Here is a guide on how to enjoy Greece in winter. We have a list of things to do in winter in Greece and weather and clothing tips!
When most people think of Greece, they immediately envisage crystal-clear turquoise waters reflecting off white-washed Greek buildings, gorgeous sandy beaches, and fabulous Greek cuisine. It is no wonder that Greece is often considered a ‘summer-time’ holiday destination.
But the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. For a country so rich in history and culture, Greece should not be dismissed when considering a European winter getaway.
As such, I’ve put together this guide on what you can do in Greece in winter to inspire you to visit this beautiful country, even in the colder winter months!
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Is Greece Worth Visiting In Winter?
So, when is winter in Greece? The months of December through February make up the winter season in Greece.
Winter in Greece is certainly not the country’s popular season – that award goes to July and August.
Visiting Greece in winter, you will find that the beaches are quiet, the islands are a little deserted, and the weather is undoubtedly chillier. But that doesn’t make it a wrong time to visit. In fact, in many ways, winter is the best time to experience this ancient nation’s culture, history, and versatility.
With many incredible attractions and destinations, Greece has much to offer the winter traveler. Fewer tourists mean shorter queues to get into major attractions, less crowded restaurants, and better pricing and travel deals to take advantage of.
Whatever kind of vacation you’re looking for, a Greece winter is a brilliant time to visit.
Greece Winter Weather
You may be wondering if it gets cold in Greece. Compared to most European countries, the weather in Greece in winter is mild and pleasant. So, a trip to southern Greece is the perfect option if you want to spend a week away from the biting cold.
If milder temperatures are what you’re after, southern Greece is not only mild but frequently quite warm in the winter. You’ll definitely want to pack a pair of shorts for the sunniest days. Greece in January or February does not offer laze-on-the-beach weather. Still, it is a great time to explore the country’s many ancient sites without dripping with sweat and being surrounded by other over-enthusiastic tourists.
Winter is Greece’s rainy season, so pack a rain jacket and some sturdy waterproof shoes, particularly if you plan hiking. The northern and mountainous regions are a good deal colder than the southern lowlands. If you’re keen on snowy peaks, January and February are the coldest months. And if you head to the mountains, you’ll likely find snow there.
We’ve dedicated a whole post on what to pack for Greece travel for those seeking more inspiration.
Greece In December – What Is A Greek Christmas Like?
Listen to Greek Christmas carols. Admire the decorations, including lit-up boats celebrating a Greek Saint Basil and jolly older men representing another saint that’s undoubtedly not Santa. And enjoy the merry local traditions of whichever city or village you’re in.
How is the weather in Greece in December? As mentioned above, December weather in Greece can be surprisingly mild. Although the mountains may have snow and cold weather, southern Greece and the Greek islands boast pretty comfy weather. Visiting Athens in December, Crete in winter, or Paros in winter are all excellent choices for a warmer Christmas holiday.
For a general idea of what temperatures to expect, the average Greece temperature in December ranges between a high of 14 degrees Celsius (57 Fahrenheit) and a low of 6 degrees Celsius (43 Fahrenheit). Again, however, the average weather in Greece in December varies drastically between the inland mountainous region and the coasts and islands.
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Best Things To Do In Greece In Winter
There is so much to enjoy during a Greek winter. In winter, the colder (relatively speaking) Greek weather has some unique attractions and activities, making it an excellent time to explore.
These are our top picks for what to do in Greece in winter.
1. Go Museum-Hopping In Athens
There are some incredible things to do in Athens, but the famous ancient city’s top draws are the historic sites and the world-class museums. The best thing about visiting Greece in the winter is that the small crowds make museum-hopping so much easier and more enjoyable.
Two of the best museums in Athens are the Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological Museum. Both showcase phenomenal historical artifacts from up to eight thousand years ago! If you’ve ever seen ancient Greek art in your history textbooks, chances are you’ll find it here.
The Byzantine and Christian Museum and Benaki Museum are two other fantastic options for those spending more than a weekend in Athens. You’ll learn so much about Greek history and culture and see some mind-boggling things, too. All with hardly anyone around you, which museum lovers will confirm, really elevates the experience.
2. Go Skiing In Arachova
Greece may not be well-known for its skiing, but the Hellenic country has some great options. The mountain town of Arachova is close to Mount Parnassos, which has some excellent ski slopes for all skill levels.
