When to Come to Athens
When to come to Greece depends on the type of
person you are and also when you are able. I am
one of those people who thinks that anytime is a
good time to come to Greece. Every seasons has
its charm and every season has its
July and August are fine if you are prepared. This
is the time most people come to Greece because
this is when most people have their holidays and
what could be better than to be close to the sea
during the hottest months of the year? It's more
crowded and rooms on the islands are harder to
find, but the island nightlife is jumping and the
beaches are lively. Face it: Greece is fun in the
summer. More fun than most people can handle and
many people who have spent a summer here have
become spoiled....I am one of them. Athens can be
pretty hot in the day but mornings and late
afternoons are fine and the nights in the Plaka
and Psiri are wonderful if not a little crowded.
Athens empties in August especially the week of
the 15th which is the Saints day of the Panagia (Virgin Mary) and this is a great time to be in the
city if it is not too warm. You can get good deals
at many Athens hotels in August. If you plan to be
in Athens during these months make sure you stay
in a hotel with air-conditioning.
If you are traveling to Greece in July-August make sure you book hotels and ferries in advance, not only if you plan to go to the popular islands of Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, or Rhodes but even the small less-known islands because they get crowded too and have fewer hotels.
You can also stay on the Athenian Coast, known as the Athenian Riviera which has a number of really nice beach hotels and surrounding nightlife and getting into city is easy from most of them. You can use my Create an Itinerary form to get help or information from a reliable Greek travel agency.
May-June and September-October are my favorite
months (now that I am older and more mature).
The weather is perfect and the college kids are in
school so it's quieter on the more popular
islands and there are fewer people in the museums and archaeological sites. There is still some nightlife but the
beaches are almost free of people on the less
mainstream islands. You may get a day of
rain but it is unlikely and when it does happen it usually adds a little excitement. This
is a time to go to the islands like Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, or Rhodes because most of the tourists are gone. If you go early in the spring or late in
the summer then bring a windbreaker and a warm
sweater. You probably won't need more then that.
The weather in Athens is perfect for lunches and dinners in
outdoor restaurants (most restaurants in Athens
are outdoors), hanging out in cafes, going to the
local beaches, climbing the Acropolis and
exploring the city and the countryside. Usually
the weather stays pretty warm at least until the
beginning of December and sometimes it stays warm
with periods of rain here and there for most of
November to March can be cold and rainy but it can
also be like Indian Summer. Athens comes alive
during these months and there is nothing like a
night out in the city or wandering around all day shopping, going to museums or hanging out in cafes and restaurants. It does snow in Greece. Not
more then once a season in Athens or the islands,
in fact rare enough for it to be a major event.
However it does snow in the mountains so much that
you can ski there. The last few years I have gone
to Greece for Christmas, January and February and
some days the weather was beautiful. There were
even people swimming in Faliron. Maybe they were
crazy but it was warm enough for me to be on the
beach in a T-shirt watching them. There were a few
days when my Greek friends were complaining about
the cold but it did not seem cold to me (and I
live in North Carolina). January of 2002 we were
there when it actually snowed for three days! The
biggest snowfall ever in Athens and the first in
about ten years. We loved it! See Snow and Christmas
as well as my page for Traveling to Greece in the Winter and Off-Season Travel in Greece
February can be cool with periods of rain but it can also be what they call the halcyones which is an extended period of spring-like weather when even going for a swim is a tempting idea. It is worth the risk because even if you don't get the halcyones weather, the winters
are still mild and nightlife is at its peak, especially during Apokreas which is the equivelant of Carnival or Mardi Gras. The last two weekends are the best. The Plaka, Psiri and Thission are full of merry-makers, blowing horns and throwing confetti like it is New Year's eve. There are parades in the area of Moschaton and in the city of Patras there are enormous parades and celebrations. Tavernas are full and open late and the bars, clubs and
cafes are thriving. When Apokreas ends, 40 days before Easter, things get a little quieter as people begin their fasting. But it is during this period that spring begins and there is a procession of trees, plants and wildflowers in bloom that make the archaeological sites of Athens and the surrounding countryside look like the Garden of Eden.
