Travelers who spend time exploring the area around Athens will be rewarded with fascinating historical attractions, spectacular natural scenery, and peaceful spiritual retreats. Several top sights are easy day trips, just a short drive or bus ride from the city: The inspiring Kaisariani Monastery, the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounio, the Archaeological Site of Delphi, the Temple of Afea, Aegina island.
The Temple of Poseidon
Athens Riviera is a lovely stretch of coastline that begins just a few kilometers outside of Athens and extends for approximately 65 kilometers (a two-hour drive) until reaching Cape Soúnion. During summertime, vacation-goers luxuriate in the balmy weather, palm-fringed seaside esplanades, and well-maintained beaches. This area also has many archaeological ruins, as well as pampering spas, five-star hotels, traditional restaurants, golf courses, beach clubs, sailing clubs, and yacht marinas. The highlight of the Athens Riviera is the impressive Doric-style Temple of Poseidon (dating to the 5th century BC), which stands majestically on a steep crag at Cape Soúnion overlooking the sparkling emerald-blue waters of the Aegean.
If you’re looking to venture just outside of Athens for the day, the Kaisariani Monastery (or Moni Kaisarianis) is a great place to visit. This beautiful 11th century Eastern Orthodox monastery sits on the wooded slopes of Mt. Hymettos just 5km east of the city.
Kaisariani Monastery was built over the ruins of a Roman temple. Today, four columns of the ancient temple survive and support the dome of the monastery’s church. The walled complex has a central court surrounded by a kitchen and dining rooms, the monks’ cells, and a bathhouse. The monastery was a major cultural center during the years of economic prosperity at the end of the 12th century and the beginning of the 13th century AD. The church of the monastery was dedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin and is built in the shape of the Greek cross. It was used briefly as a convent after the War of Independence until 1855. It was restored in 1956.
The Archaeological Site of Delphi
In an enchanting natural setting between two craggy peaks of Mount Parnassus, the archaeological ruins of Delphi have a magical quality. This intriguing UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site was one of the most important religious centers in Greece in the 6th century BC (on par with the Island of Delos). During ancient times, pilgrims came to hear the oracle of Apollo (a prophetess believed to channel the words of the god Apollo) speak at Delphi’s Temple of Apollo. At this legendary site, the oracle shared advice and prophecies. The Sacred Way that leads up to the Temple of Apollo gives visitors a sense of the pilgrimage path upon entering what was considered the hallowed Sanctuary of Apollo, a complex of several monuments. The nearby Archaeological Museum displays sculptures and other artifacts uncovered at the archaeological site. Delphi is 180 kilometers from Athens, and it’s possible to visit it as a day trip.
The Temple of Afea
The ancient Temple of Aphaia is a special place. It stands in a beautiful spot above the pine forests in the hills of Aegina, with fabulous views across the Saronic Gulf. You can wander among the bleached sandstones, and imagine yourself there 2500 years ago when the surviving temple was built. Aphaia is well preserved and restored, and historically important, so it is hardly surprising that it is one of the island’s most popular tourist sites.