Greece and its islands are renowned for three things: ancient civilization, breathtaking landscapes, and a thriving tourism industry. The country’s rich culture and stunning beauty make it a beloved destination for many, and no matter how many times you visit, there always seems to be more to explore. It’s no wonder Greece made it onto the list of the top 20 tourist destinations worldwide.
According to modern lifestyle trends, this country has become a popular destination for travelers. Over the years, it has been visited by many famous people, including politicians, musicians, actors, and artists, which has greatly contributed to its popularity. In this guide, I will provide an overview of the essential aspects of this wonderful country.
This section covers the history of Greece from the Stone and Bronze Ages till now. It also covers famous personalities of ancient Greece, archaeological sites, historical monuments, and more, highlighting Greece’s rich historical legacy.
According to excavations, the initial establishment of the settlement can be traced back to the Palaeolithic era (11,000-3,000 BC). During the second millennium BC, three major civilizations, the Minoans (2600-1500 BC), the Mycenaeans (1500-1150 BC), and the Cycladic civilization emerged in Greece. These civilizations are not only significant in Greek history but also in the history of the world.
The Classical Period (6th-4th century BC) is well known globally. The most significant time of the classical period is the 5th century BC marked by Athens’ establishment as the most powerful naval force in Greece. During this era, Athens progressed in numerous areas of science and culture, such as mathematics, physics, philosophy, architecture, music, drama, and rhetoric, and established the democratic system of government. The period was so impactful that it reshaped the history of the world.
During the 5th century, Athens and Sparta were the dominant city-states, with the remaining city-states forming alliances with one of them. These alliances enabled the Greek city-states to successfully resist the Persian invasion. Nevertheless, the Peloponnesian War that ensued between the two powerful city-states resulted in the decline of the magnificent classical era.
The Macedon tribe from northern Greece rose to power and defeated the other city-states to become the Kingdom of Macedon. After King Phillip II died, his son Alexander launched a massive expedition to conquer much of Asia, starting with the Persian Empire in 334 BC and eventually reaching India. Unfortunately, Alexander died at the young age of 33 in Babylon in 323 BC, after which his Macedonian empire was divided and ruled by his successors.
Starting in 168 BC, the Romans conquered Greece resulting in a new era in Greek history. This period saw the ancient Greek world coming under Roman control, resulting in many important battles and the construction of new cities like Nikopolis in western Greece. While Athens and Greek culture declined during this time, Greek still became the second official language of the Roman Empire.
During ancient times, the Romans followed the teachings of classical philosophers and worshipped the Olympian gods as part of their religious beliefs. However, in the 3rd century AD, the once mighty Roman Empire began to weaken and eventually split into two parts – the Eastern and Western Roman Empires.
During the fall of the Western Roman Empire to North-European tribes, the Eastern Roman Empire, with its capital in Constantinople, also known as Byzantium, flourished and became the Byzantine Empire. This empire lasted for approximately 1,000 years and officially adopted Christianity as its religion. During this time, the empire expanded its territory and established new laws. These laws eventually became the basis for the first laws of modern-day Greece, which were formed in the 19th century.
Ottomans period and Independence War
In 1453 AD, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks, who later took control of Greece, which had already been partially ruled by the Venetians and the Knights of Saint John. The Ottoman occupation caused immense suffering in the country, leading to frequent rebellions that were disorganized and ultimately quelled by the Ottoman army. However, in March 1821, the Greek War of Independence began and is now considered a pivotal moment in Greek history.
In 1829, the first independent Greek state was established, and Ioannis Kapodistrias, a Greek diplomat based in Russia, was appointed as governor. This followed a period of conflict, including fights, massacres, and seizures, before the country achieved its freedom. The new state encompassed Peloponnese, Sterea, and Cyclades islands.
In 1831, Prince Otto of Bavaria became Greece’s first king after the assassination of Kapodistrias. Denmark’s George I succeeded him in 1863. The Ionian islands were given to Greece by Britain as a gift for the new king, while Thessaly was annexed by the Greeks after the Turks. Following World War I, Macedonia, Crete, and the Eastern Aegean islands became part of Greece in the early 1900s.
