GREECE AT WINTER
GREECE AT WINTER, Greece is a country of opposites, ranging from high mountains covered in snow that doesn’t melt until the middle of spring to sandy beaches bathed in sunlight. Ancient ruins contrast the several stunning islands and date back thousands of years. Many people connect Greece’s summer months with hot, long days and breathtaking sunsets. Greece’s winter, however, is also a fantastic season to travel there.
Most hotels in Greece have seasonal pricing during the winter. You will find it cheaper to visit at this time of the year.
You can also try phoning the hotels directly to see if you can negotiate a deal, but it’s just as easy to look for reasonably priced accommodation online here:
GREECE WINTER WEATHER
The average temperature on the mainland of Greece during winter is 13C (55.4F), although in the north, in such cities as Thessaloniki, the temperature can drop to 5.5C (41.9F).
In the mountains, the temperature is even lower but for those who enjoy skiing, you will find some excellent ski resorts.
That’s something that many people don’t associate Greece with, but it is well worth considering as an alternative to France, Austria, or Switzerland.
In December, you may experience the Halcyon Days.
There is an old belief that the week before and the week after the winter solstice, the sea becomes calm, and the weather is pleasant.
Although this belief is rooted in ancient history, it came through in December 2022 when temperatures exceeded 20C (68F) in many parts of the country.
Christmas was the warmest in five decades and many Athenians flocked to the beach instead of having a cosy, traditional meal at home.
However, don’t assume that the weather is going to be mild.
It can get cold and wet, so always bring warmer clothes and raincoats.
The weather can change abruptly from one day to the next in the winter, so be prepared.
20 BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN GREECE IN THE WINTER
If you want to experience Greek city life as the Greeks do, Athens is the place to go in the winter.
They will spend hours chatting over a coffee or having an ouzo-inspired lunch, and you can do the same.
If you enjoy nightlife, bars and clubs are open until the early hours. To meet people, consider joining a nightlife tour like this one.
Old merges with the new in Athens.
The Acropolis towers over a city that not only has modern shopping malls but an old town called Plaka, located on the northern slopes of the Acropolis offers commanding views of the citadel.
Many shops, restaurants, and cafes here are crowded in the summer with tourists. And you will be able to enjoy the experience here more in the winter without fighting through the crowds.
The Acropolis was built in the 5th century BC and is well worth a visit if you are interested in the history of Greece.
It houses some famous buildings, including the Parthenon, which was built to honour the goddess Athena.
History buffs will be in their element as there are over 80 museums in Athens.
The most important is The National Archaeological Museum which houses artefacts from prehistoric times to the Roman period.
Also worth visiting is the Acropolis Museum, which houses artefacts found at the Acropolis.
An advantage of visiting the museums in Athens in the winter is that many offer reduced entry and it’s worth purchasing a combo ticket that allows you to visit several archaeological sites.
The National Archaeological Museum is at 1 Tositsa 10682 Athens. The Acropolis Museum is at Dionysiou Areopagitou 15 11742 Athens.
Epidaurus is on the northeastern side of the Peloponnese and is famous for its Ancient Theatre built in the 4th century BC.
It is well worth visiting this site in the winter as it won’t be crowded with tourists, and you may even have the place to yourself.
If you are staying in Athens, hire a car.
It is 121.82 km (75.69 miles) away and it takes about 1 hour 46 minutes to get there.
In the winter there are day trips to Epidaurus from Athens but they are less frequent than in the summer.
The theatre is in good condition for its age.
It was built to honour the god, Asclepius, the god of medicine, and has excellent acoustics and symmetry.
There is a sanctuary dedicated to Asclepius next to the theatre.
3- MT PARNITHA NATIONAL PARK
If it’s a nice day and you enjoy walking, head over to Mt Parnitha National Park. It is only 25 km (15.5 miles) north of Athens.
The National Park is in a beautiful setting.
There are mountains, fir forests, streams, gorges, and caves to enjoy, and you may be lucky enough to meet some wildlife such as red deer.
One of the most famous caves is one dedicated to the god Pan, the god of mountains and shepherds.
The park has marked trails, so you won’t get lost. You can join a 4×4 safari adventure here.
Edessa is in central Macedonia and is famous for its 12 beautiful waterfalls. It is a well-established winter destination and is a lovely place to visit.
There is a hydropower museum to explore in the town, where you will learn about the industrial history of Edessa, and there is also a folklore museum.
There are some interesting places to visit close to Edessa, so you won’t be bored if you decide to spend a few days there.
