The Best Time to Visit Greece, According to a Local
From ancient sites to awe-inspiring islands, there's a lot to love about this Mediterranean country. A local explains the best time to visit Greece for your dream vacation.
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Think of a Mediterranean vacation, and Greece is sure to make your list of must-visit destinations. Its blend of seaside escapes, history, culture and mouthwatering cuisine make it one of the best places to travel for all types of tourists. And let’s not forget its islands! They’re prime honeymoon hot spots, consistently serving up some of the most romantic getaways. I can fully appreciate the draw—I loved it so much that I moved here, after all. And I’ll tell you this: It pays to know the best time to visit Greece before booking your trip.
Greek vacations are more popular than ever. In fact, a recent report from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, found that Greece was one of only six member countries to receive more flights in September 2023 than it did in September 2019. In other words, Greece is bouncing back to pre-COVID-19 levels. And that means you’ll have to contend with other tourists if you take a trip here.
As a local who’s lived in and written about this eclectic country for more than a decade, I know from experience that it’s impossible to avoid tourists entirely. It’s all about timing. Whether you want to beat the crowds, bask in the best weather imaginable or travel on the cheap, here’s the best time to visit Greece for the ultimate European vacation.
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What is the best time of year to visit Greece?
It’s hard to pinpoint a single best time to visit Greece, and that’s because it all depends on your priorities and how you weigh crowdedness, cost and climate. To spend the least amount of money, you may need to visit when temps are on the cooler side. For peak sunbathing weather, you’ll shell out more cash and contend with greater crowds.
If you want to avoid a Greece overrun by tourists, skip the summer months. In June, July and August, beaches are typically crowded, though it’s possible to find hidden coves even during this peak season—especially if you take a small boat tour from or around some of the islands or the Athens coastline.
No matter when you land on Greek soil, you’ll have to deal with some tourists. According to Bank of Greece data, 5.76 million international travelers visited the country in the first five months of 2023, proof of Greece’s ever-growing popularity. Still, there are quieter times to explore the country, such as during the shoulder-season months of September and October, early November and late March through May. Whether you’re discovering ancient ruins, exploring mainland destinations or bopping around little-known islands, you’ll find fewer crowds, mild temps and cheaper-than-high-season prices.
For me, the best time to visit Greece is from September until the end of October. The weather on a lot of the southern islands, such as Rhodes and Crete, is still warm enough to swim, with average daytime temperatures of 75 and 73 degrees respectively. Plus, the crowds are gone, as children have headed back to school.
Springtime is also a great option, and I recommend timing your visit so you can experience Greek Orthodox Easter. It usually falls in April or May (in 2024, it occurs on May 5), and it’s the most important holiday on the Greek calendar—more so than Christmas even. Expect to eat plenty of delicious lamb and join in neighborhood celebrations and street processions to the local church.
What time of year is the cheapest to visit Greece?
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While a Greek getaway isn’t necessarily cheap, there are ways to save money when traveling to the country. For starters, avoid the high-season summer months of June, July and August. The winter off-season sees prices drop considerably, and this tends to be the best time to find hotel deals. On Tripadvisor, for instance, the same Athens hotel costs about $52 more in April than in January—and though summer rates aren’t available yet, it’s safe to bet that the price will rise in June, July and August.
Traveling during the winter will serve you well when booking your flight too. The cheapest airfare from the United States tends to occur during the winter months. When I searched Expedia for flights for a two-week vacation, I found a round-trip ticket from Newark, New Jersey, to Athens in early December going for $473. A round-trip ticket from Newark to Athens in June comes in at $992.
When is the weather the best in Greece?
Best weather is subjective, depending on where you’re traveling from and if you like your vacation to be hot. Without a doubt, the summer of 2023 set records. As the Guardian reported, the country had the hottest July in 50 years, with temperatures in Athens repeatedly exceeding 104 degrees. So if you’re here for the Mediterranean island sunbathing, you’ll need to account for these levels of heat (and maybe plan some indoor activities, just in case).
As a local, I think the best time to travel to Greece for great weather is September, when daytime temperatures are a balmy 82 degrees and sea temperatures 77 degrees, making swimming still possible. The fall months of October and early November average 64 to 72 degrees, so it’s pleasant to sit outside at a cafe, sipping the staple drink of a Greek frappe (cold coffee milkshake).
December through February are the country’s coldest months, with daytime temperatures averaging 54 to 57 degrees. Thanks to the Mediterranean climate, winters can be mild—but they’re also wet. You may even see snow on the mainland in the mountainous areas to the north and on some of the islands, such as Crete. It creates good skiing opportunities, and while they can’t compete with some of the world’s more famous ski resorts, there are a handful of ski resorts in the country that locals (and in-the-know tourists) use yearly.
When packing your suitcase, think layers for all seasons. And be prepared for high humidity, which makes it feel sticky in the summer and chilly in the winter.
What is the best time of year to go to Athens?
The best time to visit Greece if you’re planning to stop in the capital city is during the fall or spring shoulder seasons. In April, May, September and October, daytime and nighttime temperatures aren’t uncomfortably hot or too cold. The spring and fall months offer plenty of opportunity to wander the Athenian streets, discovering the small neighborhoods. Plus, the cooler weather makes climbing up to the Acropolis a much more pleasurable experience.
