Best Time to Visit Greece & the islands
Are you planning a trip to Greece but are not exactly sure when is the best time to visit? We’ve got your back!
With islands, mountains, and cities, Greece combines it all and each season here is beautiful in a unique manner!
Let us take care of your practical concerns with respect to the weather, prices, availability, and other practical issues.
Below you will find some of the most important things to consider before booking your trip so that you can get an idea of what the top destinations in Greece look like at different times of the year.
Greece is widely known for its stunning seascapes and abundance of sunlight and the most popular time of the year to visit it is July and August when not only visitors from all around the world but also Greek people take a break from the workload and recharge their batteries by travelling.
The most visited destinations in Greece during the high season are certainly the Greek islands, with the most frequented ones being the Cyclades and Crete, while other islands or seaside resorts on the mainland achieve high occupancy levels too.
Booking in advance is a must if you’re planning to visit at this time of the year since prices go up and availability may be limited.
Many places tend to get overcrowded -although Greece has over 100 islands, over-tourism is still a thing- and the temperature rises as well, making it very likely to encounter a heatwave between 30°C and 40°C.
On the bright side, July and August are the best months to swim in the sea and the tourist facilities work nonstop to keep everyone happy.
This is the right time to visit islands mostly known for their vibrant nightlife, such as Mykonos, and experience the vividness of their busy alleys!
The regular ferry schedules that connect the islands to one another create perfect island-hopping opportunities, although this is also possible in May, June, or September, right before or after the high season.
It should be mentioned that the good weather conditions make this time of the year great for water sports, especially at the windy Cyclades such as Paros and Naxos.
If you’re not a fan of big crowds but are only able to travel during the high season, we recommend visiting some less touristy Greek islands where you can have peace of mind, such as Syros, Serifos, Ikaria and many more islands.
Best time for islands and coastline
Temperature-wise, to get the most out of your days spent on the beach, the best time to visit the Greek islands is June, early July and September, when the weather is at its best and you get to avoid the frequent heat waves and tourist crowds of August and mid-July.
The sunniest days can start as soon as May and continue until early October. You can still enjoy the beach when the temperature is at around 23 °C, although the sea waters may still be somewhat cold in May.
Mediterranean winters are generally considered mild and swimming all year long is definitely a possibility, especially for those used to colder environments.
Many islands or other seafront places on the coastline of Greece, however, are practically empty, since most facilities are closed from October to April.
If you want to visit the Dodecanese islands, for instance Rhodes, or Crete, keep in mind that the more south you go, the higher the temperatures will be.
On the other hand, the Ionian islands make a great midsummer destination, as they offer both beaches and forests with a refreshing atmosphere that make the summer heat more manageable, compared to the Cyclades.
Last thing to consider, is that unless you actively enjoy the hustle and bustle of the high season, it is best to avoid most islands and seafront places in August and pick some other time to visit instead.
Best time for cities
With the biggest part of the population concentrated in the urban centers of Greece, Athens, Thessaloniki and other large cities are vivid at any time of the year.
No matter when you choose to visit the Greek cities, it is certain that there will be plenty of things to do and the streets will be busy 24/7.
However, they say that there is an exception to every rule: August is the only time of the year when even the most densely populated cities like Athens get unexpectedly deserted, since most of the locals prefer to spend their days off of work in the countryside.
A similar event may occur during Easter. Even though the majority of shops and restaurants are closed during this time of the year, you can use the desolate streets of August to your advantage in order to see some landmarks, stroll around the picturesque historic centers located in the heart of big cities or, in the case of Athens, explore the long coastline and the many beaches known as the Athens Riviera.
One of the highlights of finding yourself in Athens in August is that you can follow the tradition of going to the Acropolis of Athens or Cape Sounio to enjoy the August full moon.
Other cities and towns in Greece are best to visit during the winter, when you will have a chance to enjoy their particularly Christmassy atmosphere: Drama and Trikala, for instance, are famous for their Christmas markets and themed parks.
Last but not least, the greatest party in Greece takes place every February in Patra, during the carnival season.
Best time for the mainland
Greece has been blessed with great diversity in terms of landscapes and the natural sceneries you will come across in the mainland are much different than what you usually see on the islands.
Valleys, forests, rocky mountains and hillside villages make up the most part of the mainland outside the cities and towns.
A roadtrip is the best way to explore the countryside of Greece and the ideal time to do that is spring or early autumn, when nature is at its best and the temperatures are still mild.
There are numerous places to visit and some of the most visited ones are Delphi, Olympia, Meteora and Nafplion.
