Ancient ruins, piercing blue skies, the balmy Aegean, and a culture alive with passionate music and incredible food – Greece offers all this and more.

Whether you’re sailing into a colourful harbour in April, listening to the pounding surf on a sun-drenched deck in the height of July or exploring the Acropolis museum in November, your travel senses will be in overdrive. 

Women carry bowls of bread for Easter celebrations down a narrow lane in Olympos on Karpathos Island.
Women carry bowls of bread for Easter celebrations down a narrow lane in Olympos on Karpathos Island. ©Hector Christiaen/Shutterstock

High Season: June to August 

Best for families and groups of friends
The summer months are when Greece see crowds and temperature soar, some days reaching over 30ºC (86ºF).  Sights, tours and ferries are running full tilt and accommodation prices are at premium rates.  Beaches are busy, but there is a great summer holiday vibe around. 

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Shoulder  Seasons: April & May, September & October 

Best for exploring traditional Greek culture   

If you can, visit in the shoulder seasons – late spring or early autumn, the weather is softer and the crowds are slimmer. Be sure to visit a few out-of-the-way villages where you can still find traditional culture. Rent a car and explore. Stop for lunch, check out the local shops and test out your Greek. Visit at least one local coffee shop (kafeneio), one seafood taverna next to a port and one traditional live-music venue. This is where you’ll experience Greek culture at its most potent.

Many sites (including the ancient sites in Athens) offer free entry on the first Sunday of the month, except in July and August. Be mindful that internal flights and island ferries have reduced schedules outside of summer season.

Low Season: November to March

Best for a break away to clear the mind

When the country empties of tourists, many hotels, sights and restaurants shut down, especially on the islands. But you can get lucky and get an Airbnb or rental for a fraction of the summer rate.  Be warned though, ferry schedules are skeletal and temperatures drop considerably, Crete and Athens can see snowfall.  

Choosing the day’s Greek adventure: swim, fish, boat ride, walk?
Choosing the day’s Greek adventure: swim, fish, boat ride, walk? ©Alexis Averbuck/Lonely Planet

January

Most islands go into hibernation during winter. However, the capital and surrounding mainland welcome visitors with festivals that aren’t really aimed at tourists. Expect local insight and warmth from hospitality (rather than the sun).
Key Event: The day of Christ's baptism by St John is celebrated throughout Greece on 6 January. Seas, lakes and rivers are all blessed, with the largest ceremony held at Piraeus.

February

While February is an unlikely time to head to Greece, if you like a party and can time your visit with Carnival, which starts three weeks before Lent, it’s well worth it.
Key Event:  Carnival, expect wild weekends of costume parades, floats, feasting and traditional dancing. There are regional variations: Patra's Carnival is the largest, while Skyros features men and their male 'brides' dressed in goatskins.

Traditional colourful houses on Symi Island.
Traditional colourful houses on Symi Island. ©Timofeev Vladimir/Shutterstock

March

The islands are sleepy but the weather is warming up, making March a relaxed time to visit. Although the national calendar is quiet, there are countless religious festivals celebrated with great gusto in towns.
Key Event: Independence Day, 25 March,. The anniversary of the hoisting of the Greek flag by independence supporters at Moni Agias Lavras is celebrated with parades and dancing.

Read more:  Plan your perfect Greek island-hopping adventure

April

A great month to visit with the scent of orange blossom heavy in the air. Easter weekend is busy with vacationing Greeks; reserve accommodation well in advance. Some businesses shut up shop for the week.
Key EventOrthodox Easter. Communities commemorate Jesus' crucifixion with candlelight processions on Good Friday and celebrate his resurrection at midnight on Easter Saturday. 

Small tasting plates of salty Greek cheese in Ladadika quarter.
Small tasting plates of salty Greek cheese in Ladadika quarter of Thessaloniki. ©Anita Isalska/Lonely Planet

May

If you're planning to go hiking, May is a great time to hit Greece's trails. Temperatures are relatively mild and wildflowers create a huge splash of colour. Local produce fills Greek kitchens.
Key Event: May Day on first day of the month is marked by a mass exodus from towns for picnics in the country. Wildflowers are gathered and made into wreaths to decorate houses. It's a day associated with workers' rights.

June

For festival-goers looking for contemporary acts rather than traditional village parties, June is hopping on the mainland. Top national and international performers fill atmospheric stages with dance, music and drama.
Key Event: Feast of St John the Baptist, 24 June.  The country is ablaze with bonfires  as Greeks light up the wreaths they made on May Day.

Parthenon at night on Acropolis at Athens Greece
Parthenon at night on Acropolis at Athens Greece ©Borislav Stefanov/500px

July 

Guaranteed sunshine as temperatures soar and nightlife buzzes, crowds flock to the islands' beaches. Outdoor cinemas and giant beach clubs draw visitors to Athens' nightlife.
Key Event: Rockwave Festival, with  major international artists (with an emphasis on metal, most years) and is held over several weekends at Terra Vibe, a parkland venue on the outskirts of Athens in Malakasa.

August

Respect the high heat of August – do a little bit less and relax a little more fully. If you’re travelling midmonth, reserve well ahead as Greeks take to the roads and boats in large numbers.
Key Event: August moon festival.  Under the year's brightest moon, historical venues in Athens open with free moonlit performances. Watch theatre, dance and music at venues such as the Acropolis or Roman Agora. The festival is also celebrated at other towns and sites around Greece; check locally for details.
 

Blue and white Greek church of Agios Kirykos, situated on the rocky coast of Ikaria Island.
Blue and white Greek church of Agios Kirykos, situated on the rocky coast of Ikaria Island. ©Tom Jastram/Shutterstock

September

The sun is high though less and less blazing, especially on the islands. The crowds begin to thin and some ferry schedules begin to decline midmonth. Fresh figs and grapes are in season and plentiful.
Key Event: Gennisis Tis Panagias. The birthday of the Virgin Mary is celebrated throughout the country on 8 September with religious services and feasting.

October

While most of the islands start to quieten down, the sunny weather often holds in October. City life continues apace.
Key Event: Ohi Day. A simple 'no' (ohi in Greek) was Prime Minister Metaxas' famous response when Mussolini demanded free passage through Greece for his troops on 28 October 1940. The date is now a major national holiday with remembrance services, parades, feasting and dance.
 

 People fill the streets of Kolonaki at night.
 People fill the streets of Kolonaki on a February night. ©PitK/Shutterstock

November

Autumn sees temperatures drop. Olive-picking is in full swing in places such as Crete and feta production picks up, giving you the opportunity to taste some seriously fresh cheese.
Key Event: Thessaloniki International Film Festival.  Around 150 films are crammed into 11 days of screenings around the city in mid-November, alongside concerts, exhibitions, talks and theatrical performances.

December

The islands may be quiet but Athens and Thessaloniki are still in full swing. Expect cooler temperatures and a chilly sea. With fewer tourists, you're likely to meet more locals and not have to push through crowds at the major sights.
Key Event: Christmas. Celebrated on 25 December and traditionally marking the end of a 40-day fast. Expect to see Christmas trees, children carolling and fishing boats decorated with lights. Families gather for a Christmas Day feast including a roasted hog and honey cookies.

Sustainable Food Destination: Greece

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Where to go When Europe

With more than 300 suggestions for destinations across Europe and the best time of year to experience them, this book is the ultimate trip planner for every month of the year.

 

 

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