In Loutraki Arideas, you can pamper yourself at the Pozar Thermal Baths.
The village of Paleos Agios Athanasios is beautiful, so spend the day there and have a long lunch without the crowds.
If you like skiing, you are close to the Voris Ski Centre at Kaimaktsalan Mountain, the third-highest mountain in Greece at 2524 m (8280.8 feet).
If you love hiking, Litochera is a picturesque place at the foot of Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece.
It is 2917 metres (9570 feet) high and a sight to behold, especially if you are interested in ancient Greek history.
Mount Olympus was considered the home of the ancient gods and the site of the throne of Zeus.
There are plenty of hotels in Litochera but if you don’t like walking or hiking, there isn’t much else to do besides eating and drinking.
If you want to climb Mount Olympus, we suggest you book a trip with a tour company.
Trekking Hellas arranges a winter hike to Skolio Peak, the second-highest peak of Mount Olympus.
Be aware that it will be cold, so wear warm clothes and it’s highly likely that there will be snow which may be picturesque but dangerous for the inexperienced.
Ioannina is in northwest Greece and is renowned for its silverwork.
There are hotels here that are open in the winter, and there is plenty to do to pass the days.
Ioannina is located on the west shore of the beautiful Lake Parnvatis.
Take a long walk around the lake and enjoy the beautiful sunset when the lake turns a beautiful silver.
There are plenty of museums to keep you occupied during your stay.
Visit the Silversmithing Museum, where you can learn about the history of the craft.
At The Archaeological Museum, there is a focus on the site of Dodona, which is a short drive away.
Dodona was the sanctuary of the god Zeus, and is well worth a visit.
You will see a well-preserved Hellenistic theatre, traces of an ancient stadium, and the foundations of the Hiera Oikia, the sacred residence of Zeus.
Many bars and tavernas in Ioannina stay open all winter, so you won’t go hungry or thirsty and there’s something cosy about listening to live music in a Greek taverna in winter.
Nobody will rush you to leave, so stay until the early hours.
The National Archaeological Museum of Ioannina is at 6 25th Martiou Square, Ioannina 45221. The Silversmithing Museum is at Acropolis of the Kale, Castle of Ioannina 45221.
Meteora is 105 km (65 miles) from Ioannina and the highlights are the 14th-century monasteries perched on top of steep rocks reaching heights of more than 600 metres (1969.5 feet).
You can visit six of these monasteries and spend some time enjoying the amazing frescoes and paintings.
If you feel fit, you can walk up to the monasteries, but driving is also possible.
While in the area, make sure that you visit the hermit caves of Badovas where, until two centuries ago, monks made them their home. It is hard to imagine a life both physically and mentally challenging.
There are day trips by train to Meteora from Athens during the winter and you can also join a tour from Thessaloniki.
8- PARNASSOS SKI CENTRE AND RESORT
Mount Parnassos, at 2457 metres (8061 feet) is one of the highest in Greece.
It is in the centre of the country, surrounded by forests filled with fir trees and wildlife like red deer.
If you enjoy skiing, you will love the ski resort here.
There are two skiing areas, Kellaria and Fterolakis, 21 pistes, seven ski routes and four mini pistes for beginners.
After skiing, you can relax in one of the two chalets with a hot drink.
Rental equipment is available, and there is a ski school, so you don’t have to be an expert to ski here.
Stay in the village of Arachova, which has a lively atmosphere with plenty of bars and tavernas open well into the night.
Visit the Church of Agios Georgios, where you will have a spectacular view of the area.
10 km (6.2 miles) from Arachova is the ancient site of Delphi, built in the 8th century BC.
It was dedicated to Apollo, the ancient god of sun and light and is also the site of the Oracle.
It is said that Zeus released two eagles, one to the east and the other to the west.
They met at Delphi, and Zeus declared the site the centre of the world.
There is an Archaeological Museum at the site that houses artefacts excavated from the Temple of Apollo.
Trips from Athens to Delphi operate during the winter, so you don’t have to drive if you are staying in the capital.
Metsovo, in Epirus, is a popular winter retreat for the Greeks, so you know it must be good.
It is a large village in the Pindus Mountain range. The highest point is 1160 metres (3805.7 feet).
If you enjoy skiing, there are three small resorts close by to choose from. If not, there is a folk museum and art gallery to visit.
Metsovo is a gastronomic paradise.
You will be presented at the Katogi Averoff Hotel and Winery with delicious dishes and excellent wines.
There are many cafes and restaurants open in the winter to choose from.
