Just 100 km from the centre of Athens this is a day trip you should make at least once. This is a magic place for all seasons if you love history, the sea and the wide horizons. Before the Isthmus of Corinth follow the road to the coastal town of Loutraki and after a few kilometres you arrive at the wonderful and scenic Heraion Lake aka Vouliagmeni Lake or Loutrakiou Lake, which is actually a lagoon. The lagoon and the surrounding area consist of the Heraion Peninsula.
The peaceful lagoon was caused by the subsidence of the ground to α kind of trench. The lagoon is 2 km long and up to 1 km. wide. Its deepest point is approximately 40 meters. Α 6-meters wide channel provides an outlet to the sea. In ancient times, it was called Eschatiotis (meaning the last part of the promontory) or Corgopis (from the mother of Megareus, who was drowned in its waters). No trace has survived of the ancient Megarean colony of Aegeirus, which stood to the north of the lagoon. Nowadays it is a perfect place for swimming in its shallow and warm waters and for various watersports. During summer its beaches could become quite crowded with day-trippers from Corinth and Athens. However, the place never loses its unique beauty. Its most photographed spot is the small blue-and-white church of Agios Nikolaos near the edge of the lagoon. A sight that immediately transfers you to a Greek island.
After visiting the lagoon follow the road signs for the archaeological site of Heraion. As you reach the cape and the ancient ruins, the first image which attracts your attention is the spectacular Melagavi Lighthouse aka Heraion Lighthouse. You leave your car at the small parking area at the end of the road and you follow the path to the lighthouse. It was built in 1897 at the edge of Heraion Peninsula. The building was renovated in 1947 and since then it has been operating under the supervision of the Hellenic Navy. Its outline is T-shaped and it has a rectangular light tower. It is made of stone and it constitutes a typical example of classical lighthouse architecture. Melagavi is renowned to be one of the 10 most beautiful lighthouses in Greece. The view to the deep blue waters of Corinthian Gulf is spectacular and the sight of the mushroom-like rock that stands a few meters from the coast [photo at the top] is unparalleled and unforgettable.
On the other side of the cape, the steps lead you down to the wonderful blue cove and the archaeological site of Heraion of Perahora (a determination given to the site due to its proximity to the homonymous village), one of the few archaeological sites in Greece so close to the sea. The Heraion was a rural sanctuary of the goddess Hera. There is a legend recounted in the work of Euripides that Medea buried her murdered children at a sanctuary of Hera, as she fled from Corinth. In addition to the temple of Hera, the remains of a number of other structures have also been found, including an L-shaped stoa, a large cistern, dining rooms and the ruins of a second temple. The earliest structure at the site was probably built in the 9th century BC and the sanctuary reached its acme during the 6th century BC. It was still operating during the Roman Times and the Greek historian Strabo wrote in the 1st century AD that there was an oracle associated with the sanctuary. A sacred pool at the east of the site is considered by some scholars as the place related to the oracle. Finally, at centre of the site, the modern chapel of Agios Ioannis is proof of the constant religious use of the area. Admission to the site is free and you could also swim in the wonderful waters of the small cove (see here a map of the archaeological site).
If you want to eat after this long day at the cape, there is a number of taverns along the coast of the lagoon with tables on the beach but none of them is something exceptional. If you are willing to do the extra mile on your way back to Loutraki, make a small detour and visit the village Pisia near Perachora. Here the scenery is completely different. From the wonderful blue of the sea, you find yourself surrounded by the breeze and the smells of the mountain, with pine and planes trees, running waters and traditional village houses. Here you find two excellent taverns with very good Greek cuisine. The one is the tavern Pisia at the centre of the village near the church of Agia Paraskevi. At this tavern, you could eat well-cooked traditional dishes and grilled meat. The other one is the renowned tavern Platanos, on the mountain cliff a few hundred meters above the village (follow the signs), in a unique scenery with plane trees and small waters streams all over the place. The dishes here are all related to grilled meat and the quality is exceptional (however avoid peak hours and days because the service here could be very slow).
Heraion and the surrounding area is a really unique destination not far from Athens. Indulge in the calmness of the lagoon, gaze at the infinite blue of Melagavi Lighthouse, stroll around history at the Heraion archaeological site and smell the breeze of the mountain while eating perfect Greek cuisine at Pisia.
Finally an informative video of our road trip from Athens to Heraion :