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To Greece for 2-3 months in winter - or not?

Hi Travelers,
We're a senior couple from New England (yes it snowed today 3/28) and are contemplating a winter trip to various locales in Greece next winter. We like scenery, museums, historic places and old towns with charm. We avoid gifts shops, big crowds, long lines, most night life, unless it's a local concert or festival. Not so much into spending a lot of time on the beach - would rather walk til we drop. We're thinking of spending 1-2 weeks in several places, staying in efficiencies, local boutique hotels. airbnb's or the like.
We'd like your thoughts on what islands would be best in the winter for a week or more of sightseeing. Will major museums be closed all over Greece? Other places we'd like to see - all of the Peloponnese, Athens, Delphi. We're just concerned that we'd be missing too many attractions in winter due to closings. We love Rick's Tours but also travel on our own.
Bobbie

Posted by
2513 posts

Bobbie, alas, Greece is NOT the place to go in winter. All through December and into early February, on Facebook my island friends were putting up pictures of their SNOW-covered roads. And where it's not snow, it's chilly rain.... Unless people look at a guidebook, or a globe, they mistakenly believe that the Mediterranean/Aegean is similar to the Caribbean. No no no! It is more the same latitude as northern Virginia. Even last week Athens had days in the 40s. You could probably enjoy a wintry week in Athens, lots to do indoors, but why go all the way, just for a week ... and you would be missing what Greece is famous for -- the brilliant sunshine, blue skies, teal-blue waters. I'm a senior too, and have managed thru various strategies to make it to Greece many times since retiring.... Mid-may to Mid-June is the perfect time to go, followed by early september. If you want to escape New ENgland (just as I've longed to escape Philadelphia all winter long), perhaps you had better look at Argentina, which around Christmastime they tell me, has wonderful weather.

PS: besides the weather, there is the fact that winter hours in museum AND ancient sites are much shorter 9 am- 2 or 3pm, from November thru March (and this year thru april or later, due to the budgetary crunch). So in Pelops, Delphi etc, hard to combine 2 sights in one day. One more reason to save it for the warmer seasons.

Posted by
3489 posts

Weatherbase is a good site to see monthly weather averages by country and city in Europe, including temperatures, rain, snow and more -- http://www.weatherbase.com/weather/country.php3?r=EUR&refer=&regionname=Europe.

It also has current weather and forecasts for many towns and cities. This is an example link for Athens -- http://www.weatherbase.com/weather/weather.php3?s=61761&cityname=Athens-Attiki-Greece&units=us.

I've been in Greece in December-January many, many years ago and it did snow in Athens. The weather was so rough that the ferries didn't go. Flying was not common back then. Fast forward to October 11 - November 4, 2014. Warm (not hot for this Tucsonan) and sunny in Athens. Cool, sunny and windy on Santorini. Lots of rain and cool temperatures in Chania on Crete. Better weather in Nafplio, but pretty chilly in Delphi. Santorini, Hydra and Delphi were verging on closing down. Delphi is in the mountains and there definitely can be snow there in the winter. In fact a nearby town is kind of a ski resort.

Having said all that, some of the temperatures you will see on Weatherbase may sound like heaven compared to New England!

Thanks to the other response, I learned that Weatherbase has info on South America, too -- http://www.weatherbase.com/weather/country.php3?r=SOU&regionname=South+America. The numbers for Buenos Aires sound much better -- http://www.weatherbase.com/weather/weather.php3?s=67578&cityname=Buenos-Aires-Argentina&units=us.

Posted by
14235 posts

I know you're thinking about Greece, but since the responses have been negative, may I venture to suggest Italy or Spain? There is lots to see and do all the time, no matter the weather. Yes, many sights will have shorter hours than summer, but usually only by an hour. Southern Spain is the warmest, driest part of Europe. There are cheap flights between Italy and Spain so you could even divide your time between the two. Or stick with Spain, take a cheap flight to Morocco for a few days, or spend a couple of weeks in Portugal.