April is usually Easter time which is magical. If
you are lucky enough to be on an island during
Easter when all the wildflowers are in bloom and
the smell of lamb roasting fills the air you will
know what I mean. It is also a great time to be in
Athens because there is no traffic since most
people are out of town and everything is green, flowers and trees are blooming or in the process of blooming. The Church bells ring, there are ceremonies and processions which peak at midnight of Saturday-Sunday when there are fireworks, a cacophony of sound as every church in the city seems to be ringing its bells. Most people go to the islands or to the country for Easter Sunday but many people stay in Athens to celebrate with their family, eating lamb and kokouretsi, taking walks in the Plaka and
around the Acropolis. You really get the feeling that after the long winter life has begun again. People greet each other on the street saying Christos Anesti(Christ has Arisen) and answering Alithos Anesti (Truly He Has Arisen). To me it feels like Ola Elada Anesti (All of Greece has arisen). See my Greece for Easter page. It is also high-season on the islands which means like
July-August you should book hotels and ferries well before you come.
Generally between April and November expect
sun in Greece.
Between June and September expect nothing but
sun. In the winter expect a mix. So when is the best time to come? Anytime!
My motto is pack light or not at all. Because of the economy in Greece many shops are selling clothing for very low prices. In many cases much lower than cost because if you have to pay the rent, the gas and electric bills or your taxes, having a lot of inventory and no cash is impractical. So instead of shopping at home
for clothes for
your trip to Greece just bring the bare minimum and do your clothes shopping in Greece and help out the struggling shops in Athens. You will be surprised at the variety and the styles, and probably find stuff that is nicer than what you can find at home and for a lot less. There are hundreds of clothing shops on Ermou Street, Athinas, Aeolou, in The Plaka and Monastiraki and
all around central Athens and what better way is there to get to know a city than by shopping for necessities?
Traveling light in Greece requires no great sacrifice. You don't need lots of clothes, no
matter who you are or what your lifestyle is. The
heaviest thing you need in the summer will be a
wind-breaker and chances are you won't use it. If
you need a heavy sweater for early spring or late
fall, buy one in Greece. They are cheap and
beautiful and they last. You will need a couple bathing
suits. 3 T-shirts. 2 pants (one for comfort, one
for dinner) a couple pairs of shorts. A couple
skirts. Underwear. Towel. Sneakers and personal
effects. If you can live without a blow dryer,
electric razor etc. leave them behind. Most hotels
have hairdryers in the rooms these days and not shaving makes you look cool and relaxed. You can
buy flip-flops or leather sandals in Athens and
most likely these will be your feet apparel of
choice. If you can keep it down to one bag, you
will be in and out of the mass of disgruntled
baggage seekers before you know it, and you will
find traveling to be a very simple affair. Like
anything, the more pieces involved, the more
complicated the game. If you are coming in the
winter buy a capaline thermal undershirt by
Patagonia from your local trail shop and bring a
parka in case it rains and you will be prepared
for the worst Athens weather. If you plan to go
into the mountains or be on a boat in the winter
you should buy or bring a wool sweater. If you are
worried you may be too wimpy even for Athen's mild
winters then bring a warm coat but don't get
carried away and bring something bulky and more
suited to the North Pole. Anyway if you need to
buy a coat there are some great shops and in
January they have sales all over Athens
and also in August. Don't worry about how to dress or not wanting to stand out. People in Greece dress just like we do.
Suitcase, backpack or combination?
Not to endorse a particular company's product but a couple years ago my wife convinced me to buy a bag
from Eagle Creek that is both a suitcase and knapsack.
The frame zips away. It doesn't have a hard shell like
luggage but I have brought back many a bottle of ouzo
with it and have not broken one. It's light and when
it's on my back I don't even know it's there.
Suitcases are cumbersome. To the Samsonite crowd a backpack might seem
like sacrilege but there's a reason why they are so
popular. They make life easier. Now I have a suitcase-backpack
combination with wheels, sort of the best of both worlds, made by
High Sierra. Actually I have two. One for short trips and one for the whole summer. Rick Steves has a backpack with wheels too that is
a sensible size and can be stowed in the overhead compartments
on an airplane. But the most important thing is that you want your luggage to have wheels. Until they invent luggage that defies the laws of gravity and flies or floats, wheels are the best option.
Be sure to visit my website Off-Season Travel in Greece which has winter itineraries and links to other pages of interest. Also speaking of clothing have a look at my Greece Travel T-shirts which will enable you to be recognized by other people who use my website and also get discounts in
shops and restaurants.