The mountainous areas of the greek mainland are significantly less warm than areas located close to the sea during the summer and most of them, particularly the ones situated on the northern part of Greece, are mainly considered winter resorts: areas such as Arachova in Parnassos and Pelion are popular during Christmas and the rest of the winter as they usually get snowy and they offer some decent skiing and snowboarding opportunities.
Bear in mind that heavy snowfall can affect transfers by making driving quite challenging and in some cases, small mountainous villages may get temporarily cut off by the snow.
Visit during Holidays and Festivals
Most cultural festivals that involve music, theater and art take place from May to October, including the famous Athens and Epidaurus Festival.
Other ones, such as the International Film Festival of Thessaloniki take place later in November.
Most celebrations and fairs are religion-oriented and take place during the summer, with the most significant one being the Assumption, on August 15th. This is a great opportunity to join the locals and have fun the traditional way.
Although Greece is not the first destination that comes to your mind when thinking about Christmas, numerous mountainous areas such as Karpenisi, Pelion, Drama and Trikala turn into true winter wonderlands on the occasion of Christmas, while the Nea Year’s Eve firework show in Athens is quite impressive.
Other winter events not to miss if you enjoy attending festivals include the carnival. Although Patra is the most popular carnival destination, numerous other cities, towns or villages all over Greece and the islands organize carnival-related annual events. One of the most popular takes places in Naxos, with a revival of the Dionysian traditions.
The most important holiday for the Greeks is Easter, when most people head towards the countryside to attend festivals and take part in the local celebrations.
If you choose this time of the year for your trip to Greece, keep in mind that rural destinations get busy and the streets of big cities are empty, while museums and other attractions might be closed for a few days. (Note that Orthodox dates for easter may vary from the Catholic one)
Another great time to visit the Greek countryside is May Day, when most of the locals take some spare time to reconnect with nature and enjoy the delightful springtime.
Travelling on a budget
Are you running a tight budget and high season islands seem to be out of reach? It is totally possible to adjust your travel plans so that you can save money without missing the opportunity to see your dream destination.
The cheapest flights are usually available in the autumn and late spring, since the vast majority of people are unable to travel during this time of the year.
You will find plenty of bargains that aim at attracting visitors, although the schedules are less frequent compared to the summer season.
Another good option is to visit mountainous “Christmas” destinations during the fall or spring. Nature is truly beautiful at these times and it is much easier to drive around and explore, if you don’t mind missing out on skiing and snowboarding.
As far as islands and seaside resorts are concerned, prices tend to drop during springtime or the autumn, until early October, although you will find less variety in terms of facilities.
Several affordable luxury options are also available until June.
The low season starts in November and ends in March, and although the prices reach their lowest point, the islands are not recommended because of the cold weather and the lack of facilities.
When not to visit
You probably already have enough information regarding the best time to visit Greece, but which is actually the worst time to visit Greece and what should you be aware of before booking your trip?
Despite the fact that Mediterranean winters are considered mild, most Greek islands tend to get virtually empty during winter time.
As the weather gets colder and windier, more and more facilities shut down and go into hibernation from the beginning of the rain season in October until late spring.
The ferry schedules become less frequent due to the low demand.
Nevertheless, some of the islands remain lively all year long, especially the largest ones such as Crete, Rhodes and Corfu but also Syros, Aegina & Poros.
Another thing to consider is that if sightseeing is your main goal, it is a good idea to choose spring, autumn or early June and avoid July and August, when the heat might make your sightseeing experience considerably less pleasant.
At the same time, winter is not highly recommended for sightseeing in places that do not have a particularly vivid nightlife, since less daylight hours mean less time to stroll around.
Something to remember is that August may be the most popular month to visit Greece and its most well-known islands, but that does not necessarily mean that it is the best; in many cases, over-tourism may ruin it for you, especially if you value privacy and solitude over a vivid nightlife and would rather avoid the hordes of tourists.
The adventure seekers should keep in mind that it is better to stay away from Greece’s most popular hiking paths during the rain season and the winter, including Mount Olympus and the gorges of Crete, for reasons of safety, while most sea-related sports are a no-go during the winter time.
Lastly, if you are planning to visit Greece during the Orthodox Easter, the Assumption in August or some other public holiday, remember that most shops, restaurants and museums will probably be closed, so it is a good idea to consult a calendar of the major national holidays in Greece.
Greece has something different to offer during each time of the year and ultimately, it is up to you to decide according to your individual needs and preferences!