Carnival in the Greek islands 2023

Bamboleeeo, bamboleeea!

You’ve probably heard about Patras or Xanthi’s Carnival already, but did you know about Carnival in the Greek Islands? Hop on a ferry to explore the customs and traditions of Apokries, see the extravagant parades of giant floats, experience the Dionysian celebrations, dance around the maypole, and take part in treasure hunts.

Useful info: carnival celebrations in 2023 run from 19 to 26 February. The last Sunday of the Greek carnival period is the main day of events! The 27th is also a public holiday in Greece, so many people travel to the islands, creating a lively atmosphere. Read about the different island celebrations and choose your favorite!

People dancing in colorful carnival costumes in Rethymnon

Dancing at the carnival of Rethymnon

The custom of Trata in Skyros

The journey to the Carnival traditions starts from the largest island of the Sporades, Skyros. The island’s streets turn into a big party with locals dressing up as Geroi (Old men), Koreles, and Frangoi!

You will spot the Old Men (Geroi) by following the sound of the goat bells tied around their waists, and you will recognize them by the black woolen cape and sheepskin covering their faces. Next to them, you will see the Koreles, Skyrian girls dressed in white and yellow waving a scarf to lead the way, and the Frangoi with a large goat bell on the back of the waist.

A day before Ash Monday, you will also enjoy the custom of Trata, in which locals with satirical performances poke fun at topical issues. Also, the fishermen gather in the main square to tell tales and satirize modern politics.

How to get to Skyros: you can reach Skyros directly by ferry from the port of Kymi in Evia. The ferry route from Kymi to Skyros usually takes 2 hours and the ticket costs around €9.

The carnival celebration of Mostra in Chios

From the southernmost island of the Northern Sporades, we’re setting sail for Chios. As soon as you arrive on the island, drive to the village of Thymiana, which is the heart of Chio’s carnival! Thymiana is one of the island’s largest Mastic villages (mastichochoria) and is only 6 kilometers from Chios Town.

There, after an epic battle between locals and pirates, the custom of Mostra was born! Follow the colorful parade floats, listen to the satirical songs, see the costumes and handmade masks also known as moutsounaries and reach the village dancing to traditional rhythms.

On the last Sunday of the Carnival season, you will see Vrakades (locals) and Koudounatoi (pirates) striking their swords while dancing the talimi, a traditional dance representing the warriors’ movements during the battle against the pirates.

Finally, you will say goodbye to the carnival with the traditional dance Detos in which everyone is holding each other by the arms. So, have you decided yet? Will you be on the Vrakades team or the Koudounatoi team?

How to get to Chios: there are usually daily routes from the port of Piraeus to Chios. The ferry from Piraeus (Athens) to Chios usually takes 8 hours and the ticket price starts from €40. Alternatively, you can take the Thessaloniki - Chios ferry with a duration of 12 hours and a ticket cost of around €40.

Crowd dressed as bees parading in the Greek carnival

Buzzing bees bouncing at the Greek carnival parade

The Maypole and the Carnival King in Aegina

We say goodbye to Vrakades and moutsounaries and we weigh anchors to the Saronic Gulf and the island of artists, Aegina. As soon as you disembark from the ferry, you will see the floating markets with colorful baskets in complete harmony with the confetti and the long silk ribbons of the maypole that decorate the island.

There, in the area of the port of Aegina, you will see the stunning parade floats and impressive customs! Dance to the carnival rhythms of Aegina and enjoy the comedy skits in various parts of the island and make sure to stay until the end! Why? To see the burning of the Carnival King.

Tip: the party goes on in the village of Mesagros from people all over the island celebrating the Carnival of Aegina.

How to get to Aegina: get on the ferry from Piraeus to Aegina and you will be on the island in just 40 minutes! The ferry connection Piraeus - Aegina is operated daily with more than 10  daily crossings and the ticket price starts from €9.

Carnival animal masks in Aegina

A colorful carnival parade in Aegina

The parade of torchlights in Naxos

Leaving the Saronic Gulf and Aegina’s customs behind to reach the island of Naxos. Get ready for the Dionysian Carnival of Naxos and the ultimate Cycladic experience all dressed in white! On the Sunday before Clean Monday, the locals revive the myth of Dionysus and Ariadne with costumes, parade floats, music, and dance!

Hop on the ferry to Naxos with your friends, dress in white, paint your face in black and white and let the music of the drums carry you through the picturesque alleys leading you from the Castle of Naxos to the port!

There, you will see the ancient Greek spirit emerging through burning torches and you will live the Cycladic tradition with songs and lots of dancing around the fire until the next day’s first light!

How to get to Naxos: there are usually daily ferry routes connecting Naxos with Piraeus. The ferry connection from Piraeus to Naxos takes about 5.5 hours and tickets start from €40.

Treasure hunt in Rethymnon

Carnival is a big thing for Cretans and the Rethymnon carnival is here to blow your mind! As soon as the Christmas season ends, Cretans start the preparations for the Carnival of Rethymnon with imaginative handmade costumes and huge colorful floats.

During the festivities, the Old Town of Rethymnon transforms into a medieval fairytale with knights, princesses, and jokers. Its renaissance buildings are colored and the narrow streets are filled with people of all ages dancing to the frenetic rhythms of the Apokries in Crete.

Fancy and traditional costumes, music, endless dancing, treasure hunts, fireworks, and mantinades (folk songs) are just a few of the highlights of the Rethymnon Carnival! So what are you waiting for?

Put on your carnival costume and mask and take part in the Treasure Hunt which is divided into 3 categories: treasure hunt for children, teenagers, and adults! Pick your category and who knows? Maybe you and your friends will solve the riddles and find the treasure chest!

How to get to Rethymnon: there are weekly routes from the port of Piraeus to Rethymno. However, keep in mind that there are currently no direct ferry connections. The ferry from Piraeus to Rethymnon (Crete) makes a stop at the port of Heraklion or Chania and takes about 12 hours.

The Venetian wedding in Zakynthos

A different carnival with Italian influences takes place in Zakynthos (Zante) every year! On the Ionian island that is also known as the Fiore di Levante, you will meet Conte, the Carnival King and you will disguise as a member of the royal court with elegant costumes and a masquerade waltz in St. Mark's Square.

There, you will dance among groups of masquerades (mpouloukia) well-known tricksters of the Zakynthose's Carnival. Also, don't forget your invitation to the Venetian Wedding, the most popular carnival tradition in Zakynthos.

In a reenactment of a 16th-century Venetian Carnival, the roles are reversed with men dressing in women's clothing and women in men's suits. Take your friends and stroll around the narrow streets of Zakynthos, mingle among the disguised brides and grooms, and sing satirical verses and traditional songs along with them.

Tip: the Zakynthian Picolo Carnival is a parade for children that usually takes place one day before the big parade.

How to get to Zakynthos: hop on the ferry from Kyllini to Zakynthos to reach the Ionian island in just 1 hour. It usually has 4 daily crossings from Kyllini and the ticket price is around €12.

Carnival decorations at the port of Zakynthos

Carnival decorations in Zakynthos

So which one would it be? Skyros, Chios, Aegina, Naxos, Rethymno or Zakynthos? Choose the island that suits you best and get ready for the most fun Carnival in the Greek Islands 2023! Book your ferry tickets on Ferryhopper easily and download our App on your mobile for free to track your ferry any time and in real-time!

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