From island living to Athens adventures: making the most of your Greece vacation
Explore the diverse landscape of Greece, where ancient monuments dominate modern skylines, whitewashed buildings brighten coastal towns and snowcapped peaks are dramatic backdrops to sleepy mountain villages. Embrace the laid-back Greek lifestyle: Ride a donkey down Hydra's cobblestone streets, stroll the cliffside villages of Santorini, or sunbathe on the white sand beaches of Mykonos. Define your Greek dream experience, then choose a best time for visiting the nation’s vast and varied regions.
Blazing summers, snowy winters: weather throughout Greece
Greece’s Mediterranean climate is, for the most part, sunny, mild and dry. Athens knows stifling heat during dry summers with temperatures sometimes reaching over 100 degrees F in July, while the northern mountains enjoy cooler summers in the low to high 80s. Winds known as meltemi sweep through the north, across the islands and along coastal regions, lending relief to hot days. Spring and fall are sunny with tepid temperatures in the 60s and 70s throughout Athens and the islands. Winters are mild in the lowlands and on the islands, rarely dipping below the low 50s, while in the north, snow and subfreezing temperatures are commonplace across the mountains.
Springtime in Greece: prime time for outdoor adventures
Spring is one of the best times to visit Greece, particularly from mid-April through mid-June when pleasant temperatures make outdoor activities inviting. Enjoy an afternoon sunbathing on sparsely populated island beaches or rafting through the majestic Vikos Gorge down the Voidomatis River in Vikos-Aoos National Park. Soak up the colorful landscape on a hike through valleys dotted with blossoming almond trees, across islands sprinkled with wildflowers and along the lily-covered slopes of Mount Olympus.
Fewer tourists in the spring mean fewer ferries travel to the island. Crowds are light until Easter – a massive holiday in Greece. With the exception of Athens, hotel rooms throughout the country are booked months in advance. Many attractions are closed on Good Friday and on Easter Sunday.
High season and off-season
Summer is Greece’s peak season as hordes of tourists pack the island ferries and hotels charge exorbitant rates. Prepare to battle huge crowds on island beaches and wait in long ticket lines at such popular Athens attractions as the Acropolis and the National Archaeological Museum. August is the busiest month of the season, particularly during the Feast of the Virgin on August 15, a major holiday on the islands of Tinos and Paros.
Accommodations drop their prices and ferries offer reduced schedules during the fall as crowds thin. Popular autumn activities include strolling through fall foliage in the Greek countryside or picking olives on the island of Crete during harvest season.
Winter is Greece’s low season. Ferry schedules are reduced and many hotels, attractions and restaurants, particularly on the islands, close temporarily. Hotel prices may drop up to 50 percent from peak season rates. The mountains draw bigger crowds, however, especially ski resorts like Arachova, the popular village at the base of Mount Parnassos.
Avoiding Greece’s overwhelming crowds
Beaches on such Greek islands as Naxos and Paros are jampacked with tourists during the summer. Bypass the crowds by journeying to lesser known destinations, such as Skopelos or Alonissos, two sleepy islands tucked away in the western Aegean Sea and dotted with pristine beaches.
Hoards of visitors descend upon the ruins of Delphi and Olympia, home to ancient temples and stadiums, respectively. There’s more elbow space at Kameiros, the isolated Minoan ruins on the island of Rhodes, and at the archaeological site of Epidaurus, which features a massive third-century amphitheater just two hours southwest of Athens.
Scores of natural wonder enthusiasts make the five-minute boat ride from Santorini to the volcanic craters on the islets of Palaia and Nea Kameni. Instead, travel to the Peloponnese Peninsula to experience the peaceful Diros Caves, where boats glide across underground lakes and beneath jagged stalactites.