Asking an open ended question like “when is the best time to travel to Greece” is likely to give you an open ended answer. It really does depend on what you are looking for in your travels, what you expect to see, who you are traveling with and a half dozen other questions that could limit or impact your visit such as budget.
It’s as simple as pointing out that if you are looking to dance the night away with revelers and party-goers on Mykonos, you need to be here during the peak of Summer. But if you are looking for quiet strolls through traditional Greek villages while on a budget, we would advise you to go any time BUT the peak of summer season.
Since it would be impossible to discern what your travel plans are, or what you would consider a dream vacation to the spectacular Mediterranean gem of Greece would be, read along as we discuss the merits of traveling to Greece is the various seasons and point out the virtues of each of them, allowing you to discover that Greece has something to offer everyone all year round.
No matter when you travel to Greece, the land of Hellas will enchant your heart and your soul. Below are the three “seasons”. Give them a look and decide when, for you, is the best time to travel to Greece.
Best Time To Travel To Greece: Summer
Known for warm sands and tantalizing blue waters of its pristine Mediterranean beaches, summertime is an obvious choice to visit Greece and all the Greek islands. The very fact that it is busy and crowded is a testament to how popular spending your summer in Greece can be.
The crowded beaches, busy shops and full restaurants show the bustling nature of the tourist trade. Though it may be easy to see the crowds and think to yourself that it is far too busy to enjoy, consider the lines and advanced reservations as a side effect of having the entire Greek experience laid out before you and ready to enjoy. Winter sees much of the tourist-targeted areas slow to a crawl or even close outright until next season. On your summer dates, nothing will be closed and you will be able to sample it all. Only you may have to share it with fellow travelers.
There is no way around it, if you came to Greece for the beaches, you need to come in summer. The warm sun on your skin and the cool island breeze is only there for a limited time and though you can visit the beaches in the cooler winter months, sunbathing in the chilly air may not be your ideal vacation.
June through September are the summer beach months, during July and August you are virtually guaranteed to have spectacular beach weather. Outside of that window, the beaches thin out with the cooler temperatures. And if it’s the infamous Mykonos nightlife you are coming to revel in, summer is your only option as Mykonos peaks in July and August. Once September ends, Mykonos resembles a ghost town until the following May and it can actually be difficult to find a ferry to the popular summer destination.
And of course, the elephant in the room; money. Peak tourist season brings with it higher prices. Its simple supply and demand, since everyone wants to spend their summer in Greece, the prices go up on everything from food to lodging to entertainment. When these things are in demand, and they are, the price difference between peak season and off season can be staggering.
You’ll want to book your summer plans five to six months in advance or you may find everything booked solid and sold out. As more and more people are venturing out and discovering world travel, don’t expect to see the summer prices dip too low any time soon. Plan for the summer, budget for a top end vacation. You’ll pay a little more for your hotel and other purchases, but you will get the full Greek experience for that extra cost.
You may save a few Euro by visiting during the off season but you may find that you didn’t get the “Greece” you wanted to see. If you’re looking for the best time to travel to Greece, and you’re looking for sun, sand and bustling nightlife, summer is perfect for you.
Advantages of Greece in the Summer
- Everything is open and striving to give you their best
- Nothing beats the Greek summer sun on the islands
Potential Disadvantages of Greece in the Summer
- Everything is more expensive during peak season
- Crowds of people are everywhere you want to be
Best Time To Travel To Greece: Winter
Peak season in Greece runs the summer months of June, July, August, and September, with August being the unofficial summit of the tourist mountain. If you’re are looking for a quieter experience from your Greek sojourn, avoiding the crowds by visiting in the winter months may be just what you are looking for. The islands are prone to overcrowding during the high season and many of the mainland tourist spots are busy too, but once the chill winds begin to blow in from the north, the visitors pack and take off and many of the shops close up for the year and won’t open until the tourists return in April.
If none of that bother you, or in fact, is actually a draw, then wintering in Greece has a lot to offer you. The mainland doesn’t go into winter hibernation as bad as the islands do. Major sites such as Athens, Delphi, Meteora, and Mycenae are fabulous year round destinations and don’t suffer from the tourist-dependent schedule of summer.
Also, don’t forget Greece has plenty of mountains and ski resorts. Take a trip up into the mountains and spend the afternoon on the slopes. Visiting nearly any location on the mainland won’t be difficult in winter, trains and taxis are always around and a great benefit will be the relative isolation you can achieve as if you have the entire world to yourself. Something you’ll never be able to counterfeit during peak summer travel. The simple photography opportunities alone are a major draw for visiting Greece in winter.
The Islands are not completely off limits during winter. Small island paradises and popular tourist beaches close up for the winter but incredible stops such as Santorini and Crete will still give you the full experience even during these off peak months. Ferries to smaller islands may be scarce but the larger islands will have fares available. Whether you are visiting the mainland or the larger islands, Greece still offers plenty of hospitality and fantastic scenery to behold in the off season.
