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Early Planning Stage for Greece Vacation

My 50th birthday is in March of 2019 and Greece is where I want to go.

Is that a good time of year to go or should I go at another time?

Tour, Cruise or private arrangement?

Besides the antiquities (huge history nerd) where else should I plan to go?

Any suggestions would be appreciated?

Posted by
27004 posts

I think March is too early, but there are others with more experience doing off-season and shoulder-season trips to Europe.

You need to pick up a comprehensive guide book to Greece. There are lots of options, many interesting areas. See what sounds intriguing to you. I'd want a combination of a few days in Athens (great museums, otherwise not my favorite city), time elsewhere on the mainland, and time on at least one island. But I am not a history nerd. That's where you need the guide book (or more than one guide book).

Posted by
3118 posts

If you want to be able to swim in the sea it's too early. Late-May/Early-June is an excellent time, as is September. Both avoid the madness of the summer crowds. DIY booking is easy for Greece but first you have to decide where in Greece you want to go and what you want to do once you're there. For this you really need to invest in a good guide book, Let's Go, Fodors, Frommer's, Greek Island Hopping, Lonely Planet, etc. You can also avail yourself of the already-compiled information for Greece on the many forums there. Click on "Things to do" at the top of each destination's forum page.

Posted by
6469 posts

Check out the Greece material under "Explore Europe" on this website, and check out a couple of guidebooks from your public library to see what most interests you. I'm not sure about temperatures in March, but I know it wouldn't be good for swimming and such. As a history nerd you'll want to spend several days in Athens. Another beautiful city is Nafplion, a good base for Mycenae, Epidavrus, Tiryns, and/or Corinth, all very historic. Another good destination, which could be an overnight from Athens, is Delphi -- could be a day trip but better as an overnight. Try Aegina for an "easy" island day trip from Athens, or try another island farther south. People on this board seem to like Delos and Naxos, but I haven't been there. Be sure you're back in Athens or its airport the night before your flight home, instead of on some island where a ferry delay might cause you to miss the flight.

There are 3- and 4-day cruises from Athens to various islands and return, but I'm not sure they happen in March. Whether you want to do something like that depends mainly on whether you like cruising itself. If not, ferries would probably be simpler.

Matt Barrett's website has a wealth of information about travel to and in Greece, and useful links.

Posted by
15570 posts

I went at the end of April this year, Wray about a month earlier. We both wrote about our experiences. Try searching the Greece forum.

Posted by
396 posts

We decided to make Crete our 'island hop' on our Greek vacation. There is so much to see on Crete that is has now happily taken up about 1 week of our 2 week trip as we planned it out. There are great examples of Roman, Byzantine and Venetian cultures on Crete as well as ancient Minoan and Greek. And also much natural beauty and great hiking. Just a thought to consider. We are both more interested in ancient sites than relaxing on the beach : ) This approach still gives us 2 full days in the Nafplio area with Mycenae, Nemea, Epidavros and Napflio itself, and 3 days in Athens. With this itinerary we will have to come back to Greece again to enjoy the Peloponnese more fully because we're missing Olympia and Delphia among other sights. The thought of a compelling reason to return to Greece for a second trip is pretty delicious.

Posted by
3312 posts

Yes Lia, it's so delicious that I kept coming back for more, and more and more (of course it means I travel almost nowhere else, cannot afford it, but it's worth it). Up to 12 trips so far since '99, 25+ islands, dozen mainland places, many of them multiple times, yet each trip brings new discoveries. My family is all for it, says it keeps me off the streets, and out of their hair! -- TJ

Posted by
1385 posts

In reply to the OP, March probably isn’t the best time. Even if you don’t want to do beaches you’ll have better weather for walking and sites in April or early May.

Having said that if you don’t mind a bit of rain and cold evenings there’s no reason to avoid March. I always go for a week or so in mid March - I like being out of the UK at the end of winter - and enjoy it. There are generally some sunny days to eat lunch out, and sites are less crowded. Cafes around Athens have space heaters and you can still sit and look up at the Acropolis at night. People also have more time to chat, and are often interested in what you are doing there at that time of year.

So, if you want to be away for your birthday I’d say go for it. There’s no reason not to arrange something yourself: there are a lot of good Airbnb deals in Athens and I’d second pairing that with Nafplio.

I’m actually going to be in Patras myself next March, but before that we’re going to be in Athens for two weeks in December. (The advantage of being in Europe and close enough to make several trips a year!)


Posted by
2 posts

Thank you ALL.. you have definitely given me a lot to think about. Good news is I have time to think it through.

Posted by
1156 posts

Once you go to Greece, you'll find yourself coming down with the "Greek Bug". However, this is a "good" bug to get. Greece is one of the best bargains anywhere in the world. Once you go you'll find yourself wanting to go back again and again and again.

Posted by
1117 posts

We've been to two islands early in the year once, not sure if it was February or March. You really have to be tolerant of all kinds of weather at that time of year: We had sun to the point of getting a sunburn, rain, thunderstorms, snow.

Unless you focus only on the "big" destinations like Athens or Crete, you will have to do most of the organizing by yourself. I don't think you will find many package tours at that time of year except for those big places. In the summer destinations, most of the restaurants will be closed.

And be prepared that Greek hotel rooms are not meant for cold weather. The only "heating" device might be the AC, and in our case, that did not get the room above 15°C.

Now having listed all the downsides, here are the advantages – and we loved it:

We had the islands to ourselves. No tourists; only us and the locals.

We had the greatest choice of rooms because the locals were just happy about a bit of off-season income. We ended up with a huge apartment for very little money.

The flower season was beginning, and hiking was lovely (except on the days with pouring rains).

As a history buff, Athens of course is going to be on your list. If you plan to go anywhere else, I'd put Athens at the end of the tour… for safety reasons. With the weather being a bit unpredictable, you might get stranded somewhere (like on that trip of ours, after half an inch of snowfall, all island flights were cancelled), so you may want some buffer time to be sure you catch your return flight.

Posted by
11123 posts

You dd not mention how long you plan to be there, but if you have not already done so, look at the itinerary of the RS 14 day tour for ideas, inspiration etc. (And from personal experience its a great tour.)

Posted by
2455 posts

Joe’s words reflect my thoughts, exactly. I was on the RS Greece Tour this past June, and added a few days in and near Athens at the beginning, and 3 nights each on Santorini and Naxos at the end. great trip! May might be ideal.

Posted by
1218 posts

I would also say look into the RS tour. It was fabulous and would provide you with antiquities, plenty of history (of which I am also a nerd) and with an opportunity to swim should you wish without a ton of planning on your part. I think April or May would be better. You could add time before or after for the islands if you want, I've heard good things about Naxos, Rhodes and Crete.

Posted by
106 posts


If you are not that interested in the beach summer experience, then October or April will do.
If you choose to travel off season, you'll get high-quality touristic services by paying half the price...

May is a great month as well but the prices regarding accommodation will start to increase for sure.
If you want to be able to swim, I've seen people swimming even in May. However, my favourite month to go on vacation in Greece is July! Not too crowded, especially at the beginning of the month.

I've tried a cruise once and didn't really like the experience.
You could try a bit of Greek Island Hopping, check the ferries section.
When you DIY you save a LOT of money. Since you are planning that much ahead, I think you have the time to book everything on your own, plus it will be more fun to make your itinerary step by step. The cruise seems a bit hectic, you don't stay long on each destination and frankly, for me, it feels a bit more tiresome.

You must spend at least 4 days in Athens to see more museums, ruins etc.
Put Meteora in your plans as well...
Check Rick Steve's Athens and side-trips (if you haven't already)