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Advice for Winter Travel in Greece

My husband and I arrive in Athens Jan 19 and depart Feb 8. In the three weeks there, we plan to travel to Crete, the Peloponnese, Delphi and other islands if ferry schedules permit. What advice do you have for winter travel to islands such as Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes? On Crete and on the Peloponnese travel by bus or rent a car? Any advice is appreciated. Since we live in the Pacific Northwest, rain isn't a concern. Thanks!!

Posted by
16769 posts

If not travelling on a shoestring budget, I'd rent a car for two people. Pick up a different car on Crete. Buses will still run to population centers but not much to smaller beach towns and tourist destinations, such as on the south coast of Crete.

I would ask the hotels if they have heat. The popular wall-mounted A/C units probably can do heat, too, but I recall some cold nights 20 years ago, before these came out.

Posted by
1178 posts

I second Laura’s comments re heat. The wall air blowers really aren’t effective against the kind of cold you can get in January.

Be aware too that winds at that time of the year can really disrupt ferry schedules. It’s not unusual for pretty much everything to stop for a couple of days. I would do the islands first and make sure you are back on the mainland in good time for your flight.

In terms of packing you will need a range of clothes. You are likely to have snow in Delphi whereas people swim in Crete all the year round. (Slightly mad people admittedly.) Layers will be useful. We are in Athens at the moment and it’s unusually mild. Even so I was in a t-shirt yesterday lunchtime (which is unusual for this time of year) and my heaviest coat by early evening.

Islands such as Santorini will be very quiet, with a lot of places closed. Avoids the crowds though!

Have a great trip.

Alan

Posted by
11431 posts

I would skip Mykonos and add Naxos.. I saw a video of Mykonos off season and it was grim,, the tourists had to wander around for an hour to find a restaurant open.. and it was cold. At least Naxos has a year round population so will have places open.

I was in Mykonos this past September .. the last week,, and places were gearing up to close even then...

Posted by
663 posts

We went to two small islands in February or March (can't remember exactly) one year, and we actually went without reservations. Finding a room was no issue at all. They were glad about some off-season income. We got a huge apartment for almost no money, and it was great to have a small kitchen. We could make some of our own meals and didn't have to rely on the restaurants, many of which were closed for the season.

The A/C didn't get the room temperature above 15°C. I don't think we've ever been in bed earlier than on that vacation. It was the only warm spot. :-)

I totally agree about doing Athens last and being on the mainland in good time before your return trip. I've seen all island flights being canceled for a day or two due to weather conditions.

Posted by
13962 posts

If you drive around the Peloponnese, allow plenty of time, much of it is mountainous, so lots of curves and narrow roads, so it's possible to get stuck behind slow vehicles, and even at maximum speeds, it can take hours to get from place to place. Don't trust google maps for driving times! I would also make a list of hotels in all your potential stops, if not actually booking in advance. I suspect many places simply shut down for the winter months.

Posted by
663 posts

If you drive around the Peloponnese, allow plenty of time, much of it
is mountainous, so lots of curves and narrow roads .. Don't trust
google maps for driving times!

Excellent point. And be prepared that even half a centimeter of snow may cause traffic to collapse completely because they just aren't prepared for it in Southern Europe.

Come to think of that, you may want to find out in advance what tires your rental car has. Not sure I'd want to drive small windy roads with summer tires that time of year.

I would also make a list of hotels in all your potential stops, if not
actually booking in advance. I suspect many places simply shut down
for the winter months.

It is certainly true that many of the package tour hotels will shut down for the season. Which is why places like Mykonos or Santorini usually are not even featured in the winter catalogs.

However, as I said above, many private landlords are only more than happy about some off-season income, so if you are a bit adventurous, I think you should be perfectly fine without booking. Try to get something with a kitchenette if you can so you can prepare your own meals. Many restaurants will be closed, but supermarkets will usually be open (the locals have to live).

Posted by
106 posts

Being adventurous and flexible can make your trip pretty interesting. I have managed to find a room in Lefkada in mid-August, it doesn't get more crowded. If you are persistent and if you ask help from a local cafe or tavern you will get a good deal. Another time I did the same during late August in Evia Island and stayed at a pretty good bungalow by paying half the price. If you are lucky and if you need a place let's say for only 2 nights, it is possible even during high season. Since you are going offseason, things will be much easier ;) I would suggest Lefkada, Evia, Rhodes, Crete and Corfu as an all year destination. Mykonos and Santorini might disappoint you if you have in mind the beautiful pictures of summertime. I would suggest that you visit Mykonos and Santorini during between May-October.

On Crete and Peloponesse definitely, rent a car.
You'll have plenty of things to do and see, plus making your own schedule is much better.
If you are into road trips you might want to check out Mt. Pelion in Thessaly, it could be combined with other places in Thessaly like Meteora (in Kalambaka, those rocks will take your breath away any time of the year... )
Have in mind that as you go South, the weather is warmer. This is the reason most offseason tourists prefer Crete, Rhodes and the Peloponnese Peninsula.