Have you thought about visiting the Greek islands in winter? If you only like swimming and partying then you probably haven’t, but if you’re a fan of unique (and almost entirely deserted) towns, awesome scenery and warmish (but perfect for walking) weather, you should probably skip the high season and go in winter (unless you’re travelling alone and want to meet other people as some of the islands get very quiet).
Here are 4 reasons why you should visit the Greek islands in winter (it was going to be 5 but I ran out of ideas…).
It’s Cheap to visit the Greek Islands in winter!
If you’re travelling Europe on a budget and want to check out the Greek islands, you’d better do it in winter (or at least not in the middle of summer). The islands get very quiet and while some hotels close up completely, others remain open and discount their rooms drastically. We paid around €18 on most of the islands and the quality of the rooms was great. We usually had a kitchen and the locations were perfect. We paid €30 in Ios, and I looked at the high season rates and they were over €100 – we would never have been able to afford to stay in that place in summer. Also, keeping costs down becomes a lot easier if you have a kitchen. We cooked our own meals a lot and our day to day costs were probably the cheapest we experienced in Europe.
You won’t see many other tourists
We saw a few tourists on Santorini, which is probably one of the most popular islands in Greece. At each site, beach or town there were no more than 10 other tourists around, and sometimes there were none. We did a 4 hour walk from Fira to Oia and saw 2 other groups the whole time- that wouldn’t happen in summer! The other islands were even quieter, and by the time we got to Paros we were wondering if there were any other tourists on the whole island (check out this post to see if we found any).
It’s not that cold
We visited Greece in December, so I guess it wasn’t the middle of winter, but we were surprised by how warm it was. It wasn’t quite hot enough to swim but it was the perfect temperature for walking, and there are some great places to walk in the Greek islands. The weather was generally pretty sunny but it did rain a little bit in Naxos and Paros. If you like walking along deserted beaches just as much as swimming at them, visiting the Greek islands in winter, or anytime outside of summer, might be a good option.
The towns Are Awesome (at any time of year)
One of the great things about the Greek islands is the cool little towns coated in white, and you don’t need to be there in summer to appreciate them. In fact, it’s a lot better strolling through the streets of Fira, Parikia and Naoussa when you’re one of the few tourists in town. These towns are really unique and are worth a trip to the Greek islands alone, whatever time of year you’re thinking of going – but it’s obviously cheaper (and a lot more relaxing) to visit them in winter.
Here’s a quick rundown of the islands we visited
Colourful beaches, villages draped in white and stunning volcanic scenery – there’s something for everyone in Santorini. You’ll think you stumbled onto Mars when you arrive at the red beach, and the villages perched on cliffs will transport you back in time. Once off the main street, you’re more likely to see a donkey than a car in Fira, and the quiet streets are perfect for sightseeing. If you go to Santorini you have to do the walk from Fira to Oia – it’s about 4 hours and the views are amazing.
Further reading: Walking from Fira to Oia, Santorini
Ios is well known as a party island for young people and since I can’t be classed as young anymore (I’m about to turn 30) it’s probably good that I didn’t visit in high season. We only stayed on Ios for 2 nights but we really enjoyed it. There’s a great beach just outside of town (and I’m sure there’s more) and it had a laid back feel which I’m sure disappears in high season.
Naxos had the best beaches that we went to in the Greek islands and it was almost warm enough to swim. We stayed in a nice hotel about 2 minutes from the beach for €18 and decided to relax for a few days (we needed it after a couple of months of intense travelling). We did get out and about though, and the Portara (a huge marble gate, part of an unfinished temple dedicated to either Dionysus or Apollo) was probably the best ancient site we saw during our trip to the Greek islands. We went for a big walk one day and saw a few different beaches, and we almost went on a bus ride up into the hills but were a bit too lazy. If you’ve been there, let me know what we missed.
We didn’t see any other tourists on Paros – I guess most people travelling the Greek islands in winter choose the more popular islands. I had never heard of Paros before planning this trip and I feel it’s an island that should get a lot more press. The old towns of Naoussa and Parikia are postcard examples of Greek island architecture, there are a couple of nice beaches and it’s an easy island to get around. Paros really surprised me, so if you’re visiting the Greek islands in winter (or any time of year, as I’m sure it won’t get as busy as some other islands) you should try and include it in your itinerary.
Further reading: The Last Surviving Tourists on Paros, Greece
It turns out Antiparos isn’t just the evil, bizarro version of Paros (although Tom Hanks apparently has a house there, so it might be). Antiparos has a lot more going for it than just having a cool name and it’s a really easy day trip from Paros. There are some nice beaches, a typical Greek island town and even some caves to explore (we didn’t have time to visit the caves though).
We loved our time travelling the Greek islands, but if I was travelling alone it might have been a different story. You won’t have the chance to meet many other travellers in winter, but it’s a good chance to get to know the locals, relax and do some walking. If you’re travelling as a couple then the lack of other people will be more welcome.
Further reading (or watching): Want to see the Greek Islands on film? Watch the Odyssey!
Have you visited the Greek islands in winter (or any other time?) What did you think? Let me know!
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