Winter is the quietest time in Greece, and that's not a bad thing. It means you can have grand ruins like Delphi to yourself, and you can do like the Greeks and go skiing on actual Mount Olympus. Summer is the busiest time, with peak rates on accommodation and excursions. It’s also the time when the sun shines all day long, frequent ferries mean you can hop between islands easily, and all the lively tavernas are open for business. In between those seasons? Well, spring and autumn in the Mediterranean are typically so lovely and balmy that everyone gets to feel like a Greek god.
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Here’s a look at the best time to go to Greece, depending on your interests.
Winter (December to February)
Winters in Greece are typically mild compared to the rest of Europe, and it usually feels autumnal in southern Greece until about mid-December. The coldest months are January and February, and it can be pretty rainy throughout this season.
Come winter, it’s possible to join the locals for some skiing in the Greek mountains. About a two-hour drive from Athens, Mount Parnassus is home to four of the biggest resorts in the country. While they may not pack the punch of resorts in the Alps, the crowds are fewer and prices are lower. Plus, you could tack on a side trip to the ruins of Delphi while you’re here. It’s also possible to ski on Mount Olympus at Elatochori Ski Center.
The further south you go, the warmer winter gets in Greece. This can be a great time to visit Crete, the largest and most southerly of the Greek islands. You likely won’t get the chance to do much sunbathing on the beaches, but Minoan strongholds with amazing ruins — like Knossos —will be quiet, and going for hikes in famous spots like the Samaria Gorge will be pleasant. This is also a good time to visit the island of Santorini, which still has hotels and restaurants open through winter.
On smaller islands, many accommodations and restaurants close up shop, and ferries and flight routes pare down across the country.
Spring (March to May)
There can be moderate rain and cool days in March. For many, late April to May is the best time to visit. Hotel prices are reduced, the days are warm and sunny, and it’s a wonderful, wildflower-filled time for hiking in the mountains that cover 80% of the country. Spring in Greece is short and sweet, with May typically looking a lot like summer. By late May, the sea is also comfortably swimmable. There's plenty to do around this time of year — check out this article for a few ideas.
Check to see if you’ll be arriving around the time of Orthodox Easter. If you are, it might be smart to stay in one place. This is a huge holiday in Greece — banks close and the roads are busy with locals heading home to catch up with family.
Summer (June to Mid-September)
There’s a reason why summer is high season in Greece. The swimming is at its most refreshing. Every hotel, restaurant, and ferry route is open. The days are long and sunny, and there’s almost no rain. On the Greek islands, prevailing north winds help keep the sweltering temperatures down, especially in the evenings, which can be wonderfully balmy.
In Athens and other large cities like Thessaloniki, it can get uncomfortably hot during the day, so it’s best to do your sightseeing in the early morning or evening if you’re visiting in high season. August is when the vast majority of Greeks living in the big cities head to the coast for their vacation, as it’s not uncommon for temperatures to rise above 100°F.
If you’re coming here between mid-June and September, that’s when European schools are out for summer, so you’ll want to book your accommodation as soon as possible. Unless you’re planning some extra special meals, there’s no real need to make restaurant reservations in advance.
The higher elevations are cooler, and not quite so busy, so if you like hiking and cycling, that’s definitely a possibility during high season. If you fancy an adventure, you might want to check out the Menalon Trail — it runs for 47 miles through the mountains, in the heart of the Peloponnese region.
Autumn (Mid-September to November)
With fewer crowds and sunny weather, mid-September to mid-October can be a perfect time to visit Greece. The average fall temperature is typically a bit warmer than in spring; the swimming on the coast is still good till mid-October, and hotel prices are often a bit lower past September.
By late October, many of the ferry companies cut their services back and hotels and tavernas start closing in anticipation of winter. By November, it’s typical to have sunny days interspersed with cooler, grey days.
Autumn can be a really great time to visit Athens. The weather is cooler, the tree leaves are starting to turn golden, and if you time it right you might almost (almost!) have the Acropolis to yourself. Check out this four-day itinerary, or make it a stop on a lengthier trip.
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