Greece probably needs no introduction to you. It was the one-time centre of the ancient world, the cradle of western civilisation and in 2021 remains perhaps THE ultimate dream travel destination.
Indeed, intrepid travellers have been exploring the Ionian peninsula since antiquity and today, the nation welcomes some 30 million visitors each year. It’s easy to why – Greece packs in ancient wonders, classical cities, glorious weather, wine, food and siren song. Best of all, Greek visitors get to choose from hitting the mainland or hopping between the paradise of the Greek Islands.
But, in high season Greece can get seriously busy and pricey. High summers can be punishingly hot and winters unexpectedly frigid.
In this guide, we will not focus on the why or the where, but on the when. So read on to find out just when is the best time to visit Greece taking into account weather, crowds, expense and more!
Best Time To Visit Greece – The classic time to visit is May-Aug. My preference is March or September.
Best Time To Go To Athens – Spring (Mar & April)
Best Time For The Greek Islands – June-July if you like the action.
Best Time For The Beach – May-October
Best Time For Sightseeing – Mar, Apr & October
Cheapest Time To Visit Greece – Winter (Nov-Feb)
When is the Best Time to Go to Greece?
Greece’s main tourist season runs from between May and September and heavily peaks in the high season of July and August. At this time, you can expect the idyllic Mediterranean summers you were always dreaming about with blue skies, hot days and scarcely a drop of rain.
Greek’s really do come to life during the summer months and the country is an infectious and fun place to be – expect long nights of ouzo fuelled Zorba dancing. Many a backpacker in Greece falls in love with the country during their summer trips.
Of course, the flip side is that at this time Greece can get seriously busy. Popular islands like Crete and Rhodes tend to be thronged with package tourists during the summer holidays and you may struggle to find a spot of beach over which to cast your towel. Santorini can also get HORRIBLY crowded during the summer to the extent that you may find it impossible to enjoy it.
Also note that the heat in cities like Athens can be a bit stifling and oppressive during July and August.
Accommodation and flight prices also tend to increase substantively in summer. To give you some context, I just did a quick skyscanner search and a return flight from London to Athens is $60 in April, but $150 in July.
My personal preference is to hit Greece during the shoulder seasons of April (you can maybe push to mid-may) and between late September and October. The weather is warm and pleasant but never unbearably hot.
Spring is a particularly great time in Athens. You can also find decent bargains on flights and cheap accommodation in Greece at this time. Best of all though, the islands and tourist hot spots are a lot quieter – you may also get a decent photo of Santorini.
Of course, if you do visit in shoulder season some tourist resorts may not be fully operational and some hotels, restaurants and bars may still be boarded up.
Best Time to Go to Athens
The ancient, atmospheric and absolutely awesome city of Athens is often overlooked by visitors who often tend to head straight for the ferry terminal. This is a shame as Greek’s capital is one my top picks for Europe packing in a dizzying mixture of Grecian sites such as the Parthenon, some charming Byzantine churches’ and a raucous, younthul party scene.
The best time to visit Athens is between March and May or September and November.
At this time the weather is very pleasant with typical daytime temperatures ranging between 15 to 20 degrees. The classical sites and museums are easily accessible with tourist numbers perfectly reasonable at this time.
Crucially, this period also tends to be a sweet spot in terms of prices with flights from European cities starting as low as $25 and Athens hostel dorms hovering between $8 – $15 per night.
This is the perfect time to explore the real Athens and rub shoulders/exchange bodily fluids with the locals before the summer tourists show up. The city is very lively in the evenings with bars and clubs packing them in until daybreak.
Best Time to Go to the Greek Islands
The most impressive thing about visiting the Greek Islands is the sheer number of options available. It is said that there is a Greek Island for every temperament. If you are seeking a youthful cocktail of booze and clubs, then try Zante. For a comfortable family orientated experience, head to the resorts of Corfu or to itch your Instagram scratch, head for Mykonos and Santorini. My personal pick of the Greek islands is Hydra; a bohemian hotspot which is a short ferry ride from Athens.
In many ways, the islands are best experienced in summer. The days are hot, the nights are long and the beaches buzzing. Some islands only fully open up during summer and are at half capacity the rest of the time.
That said, the busy-ness is not for everybody and some people do prefer the Greek islands in April or October when the weather is sweet, but the tourist crowds are back at home. However, it can sometimes be difficult to reach the Greek Islands during shoulder and lower season as flights are fewer, further between and more expensive. The ferries also tend to operate on a reduced schedule. Still, if you are willing to plan ahead and possibly spend a bit more on transport, you can make it happen.
Best Time to Go to Santorini
The picture perfect Greek island of Santorini has exploded in recent years thanks in no small part to a flurry of tedious Instagrammers. The island is indeed a beautiful tapestry of white houses, orange skies and green stony hillsides.
Because of this spike in popularity, Santorini can get very busy meaning that Santorini accommodation prices go into orbit, and also meaning the island can be too busy for comfort.
Unless you are happy to pay $100+ per night for digs, and to have no personal space, avoid all summer especially from June – September.
Santorini is possibly best enjoyed in March, early May and between October and November.
If you can get to Santorini in winter, then you will probably find it’s just you and the locals. This can be a lovely time to get under the skin of the island.
Best Time to Go to the Beaches in Greece
Greece is blessed with some of the most blissful and beautiful beaches in all of Europe. For azure seas and soft sands, head to Elafonsi in Crete and for beach-side club vibes, then trendy Mykonos is hard to beat. Note that the beaches of Santorini tend to be either dark sand or craggy, stone beaches and are not the main draw.