And while you may fine fewer restaurants doors flung wide open, those that you do find will be the more authentic Greek spots you really have to know to find. Any good tour guide will tell you to “eat where the locals eat”. In summer, you may have to hunt these places down and sort them out among the places popular for catering to the tourists but in winter, these may be the only places still open.
The odds are they have their menu prices significantly lower than they were set in August. The same goes for hotels. Where you may not have been able to find a small room for a night during the summer, your money will go further and get you a full room for a lower price in the winter. And if you’re looking for the best time to travel to Greece and avoid crowds, winter will be your best friend.
Advantages of Greece in the Winter
- Your money goes a lot further than it would during summer
- Less crowded, plenty of room for exploration and photography
Potential Disadvantages of Greece in the Winter
- Colder weather, beaches are not as much fun
- Many of the islands and tourist attractions close for the season
Best Time To Travel To Greece: Spring and Autumn
If you have specific desires that facilitate you coming to Greece during the summer or the winter, those will be the better times to visit for you. However, for the vast majority of travelers looking for the best time to travel to Greece, the answer will be the late Spring or early Fall. This might be obvious to some of you but remember, everyone’s trip is different and if you have your heart set on dancing the night away until dawn with international party-goers on Mykonos, summer makes sens for them. For the rest of us, get in early or get in late.
The term for traveling on the fringes of peak season no matter where you go is called “shoulder season” and this is what we are recommending here. Coming to Greece in late March, April, or early May is getting in before the crowds show up for the summer in late May and start swinging in full by June. And if you can delay your trip until October you will come in just as the crowds are thinning out and by November you’ll have the place all to yourself before they fully shut down for the winter.
Greece has so much to offer in so many various ways that you won’t find your travel experience left wanting because you weren’t there during the height of the season. In fact, you may enjoy your time in Greece a little more than if you did splurge and come during peak because there are fewer guests to accommodate. Hotels are more spacious, restaurants are more available, and lines at major attractions decrease to the point of being nearly non-existent.
You get a little bit of the best of both worlds by coming in shoulder season, it’s a little like having your cake and eating it too. The lower costs mean you can afford to go out and do even more than you planned, and the lack of crowds will make it easy to do so.
Coming in Spring you will arrive just as the seasonal shops are opening up. Everything has a fresh coat of paint and the locals are cheery and happy to see the returning guests. You can stroll through the villages and witness the awakening of Greek beauty as the country begins to wake from the winter slumber. The beaches are beginning to welcome sunbathers and the more daring swimmers as the seas are still a bit chilly but perfectly beautiful when viewed from the warming sands.
The Spring’s appearance of “emptiness” comes with one major caveat; the week surrounding Easter can be just as busy as the dead middle of peak season in August. Traditional Greeks celebrate Easter all week long and many shops will close on Good Friday through the weekend and won’t open back up until Monday. Hotels will book up that week not only from tourists and travelers, but the local Greek population commonly ventures out and about the countryside during that week to be with family or visit their childhood homes.
The beauty of Easter in Greece is a sight to behold, but you will be inundated with crowds everywhere you go. If you’re coming in Spring to avoid the summer rush, keep this in mind. And if you want to embrace the marvelous rituals of Greek Easter, much of the country will grant your wish but none more so than Corfu.
Autumn in Greece is under-represented in any of the travel logs you may read. Rounding out the back end of summer and turning into shoulder season, the crowds begin to thin out and pack up for home. Shops and restaurants aren’t ready to close just yet, they are remaining open to cater to the last remaining visitors hoping to extend tourist season just a few more weeks before closing up for the winter.
Photography is especially stunning in the fall. If you’re looking for the best time to travel to Greece for photography, the shoulder season is the time for you. The light comes in at just the right angle extending the “golden hour” just before sunset, and the lack of crowds will allow you to snap some more candid shots that aren’t full of unknown visitors in the background. If you are looking to fill your photo album with pictures of your Greek adventures, shoulder season is when to visit.
October and November are still mild enough in the Mediterranean that you can still enjoy the island beaches on sunny days as the seas have warmed up over the hot summer and haven’t begun to cool down yet. Keep in mind that the island ferries will begin decreasing their scheduled routes as fewer passengers need to be transported. The winter rains are still off in the distance and you can enjoy the waning days of the tourist season in peace and beauty with fewer lines, fewer tourists, and plenty of opportunities waiting to take that one last gasp of air before shutting down.
Advantages of Greece in the Shoulder Season
- Hotel availability is abundant while still in “off season” prices
- You can have the country to yourself before/after the crowds
Potential Disadvantages of Greece in the Shoulder Season
- You will miss the absolute peak season of the summer celebrations
- Weather can be dodgy during the transition from winter rains to summer sun
The Best Time to Travel to Greece is…
…completely up to you and your unique wishes! If you’re looking for the best time to travel to Greece to enjoy the warm sun and beaches, summer is your best friend. If you are looking more for beautiful photos and less expensive pricing, use the shoulder season to your advantage. And if you are looking for the best time to travel to Greece and avoid crowds of tourists, the winter is the prime time.