In 1922, Greece faced challenges when many Greek refugees from Asia Minor arrived on the mainland because of the population exchange with Turkey. It was during this time that the prominent Greek politician Eleftherios Venizelos, who is widely considered the most famous prime minister of modern history, emerged. While the refugees initially struggled to adjust to their new lives, they gradually made significant contributions to the development of the country.
During World War II, Greece put up a strong resistance against the Axis forces. However, the Germans ultimately conquered most of Greece, while the Italians took control of some parts. After the war, the Dodecanese islands, which had long been under Italian occupation, became part of Greece. The following thirty years were marked by political instability, including a military junta that ruled from 1967 to 1974. Greece has been a Parliamentary Republic since 1975.
Greece is a country with a diverse culture and fascinating history. Its unique location at the crossroads of the East and West, as well as the long period of occupation from the Romans to the Ottomans, has had a significant impact on its development and character.
The Greeks have a strong sense of pride in their culture and consider it to be an integral part of their national and ethnic identity. The unique aspects of their culture, such as regional traditions, religion, language, music, food, and wine, make mainland Greece and the Greek islands a fascinating destination for anyone interested in exploring contemporary Greek culture.
Understandably, religion holds great significance in Greek daily culture. Christian Orthodox followers make up 98% of the population, with the remaining 2% comprising Muslims, Roman Catholics, and Jewish individuals. It is worth noting that Greece and Russia are the only countries with such a large proportion of Orthodox Christians. As a branch of Christianity, the Orthodox Church ranks third in terms of size, following the Roman Catholic and Protestant sects.
Traditions & customs
In Greece, many traditions in both the mainland and the islands have religious origins, either Christian or pagan. Nowadays, most of the festivities and traditions that are still practiced are religious in nature. This explains why there are so many festivals, called “panygiria,” that take place throughout the country. These festivals are held in honor of saints and are usually accompanied by traditional music and dancing in public spaces in villages. They are an essential part of Greek culture and occur frequently throughout the year, especially in the summer.
Language constitutes one of the most important elements of Greek culture. The modern Greek language is a descendant of the Ancient Greek or Hellenic branch of the Indo-European language. The first written Greek was found on baked mud tablets in the remains of the Knossos Palace on the island of Crete. Linear A and Linear B are the two most ancient types of written language in Greece.
Food and wine
Greek cuisine is renowned for its healthy ingredients and delicious food and wine. While some dishes are popular throughout Greece, there are also numerous local specialties. These dishes may vary in preparation and ingredients depending on the region. Food holds significant cultural value in Greece.
Greek music is incredibly diverse because of the unique way Greeks blend Eastern and Western cultural influences. Music has played an integral role in Greek culture since ancient times when poetry, dancing, and music were closely connected and a significant part of everyday life.
In Greece, festivals are mostly held during the summer season. They come in different forms, such as religious festivals celebrating the saint protector’s name day in towns or villages or cultural festivals that offer various activities. These festivals are significant to the local culture, and they draw in lots of tourists.
Greece hosts numerous cultural events throughout the year, including the renowned Athens Epidaurus Greek Festival various events at venues like the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus and the Herodeion Theatre in Athens. The local culture include music concerts, theatre performances, lectures, and traditional revivals typically held in the summer and take place in various Greek islands and towns.
Greece has a variety of products that are characteristic of its culture. These include different types of cheese, such as feta, metsovone, and formaella. Additionally, they have virgin olive oil from Lesvos, Crete, and Laconia, as well as capper from Santorini, potatoes from Naxos, and citrus fruits from Peloponnese. Other items like honey, wine, spices, and nuts are also widely used in cooking and help to define the local culture.
Greece’s architecture has evolved over time, exhibiting various styles such as the Doric and Ionic styles seen in Classical temple design, the Byzantine style present in churches, and the Neoclassical style of recent times. Each architectural style reflects the culture and traditions of its era. Additionally, architecture in small villages and islands is distinct from that seen in larger cities.
In Greece, summer nights are a wonderful experience. Typically, people begin with dinner at one of the numerous taverns or restaurants on the Greek islands and then continue their night with a soft drink in a lounge bar or a wild night out in a club until the sun rises. During holidays, it is customary to have dinner in a traditional tavern, which is almost a part of Greek culture. Some places that are known for their nightlife include Mykonos, Ios, Crete, Kos, Rhodes, and Corfu. Read more about nifghtlife in Santorini and nightlife in Mykonos.
