With its glittering blue Aegean waters and dreamy sunsets, romantic picnics by day morphing into celebrity-studded beach parties by night, all in the backdrop of eons of history and an intriguing mythology with its heroic tales of conquests and battles, Greece is a luxury traveler’s delight. The typical Greek summer is composed of island hopping on ferries, afternoon cocktail soirees and private pool-side lounging in lavish suites. This magical affair with the good life comes at a price few can afford. With high airfares, expensive accommodation, crowded beaches and high-priced everything, a summer in Greece does not suit everyone’s wallet.
The less discovered Greek winter, with it’s solitary beaches, empty islands and a select few operational hotels and cafes. While the usual Athens-Santorini-Mykonos trio is no good for a Greek winter, Athens being a year-out destination can be clubbed with many other lesser explored islands closer to the sunny side of the world.
When and where:
I traveled to Greece at the end of November, when ferries to the islands were infrequent and operating on unreliable schedules (due to rough waters). I spent 2 nights in Athens, 1 in Santorini and 2 in Mykonos; of which Athens was sunny throughout and a light jacket sufficed for the evenings, Santorini was drab and depressing, and Mykonos was bright and sunny (maybe just my luck).
Perks of traveling in the winter:
- As is the case with most destinations off-season, airfares and hotels offer cheaper rates and the locals don’t offer everything at a premium. While most people don’t consider traveling to Greece in the winter for it’s lack of a shining sun, solitude and unfettered access to empty islands comes cheaper than a crowded and expensive summer in Greece.
- Athens is as charming in the winter as in the summer, with its monuments, temples and the restaurant-lined Plaka area that comes alive as soon as the sun goes down. Truth be told, it is better experienced in winter, with a light breeze under the winter sun, and the absence of crowds to manoeuvre through.
- While ferries are infrequent, seats are easily available and you can almost always find available the dates and ferry timings of your choice. Unlike the summer months, the ferry is usually only 20% occupied, and the ferry staff is accommodating about letting you occupy the business class seats without a premium.
- Flights to the islands are considerably cheaper during the winter, and flying in these 80-seater planes is an experience in itself. Watching the plane fly low above bright blue water and tiny islands along the way is a delight that lasts throughout the 20 minutes of the flight duration.
Suggested Read: 5 Must-Visit Greek Islands
Busting myths about the Greek winter:
- While hotels and cafes shutting down for renovation during the winter is common, many luxury resorts and AirBnb accommodations are open for business. Local family-run taverns are operational, whipping up authentic Greek cuisine for without the peak-season induced premiums on dining.
- Many sightseeing options and water activities don’t operate on the islands, including sunset cruises and volcano visits. While that is true for places like Mykonos, where round-the-clock parties give way to peaceful afternoons, the less commercial islands are all the same to tourists as they would be during the summer.
- While its unlikely you’ll be able to hit the waves, beach bumming will take on a new meaning in the form of afternoon picnics by the water on secluded beaches, and hours of having the beaches all to yourselves. Some islands are famous for their view (Including Santorini and Zakinthos) of the Aegean sea or their golden sunsets, which are still as possible in the winter as the summer- but without the hordes of tourists to ruin the experience.
- Not all islands are fit for visiting during the winter and Santorini is one of them. While the main parts of Mykonos are shut (and so are the parties) the island itself offers a beautiful landscape- but with little else to do. Islands to visit instead are Crete, Hydra and Gavdos (the southern-most Greek island).
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Author: Nikita Butalia
Nikita Butalia is the founder/editor of Stumbling Around Delhi. A 20-something travel blogger who shows off her experiences in witty and informal blog posts based on luxury weekend getaways around Delhi, short trips around the country and solo travel experiences abroad. She dreams of checking the entire world off her bucket list, Antarctica being at the top of that list!