What you can enjoy more in Greece when temperatures drop

Breezy gateway to Greece!

While Greece is synonymous with white arcing beaches, bustling seaside villages and stunning sunsets, it is possible to have a great time in Greece even in the off-season. From crowd-free islands and uncluttered ancient sites to famous festivals and delicious food, visiting Greece in the winter is a completely different experience. 

If you can’t wait to get to know Greece outside its peak summer season, then continue reading!

Here are the top 4 things you can enjoy more in Greece when temperatures drop:

  1. The peaceful Greek islands
  2. The uncrowded ancient sites
  3. The traditional winter Greek food and drinks
  4. A unique Greek carnival in the Peloponnese

A narrow alley in the center of Athens, Greece

A crowd-free alley in the center of Athens, Greece

1. The Greek islands in a different light – yes, they are open!

Not a winter person? No problem. Despite popular opinion, many of Greece's islands do not close their doors for the winter. Although most large resorts, hotels, restaurants, and bars close for the season, life goes on for the majority of locals as the islands return to their authentic self

Here are some Greek islands we recommend you visit when temperatures drop:

Crete in Winter

Crete, which is located furthest south, has some of the warmest winter weather in Europe.

On the Cretan mountaintops, you can go hiking, trekking and skiing. But whenever you get tired of the harsh winter, you can drive to the coast in the lovely cities of Rethymnon, Heraklion, or Chania and enjoy the cool breeze, and the bright winter sunshine. 

Since there are less visitors and the weather is cooler, winter is also a great time to explore all of Crete's museums and archaeological sites. The mild temperatures make exploring the ruins of the famous palaces of Knossos and Phaistos a relaxing, even spiritual, experience.

Ruins of Knossos Palace, Crete

The impressive palace of Knossos in Heraklion, Crete

The Cyclades in Winter

Even though it is much more quiet in the winter, Santorini is still an amazing year-round destination and ideal for a romantic getaway. No matter the weather, the caldera views and sunsets here are still breathtaking, and all of this can be enjoyed with fewer crowds and a lower budget.

Another island you can explore in the Aegean Sea when temperatures drop is Syros, the capital and the most populated island of the Cyclades. Walk around the aristocratic streets of Hermoupolis, gaze at its neoclassical buildings and dine at the tavernes of Ano Syros with live rebetiko music. Don’t forget to watch a theatrical performance in Syro’s unique Apollo Municipal Theatre

Tip: discover more Greek islands with a warmer climate to visit during the winter.

Winter trees in Syros

Winter trees with no leaves and the town of Syros in the background

The Dodecanese Islands in Winter

From all the Dodecanese Islands, we recommend visiting Rhodes in the off-season. With its mild winters (with highs around 14-16°C), this is a great time to visit the UNESCO-recognised Old Town without fighting the crowds! On Rhodes, hiking is also enjoyable when the weather isn't too hot, especially around the lovely village of Lindos.

Tip: are you still not completely convinced? After reading the 5 reasons to visit the Greek islands off-season, we bet that you won’t hesitate to start planning your winter getaway :D

2. Ancient sites (without the crowds)

Another thing you can enjoy in Greece when temperatures drop is the chance to admire its ancient landmarks at your own pace, contrary to the summer when there's large queues of visitors. 

The mainland's most famous attractions include the Acropolis and Ancient Agora in Athens, Delphi, Meteora, with its pinnacle-topped monasteries, and the Royal Macedonian Tombs, outside Thessaloniki. Many impressive landmarks are also located in the Peloponnese, including the Archaeological Site of Olympia, Mycenae, Corinth, and the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus. 

Lastly, if you’re interested in island-hopping from Athens, make sure to visit Aegina’s Temple of Aphaia.

Ruins of the Archaeological Site of Olympia in the Peloponnese

Trees surrounding the Archaeological Site of Olympia in the Peloponnese, Greece

3. The traditional winter Greek food and drinks

Food is always a highlight in any trip to Greece. When visiting the country in the off-season, take advantage of the opportunity to try seasonal specialties. You will discover mouthwatering dishes, such as stuffed lahanodolmades (cabbage rolls), horta (wild greens), or fasolada (bean soup). 

Moreover, if you are a dessert person and happen to visit the country around Christmas, you can’t miss kourabiedes (butter cookies with icing sugar), diples (fried dough) and melomakarona (Christmas honey biscuits). 

Even though Greece's winters are often mild, if you’re looking for a drink that can warm you up during a cold night, rakomelo (a blend of raki or tsipouro with honey and several spices, including cinnamon, cardamom, and other regional herbs) is a must-try!

4. A unique Greek carnival in the Peloponnese

If you happen to visit the Peloponnese in January or February, you should visit the Patras Carnival, one of the largest festivals in Greece and in all of Europe. 

The carnival in Patras is a colorful festival with lots of dancing, music, eating, partying, and drinking. A series of activities and events take place, such as street parties, masquerade balls, parades, treasure hunts, musical and theatrical performances, and even a children’s carnival. The Patras Carnival's Grand Parade and Treasure Hunt Game, which occur all throughout the city, are its main attractions.

Another highlight of the carnival is the Closing Ceremony and traditional burning of the Carnival king. Right after, there is an epic firework display and an open-air concert.

This year, the carnival will take place from January 17 till February 27, so get ready!

Person wearing a carnival costume

Person wearing an extravagant costume with flowers at a carnival

Where to book ferry tickets to Greece online?

From bustling cities to enchanting islands, winter in Greece has something for everyone! So, what are you waiting for? Check all the available routes on our Map of Ferries and book your ferry tickets online on Ferryhopper with no extra fees.

Book your ferry tickets