Athens in the spring is an idyllic destination for tourist-free ramblings to parks, museums, neighbourhoods and restaurants. Add the fact that within less than two hours you can hop into a car, bus or boat and reach somewhere very special for a lovely day trip and you’ve got a winner! Here we put the spotlight on our four favourite places to explore in a day.
Head for the southernmost tip of Attica and walk up to the 5th C B.C. Doric Temple of Poseidon, God of the sea, towers on an acropolis with astounding views of the sea on three different sides. Though to be constructed according to Sacred Geometry and according to the metaphysically minded to be positioned exactly under four stars that are the ‘portals of the Universe’ the temple has enchanted thousands upon thousands of visitors throughout the ages, including Lord Byron, who carved out his name on one of the temple’s doorposts. Only around a 50-minute drive from Athens, Sounio is an ideal destination for a sunny springtime day trip. Spend the day by the sea enjoying coffee or a seafood lunch at one of the fish taverns of Lavrio town with its pretty marina and walk up to Temple just before sunset. To explore the surrounding area, head along the Ethnikos Drimos forested road parallel to the road from Sounio to Lavrio and traipse the many paths to come across chapels, ancient wells and a huge crater called ‘Chaos’.
In just 40 minutes on a flying dolphin vessel, you’ll find yourself in the pretty, historical and culturally charming Saronic island of Aegina, famous for its delicious local pistachio variety (make sure you try the unforgettable pistachio ice cream sold at the port). Spend the day wandering through the town or take a horse-drawn carriage ride and enjoying views of the sea as you chow down on fresh fish and ouzo. Right outside scenic Aegina Town, with its attractive neoclassical architecture, visit the Temple of Aphaia, one of Greece’s most important ancient sites. Also, within walking distance from the centre of town is the Christos Kapralos Museum, the old studio of one of Greece’s most famous sculptors. To get a feeling of local culture, visit the Orthodox church of Agios Nektarios, dedicated to Greece’s first modern saint and patron saint of Aegina. Explore the villages of Agia Marina and especially Perdika in the southwest part of the island, where you’ll feel you’ve teleported to the Cyclades because of the picturesque, whitewashed houses and streets decorated with colourful flowers. From Perdika you can hop onto a boat for a 10-minute ride to Moni islet where you can admire protected animal inhabitants, including peacocks and deer, and the emerald waters that surround it. Don’t miss out on Paleochora, the island’s ancient capital, an old Byzantine town where you’ll see the remnants of 38 chapels. Also well worth a visit is the archaeological site of Kolona, characterised by the Doric column and the remains of the Temple of Apollo.
Acro Corinth & Ancient Corinth
On your way to these two beautiful and important historical destinations stop at the Corinth Canal, a narrow canal (around 7km across and 8m deep) that marks you’ve started your journey into the Peloponnese region. A strategic trading spot in ancient times, the canal connected the Ionian and Aegean seas. In the modern city of Corinth, you’ll find ancient (chiefly Roman) ruins among streets, tourist shops and eateries. Visit Ancient Corinth, where the likes of Pausanias, and St Paul, who taught the gospel of Christ have trodden. At the ancient site, admire the seven remaining columns of the Temple of Apollo, the North Market, the South Stoa, Lechaion Road, and the theatre and the Asklepion. Just half an hour’s drive away, you’ll reach Acrocorinth, especially lush and photographable in springtime, with increasingly wondrous views as you rise higher and higher up the hill, stopping to explore Medieval and Ottoman fortifications. The Natura 200 habitat of 540m-high Acrocorinth is an excellent place to trek uphill to take in spanning views of ancient Corinth and the sprawling Peloponnesian landscapes all around. From here, drive to Lake Stymphalia to enjoy even more natural beauty with ancient roots.
South of Corinth (and two hours drive from Athens) is Nafplio, the first capital of modern Greece and one of the country’s most quaint destinations. With a perfect combination of seaside life, neoclassical Venetian architecture and labyrinthine paved roads, Ottoman and Byzantine buildings, including the fortress of Palamidi (find out for yourself; is it really a whopping 999 steps to reach up there?) that crowns the town, it makes for a dreamy day trip. Explore the Old Town with Syntagma Square and Old Admirals Square, chic little stores lining the Great Road, cafes and restaurants, and don’t miss out on the Archaeological Museum, the Byzantine Church of the Virgin Mary’s Birth, the Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation Museum, the Old Mosque on Syntagma Square and the Palace of Justice.