Month by Month
Orthodox Easter, April or May
Athens & Epidaurus Festival, June to August
August Moon Festival, August
Thessaloniki International Film Festival, November
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).
Feast of Agios Vasilios (St Basil)
The first day of January sees a busy church ceremony followed by gifts, singing, dancing and feasting. The vasilopita (golden glazed cake for New Year's Eve) is cut; if you’re fortunate enough to get the slice containing a coin, you’ll supposedly have a lucky year.
Epiphany (Blessing of the Waters)
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.
The villages of the prefectures of Rodopi, Kilkis and Seres in northern Greece hold a day of role reversal on 8 January. Women spend the day in kafeneia (coffee houses) while the men stay at home to do the housework.
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.
Minor events from as early as late February lead to a wild weekend 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.
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.
Clean Monday (Shrove Monday)
On the first day of Lent (a day which is referred to as Kathara Deftera), people take to the hills throughout Greece to enjoy picnicking and kite-flying.
The anniversary of the hoisting of the Greek flag by independence supporters at Moni Agias Lavras is celebrated with parades and dancing on 25 March. This act of revolt marked the start of the War of Independence.
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.
Communities commemorate Jesus' crucifixion with candlelight processions on Good Friday and celebrate his resurrection at midnight on Easter Saturday. Feasting follows on Easter Sunday.
Festival of Agios Georgios (St George)
The feast day of Greece’s patron saint is celebrated on 23 April, but if this falls during Lent then it moves to the first Tuesday following Easter. Expect dancing, feasting and a general party atmosphere, particular in Arahova, near Delphi.
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.
The first of May 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, so recent years have also seen mass walkouts and strikes.
Between May and September various festivals take place on Naxos. Classical concerts are held in the Venetian kastro, art exhibitions are staged at the Bazeos Tower and celebrations of traditional food and music are held in several different venues.
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.
Featuring Greek and international performers, this classical-music festival, which falls at the end of the month, uses Nafplion's Palamidi fortress as one of its atmospheric concert venues.
Feast of St John the Baptist
The country is ablaze with bonfires on 24 June as Greeks light up the wreaths they made on May Day.
Athens & Epidaurus Festival
The most prominent Greek summer festival features local and international music, dance and drama at the ancient Odeon of Herodes Atticus on the slopes of the Acropolis in Athens and the world-famous Theatre of Epidavros in the Peloponnese. Events run from June to August.
Hydra ignites in celebration of Admiral Miaoulis and the Hydriot contribution to the War of Independence. Witness a spectacular boat burning, fireworks, boat racing and folk dancing, usually held the third weekend of June.
With events scheduled for both June and August this cultural festival includes musical and theatrical events in a variety of spaces in and around Delphi and Dorida. See www.delphifestival.gr for details.
Guaranteed sunshine as temperatures soar and life buzzes on the islands' beaches. Outdoor cinemas and giant beach clubs draw visitors to Athens' nightlife.
Rockwave has 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.
Skopelos Rembetika Festival
Held in Skopelos Town in mid-July this musical jamboree is a three-day showcase for local folk blues musicians.
Respect the high heat of August – do a little bit less and relax a little more fully. If you’re travelling mid-month, reserve well ahead as Greeks take to the roads and boats in large numbers.
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.
Feast of the Dormition
Also called Assumption and celebrated with family reunions on 15 August; the whole population is seemingly on the move on either side of the big day. Thousands also make a pilgrimage to Tinos to its miracle-working icon of Panagia Evangelistria.
One of the LGBT+ pride season's biggest party event is this week-long festival held on Mykonos at the end of the month. See https://xlsiorfestival.com for the full line up.
Wine & Culture Festival
Held at Evia's coastal town of Karystos during the last week of August and the first week of September, this festival includes theatre, traditional dancing, music and visual-art exhibits as well as a sampling of every local wine imaginable.
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 mid-month. Fresh figs and grapes are in season and plentiful.
Gennisis Tis Panagias
The birthday of the Virgin Mary is celebrated throughout the country on 8 September with religious services and feasting.
While most of the islands start to quieten down, the sunny weather often holds in October. City life continues apace.
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.
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.
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.
Leonidio Climbing Festival
Climbers descend on this eastern Peloponnesian town in early November to scale the impressive cliffs of the Badron Gorge. See www.climbinleonidio.com.
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.
Celebrated on 25 December and traditionally marking the end of a 40-day fast. Expect to see Christmas trees, fishing boats decorated with lights and children carolling. Families gather for a Christmas Day feast including a roasted hog and honey cookies.