We are spending 7 days in Greece arriving and leaving from Athens. We would like to visit an island or two during this time. We will spend 2 days in Athens. Since our time is limited I am looking for the best islands that are close to Athens.
With airfare sometimes being as inexpensive as a ferry ticket close proximity to Athens shouldn't necessarily be your main determining factor when choosing an island to visit during your time in Greece. For example, a flight to Santorini takes 25-30 minutes. A ferry to Aegina, the island closest to Athens, takes about an hour. I suggest you check with the Aegean Airlines website to see what their 'saver' fares are for the islands they service. You might be pleasantly surprised to find a €39 fare, one-way with all taxes included. But if not, Hydra is just a couple of hours from Athens by ferry and is considered special because they don't allow cars there. It retains much of its original ambience because of this. Wherever you go, I suggest you look into the possibility of saving your exploration of Athens for the end of your trip so you don't have to stress out about returning to the mainland at the last minute for your flight home. The ferry port of Rafina is very close to the Athens Airport, so if one of the islands reached from that port appeals to you and you don't fly, when you first arrive in Greece you can get there faster by airport bus than if you were to take the airport bus to Piraeus for the ferry. Of course if you want to go to Hydra you do have to go to Piraeus. See Ferry Schedules Here
Lee's tip about considering travelling via Rafina is a good one, especially if you want to go somewhere less visited by tourists We really love Andros and have written up some details on our website http://www.greekramblings.org.uk/Andros.html The site also details some of the Athens restaurants we like. On nearby islands from Piraeus we like Aegina which is only 40 minutes on the hydrofoil. It's less scenic than Hydra but is more of a working island and has more Greek life. It also has a couple of nice sites. It's possible to do a day cruise that takes in Aegina, Poros and Hydra. You get very little time on each stop but you do get to see a range of places. If you google the three island names plus day trip you'll throw up various companies who do this. Have a good trip. Alan
Lucy, As Lee mentioned, Hydra would be a good choice as it's really close to Athens. As I recall, the boat trip is only an hour or so. While there you could hike to the other side of the island, or just relax and enjoy the ambience. You'll be walking everywhere there, as no cars are allowed on the island (except for the garbage truck and one other). You could also do a short tour route - Ferry from Athens to either Naxos or Mykonos, then Ferry to Santorini and finally a budget flight with Aegean back to Athens for the trip home. You might find it helpful to have a look at Matt Barrett's excellent Greece Travel website. While in Greece, be sure to try a wee shot of Mastika after dinner. It's quite distinctive! Happy travels!
Thanks for all of your great suggestions.