Cafe & Kafenion
In Greek culture, going out for a coffee is a common and important social practice. It typically involves meeting up with friends and engaging in lively conversation for about an hour and a half. Traditional cafeterias, called kafenions, can be found in village squares and are frequented by older men who enjoy drinking Greek coffee, chatting, and playing cards. Check the best cafe in Santorini and the best cafe in Mykonos.
Greece is known worldwide for its stunning beaches that have clear water and either sand or pebbles. These beaches, whether unspoiled or developed, impress travelers with their natural splendor and cleanliness. Every year, Greece ranks highly in the Blue Flag Program, which recognizes countries with top-notch beach quality. In fact, in 2019, 515 Greek beaches earned the Blue Flag distinction.
Naturists may find many secluded and untidy bays suitable for their sunbathing activities in Greece. To fully enjoy the beaches of Greece, it is recommended to visit the country between May and early October when the weather is pleasant, and the seawater is warm. Greece boasts of having the longest coastline in Europe, which spans 13,676km, and provides thousands of beaches for visitors to explore.
Greece’s beaches are safe and free from dangerous waves, currents, sharks, and poisonous fish. Because of this, millions of tourists visit Greece and its islands every year to relax in the sun, sand, and fresh air by the beach.
This section provides details about the best beaches in Greece, including the ones located on Greek islands. These beaches are highly regarded and are often ranked among the top beaches in Europe and across the globe. Our guide features a list of the top 30 beaches in Greece.
Porto Katsiki beach
Porto Katsiki is a well-known beach in Lefkada situated in the southwestern part of the island. Its name translates to “the port of the goats.” At the top of the bay, there is a parking area and a few beach bars where visitors can enjoy the stunning view of the Ionian Sea. To access the white-pebbled shore with its deep blue waters, visitors need to descend a few steps.
Elafonisi, also known as Elafonissos, is a small island near Crete that is connected to the mainland by a shallow reef. When the sea is calm, you can walk across the reef to the island. It’s located 82 km northwest of Chania town, and you can reach it by boat from Paleohora or by car from the village of Vathi until a certain point where you must cross the reef.
One of Greece’s most stunning beaches is Voidokilia, located in Messinia, just a few kilometers from Pylos. The beach has a symmetrical shape and is covered with soft sand. It’s also home to many different kinds of wildlife. Since it’s part of the “Natura 2000” site, there are no facilities available, but there are several archeological sites to explore.
The Shipwreck Bay, also known as Navagio, is a well-known beach located on Zante Island. The name of the beach comes from a ship that crashed there in 1983 while carrying illegal cigarettes. The ship is still there today and can be seen on the shore. The only way to get to Navagio is by boat, but it boasts crystal clear water and soft white sand. Before arriving at Navagio, the tour boat also stops at the popular Blue Caves, which also have incredibly beautiful water.
Balos Beach is located in the northwestern part of Crete Island, Greece. It can be accessed by boat from Town and Kissamos or by car through a dirt road. Secluded, has soft sand, and tourists can visit the nearby uninhabited island of Gramvoussa, featuring a Medieval Castle on top. In essence, Balos is often compared to the Caribbean, its breathtaking landscape and amazing seawater.
Located on Kefalonia island, Myrtos is a marvel of a beach and is often photographed. It’s situated near the picturesque village of Assos on the island’s northern side. You’ll be amazed at the breathtaking view from the cliff above, as well as the exotic deep waters and open sea view. This must-see beach is consistently featured in travel magazines as one of the world’s best.
Paleokastritsa is a resort on Corfu island that has beautiful blue-green water. It has many coves, some of which are popular, like the main beach near the road to the monastery, while others are secluded. You can take frequent boats from the small port of Paleokastritsa to these secluded coves with superb water.
Kavourotrypes is a beach with light sand and many rocks located in Halkidiki. It’s great for people who want to get a tan, but there isn’t much natural shade, so it’s recommended to bring your own umbrella. It’s small but perfect for swimming and safe for kids.