While we don’t recommend choosing Greece over the more famous destinations for a ski holiday, it is lovely to add to your Greek winter vacation. Not only can you ski here, but Arachova also offers world-class resorts and spas, fantastic nightlife, and some genuinely once-in-a-lifetime views.
3. See Meteora In Snow
If you’re visiting Greece in January or February, you have a chance of spotting Meteora surrounded by snow. This one-of-a-kind monastery is magical in all conditions. The snow just adds another layer to the beauty.
Throughout winter, snow or none, Meteora is a brilliant destination. The monastery complex is built on six natural pillars and massive boulders, making for a unique destination. The surrounding landscape is lush and green in winter, benefitting from the seasonal rains and significantly reduced crowds.
The structures were initially built so the monks could live in isolation, far from civilization and nearly inaccessible to outsiders. Today, the monastery is one of the best places to visit in Greece in November, December, January, and throughout the entire year really.
4. Explore Mount Pelion From Volos
Base yourself in the magnificent city of Volos, only 27 kilometers from one of Greece’s most famous ski centers: Mount Pelion (1500 m). Probably among the most stunning landscapes in Greece, Mount Pelion Ski Center is a year-round destination that you can also visit, even if skiing is not one of your interests.
As a matter of fact, besides forests, you will find spectacular beaches, quaint mountain villages, and — of course — the renowned Mount Pelion.
The ski center features five ski slopes, four lifts, and a chalet with restaurants, cafes, and accommodations. There is also a ski and snowboard school.
In the nearby area, visitors can explore the magnificent city of Volos, only 27 kilometers from the ski resort.
5. Get Off The Beaten Path In Zagorochoria
An inspiring region about a 5-hour drive from Athens, the area is an outstanding winter destination featuring the most incredibly gorgeous mountain villages you could ever imagine.
Located in the region of Epirus, on the northwestern side of Greece, the local villages boast picture-perfect stone houses with grey-tiled roofs on charming narrow alleys.
Still somewhat virgin to international tourism, Zagorochoria can quickly become your favorite European winter destination if you are looking for an off-the-beaten-track place to discover.
6. Go To The Christmas Markets Of Thessaloniki
Located in northern Greece, about a five-hour drive from Athens, this important city is a great winter destination and the best place in the country to explore its Christmas markets and other events related to the merry season.
As is the tradition in Christmas Markets, you will find an assortment of Christmas trinkets and souvenirs, tree decorations, lights, and delicious treats — do not forget that Thessaloniki has the reputation of being the city that produces the best sweets and desserts in the country!
7. Take A Hiking Trip Through The Wild Mountain Landscapes
The mainland of Greece is covered with mountainous hiking trails. Most are not for the faint of heart and can take days or even weeks to complete. They’ll be some of the most memorable days of your life, but you do need to have quite a high fitness level.
Hike along a scenic riverside path on the Samaria Gorge Trail, which takes you through Byzantine ruins in addition to the spectacular nature. Or find one of the many trails on beautiful Mount Athos.
For those keen on a multi-day hike, the seventy-five-kilometer Menalon trail will take you through the heart of the Peloponnese. Explore charming mountain villages, deep canyons, and striking mountains. It should take you around three days to complete, with time to stop and enjoy your surroundings.
8. Head To Nymfaio, The Capital Of Silversmithing
Regarding mountain villages, you should include Nymfaio in your itinerary. The village, famed for its silversmithing industry and local warriors, is a pretty town with a rich history in Western Macedonia. Founded by Vlach travelers in the 14th century, Nymfaio quickly became known for its skillful smiths.
The town of Nymfaio features many museums where visitors can see religious silverware, jewelry, and gold artifacts made by the town’s master artisans. Besides its cultural riches, Nymfaio has a wealth of architectural and natural beauty. Visitors can bask in the picturesque scenery from the village’s old houses or wander through the scenic streets.
There is also an environmental protection center run by the Greek ecological organization Environmental Centre ARCTUROS; at the center, visitors can see rescued bears and wolves that are too weak to survive by themselves.
9. Taste Greece’s Unique Winter Cuisine
Greece is particularly well-known for its summer foods. Greek salads, light meals, and rich yogurts with berries are all country staples. But the food goes through a substantial shift when the weather gets chilly.
If you’re visiting Greece in December, try traditional Christmas treats like spinach, cheese pies, and roast pork. Of course, Greek coffee with a slice of baklava is the perfect way to end any summer or winter meal. But its rich flavor is best suited to winter.
