Day trip from Athens: Ancient Corinth, Acrocorinth and the Corinth Canal

Entrance to Acrocorinth

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Corinth is one of the best destinations for a day trip from Athens. Lying only about an hour away from Athens it is very easy to reach but that’s definitely not the only reason why you should visit. From the impressive fortress of Acrocorinth to the Ancient Corinth and the world-famous Corinth Canal there is enough to fill a weekend let alone a day.

Day trip from Athens to Corinth

Corinth was once an important city-state and commercial center with an impressive history dating back to 3000BC. Even though the area was tortured by multiple earthquakes and destructive fires through the years causing the modern-day Corinth to be completely rebuilt in a new location (not a great success to be honest) a lot still remains from Corinth’s great past.

The Corinth Canal is probably the first thing that comes to mind when hearing the name, but the close by Ancient Corinth and Acrocorinth are as impressive if not more. The fortress at Acrocorinth is actually one of my favorite places in Greece and even though I’ve visited it three times already I still cannot get enough.

To explore all the sights of Corinth you’ll need a car. There are KTEL buses running between Corinth town and Athens but to get to Ancient Corinth or even Acrocorinth by public transport is close to impossible. But its totally worth it to rent a car for one day trip from Athens to Ancient Corinth and spend a day exploring the area.

During the low season start early in order to be able to visit all the sites. Both Ancient Corinth and Acrocorinth are closing at 15:00 sharp. And if it’s in your powers to choose the season of your visit as well make it spring! Acrocorinth is just magical in springtime when its slopes explode with colors and smell of thousands flower and blossoming almond trees.

The Corinth Canal

I am in awe of the Corinth Canal every time we cross it on our way to Peloponnese. I’ve seen it uncountable times and should have been bored by now but I’m not. Every time we pass, no matter how late it is and how tired I am I always stretch my head out of the window to get a glimpse of the dark, fathomless abyss.

I remember learning about the Corinth Canal at school and always thought it was an important waterway and architectonic masterpiece showing the masonry skills of the old generations.

In reality, the canal was opened only in 1893 even though the Greeks and later the Romans were trying to dig a passage between the Corinth Gulf and Saronic gulf since the 7th century BC. Most of the attempts were unsuccessful and when finally finished, it was too narrow (and the rocks too unstable) to be fully used.

It was closed many times for repairs to no avail and today is used mostly by tourist cruises or small sailboats. But regardless of its functionality (or the lack of it), it is an impressive sight and a must stop when passing by.

What else to do around the Corinth Canal

Corinth Bungee Jumping – Zulu Bungee

If just standing on the bridge across the Corinth Canal taking selfies isn’t exciting enough for you there is a solution! The bungee site is located right at the bottom of the main road bridge and dropping down from more than 60 meters high will definitely get your heart pumping.

I’ve done bungee jumping before and it was one of the both scariest and most thrilling experiences of my life. However, I cannot even start imagining willingly jumping at the Corinth Canal. Perhaps its the sheer, almost vertical walls of the channel or its narrowness or maybe I’m just too old for this kind of things but my knees start shaking just watching the brave participants from the distance. Anyway, if bungee IS on your bucket list where better to do it then in the striking, historical Corinth Canal.

Submersible bridge at Isthmia and Corinth

Except for the main bridges crossing the Corinth Canal at its highest point, there are two more bridges at each end, in Corinth and Isthmia. But they are no ordinary bridges! To allow the traffic through the waterway they submerge 8 meters deep under the water allowing the vessels to pass.

This may not be a big deal to some but in my country bridges usually don’t move, neither up nor down, unless they are taken by an unexpected flood. Therefore, I find it quite amusing to watch the bridge sinking and don’t even mind the usual half an hour delay until it reappears.

Diolkos

Even before the creation of Corinth Canal sailors were able to take a shortcut through the narrow area of Isthmus thanks to Diolkos. This paved road was used to drag the boat overland between the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf allowing fast and safe passage. Small sections of the road have been excavated and can be seen on the western side of the Corinth Canal.

Corinth Canal, Peloponnese, Greece
Looking down to the Corinth Canal and towards the old railway bridge.

Ancient Corinth

The Ancient Corinth archeological site is located on the outskirts of the modern city of Corinth right under the monolith of Acrocorinth. From Corinth Canal just follow the road to Patra until you start seeing signs fo Ancient Corinth (Archea Korinthia in Greek). The entrance fee is 6 euros but on some national days and every first Sunday during the winter entrance is free.

In the antiquity, Corinth was one of the largest and most important city-states in Greece. It’s fame and wealth come from both strategic position and rich soil of the surrounding plains. Curiously, it was also famous for its Temple of Aphrodite, employing around 1000 prostitutes called hetaira who were contributing largely to the wealth of the city.