Vai Beach, also called Palm Forest, is a stunning European beach that boasts a vast forest of 5000 palm trees. It is recognized as the largest palm tree forest in the region and is believed to have originated during the Classical period when Phoenician merchants discarded date seeds.
This beach, located on the east of Adamas, northeast of Milos, is one of the most stunning and unique beaches on the island. It’s also the most photographed spot on the island.
The Red Beach in Santorini is a popular and stunning spot located near the Akrotiri ancient site. Due to its small size, the beach can get quite crowded, and some visitors may choose not to go down there on busy days.
Super Paradise beach
Super Paradise in Mykonos is known for its all-day beach bars and parties, but it also boasts beautiful water. Visitors can enjoy lying on the soft sand, sunbathing, listening to music, and swimming in the crystal-clear waters of the Aegean Sea. The beach can be reached by boat or bus from Mykonos Town, and there are various accommodations available, from family studios to luxurious hotels.
The beach, nestled in a lush bay, is quite small. Despite its size, many visitors are drawn to its white sand, clear waters, and convenient amenities. Encircling the beach are pine trees, olive trees, and historical marble quarries.
One of the most beautiful beaches in Ikaria is situated in a charming and private cove 20 km southwest of Agios Kirikos. The beach boasts bright pebbles and rocks, emerald waters, and dramatic rock formations in the surrounding area.
Voutoumi is a beautiful pebble beach located on the northeastern side of Antipaxos Island. It is sheltered in a large cove surrounded by high rocks on either side of the beach. During the summer months, Voutoumi is very popular among visitors from nearby islands, including Paxi, Corfu, and even Italy.
Mylopotamos is a stunning beach with white pebbles and crystal-clear water. It is split into two sections by rocks, with a winding path that connects the two parts. Pine trees provide shade along the path leading to the beach.
There is something unique about every village in Greece and the Greek islands, with varying styles of architecture based on factors such as landscape and history. The Cycladic architecture is especially noteworthy. While our guide recommends the top 10 villages in Greece, there are numerous other villages to explore across different areas and regions.
The best 10 villages
Greece is not only known for its stunning beaches but also for its distinctive villages that have unique locations and architecture. Whether on the islands or mainland, each village has its own style. Check out the following list of the best villages in Greece, including Plaka, a quarter of Athens that has the look and feel of a village.
The village of Oia is situated on the northern side of Santorini and is renowned for its beauty. It is famous for its stunning sunsets, picturesque architecture, blue-domed churches, and breathtaking views of the Aegean Sea, making it a favorite destination for artists and couples. Oia is a popular place for weddings with many taking place there each year. Despite its popularity, Oia has maintained its romantic and authentic style.
Town of Corfu
Corfu Town is a stunning place in Greece that showcases delightful Venetian style and a charming ambiance. The town predominantly reflects the architecture of Venice and Florence in Italy. The most remarkable part of Corfu is its Old Town, which flaunts two fortresses that safeguarded the island against pirates and foes in the Middle Ages, several churches, cobbled lanes, and two or three-story Venetian structures. The splendid Liston Avenue and the grand Spianada Square are absolutely breathtaking.
Rhodes Town, situated on the northern side of Rhodes, is a well-preserved Venetian town with a medieval style. The old quarter of the town is the most beautiful area, characterized by tall Venetian buildings, old churches, the Palace of Grand Master, the Street of the Knights, and the charming port of Mandraki. The town is lively day and night and is known for its bustling nightlife.
Chora of Mykonos
Mykonos Town, also called Chora, is the heart and capital of Mykonos island. It’s known for its vibrant colors, sugar-white houses, cobblestone streets, charming Little Venice harbor, and lively late-night bars. While exploring Mykonos Town, you’ll likely encounter the famous Peter the pelican who roams around. From Mykonos Town, buses and boats are available to take you to different beaches on the island.
Plaka, while not a real village, has a village-like feel and is located in the historical center of Athens. It is a short walk from the city center and underneath the tourist attraction of the Acropolis. Despite its proximity to tourist crowds, Plaka offers a relaxing atmosphere. It has paved paths and attractive Neoclassical buildings, making it a great area to explore shops, coffee shops, and traditional taverns. Plaka is bordered by the Roman Agora in Monastiraki, the Arch of Hadrian, and the Acropolis Museum.
