starting price of 320 euros per person, including return transfers with hotel pick-up, accommodation on the island and breakfast. You can choose at extra cost accommodation in higher category hotels.
- Duration of the tour... Approximately two days.
- Advantages of this tour... Because of the distance, visiting Santorini on your own can be a bit cumbersome, a two-day organised tour will save you time and money.
3. Day trip to Hydra, Poros and Aegina from Athens
Although there are several cruise options in Athens, my recommendation if you like sailing is to choose a day trip to these islands.
On these day trips you will be able to see three of the most representative islands of the Saronic Gulf. After leaving the port of Piraeus, the first stop is Poros, an island that stands out for its abundant vegetation, its lush pine forest and the rich gastronomy of its tavernas.
You can also visit Trinzia, a 19th-century Russian shipyard, but I can assure you that the island will amaze you with its jungle-like scenery amidst crystal-clear waters.
The second stop is Hydra, an island of narrow streets, themed cafes and local grocery shops surrounded by colourful houses.
Finally, visit Aegina, a harbour town with the Temple of Aphaia and its cafes. All excursions generally include return transfers with hotel pick-up in Athens and lunch.
These tours are ideal if you are planning a short stay in the Greek capital and cannot opt for a two-day tour or if you prefer a quick tour and then return to the capital for further sightseeing in Athens.
- Price of the tour... These tours start at 131 euros including return transfers with hotel pick up and lunch.
- Duration of the tour... Approximately 11 hours.
- Advantages of this tour... This is an ideal tour if you are planning a few days stay in the city.
4. Day tour to Zakynthos from Athens
Zakynthos is a natural paradise and the best kept secret of the Ionian Sea.
On this island you will find the Smugglers' Bay and its exclusive beaches which can only be reached by boat, as the island is surrounded by a stone cliff that protects access by other means.
At Smugglers' Bay you will find the most iconic image of Zakynthos: the rusting skeleton of the Panagiotis, the ruins of a former royal smuggler's ship that ran aground on the sand in the middle of a chase by the Greek police.
You can also visit the Church of St. Dionysus and Bohali Hill, which offers a sweeping view of the island and the Ionian Sea.
These excursions usually include a return transfer from Athens with hotel pick-up, a lunch with a typical Greek menu and the assistance of a knowledgeable local guide throughout the tour.
Without a doubt, visiting Zakynthos is, along with the tours to Meteora and Delphi, one of the most interesting off-the-beaten-track excursions chosen by visitors.
Details of interest
- Price of the tour... These tours start at 232 euros including return transfers with hotel pick-up and lunch.
- Duration of the tour... Approximately 14 hours.
- Advantages of this tour... You will get to see one of the most undiscovered islands in the Ionian Sea and take some of the best photographs of the Greek islands.
5. Two day tour to Paros from Athens
Located in the heart of the Aegean Sea, the island of Paros is an obligatory stop for Greek ships.
Paros is famous for its golden sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, but also for the architecture of its whitewashed houses and blue-domed churches.
On these excursions you'll have time to visit the beaches of Santa Maria, Pounda and Chrissi Akti and take a free tour of the colourful village of Naoussa and the ruins of a Venetian fortress to learn more about the centuries of cultural feedback from the Aegean Sea.
The island is also known for its horse stables, so if you're up for a tour of Paros on horseback, you'll be able to see the island on an extra-cost excursion that includes the assistance of a local guide.
Paros, as well as having a prominent place in Greek mythology, has an interesting culinary offer, perfect to complement the gastronomic tours in Athens.
These excursions usually include return transfer with hotel pick-up in Athens, breakfast and accommodation in a three-star hotel on the island.
Details of interest
- Price of the excursion... These excursions start at 365 euros including return transfers with hotel pick-up, accommodation on the island and breakfast.
- Duration of the tour... Approximately two days.
- Advantages of this excursion... You will get to know an eclectic, multicultural island with a varied and very interesting gastronomy.
How to book an excursion to the Greek islands from Athens?
You can book an excursion to the Greek Islands from Athens online in advance or book the tour at a tourist office once you are in the Greek capital.
