Best time to visit Greece

Summer in the Greek Islands is undoubtedly idyllic, but they can get very busy, and the mainland can get stiflingly hot, whereas winters tend to be colder and quieter. But whether you're looking to explore ancient ruins, wander white-washed villages, enjoy fresh seafood at oceanfront tavernas or forget about the real world on a black sand beach, a trip to Greece in the spring or fall will tick all the boxes.

When to visit

Remains of the Hadrian's Library in Monastiraki square in Athens, Greece.
The best time to visit the Greek mainland

The Greek mainland is a treasure trove of ancient ruins immortalized in legends and myths. But exploring the Acropolis or Delphi in the unrelenting summer heat can be brutal – even Achilles would prefer to hang out in his air-conditioned hotel room.

The best time to visit the cities and sites that aren’t on the water are spring and autumn, particularly in May, September and early October. It can be unbearably warm and crowded during the summer and winters can be rainy and cold.

Sunset over Santorini, The Greek Islands
The best time to visit the Greek Islands

The weather on the Greek Islands is sunny and balmy most of the year, but they really come alive in the height of summer. If you're the beach holiday type, the islands are paradise with plentiful sun and warm waters that are perfect for swimming. Remember that popular islands like Mykonos, Santorini, Corfu and Paros, can get very crowded in July and August.

If beaches aren't your main goal, March-April and October are great months to visit for sightseeing, hiking and exploring, but keep in mind that by late October, ferry service and flights start cutting back on their routes and businesses on the islands may close for the winter.

Greece by month

The ruins of the acropolis in Athens, Greece

Best for: A crowd-free Acropolis, warming up with local cuisine

While a trip to Greece in January certainly won't have you reaching for the bikini, history buffs will enjoy exploring the ancient ruins of Athens without the large crowds that take over during the summer. Temperatures may be on the cooler side, hovering around 10°C, but with the right gear, you can spend a full day marvelling at the ruins in peace. After a day of sightseeing, warm yourself up with one of Greece's national dishes; try moussaka, an eggplant and minced meat casserole, or fasolada, a traditional bean soup.

The carnival custom of Boules and Genitsari in Naoussa, Greece.

Best for: finding zest for life during Apokria

Greek speakers may be familiar with the word kefi, which loosely translates to joy, passion and an overall zest for life. Kefi can be shown through long, leisurely meals and drinking and dancing at social gatherings, so it should come as no surprise that Greek festivals are nothing short of lively. 

As is common in most of Europe, February is the month of Carnival, or Apokria, in Greece, the festival celebrating the last day of indulgence before Lent begins. Apokria season lasts three weeks and Greeks love to dress up, party, and eat...a lot. Corfu's Carnival is similar to the famous Carnival of Venice and features colourful parades, feasts and an epic bonfire to finish out the event.

View of Mykonos Harbour at sunset,  Greece.

Best for: unplugging on the islands, Independence Day

Ferry routes start up again in March, and with temperatures reaching 20°C-21°C, it can be an excellent time to head out to the islands for some solitude and restoration. Most tourists won't arrive until June or July, so you can wander uninterrupted villages and enjoy incredible views distraction-free. Check out the Independence Day parade in Athens if you're on the mainland on March 25.

View of a church roof in Santorini, Greece

Best for: Holy Week spectacles and partying with the locals

Since the Greeks have been partying since the dawn of Western civilisation, celebrations and festivals are a huge part of the culture. Holy Week in Greece is the most significant religious event of the year and takes place in the days leading up to Orthodox Easter. Expect fireworks, smoked meat feasts, and lots of ouzo and tsipouro. Practice a few Greek phrases and link up with some locals for an experience you'll never forget. Orthodox Easter can fall anywhere from mid-April to early May, depending on the year and accommodations can book up quickly, so plan ahead.

People swimming off the islands, Greece

Best for: hiking, outdoor activities and swimming in the sea

May is a glorious month in Greece, with clear, sunny days and an average temperature of 24°C, perfect for outdoor activities. On the mainland, you can spend an entire day hiking to the majestic 14th-century monasteries of Meteora that sit at the top of 1000-foot (300-metre) karst pinnacles. The incredible views make for some show-stopping photos. 