The Medieval Castle of Monemvasia in Greece is one of the few castles that are still inhabited. It has a clear Medieval style and is divided into two parts: Ano Poli (Upper Town) and Kato Poli (Lower Town). Kato Poli has shops, restaurants, and old houses that have been transformed into boutique hotels, while Ano Poli is uninhabited. Visitors can enjoy a stunning view of the sea from the top of the Castle.
Pelion, a mountainous region, has several beautiful villages filled with traditional stone houses and paved paths, surrounded by lush greenery. Among these villages, Makrinitsa stands out because of its wonderful central square that provides an amazing view of Volos town and the Pagasetic Gulf. Tourists love to stroll around the paved streets in Makrinitsa and explore the traditional products being sold along the entrance path. Additionally, there are many hiking trails in the surrounding natural beauty that either start from or cross through this delightful village.
Fiscardo is a village situated on the northern side of Kefalonia with a charming port. The area is abundant in greenery, and it is a favorite mooring point for private yachts in the Ionian Sea. Fiscardo’s port promenade features numerous fish taverns, cafes, and lounges, drawing in crowds throughout the day and night. Nearby, there are beautiful coves where visitors can swim and dive. The port of Fiscardo is connected by ferry to the neighboring islands of Lefkada and Ithaca.
The village of Apiranthos is situated in the heart of Naxos Island, and its name translates to “plenty of flowers.” The village is enveloped by lush green mountains and is known for its unique traditional architecture. Apiranthos boasts of four museums and a stunning central square, making it a perfect location for a leisurely stroll and to connect with the locals. The village also has many Venetian towers that have been preserved from the medieval era.
Greece is a country that boasts a rich history, fascinating monuments, and breathtaking sights. There is an endless list of things to see and do in Greece, including island hopping excursions that allow tourists to explore as many islands as possible during their holiday. Additionally, road excursions on the Greek mainland are highly recommended as they provide access to important archaeological sites and monuments. Our guide offers information on the most popular sightseeing destinations in Greece and its islands.
Greek island hopping tours
There are various combinations for Greek island hopping tours, typically starting from the Athens airport. Mykonos and Santorini are the two most popular islands in Greece, which most tourists visit. During the summer, the Cyclades island complex is heavily frequented and receives a large number of tourists.
The islands of Paros, Naxos, Milos, and Ios are becoming increasingly popular among tourists. The convenient ferry connections between the Cyclades islands and the short ferry ride make it easy for visitors to explore multiple islands during their holiday. Some tourists also prefer to start their island hopping directly from the airports in Mykonos, Paros, or Santorini rather than stopping over in Athens.
The Dodecanese is a popular island group in Greece, with Rhodes being a major transportation hub for this group. Other important islands of Dodecanese are Kos, Patmos, Kalimnos, Astypalaia and Karpathos. There are many flights from Athens, Thessaloniki, and from abroad that arrive in Rhodes. In addition, there is a daily ferry connection with the other Dodecanese islands and ferries from Marmaris, Turkey. As a result, Rhodes is often used as a base for day trips to nearby islands like Simi or Halki and as a starting point for island hopping tours.
There are ferry connections available between the Ionian islands, including ferries between Corfu and Paxi and also between Kefalonia, Lefkada, Ithaca, and Zakynthos, particularly during the summer months. With these connections, you can plan a day or multi-day excursions while on vacation.
Greek mainland sightseeing
Exploring the Greek mainland by car is a fantastic experience. You can visit historical monuments, archaeological sites, and charming towns. Peloponnese is the most well-known region on the mainland. Day trips or multi-day tours from Athens often include Olympia, Epidaurus, Mycenae, and Nafplion. Ancient Delphi, in central Greece, is also a fascinating destination to visit. Renting a car is another popular option for discovering the country’s hidden gems.
Off the beaten track
If you want to explore Greece by car, there are plenty of sightseeing destinations throughout the country. The Greek mainland is spacious, and the highways are generally well-maintained. However, some parts are currently under construction. The regional roads tend to be narrow, with one lane per direction, and can be winding due to the mountainous terrain. As long as you drive carefully, you shouldn’t encounter any issues.
