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Best Greek destinations to avoid year-end holiday closures

My family is looking into visiting Greece in late December 2022 through the new year (Dec 23-Jan 8). I understand this period corresponds with four public holidays (Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year's Day, and Epiphany). Our itinerary is still open, though places we are contemplating visiting in addition to Athens include Nafplio, Delphi, and Olympia, along with potentially the Mani Peninsula and an island (such as Hydra, Crete, Rhodes, or Santorini). I'm curious about which destinations would be ideal for staying in during the actual holidays (particularly the Dec 25-26 period, as I understand the archeological sites and museums will be closed), in the sense that there will be museums, cultural sites, or natural sites that are open (or accessible) on the holidays themselves.

For perspective, when were in Italy last December, we spent Christmas at the Valley of the Temples in Sicily (the Mount Etna cableway was also open) and New Year's taking a driving tour of the Amalfi Coast. I'm looking for suggestions of that nature so we don't "waste" those days and are able to get some quality sightseeing or nature exploration in during them.

Posted by
5648 posts

OK, so this wasn’t Christmas/New Year’s, but we were in Greece for Orthodox Easter, arguably an even bigger Greek holiday. We spent Good Friday and that Saturday driving the Mani Peninsula, as pretty much all else was shut. That may be a bit like your Amalfi Coast drive at New Year’s.

We did stumble across a small osteria open for Easter lunch, in a tiny town. as we drove towards Olympia on Sunday. We were at Archaea Olympia on Monday, and it was busy with visitors.

Posted by
8 posts

That’s helpful, thank you. So it seems like the Mani Peninsula could be a good destination for the December 25-26 period, given that the primary attractions are the drive itself, the stone towers/villages, the beaches, and the hike to the lighthouse at Cape Matapan/Tenaro at the end of the peninsula. I wonder if the area really deserves two full days and note that it is a considerable drive from Athens. Perhaps it makes sense to rent a car from the airport when we fly in on Dec 23 and immediately head for Nafplio, spend a couple of nights there and then move onto the Mani Peninsula for the Christmas holiday period, followed by the rest of the Peloponnese and Athens afterwards. Any thoughts?

Posted by
3118 posts

We're just back from traveling around the Peloponnese. We arrived on April 19 and found that many of the hotels and restaurants in that region (specifically in Gythio, Kardymili, Koroni, & Pylos) are just opening up for the season. Many of the smaller hotels and restaurants close between November and March.

I agree that the Mani has many outdoor sights to explore and Nafplio would be a good choice, I think. The Fortress of Palamidi, Epidaurus and Tiryns are excellent outdoor sites and we spent a half day exploring each. You would just need to check to see if they are open during the holidays.

For more options, maybe you'd want to plan your December 24, 25, 26 stay in a larger city. We always enjoy spending time in Thessaloniki and there are many outdoor sites to explore in Athens.

Posted by
1317 posts

Pre Covid we were always in Nafplio or Athens or both for Christmas and New Year. None of the sites are open on the various holidays.

In Athens you could walk up Philopappos, the hill across from the Acropolis. You get some of the best views of the Parthenon from there. The funicular to the top of Lycabettus also runs and again you get good views from the top. There’s also a slightly expensive coffee bar.

In Nafplio the main square is very lively from mid morning on with families out for coffee, children with new toys etc.

In both Athens and Nafplio things get very quiet by mid afternoon but there are always a few places open in the evening to serve meals to tourists.

Alan

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks for these comments. I'm sensing from the responses a suggestion to spend the holidays (or at least the Dec 25-26 period) in or around a city. However, based on some cursory online research, Dec 25-26 and Jan 1 all appear to be days that the archeological sites and museums are closed on (at least those listed on the website maintained by the Ministry of Culture and Sports, http://odysseus.culture.gr/).

What about outdoor sites (besides the previously mentioned Mani Peninsula)? If we started our trip on an island (such as Hydra, Crete, Rhodes, or Santorini) to cover the Dec 25-26 holiday closures, would this make for a better opportunity to see and do more on those days?

Posted by
5648 posts

It seems that (like our time in rural Sicily on December), Dec 25 is for families and togetherness time, and maybe church services. Archaeological sights on Crete require entry at the gate, except for a very few that you can view from a distance on a highway pull-off, but it’s not the same as being among the ruins. If a driving tour of the countryside and marveling at the setting is an acceptable agenda, Dec 25/26 in Greece will suit you. Having a place to get a meal should be determined, though, so you’re not stranded without food. Will your hotel be able to help with locating that?