Things are picking up on the Greek Islands this month, as the water temperatures are warm enough for swimming and bars, tavernas, hotels, beach clubs and shops are fully open, ready to welcome the summer tourists.

Group hiking in Crete, Greece

Best for: hiking, exploring and beaching on Crete

Widely known as the sunniest place in Greece, June is a glorious month to visit Crete for pure, uninterrupted sunshine. With air temps between 24-28°C and water temps at a delightful 21°C, hiking and swimming should be at the top of your list. Epic archaeological sites, mythological lore and seemingly untouched beaches make Crete an excellent destination for the entire family; kids will love exploring the Diktaion cave, the birthplace of Zeus, and adults can enjoy a frosty Mythos and maybe, just maybe, a little bit of peace and quiet.

Group posing for camera on Mykonos, Greece

Best for: swimming, sunning and embracing the chaos on the islands

If you're thinking about a trip to Greece in July, it's islands or bust, so pack the swimsuits and sunscreen and get ready for an epic party. Weather in July is hot, so brave the crowds and plop yourself down on one of the iconic umbrella-lined beaches to soak up the sun and bath-temperature waters. Nightlife is at its peak this month, so if you want to dance the night away to live DJs or make new friends in a packed bar, consider visiting Ios or Paros. Mykonos has a fabulous queer scene, with many gay bars and clubs open until dawn. When it comes to island crowds in the summertime, if you can't beat 'em, might as well join 'em.

Sailing boat in the islands of Greece

Best for: escaping the crowds on a sailing trip

August is the height of peak season, and with the warmest temps of the year, tourists and locals are heading for the islands. Accommodation prices will be high, beaches will be stuffed, and you can expect long restaurant waits. If a summer holiday in Santorini has been on your list forever (or at least since the debut of the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants), why not join a sailing trip through the Cyclades to enjoy the best of the Islands from the water?

On a small sailing vessel, you'll be able to get a little taste of the highlights of this region, from the iconic blue-domed churches of romantic Santorini to the olive groves and charming villages of rustic Naxos and the glitzy glamour of fully-charged Mykonos. Plus, our local guides often have tips on the best, tourist-free restaurants, and you'll never have to vie for a spot on the beach when you can sunbathe on board your vessel.

Traditional food on a cruise in the islands of Greece

Best for: combining the islands and the mainland, food tours, pistachio season

Temperatures start to cool down slightly and crowds start to thin in September, making it a great month to combine time on the islands and the mainland. September is also the harvest month of the famous Aegina pistachios, and by joining a Greek food adventure, you'll be able to see the nuts harvested straight from the trees and enjoy feasting on iconic eats like feta cheese, honey, olives, spit-roasted lamb and moussaka.

View of the rooftops and the acropolis in Athens, Greece

Best for: sightseeing in Athens and exploring ancient ruins on the mainland

By October, many of the tourists have disappeared, making it the ideal time to visit Athens or discover some of mainland Greece's archaeological sites. Cooler temperatures make visiting sites like the Delphi Oracle and ancient Olympia much more pleasant. Plus you may even be able to take crowd-free photos of the Acropolis without 100 other iPhones in your shot.

Group dining in a restaurant in Crete, Greece

Best for: exploring Thessaloniki and filling up on Greek treats

November is an especially beautiful time to visit the port city of Thessaloniki. Greece's second-largest city has mild weather that should lend itself well to a day exploring the iconic White Tower or strolling along the waterfront with a coffee and a pastry. Temperatures average about 11°C in autumn, but Thessaloniki has a fantastic food and beverage scene (and has been referred to as the capital of Greek sweets), so if the weather turns, you can duck into one of the many bars, restaurants or coffee shops to warm up with a bite.

Group in the bohemian street of Athens, Greece

Best for: scoring low-season deals, seeing snow and feeling festive

December is the official low season, with cold, wet weather keeping the majority of tourists at bay. The mountains and northern parts of the country can get snow, and Meteora will look particularly magical with a dusting of icy flakes. Accommodation prices on the mainland will be quite low, and if you can brave the cold, historic sites around Athens can be nearly empty, but the hundreds of museums will be welcoming and warm. Christmas is a festive time to be in Greece, with streets full of colourful lights, carolers and lots of delicious treats.

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