If you’re looking to explore lesser-known regions of Greece, Pelion and Zagoria are both great options. Pelion is located in the center of the country and is easily accessible from Athens and Thessaloniki. It’s a beautiful area with stunning nature and an authentic lifestyle that visitors find charming. Meanwhile, Zagoria is a secluded region in the northwest of the country that offers the opportunity to go rafting, canoeing, kayaking, trekking, climbing, and skiing in the winter.
Another must-see destination in mainland Greece is the area of Meteora, where you can find stunning monasteries perched atop massive limestone rocks. Despite its popularity among tourists throughout the year, Meteora has managed to preserve its authentic atmosphere.
Popular tours in Greek islands
Santorini is a highly sought-after destination in Greece, where many tourists take a popular tour of the volcano, as well as the hot springs, ending in the charming village of Oia at sunset. Another intriguing tour option is a trip from Mykonos to Delos – a deserted island considered to be a significant religious center devoted to the god Apollo during ancient times.
A suggestion for a great excursion would be the boat trip to Navagio and Blue Caves in Zakynthos. Navagio Beach, also known as the Shipwreck Beach, is considered one of the best Greek beaches and can only be reached by sea. Skiathos Island boasts amazing beaches and nature. Additionally, the boat trip from Corfu to Paxi and Parga is also wonderful, as you get to visit charming seaside villages and enjoy crystal-clear waters.
Important Greek monuments
There are many monuments and sightseeing locations throughout Greece, both on the mainland and on the islands. These sites date back to various periods of Greek history, from ancient times to the modern day. The typical ancient monuments consist of marbled temples and sanctuaries dedicated to gods. Some examples include the Acropolis of Athens, the Temple of Poseidon in Cape Sounion, the Temple of Aphaia in Aegina, the Temple of Apollo in Bassae Peloponnese, and more.
The ancient Greek theaters located throughout the mainland are also very impressive. There are numerous ancient theaters located in Athens, Epidaurus, Delphi, Dodona, Dion, Phillipi, and other places. Out of all of these, the most beautiful are the Herodeion Theatre in Athens and the Ancient Theatre in Epidaurus. During festivals, many of these ancient theaters host drama performances in the summer.
Greece has many significant monuments from the Byzantine and Venetian periods, including towers, castles, and monasteries. Examples of these monuments include the Byzantine churches of Mystras, the monasteries of Meteora, the Old Fortress of Corfu, and the Venetian Castle of Nafpaktos. In recent years, several Greek sights have been added to the UNESCO list of world heritage monuments.
Best Time to Visit
Greece has consistent weather across its mainland and islands, with mild winters and warm summers influenced by seasonal winds.
Greece has great summer weather with plenty of sunshine and low amounts of rain. You can expect good temperatures and a great summer vacation.
The weather in the Aegean islands and Ionian seas is less harsh. There are certain areas where you can experience the Meltemi, a summer wind that primarily blows across the Aegean islands, providing ideal conditions for sailing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing.
Here are some important factors to consider before booking your trip to Greece. This will give you an idea of what the top destinations in Greece look like during different seasons.
Greece is well-known for its beautiful coastline and plentiful sunshine. The most popular time to visit is during July and August, when both tourists from all over the world and Greek locals take a break from work to enjoy some travel and rest.
During the high season in Greece, the Greek islands attract the most visitors, particularly the Cyclades and Crete. Other islands and seaside resorts on the mainland also have high occupancy levels.
If you plan to visit during this time of the year, it’s essential to book in advance. Prices go up, and availability can be limited. Even though Greece has over 100 islands, many places can still get overcrowded due to overtourism. Additionally, temperatures can reach a high of 30°C to 40°C, making it likely that you may experience a heatwave.
The months of July and August offer the best opportunity to swim in the ocean and enjoy the nonstop services provided by tourist facilities. It is the perfect time to visit islands famous for their bustling nightlife, like Mykonos, and explore the lively streets.
Island-hopping can be done during regular ferry schedules, but it’s also possible to do so in May, June, or September, which are right before or after the high season.
This time of year is ideal for water sports, particularly in the windy Cyclades islands like Paros and Naxos. If you prefer less crowded destinations during peak season, we suggest exploring some of the quieter Greek islands like Syros, Serifos, and Ikaria.