The city-state flourished through the centuries until it was brought to its knees by the Athenians after the Persian Wars and later completely destroyed by the Romans after the battle of Leukopetra in 146 BC. However, some hundred years later Julius Caesars remembered Corinth’s great potential and started the reconstruction of the city. It grew prosperous once again becoming an important city in the Roman Empire. It’s days come to the end in 1853 when 6.5 magnitude earthquake rased it to the ground.

The site is surely interesting and worth a visit. However, for me, it doesn’t have the impressiveness of the Acropolis of Athens, the eerie beauty of Delphi, the mystery of Ancient Eleusina and so on. It doesn’t make me daydream about the old times imagining the ancient folk going after their everyday business among the same walls and columns. And with the superb Acrocorinth still waiting to be discovered, I wouldn’t spend too much time here.

Temple of Apollo with the siluette of Acrocorinth in the background.
Temple of Apollo with the siluette of Acrocorinth in the background.
Temple of Apollo in Ancient Corinth
Temple of Apollo in Ancient Corinth

Ancient Corinth

Ancient Corinth Archaeologic Site
Ancient Corinth Archaeologic Site

Ancient Corinth

Ancient Corinth

Acrocorinth

When passing through the area of Isthmos, Acrocorinth is hard to miss. Sitting on a lonely rocky hillock in the middle of the Corinthian plains its 575 meters tall silhouette is clearly visible from mails away.

There is an asphalt road connecting Acrocorinth with Ancient Corinth and the scenic drive up to the castle doesn’t take more than 10 minutes. The entrance fee is 2 euros, ludicrous amount considering how great and well organized the site of Acrocorinth really is. You can grab an information pamphlet from the visitor center at the entrance or follow the descriptive tables stationed especially through the lower parts of the castle.

Visiting Acrocorinth involves plenty of walking, rugged stairs, and steep ascents. Don’t expect to be in and out in half an hour either, the castle is huge! We usually spend 1 – 2 hours wandering around and leave only with the annoying sound of sirens announcing the end of opening hours. Walking around the castle grounds, especially above the three defense lines, is delightful and you’ll stumble upon many picturesque hidden corners perfect for a break or even a picnic.

There is a lot to see inside the castle walls, too. The hillock was permanently inhabited from the archaic times till the 19th century and each civilization left their mark. The most prominent is Acrocorinth’s massive fortification from the Byzantine era but the ancient Greeks (Temple of Aphrodite), Ottoman Turks (numerous mosques, houses, and fountains) and Venetians (Chapel of Agios Dimitrios) all added to Acrocorinth’s today’s look.

Not a fan of history or old broken columns and walls? Then climb to the top of Acrocorinth just for the breathtaking views and nothing else. Thanks to Acrocorinth’s solitary position you’ll get a 360 degrees panorama of the surrounding landscape of mountains, sea, and never-ending olive orchards. On a good day, you can see as far as the snowy peaks of Mount Parnassos on the northern coast of the Gulf of Corinth!

Looking for more trips in Corinthia? Check out THIS post about our beautiful autumn hike at Ziria. 

Entrance to Acrocorinth
The impressive entrance to Acrocorinth
The thirth line of defence at Acrocorinth
The third line of defense at Acrocorinth
The second line of defence at Acrocorinth
The second line of defense at Acrocorinth
Chapel of Agios Dimitrios at Acrocorinth
Chapel of Agios Dimitrios at Acrocorinth

Acrocorinth

Acrocorinth
Acrocorinth
Mosque at Acrocorinth
Mosque at Acrocorinth, one of my favorite spots at the fortress.
View from the fortress of Acrocorinth
View from the fortress of Acrocorinth.
Walking around the fortress of Acrocorinth
Another beautiful path leading to the top of Acrocorinth fortress.
Paths of Acrocorinth
One of the many scenic trails around the fortress of Acrocorinth.
View from Acrocorinth across the sea and towards the Mounth Parnassos
Superb views from Acrocorinth across the sea and towards the Mount Parnassos

Neraki and the old road to Athens

If you still have some time to spare and itch for an adventure head north across the Corinth Canal to explore the beautiful region of Loutraki Perachore. Or, take the old road to Athens, slower but much more scenic than the highway, and stop at Neraki for some seafood.

The coast between Athens and Corinth, once popular holiday destination full of summer houses of the Athenians, was destroyed in the seventies by the unfortunate arrival of refineries and other industrial complexes. However, the coastal village of Neraki still keeps some of the old time charm an is an ideal place for seafood dinner in one of its classic fish taverns.

We choose the Psarotaverna tou papou right on the beach at the beginning of the village and enjoyed among others grilled octopus and tasty kalamarakia (calamari). Alternatively, stop at one of the stalls beside the road to buy some of Neraki’s famous mussels for some equally tasty homemade creations.

Seafood dinner at Neraki
Seafood dinner at Neraki

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