The Mediterranean is cold in winter. While you may be able to lie on the beach and bask in the sun, it won't be warm enough for a dip anywhere.

Posted by
1234 posts

Bobbie

Janet's right that the winter isn't a good idea if you are expecting summer temperatures but it sounds as though you are aware that isn't the case, and aren't looking for a beach holiday.

We were in Nafplio for two weeks in last December / January and then in Kiveri, a small village on the Peloponnese, in March. While it's true there was snow on the hills around Nafplio for a couple of days in December it never came into the town. Part of the reason, I think, Greek friends were sending photos of children in the snow is that it's relatively rare! In December we had days when we could sit out at lunchtime and in March it poured with rain one day but other than that was bright but cold.

The advantages of being there in the winter are that people have more time and are more likely to recognise you and chat. There's also a pleasure about being in a snug taverna with an open fire and everyone conspiring against the elements!

Janet's right about sites being open shorter hours but the trade off is that they are much less crowded. If you plan to stay in each place for a while then the short days aren't such a problem.

In terms of islands there aren't many than have much going on. Crete is an obvious choice, because of it's size. Syros is the capital of the Cyclades which means it is busy all the year round.

If it were me I think I would spend a good long time - two to three weeks -in Athens and get to know it well. We've been staying a lot in airbnb recently and there are some really nice ones in Athens. Come slightly out of the centre - Ano Petralona perhaps - and get to know a neighbourhood as well as the sites. Pop down to the local bakery for bread each morning, buy lunch at the local street market.

I think you're also right about the Peloponnese. Nafplio is beautiful at any time of year and a good centre for other sites. I don't know Olympia but that's another obvious one.

Delphi is great but the town itself isn't much and is a ski resort at that time of year. I have been there in December and there was sleight. I would probably day trip or overnight from Athens.
That then leaves an island and Crete is probably the best. This might be the place for local hotels as it is big enough to want to move around. If you want to spend a bit of time in one place Chania is probably the pick.

Come back and tell us what you decide!

Alan

Posted by
20 posts

Thank you all for your suggestions and opinions. Some divergent viewpoints, I would say. The shorter museum hours isn't a problem as long as the important sites aren't going to be closed completely. As we are used to zero and even lower in winter, 40's isn't a problem, but lots of rain for days on end wouldn't be too pleasant. It seems from the weather maps that the Athens area and the Sporades get less rain than some other parts of the country. I think I also read that SW Peloponnese gets less rain, as well. I will look in Crete, if we decide to go.
Bobbie

Posted by
801 posts

While everyone is not recommending a "winter" trip to Greece that doesn't mean you shouldn't go. I live in NH and winters in Greece compared to winters we have had in NH would be a piece of cake. Having said that if you want to go to Greece spring or fall would be perfect. Less tourists, lower prices and still very nice weather. We normally go in early-to-mid Oct. and we have been very fortunate to have summer weather like in NH, sunny, upper 70s, just a little rain and had a great time. Not to say the weather won't turn on you but Oct. has worked out very well for us. Spring would probably be even better as things will be greening up. Your best bet for winter time vacation in Greece would probably be Athens south and the Cyclades or any islands further south such as Crete. If you don't mind jackets or sweaters and not going to a beach you'll be OK for the winter trip. One caveat however is many businesses on islands will be closed so you may want to go to larger islands. I think a trip to Greece any time is great but there are better times than others.

Posted by
4522 posts

I've been to the mainland (Athens, Delphi and Peloponnese) in late November and early December. The weather was pretty good, some rain, some chill and some very pleasant days. If you're willing to put up with those variables, it can work.

The next big issue is that so many hotels, restaurants and shops shut down at some point over the winter. We couldn't find a decent hotel open in Delphi for example. Many islands are "closed" for tourists (ie hospitality industry). It's when many Greeks in the tourist business take their vacations.

But having said that, it is amazing to have most sites practically to yourselves. Shorter hours and daylight won't be an issue since you'll be there longer. Plan ahead and expect you won't be able to visit most islands.