Best time for islands and coastline
For optimal beach weather on a trip to the Greek islands, it’s recommended to visit in June, early July, or September. These months offer the best weather while avoiding the high temperatures and tourist crowds of August and mid-July. Although the sunniest days occur between May and early October, the temperature may be around 23°C in May, and the sea waters may still be chilly at that time.
In the Mediterranean, winters are usually mild, and it’s possible to swim year-round, especially for those accustomed to colder climates. However, many facilities in island and waterfront areas along the Greek coastline will be closed from October to April, leaving them practically empty. If you plan on visiting southern destinations such as Rhodes or Crete in the Dodecanese islands, remember that temperatures will be higher.
Alternatively, the Ionian islands can be an ideal destination during midsummer due to their combination of beaches and forests, which provide a refreshing atmosphere that can make the summer heat more tolerable compared to the Cyclades. It is worth noting that unless you enjoy the crowded atmosphere of the high season, it may be better to avoid most islands and seaside locations in August and choose another time to visit instead.
Best time for cities
The urban centers of Greece, including Athens and Thessaloniki, have a large population and are bustling throughout the year. Even if you visit during off-peak seasons, there will be plenty of activities and busy streets. The only exception to this is August when many locals prefer to spend their time off work in the countryside. As a result, even densely populated cities like Athens may unexpectedly become deserted during this month.
You may experience a similar situation during Easter when most shops and restaurants are closed. However, this can be an opportunity to visit landmarks, wander around the charming historical areas in urban centers, or discover the Athens Riviera’s extensive coastline and beautiful beaches, as the streets are less crowded during the off-season.
If you’re in Athens in August, a great tradition is to visit the Acropolis of Athens or Cape Sounio to see the full moon. In the winter, it’s best to visit other cities like Drama and Trikala for their Christmas markets and themed parks. The biggest party in Greece happens every February in Patra during the carnival season.
Best time for the mainland
The mainland of Greece boasts a diverse range of landscapes, which differs significantly from what you usually find on the islands. Outside the urban areas, you will encounter valleys, forests, rocky mountains, and hillside villages.
Exploring the countryside of Greece is best done by taking a road trip during spring or early autumn when nature is at its finest and temperatures are still comfortable. Popular destinations include Delphi, Olympia, Meteora, and Nafplion.
During the summer, the mountainous areas of the Greek mainland are cooler than areas near the sea. Many of these mountainous areas, particularly those in the northern part of Greece, are winter resorts. For example, Arachova in Parnassos and Pelion are popular during Christmas and the winter months because they typically receive snow and offer good opportunities for skiing and snowboarding.
Please note that transfers may be impacted by heavy snowfall, as driving conditions can become quite challenging. Additionally, it’s possible that small mountainous villages may become temporarily inaccessible due to heavy snow.
Visit during Holidays and Festivals
The majority of cultural festivals that incorporate music, theater, and art occur between the months of May and October. One example is the renowned Athens and Epidaurus Festival.
The International Film Festival of Thessaloniki happens in November, while many religious celebrations and fairs occur during the summer months. The most important of these is the Assumption on August 15th, which provides a chance to celebrate with the locals in a traditional manner.
While Greece may not be the most obvious choice for a Christmas destination, it is worth considering. The mountainous regions of Karpenisi, Pelion, Drama, and Trikala transform into magical winter wonderlands during the holiday season. Additionally, the New Year’s Eve fireworks display in Athens is quite spectacular.
If you like going to festivals during winter, you shouldn’t miss the carnival. Even though Patra is the most famous carnival destination, many other cities, towns, and villages across Greece and the islands also hold annual carnival-related events. One of the most well-liked events happens in Naxos, where they revive the Dionysian traditions.
Easter is the most significant holiday for Greeks. During this time, people tend to go to the countryside to participate in festivals and join local celebrations. If you plan to visit Greece during Easter, note that rural areas can be crowded, and the streets of big cities can be deserted. Additionally, some museums and other attractions might be closed for a few days. It’s important to keep in mind that Orthodox Easter dates may differ from the Catholic ones.
May Day is a great time to visit the Greek countryside because it is when many locals take time off to appreciate nature and enjoy the beautiful springtime.