10. Swim In Thermal Lake Vouliagmeni
Lake Vouliagmeni is just outside of Athens, making for a great day trip from the city. It’s a beautiful, brackish lake with pleasant temperatures at any time of year. The minerals in the large lake include potassium, ammonium, calcium, and iodine. Together, the water’s minerals relieve several health issues, including bone and muscle stresses, eczema, and arthritis.
The lake also has a happy doctor fish population, which provides natural (and ticklish) exfoliation. The spa facilities also include sunbeds, a restaurant, and nearby accommodation options.
11. Visit The Greek Islands
Modern Greece is most well-known for its gorgeous Greek islands. People come in droves to laze on the beaches, explore wild paradises, and enjoy the laid-back island vibe.
Winter on the Greek Isles is slightly different and may not be your obvious choice, but it should be considered nonetheless. The local population settles back into everyday daily life, and the tourism industry hunkers down till the subsequent summer season. You may find this to be your favorite time to visit the islands.
Get to know the locals, play backgammon and embrace the late-night cafe culture. Explore the islands, hike, and cycle across the green landscapes. Winter is also when you’ll have some of the best cultural experiences, including live performances and art shows.
If you’re unsure about the weather on the Greek island in December or January, rest assured you’ll be able to enjoy many comfy and sunny days. Although obviously much less warm than summer, winter allows for outdoor activities like sunbathing, which would be drenched in sweat in summer.
Corfu is one of the best options for a Greek winter escape, with a “vibrant local tradition, a beautiful Old Town, and lots to keep you busy. Crete and Lesvos are also terrific options, with mountain villages you can hike between and frequently mild winter weather. Another option that becomes more budget-friendly in the winter is Santorini.
Tip: Do note that most ferry operators and flights connecting the mainland to the Greek Isles operate on a much more reduced schedule during these off-peak winter months. Be sure to plan and book in advance to avoid running into any schedule issues.
12. Wander The Snowy Streets Of Ioannina
This charming city is the perfect combination – with cobblestone streets, snow-capped mountain peaks, and a serene lake, making for a picturesque winter escape.
From taverns and museums to the city’s famed castle and stunning views, this lovely city has so much to offer.
Don’t forget to take a boat ride across Lake Pamvotis to take in the scenery.
13. Explore Kastoria’s Historical Buildings
Another Greek winter gem, Kastoria, is a crucial mountain settlement close to the Albanian border in West Macedonia. Perched on Lake Orestiada, Kastoria boasts a unique historical collection of ancient Byzantine and Ottoman mansions and buildings with characteristic wooden balconies and over fifty awe-inspiring ancient Byzantine churches, everything surrounded by the impressive mountainous landscapes of the Macedonia region. With a dusting of snow, these buildings become enchanting.
Kastoria is also known for the old stone bridges characteristic of the local architecture; the best known is the arched Bridge of Zouzouli, dating back to 1880. The bridge is about 7 meters high and was built over the waters of a stream carrying the same name.
14. Enjoy Winter Sports In Karpenisi
The city of Karpenisi is located in the valley of the river Karpenisiotis in the southern part of the Pindus Mountains.
This enchanting small town is surrounded by the mountains of Kaliakouda, Helidona, and Timfristos, and it has often been dubbed the small Switzerland of Greece.
The place is a popular tourist destination during the winter months and is a favorite of locals at Christmas. Yet, its incredible pine tree forests and rugged landscape make it a fantastic destination all year round for those fond of the outdoors.
15. Take In The Alpine Atmosphere Of Metsovo
Surrounded by the imposing Pindus mountain range and at about 1200 meters above sea level, Metsovo is not only a beautiful Greek city but also one of the most popular winter destinations in the country. Popular for its gorgeous buildings made of stone, including mansions, monasteries, bridges, cobbled streets, and squares.
The town has managed to preserve its traditional character, remaining home to old traditions. The city offers many cultural events and sports opportunities, as well as cozy tavernas and streets filled with the smells of roasting chestnuts all winter.
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Winter In Greece Wrap-Up
Whether you prefer spending your Greek winter holidays sightseeing in the city of Athens, decide to explore the Greek islands in December, January, or February, want to indulge in a thermal baths experience, or prefer to go hiking instead, you will no doubt be pleasantly surprised by all that this fantastic country has to offer, even during the much quieter Greece winter months.
So, why not try Greece in the off-season and book your next winter getaway to this magical country instead?