Kastoria is next to the beautiful lake, Orestiada, where you can drive, walk or cycle around and hike in the forests nearby.
There are plenty of hotels in town that stay open during the winter, and there are many bars, cafes, and tavernas where you can spend your evenings.
For those interested in history, there are 60 Byzantine churches to discover in the town and some museums, including the interesting Folklore Museum, where you can see a wine cellar and wine press among other exhibits.
Just outside the town, visit the Panagia Monastery and Dragon’s Cave.
The Folklore Museum is at 10 Kapetan Lazou Street, Kastoria
Thessaloniki is Greece’s second-largest city and a lovely place to spend a winter holiday.
There is plenty to do and see because it is a bustling city that doesn’t close down for the winter months.
Hotels, restaurants, cafes, and bars are open, and the city is well known for the delicious sweets you can try, such as the bougatsa, a perfect combination of croissant and custard cream, often served with berries.
Thessaloniki is steeped in more than 3000 years of history. The Rotonda is a must-see.
It was built in the 4th century as a temple to Zeus and was later converted to a Christian temple.
The White Tower should also be added to your agenda.
Built by the Ottomans In the 15th century to defend the city’s harbour, it also operates as a museum.
If the weather is nice, take a walk along the waterfront as it is very pretty. However, Thessaloniki is in the country’s north, so you may experience colder weather here than in Athens or one of the southern islands. The hop-on hop-off bus will get you to most attractions in Thessaloniki.
Kalavryta is in the Peloponnese and is built on the slopes of Mount Helmos.
The views are breathtaking.
The town is best known for its ski resort which rivals Parnassos and has ski runs for all abilities, from beginners to experienced skiers.
The town is built for winter tourism, and there are many hotels, guesthouses and spas.
If you want to take a break from the slopes, the town is steeped in history.
Visit one of the monasteries or The Municipal Museum of the Kalavryta Holocaust.
For rail enthusiasts, a railway line runs between Kalavryts and the village of Diakofto by the sea.
The views from the train windows are spectacular.
The train winds through the Vouraikos gorge and river, crosses 49 bridges and travels through narrow tunnels carved into the rock.
It is a spectacular journey and is a must if you visit Kalavryta.
The Municipal Museum of the Kalavryta Holocaust is at 1 – 5 Sygrou, Achaia, 25001, Kalavryta
Trikala is in central Greece, about two hours’ drive from Athens, and is a beautiful, large village with a river running through it.
The city is bicycle-friendly so hire a bicycle, ride by the river and explore the village.
If you enjoy walking, hike through the forest along a marked route called Arhalo Misseon.
There are some interesting churches to visit in Trikala, such as the small church of St Nicholas in Apo Trikala (Upper Trikala), which offers a spectacular countryside view.
There’s also the monastery of St Vlasios, built in the 17th century, where from the balcony at the back, you’ll see another remarkable view.
Trikala is a place to relax in one of the many cafes, bars, and restaurants. At night, the atmosphere is lively.
The monasteries at Meteora are only a 30-minute drive.
Karpensi is a town in central Greece situated in the valley of the river, Karpenisiotis, in the southern part of the Pindus mountains.
It is a picturesque town and a fantastic place to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
It is a popular winter destination with the Greeks, so plenty of hotels are open throughout the winter.
There are many restaurants serving both traditional and local food.
If you want a day out, you will find beautiful places to visit.
Drive (if you have an SUV) or trek along the river to the Panta Vrehi Canyon but do consider doing this with a professional guide in the winter as there may be snow.
It is worth seeing as the waterfall is spectacular.
If you enjoy skiing, the Velouchi ski centre is just 10 km (6.2 miles) from Karpensi.
Chania is on the island of Crete on the northwest coast and is a wonderful winter destination.
Because it is a city, it remains lively throughout the year, and you will find many restaurants, bars, and cafes open in the winter.
The most beautiful place to relax over a frappe or ouzo is in the Venetian harbour.
Wander around the winding streets of the old town admiring the Venetian buildings and perhaps see an art exhibition in the Mosque of Janissaries, which is a reminder of Ottoman rule.
There are interesting museums in Chania, such as The Archaeological Museum and the Maritime Museum.
The Maritime Museum is at Coast Kountouristi, Aki Kountourioti, Chania Town 73100. For something different, unleash your artistic creativity on this drawing tour of Chania.
17- KNOSSOS PALACE
The Palace of Knossos is 4.8 km(3 miles) south of the capital of Crete, Heraklion.
It is one of the most popular archaeological sites in Greece and is a must-visit if you are staying in Heraklion and are interested in history.
