Greece in winter is a story of two halves. Northern Greece turns into a snowy haven while southern Greece maintains a lovely mild climate. For many, winter may not be an obvious choice for discovering Greece’s endless beauty and charming villages. Yet, traditional culture comes alive as temperatures drop and once packed restaurants and famous archaeological ruins are shared with only a few others. Greece in winter remains a hidden secret, below are our tips to discover it for yourself.
Winter in Greece, the surprising country of sun and snow
Winter in Greece has a diverse climate as the vast country itself. You can travel from frosted landscapes and snow-covered mountains to sunny beaches in just a few hours. While winter may not be your first choice for a holiday in Greece, you’ll be surprised just how fascinating this season is.
In the north, around Epirus and Macedonia, it’s not unusual for the temperature to drop below freezing and even find its way to a chilly -20 °C (-4 °F) between November and March. Here, snow blankets the surrounding hills and turns the forested landscape into a picture-perfect snow globe.
On the other hand, in southern Greece, temperatures can reach -21 °C (70 °F), making for splendid days exploring ancient sites and enjoying coastal hikes. Just be sure to pack a raincoat as winter is the rainy season in Greece.
Best places to visit during Greece in winter
Wander the empty museums of Athens
Athens is known for its deep history, fantastic museums and remarkable archaeological sites. Yet, exploring the city in summer can be a hot, crowded and unpleasant experience. In winter, the bustling city thins out and exploring the sites of Athens with hardly another soul around will be an experience you won’t soon forget.
Then, when your feet ache from an all-day wander, head to Lake Vouliagmeni, located just outside of Athens. Here, water from the sea and an underground thermal spring mix create a heavenly warm lake perfect for soaking. Take a dip and feel your worries wash away.
Enjoy Crete’s mild climate, perfect for hiking
In summer, hiking in the Cretan mountains can bring scorching temperatures and crowded trails. Day trips like the scenic hike into Imbros Gorge can see up to a thousand hikers a day, yet sits gloriously empty in winter.
Pack some layers and challenge yourself to one of the many hikes on the island, then when you’ve finished, head to a raki bar to warm yourself up from the inside out and sample local cuisine surrounded only by locals. By choosing Crete for your winter romantic destination, you’ll see a peaceful side of the island that very few tourists experience.
Embrace winter festivals in Peloponnese
If you enjoy the occasional snowfall and excitement that comes along with it, Peloponnese is an ideal location to embrace the Greek winter. Spend your morning skiing, your afternoon roaming ancient ruins and your evening enjoying a stew at a traditional taverna.
A visit in January or February will see the Patras Carnival, one of the largest festivals in Greece. Celebrate Dionysus, the god of the grape harvest and winemaking, with splendid feasts, parades, singing, and of course, a lot of wine.
Experience the stillness of the Cyclades
While many of the smaller and more remote Cyclade Islands close up shop for the winter, the larger and more populated islands become magical places. Think of the pictures you’ve seen of Santorini and Mykonos, with empty stretches of coastline and abandoned labyrinth of streets. In summer, it’s nearly impossible to snag yourself one of these shots, but come winter, you’re sharing these delightful villages with only a few others.
The temperatures do drop into the low 10’s °C (50’s °F), so you will need to pack some layers and forget about the all-day sun tanning. However, the chance to visit these breathtaking islands from the eyes of a local is an experience you won’t soon forget.
Discover charming things to do in Greece in winter
Enjoy traditional winter Greek food
As the days become shorter and winter rolls in, restaurants dedicated to the tourist taste change their tune and start to revert to traditional Greek winter food. Think fasolada (bean soup), overflowing oven roasts, hearty stews and stuffed lahanodolmades (stuffed cabbage leaves). For dessert, scrumptious kourabiedes (biscuits), diples (fried dough), and melomakarona (Christmas honey biscuits) are on the menu.
These hearty and healthy meals make chillier nights feel nice and cosy, especially when you’re surrounded by the hum of happy locals. Once Christmas comes around, expect even more hearty winter food to find its way onto your plate.
Experience Christmas and the unique Greek festivals
Christmas in Greece alone is a wonderful reason to visit the country in winter. From small villages to the vast Athens, the Christmas spirit is embraced and on permanent display. Children can be heard carolling from door to door, delightful desserts can be smelled, and town squares come alive with decorations and markets.
Each region of Greece has its own and equally alluring Christmas traditions. Some of our favourite places include Athens, Thessaloniki, Mykonos and Kalavryta. However, no matter where you find yourself on Christmas in Greece, you can expect a heartwarming experience.
Enjoy a day on the Ski Field
As skiing in Greece is a seemingly well-kept secret, you can enjoy a fantastic weekend of skiing without the crowds and without the price tag that many European ski resorts have. The ski fields mainly see domestic tourists, allowing a lovely authentic and relaxed atmosphere.
Northern Greece is where you’ll find the majority of ski fields, especially in Parnassos and Thessaloniki. And the best part, once you’ve had your fill of snowy days, a trip to Southern Greece is just a few hours away.
Enjoy the local’s way of life
Like any major tourist destination, as the crowds disappear, the locals once again reclaim the streets. Suddenly you’ll notice Greek music being played around town and traditional Greek dishes taking over menus. Even better, locals are much more willing to stop for a chat and show you directions if you’re looking lost. So don’t hesitate to grab yourself a rakomelo and strike up a conversation.
Thinking about travelling to Greece in Winter?
If you’re ready to experience the snow-covered mountaintops and empty beaches of Greece in winter, check out the Boutique Vibe’s list of charming boutique hotels below and start planning your wonderful holiday today.