Thinking of spending a month in Greece starting mid February. Is there a preferable area we should head to after Athens, or is the plan ill advised at that time of year? Have heard that it's hard to find restaurants etc in the off season.
The most touristed places in the islands basically shut down from November to early April and ferries to the islands are more sparse than the "season".
Athens though is maybe busier with locals (many head to Athens for the winter months) and sights on the mainland are pretty much business as usual. Some of the Major islands (Naxos and Crete) are also "business as usual" for the locals and have good services. But many of the smaller islands do shut down, with the exception maybe of Santorini, which has a tourist economy year round. So yes, you could do Athens, maybe Olympia, Delphi, the Meteora then head to Santorini and maybe Crete.
I'm generally in Greece for a week or so in early March, and have been in February occasionally. The weather certainly gets better as you get into March. Even in Greece February can get pretty cold.
Paul is right that a lot of the smaller islands are very closed up, and that wind can make the ferries erratic.
Places in Crete, certainly in the towns, are open all year round and you can fly there. It's certainly worth looking at, for example, Chania and Rethymnon. I've been to both in February and they were fairly lively. Both Chania and Rethymnon have very substantial Mardi Gras type festivals - called apokries in Greek - which next year fall in February. More details here
Another place you might like to consider is Nafplio on the mainland. A beautiful town, close to major sites, and easy to get to by bus. I won't say more as we've written it up on our little site.
No doubt other people will chip in with ideas.
I envy you having so much time there!
You may have to be a bit spontaneous and flexible: It might be difficult to book hotels in advance because many travel agencies simply don't offer Greek destinations (except for Crete) during low season.
However, once you get there, it should not be difficult to find accomodations. Many landlords will be more than happy about some off-season income. We went to a small island without having any reservations, had a look at a few rooms, and ended up with an incredibly inexpensive two-bedroom apartment. Be prepared though that the air conditioning system may be your only means of heating and may not get the room above 15°C, so do take warm clothes.
It is true that many restaurants are closed, so an apartment where we could do some cooking was very convenient.
Be prepared for all kinds of weather. One day we got sunburned, the next was pouring rain, then we had some storm, and then some snow. If you can live with that, you may be in for a real treat: You may well be pretty much the only tourists on an island, which we really enjoyed. We had the feeling the locals were so much more relaxed than during the peak season stress. And if you are lucky you may experience a lovely wildflower bloom at that time of year.
Plan your return trip generously: We had two extra days in Athens at the end, and boy were we glad we did. All return flights from the islands were canceled right after we reached Athens due to those three millimeters of snow they got.
In my opinion, mid February is the worst part of winter, here on Crete anyway, it isn't 'late winter', it's just winter!
You may be lucky & have pleasant daytime temperatures, & some sunshine, which makes for lovely countryside walks, (it's too early for the wildflowers but plants will be starting to grow), exploring by car etc, maybe nice enough to stroll on a beach, possibly sit outside in the winter sun for a coffee. But after a few days this will be often be followed by several days of wind & rain.
2 important things in your planning:
- Stay in places with year-round populations. For instance in Crete the large towns everyone know of: Chania, Rethymno, Heraklio, Agios Nikolaos, but also there are plenty of smaller places - like Kalyves for instance, where you would find locals going about their business, & perhaps 2 restaurants open at night, but it would be harder to find hotels open. Tavernas may be open on a nice sunny weekend, but in the tourist resorts - eg Hersonnisos, Malia, pretty much everything is closed.
- Do make sure your accommodation has heating - I'd suggest not just heating with air-conditioner. Properties here get damp & bedding can feel damp & therefore cold in the winter.
I'm wondering what you want to do for a month in Greece in February. It seems to me that rain would put a big damper on outdoor sightseeing, especially ancient sights and medieval villages. I was surprised at how slippery a lot of paths and steps were on dry, sunny days. A lot of Greece is mountainous, so it could be pretty cold in February. And then all the long evenings. . . .
Thank you everyone for the great input. Have decided to put Greece on hold for later in the year when the weather improves. Headed to Sicily instead, so if anyone has info, would love to see it.
Sicily sounds like a much better choice for February and there is so much to see and do, even if you get spells of inclement weather. Start a new thread on the Italy forum with your preliminary plans and you'll get great advice. BTW Greece in April would be fabulous but if you want beach time, wait until later in the year. Even in early May, the water is icy cold.