Traveling on a budget
If you’re on a tight budget and high season islands are too expensive, don’t worry. You can still visit your dream destination by adjusting your travel plans and saving money. The most affordable flights are typically in the fall and late spring since fewer people travel during these seasons. Although less frequent schedules compared to summer, many deals are available to attract visitors.
One option is to visit mountainous areas that are typically associated with Christmas during the fall or spring. The scenery during these times is stunning, and it’s easier to drive around and explore without the snow if you’re not interested in skiing or snowboarding. When it comes to islands and seaside resorts, prices typically drop during the spring or early fall until early October. However, the variety of facilities available may be more limited during these times. Additionally, some affordable luxury options are available until June.
From November to March, the low season takes place, and the prices are at their lowest. However, due to cold weather and limited facilities, it is not advisable to visit the islands during this period.
When not to visit
While you may already know the best time to visit Greece, I am wondering about the worst time to go and what precautions I should take before booking my trip. It’s worth noting that although Mediterranean winters are generally mild, most Greek islands become deserted during this season. As the weather gets colder and windier, many facilities also close down and stay inactive from October’s rainy season until late spring. The low demand means that ferry schedules are reduced.
Despite the off-season timing, some big islands like Crete, Rhodes, and Corfu, along with smaller ones like Syros, Aegina, and Poros, remain bustling throughout the year. However, if you plan on sightseeing, it is best to avoid traveling during July and August when the heat can make your experience less enjoyable. Instead, opt for spring, autumn, or early June. Additionally, be mindful of visiting in the winter months if your destination lacks an active nightlife scene since shorter days mean less time for exploring.
It’s important to keep in mind that while August is a popular time to visit Greece and its popular islands, it may not be the best choice for everyone. Depending on your preferences, the crowds of tourists and intense nightlife may take away from the experience. If you prioritize privacy and solitude, it might be better to consider other times of the year.
For safety reasons, it is advised that adventure seekers avoid Greece’s most popular hiking paths, including Mount Olympus and the gorges of Crete, during the rainy season and winter. Additionally, it is not recommended to participate in sea-related sports during the winter.
If you’re visiting Greece during Orthodox Easter, Assumption in August, or another public holiday, keep in mind that many shops, restaurants, and museums may be closed. It’s a good idea to check the calendar of major national holidays in Greece. Greece has unique experiences to offer throughout the year, so it’s your call to choose according to your preferences and needs.
Traveling to 🇬🇷 Greece soon?
I recommend these travel resources for Greece that I personally use:
🏨 Hotels: I have found that Expedia and Booking.com consistently have the best deals on hotels and resorts in Greece. If you prefer to stay at a vacation rental, check VRBO that is usually cheaper than AirBnB’s added fees!
✈️ Flights: To find the best flight deals to Greece, I always use Kayak. Remember to subscribe to their price alerts for the travel dates you want. Another great alternative for flight deals is Expedia.
🚗 Rental Cars: I always use and highly recommend Discover Cars because it allows me to compare several car rental companies and view ratings on various factors such as overall value, pick-up procedure, agent efficiency, car condition, and total time taken.
🚙 Airport Transportation: For the fastest and easiest way to travel, I suggest arranging a private transfer from the airport and beetween destinations with Welcome Pickups. Honestly, no better way to travel from the airport to your hotel or resort.
🤿 Tours & Activities: For tours and activities in Greece, I highly recommend using either Viator or GetYourGuide. These websites offer a full refund if you cancel your booking 24 hours before the start of the tour, and they also provide excellent customer service in case of any issues.
🚨 Travel Insurance: I always suggest purchasing travel insurance as a precaution before traveling, especially after a recent accident in a taxi in Greece. For short trips, I recommend Travel Insurance Master, whereas for digital nomads, Safety Wing is a better option.
📷 Best Camera for your trip: I always carry with me a GoPro, It’s light, compact, takes great video and pictures, and most importantly, it’s waterproof! You just can’t go wrong with one. If you are interested in higher quality video and photography, I always carry with me on my trips and highly recommend the Sony A7IV which I think is the best travel DSLR Camera out there.
☀️ Biodegradable Sunscreen: Remember to include a good sunscreen to protect yourself from the summer sun. I always use and suggest Sun Bum Sunscreen, which is vegan, reef-friendly, and cruelty-free.
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