Wintry weather sets in, with plenty of rainy and dark gray days. Biting northerly winds sweep the islands. But crisp sunny days can be crystal clear, with bottle-blue skies and delightfully mild temperatures. And the mountains are by now dusted with snow—perfect for skiing. Pack plenty of cold-weather clothing, plus rainwear, as temperatures in Athens reach an average high of 59 Fahrenheit. Northern Greece is significantly colder, requiring gloves and maybe even a woolen hat.
Crowds & Costs
Visitors pretty much stay away from Greece in December. Their loss—your gain! Greece feels personal without the crowds of summer. Plus, prices of airfares and hotels are at their lowest, with some real bargains. While most tourist restaurants will be closed (especially in the islands), those serving Greek patrons will be open.
Where to Go
Explore Athens and other key historical venues while you have the Acropolis, museums and archaeological sites virtually to yourself. If you delight in the wild side, which is lush and green in December, explore the gorges and stone villages of Zagori. The snow-capped mountains are gorgeous too, so head to Mt. Parnassos. And Meteora never looked so majestic and mysterious as in winter.
If you want to explore the islands, know that the Aegean can be bitterly cold, and ferry service will be limited. But this is a great time to sample the islands in solitude, and the colors are prime when the sun shines. The Saronic islands are still lively with Athenians taking mini-vacations or making second-home visits. And Crete has heaps of cultural sites, great culinary adventures, and winter activities such as hiking and biking.
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What to Do
Even on the sunniest day, it’s hardly likely to be warm enough to enjoy beach time. Instead, take a city break in Athens and ditch the refreshing beer for a warm rakomelo. Christmas week in Athens is fabulously festive! For an active vacation, take a hot-air balloon ride then warm up with mountain biking at Meteora. The ski resorts of Mt. Parnassos should be open for skiing, and if soaking in thermal springs and an indulgent spa treatments appeal, head to Pella in Macedonia.
Feast of St. Nicholas. On December 6, Greeks head to church for ceremonies and festivals to honor St. Nicholas, patron saint of sailors.
Kladaries. Each December 23, shepherds are honored with feasting, plus dancing around bonfires, in the village of Siatista, Macedonia.
Christmas Day. Second in importance to Easter in the Greek Orthodox calendar, December 25 is celebrated as elsewhere in Europe, with church services, street caroling, and family parties; and every town will be festooned with traditional decorations.
New Year’s Eve. Towns throughout Greece launch fireworks, children carol in the streets, and it’s a reason for parties.
Traveling to Greece in December? Consider these great trip ideas.
Highlights of Athens. A perfectly compact city break. Explore the key sights, plus markets and fabulous restaurants.
Crete & Cyclades Culinary Heritage. Indulge your taste buds with this perfect-for-winter vacation that spans cooking classes to farm visits.