It’s also worth mentioning that crowds in the shoulder season and off-season are considerably smaller, so lines to enter the Acropolis are shorter. In fact, the wait to view this ancient monument gets so long in the summer that Greece had to set a cap of 20,000 visitors daily to shorten lines during the dangerous heat. By visiting in the off-season, you won’t be waiting in line in the sweltering heat, and there won’t be a mad rush to buy a ticket before the cap is reached.
If you’re looking for even more things to do in Greece, visit on Ohi Day. The national holiday occurs on Oct. 28 and commemorates the day in 1940 when Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas rejected Mussolini’s ultimatum to have free passage through Greece for his Italian troops. You’ll find street parades all over the country on this holiday, but the one in central Athens is particularly impressive, with its added military parade and marching band.
What is the best time to visit Santorini and the other Greek islands?
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Greece is famous for its islands, especially Santorini, with its blue-domed churches and sugar cube houses, so atypical for the Cycladic island chain it’s located within, and Mykonos, with its cosmopolitan atmosphere, cobbled alleyways and hidden coves. They tend to attract visitors during the summer months, but that may not be the ideal time to vacation here.
If you’re looking for a beach vacation away from the crowds, my advice would be to book a trip for September. It’ll still be warm enough to swim and get a nice tan, but you won’t have to deal with a ton of tourists.
Don’t rule out wintertime for your trip to the Greek islands. Admittedly, much shuts down in the off season, but you’ll get to experience the real Greece, have frequent sunny days and still find places to eat traditional Greek food, such as souvlaki (the locals need to eat too!). The lack of crowds allows you to roam the islands at your own pace.
Besides, temps aren’t too bad even in the winter. Santorini’s caldera entices with morning mists floating over its surface. And with average winter temperatures of 55 degrees, it’s not too chilly.
There are several flights from mainland Greece to the islands that are cheaper during the spring and fall, but my favorite way to travel is by ferry. The lack of competition on ferry routes means this method of transportation isn’t cheap at any time of the year, but Greek ferries resemble mini cruise ships and offer lovely cabins on longer routes. Make it a part of the whole experience: Take a weekend break in Athens followed by a journey by ferry to the islands. Note that ferries have a reduced schedule in the spring and fall months, with more connections in the summer.
How many days in Greece is enough?
Just as you would when planning a trip to destinations like London and Hawaii, start by considering where you’ll be flying out of. The ideal number of days to spend in Greece depends on where you’re traveling from. If you’re flying from the United States, you probably want to spend longer in the country than if you’re adding a stop in Greece after visiting nearby Italy.
Also consider how much of the country you want to see and the type of tourism you’re interested in. Do you want to stick to a few days in Athens exploring the ancient sites, then head to an island for some fun in the sun? Do you want to just connect in Athens before flying immediately to a Greek island, or would you rather make the city your home base for the entire trip? Or are you interested in heading to the Greek countryside to experience traditional villages?
Most trips start and end in Athens, where you can experience the city in at least three full days. Visitors then tend to hop on a ferry or fly to a popular Greek island like Santorini or Mykonos, either basing themselves there or ferry-hopping between two or three others. You can reach mainland destinations by train or by hiring a car—factor in travel times between destinations when planning your vacation.
For a decent taster of the country, plan for a 10-day trip: Athens, plus one or two islands. Two weeks can provide a lovely combination of a city break and countryside getaways, plus swimming and sunbathing around the Greek coast.
One thing’s for sure: Don’t try to see it all in one trip. Greece is a country to savor and explore at leisure, with time to wander the charming cobbled streets and sip a frappe in a local cafe, watching local life unfold around you. Greece and its monuments have been around for centuries—they’re not going anywhere.
Places to stay in Greece
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Most vacations in Greece will commence in Athens, and there are many neighborhoods to choose from when booking a stay. While not a sprawling city by U.S. standards, it is one of the bigger European cities.
If you’ve never visited Athens before, a hotel located smack dab in the center, near the Acropolis and its accompanying museum, is a great choice. The upscale Herodion Hotel attracts visitors with its rooftop-bar views of the famous monument. Plus, it offers airport transfers.
Boutique hotels such as Asomaton (don’t miss its relaxing plunge pool) and Altar Suites have cozy vibes in lovingly renovated centuries-old buildings. They’re within walking distance of all Athens’s main sites, as well as the contemporary old gasworks district of Gazi, where you’ll find nightlife, tavernas and the industrial museum.
Heading to Santorini, base yourself at either Voreina Gallery Suites or Zannos Melathron Hotel. Both properties were renovated to their former splendor in the less-busy village of Pyrgos. You still get the magnificent Caldera sunset views without the crowds.
In Mykonos, Mykonos Town makes the best base if you don’t mind being in the thick of it all. Hotels such as Semeli and Myconian Korali Relais & Chateaux have sleek Grecian lines and unfussy furnishings. Both have pools and airport transfers.
Book your visit
- Eurostat: “Commercial flights in the summer still below 2019 level”
- Enterprise Greece: “Greek tourism on track for record-setting year”
- Schengen Visa News: “Greece to Introduce Caps on Daily Visitors to Acropolis”
- The Guardian: “Heatwave set to be Greece’s longest as extreme weather continues in Europe”
- World Bank Group: “Climate Change Knowledge Portal–Climatology; Greece”
- Greek National Tourism Organisation: “Athens”