Want a chance to escape Athens to visit some close-by sites? Here are some ideas: Delphi: It's a 3-1/2-hour bus ride each way, but it's through Attica countryside covered with...

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Want a chance to escape Athens to visit some close-by sites? Here are some ideas:

Delphi: It’s a 3-1/2-hour bus ride each way, but it’s through Attica countryside covered with olive trees, grapevines and cotton, plus the occasional shepherd or goat herd with flock. The sprawling ruins at Delphi, including the Temple of Apollo and a well-preserved theater, and the museum featuring the famed bronze Charioteer, are stunningly set in Yellowstone-like splendor. If you take one day-trip and care at all about history, make this the one.

Hydra: It isn’t the most spectacular of the Greek Islands — you’ll get an argument over which is — but it’s the best one reachable by quick ferry for a good sampling. Take the Metro to the Port of Piraeus (about 30 minutes and 90 cents), hop on a Flying Dolphin hydrofoil for the 90-minute ride (about $40 round trip), stroll though the town and along the harbor, have a leisurely lunch and get back in time for dinner. (The tour companies offer three-island, one-day cruises that include Hydra and two others.)

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Sounion: The reason to come here is the Temple of Poseidon. Built around the same time as the Parthenon and with a view to the Aegean, it has captured the imaginations of writers from Homer to Lord Byron.

Corinth: There’s a canal there, begun by Nero and completed in 1893, and a modern city. More interesting, except for engineers, is Ancient Corinth, associated with St. Paul (1, 2 Corinthians in the New Testament) and where more ruins survive, including another temple dedicated to Apollo and traces of the Greek-Roman agora (marketplace).

The Islands: Luxury cruises of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Greek Islands continue into late October, and for many people those are great. But independent travelers, even those without access to a private yacht, shouldn’t dismiss the notion of creating their own Greek Islands adventure around an Athens visit, utilizing fast and less fast ferries, large and not-so-large vessels, even mixing in a plane ride when time demands it or patience thins. Leaders include Blue Star Ferries (www.bluestarferries.com) and Hellas Flying Dolphins (www.dolphins.gr), but there are others. Sample fare: Athens to Mykonos, five hours, about $60 round trip via Blue Star. There are shorter hops.

— Alan Solomon,

Chicago Tribune