Bear in mind that if you're travelling to Athens in summer, booking at the last minute may mean that you'll have problems with space or price increases.
Since some two-day tours include an overnight stay, if you try to book the tour at the last minute, rooms may not be available.
In any case, if you have already decided on one of the tours, it is best to book it in advance.
How long is a tour to the Greek islands from Athens?
The answer depends on the tour you choose. Generally speaking, the islands are not too close to Athens, so you'll need at least two days to visit most of them. This will be the case if you want to visit Mykonos or Santorini, which are between six and eight hours by boat from Piraeus.
If you are planning a short stay in Athens or are looking for a shorter trip because you have other activities in the city such as a bike tour or a gastronomic tour, you can opt for day trips to Zakynthos or the islands of the Saronic Gulf.
What will I see on a trip to the Greek islands from Athens?
The answer depends on the tour you choose, but there are several islands you can visit on tours from Athens. Below I will help you with a list of the places you can discover and tell you about their main attractions:
- Mykonos: It is one of the best known and most populated islands in the Aegean Sea. There you will be amazed by its white sandy beaches, its narrow streets and its characteristic windmills.
- Santorini: It is one of the most beautiful islands because of its cliffs, archaeological sites and beaches bathed by crystal clear waters. In Santorini you can witness one of the best sunsets in the world.
- Hydra: It is an island of narrow streets, themed cafes and grocery shops. It is one of the main destinations in the Saronic Gulf.
- Poros: It will amaze you from the moment it starts to appear on the horizon, as its lush vegetation forms a magical pine forest amidst the turquoise waters of its shores.
- Aegina: An island noted for its port services and the Temple of Aphaia at the highest point of the archipelago.
- Zakynthos: The best kept secret in the Ionian Sea, with its white sandy beaches and rocky cliff that surrounds Smugglers' Bay and makes it inaccessible by land. Here you can take some of the best pictures in Greece.
- Paros: Located in the heart of the Aegean Sea, Paros will surprise you with the architecture of its houses and temples and with its multicultural gastronomy, which is one of the most exquisite of the Greek islands.
Tips for a trip to the Greek islands from Athens
Visiting the Greek islands is one of the best things to do in Athens, but it also requires some organisation as they are generally a bit far from the capital.
Once you've decided which alternative best suits your trip, it's a good idea to book your trip in advance and organise an itinerary, as the main destinations can be covered in two days or more.
If you're travelling to Athens in summer, also bear in mind that temperatures are very high, so be sure to bring drinks to keep you hydrated and comfortable clothing, as most of the islands are quite hilly. Also note that some tours only accept tourists of legal age.
How much does a trip to the Greek islands from Athens cost?
The price of excursions to the Greek islands depends on the destination chosen, although they are not usually cheap tours because they require transfer and in some options also accommodation, as in the cases of Mykonos, Santorini and Paros. Two-day tours, which are the main ones, start at 320 euros.
The cheapest options are those that include a day trip to the islands of the Saronic Gulf and Zakynthos, which is located in the Ionian Sea. In these cases you can opt for excursions from 131 euros, with round-trip transfers from Athens with hotel pick-up and lunch included.
Why is it advisable to take a trip to the Greek islands from Athens?
Each has different characteristics and some are closer than others, so you don't need to go on the most expensive or longest excursions to see the archipelagos of the Saronic Gulf or the Ionian Sea.
On the other hand, the beaches of the Greek islands are in many cases difficult to find in other summer tourist destinations, and also the climate throughout the year, but especially in summer, is very hot, so you can also enjoy a swim in the crystal clear waters that, believe me, will make your experience unforgettable.
What are the advantages of taking a guided tour vs. visiting the Greek islands from Athens on my own?
The only way to get to the Greek islands, especially the more remote ones such as Mykonos and Santorini, is with a guided tour, so you won't have many alternatives to explore these destinations on your own.
In some cases there are private boats that are allowed to dock in the islands' harbours, but you won't have easy access to them.
On the other hand, the Greek islands hide much of the history of Greek mythology, so doing the tour with an expert local guide will allow you not to miss these details and get the most out of your experience in the sea of Greece, which, I assure you, will surprise you a lot.