Knossos was the centre of the Minoan civilisation, which existed on the island from 3000 to 1100 BC.
It is larger and more complex than any other palace in Greece and shows that the Minoans were advanced for their time.
You need about two to three hours to explore Knossos, and there are guides at the entrance if you want a tour or skip the line and order your ticket and self-guided smartphone tour here.
There are a couple of tavernas on the other side of the road.
Santorini is a beautiful island in the southern Aegean Sea, famous for its whitewashed buildings built on volcanic rock.
There is plenty to see on the island, and tours operate during the winter. Options include taking a winter cruise to enjoy the caldera or cruise the volcanic islands and stop at hot springs.
One will take you to the amazing volcanic Red Beach, the Akrotiri archaeological site, a winery to taste the fine wines produced on the island, and the Prophet Elias Monastery.
It ends with a spectacular sunset in Oia, weather permitting.
The beach resorts do shut down in the winter, but if you stay in the capital, Fira, you will find hotels, restaurants, and cafes open.
It is the best place to stay, and the tours that operate in the winter start from there.
19- RHODES TOWN
The beach resorts on Rhodes close down in the winter, but if you are more interested in sightseeing than getting a tan, there are hotels, restaurants, and bars open in Rhodes Town.
The new town is busier than the old in the winter, but this gives you a chance to explore the old town without the crush of tourists.
Here you will see the Palace of the Grand Masters, gothic architecture, and mosques and public baths from the Ottoman period.
In the new town, you will find modern shops.
There is plenty more in Rhodes Town to whet your appetite, including the Archaeological Museum and The Modern Art Museum.
The Archaeological Museum is at the Hospital of the Knights, Rhodes Town, 85100. The Museum of Modern Art is Simis 2, Rhodes Town, 85100.
20- CORFU TOWN
Corfu is nearer continental Europe than islands such as Crete and Rhodes, so it isn’t surprising that it isn’t quite as warm as these islands.
It also has a lot of rain between November and March, so pack accordingly.
Because it is a bigger island, Corfu Town is still lively in the winter, with plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars open.
There is a selection of hotels open ranging from budget to luxury.
Winter is an excellent time to visit the old town as you won’t be caught up with large groups of tourists.
The old town is beautiful, and the buildings reflect the Venetian occupation.
The Archaeological Museum is well worth a visit as it houses finds from the Temple of Artemis and artefacts from the ancient citadel of Corfu.
The Archaeological Museum is at Vraila Armeni Street, Corfu Town.
WINTER TRAVEL TIPS
In the winter, you will find authentic Greek dishes as you will be eating with the locals, whereas in the summer, a lot of the food is produced specifically for the tourist market.
Food shifts away from lighter meals and salads to delicious soups and stews such as giouvarlakia, a soup made of meatballs combined with rice, tomato sauce, and spices.
Fasolada is a bean soup that is also very popular during winter.
The typical Greek salad is replaced with lahanodolmades or cabbage salad because cabbage is plentiful at this time of year. The cabbage is mixed with garlic, onions, and olive oil.
Spetsofai is a hearty dish prepared with sausages, red peppers and tomato sauce. It is usually spicy, so be warned. It is usually eaten with graviera cheese and warm bread.
Drinks such as rakomelo (honey raki) are enjoyed in the winter months. Rakomelo is a combination of the Cretan spirit, raki, and honey, and it is served warm.
There are celebrations during the winter months that will make your stay in Greece more pleasurable.
In early November, Thessaloniki’s International Film Festival focuses on independent cinema. The city is abuzz and you might even spot a celebrity.
Christmas has always played second fiddle to Easter in Greece, but in the last 20 years, it has increased in popularity. These days, you can see decorations everywhere, and Syntagma Square in Athens has a dazzling display of lights and a massive tree. The harbour will be lit with decorations glistening in the Mediterranean Sea if you are in a coastal town.
New Year is when the children get gifts from Agios Vasilios (Saint Basil). New Year’s Day is marked by the cutting of the vasilopita, a special cake that contains a coin. Whoever finds it will have good luck.
January 6th, the Epiphany, is a Bank Holiday, and the day is commemorated with the blessing of local waters. After the cross is blessed, the Orthodox priests throw it into the sea and men dive in to find it. Piraeus holds the biggest ceremony, which is worth going to.
Just before Lent is the Apokreas celebration, which is a carnival. The best celebrations are in Patras, Skyros, and Xanthus but any is worth going to for the experience. Most people put on costumes and eat, drink and make merry, even in the smallest villages.