The beaches of the Greek islands are at their best between late May and October when the sea is perfect for swimming at the sands ideal for sunbathing. Many of the beaches are positively heaving between July and August and can get a bit too crowded for some sensibilities.
The winter is not exactly the ideal beach time as the sea can get a bit chilly and there is the chance of rain. Also, note that a lot of beach clubs and sea sidebars and restaurants tend to close during the winter.
Where To Stay In Greece
Kos Town is the largest town on the island. It is the main tourist and cultural centre and is where you’ll find a great selection of accommodations, dining and nightlife options. That’s why Kos Town is our pick for where to stay in Kos if you’re visiting for the first time.
- Eat, drink and lounge in the sun at Artemis Heaven Beach Bar
- Sip and sample local wines at the stunning Triantafyllopoulos Vineyards
- Visit the Roman Odeon of Kos, a well-preserved Roman amphitheatre
Best Time for Sightseeing in Greece
Greece’s cultural-historical roots stretch back into antiquity and remnants of this rich history are scattered throughout the mainland of islands alike. The headline sites are probably the Acropolis of Athens, the Parthenon and the epic, cliff monasteries in Meteora.
As for the best time for sightseeing in Greece, this is typically at shoulder seasons in Spring and Autumn. The best time for sightseeing in Greece is generally April through about mid-May, or October and into early November. At these times there are far fewer tourists crowding the views and the weather is ‘just right’ for walking but a bit too cool for the beach.
Best Time For Visiting the Acropolis
Perhaps the single most important antiquity site in Greece is the mighty Acropolis in Athens – an integral Athens itinerary stop. The ancient site occupies the hilltop overlooking the modern city and is visible for miles around. The Acropolis site consists of the Parthenon (Temple to Athena) some other sites and of course the Acropolis Museum which must not be missed.
The site is open all year round. However, note that it is substantially cheaper to visit during winter as the entry is half the price of the summer;
- April to October: 20 Euro
- November to March: 10 Euro
In terms of the best time of day to visit the Acropolis, are either 8am (when it opens) as the site is quiet, and the sun is low making the heat less intense. Alternatively, another good time is 1-2 hours before closing. Again, the sun tends to be less intense and the twilight from the hill site over the city is incredible.
Cheapest Time to Go to Greece
|Expense||Oct – Feb||Mar – June||Jul – Sep|
|One Way Flight To Athens From Europe||$25||$35||$70|
|Private Hotel Room||$20||$35||$50|
|Acropolis Ticket||$14||$14 – $26||$26|
For European standards, Greece is a moderately priced destination. It is notably more expensive than the budget bonanza that is Eastern Europe, but a hell of a lot more affordable than visiting France or even parts of Spain.
This does of course vary depending on where and when you go. Mykonos and Santorini tend to attract a monied crowd all year round. Crete and Rhodes offer budget package tours and Athens has plenty of budget hostels and dive bars.
Whilst Greece is an affordable country to visit at any time of year, the cheapest time to go to Greece is definitely during the off-season. The absolute best time of year to visit Greece on a budget is between the months of October and April. Accommodation is easy to find and often at a much-discounted rate. The only catch can be the scarcity of flights going to certain Greek islands – but you can still usually get to Athens for a great price.
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Busiest Time to Visit Greece
Greece is something of an ever-green destination and does attract visitors all year round. When I arrived in Athens during early March, my hostel dorm was pretty much full up with travellers.
However, the busiest time in Greece is most definitely between May and September with a long spike throughout July and August. At this time, the islands can get packed but even cities like Thessaloniki tend to attract backpackers spilling over from summer jaunts around the Balkans.
With increased visitor numbers comes price spikes too. In some places, accommodation prices can increase to 4 times what they would normally be.
Weather in Greece
The weather in Greece is classic meditaranean – blissful summers followed by mild & wet winters. The weather in Greece is fairly consistent throughout the mainland and the Greek islands and there isn’t a mass of variation between them.
The weather of the Aegean islands and the Ionian seas is milder. Some regions are also affected by “the Meltemi” – a summer wind which blows mostly over the islands of the Aegean and offers perfect wind conditions for sailing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing.
In general, in order to avoid high temperatures (up to 100°F/+40°C), the best time to visit Greece would be between mid-Apr to mid-June and between early September to mid-October.
The closest the month to August, the hotter it will be.
Average Air Temperature in °C
|Month||Average Daytime Temperature||Average Nighttime Temperature||Average Rainfall (mm)|
Regional Differences in Greece
The Greek mainland stretches from the Southern precipice of the Balkan peninsula out into the med. The islands are dotted all around its’ extensive coastline and their locations range from a few kilometres from the mainland to several hundred from it.
Despite these geographical and archipelagic differences, the weather remains mostly uniform across Greece – give or take a few degrees of celsius or an extra inch of rainfall here or there.
Peak tourist and off seasons are also consistent throughout Greece too. Therefore the only regional specific consideration for when to visit Greece is perhaps the occurrence of local festivals and events. We will explore some of these next.
Festivals in Greece
Did you know, some anthropologists hypothesise that contemporary festival culture has its roots in ancient, Hellenic Greece and their wine flavoured orgies in celebration of Dionysus?
These days, the Grecian festival season tends to centre around the Orthodox Christian calendar but fear not, it’s not all hymns and fasting and even pious occasions still permeate with a typical lust for life. Orthodox Christmas and Easter are the main two religious festivals. I stumbled across an Orthodox Easter Mass in Greece and found the sing liturgy very moving and the smouldering clouds of incense quite intoxicating – definitely check it out if you get the chance.
Here are some important or simply cool festivals in Greece;
- Orthodox Easter:
Once the Church going is out of the way, Orthodox Easter in Greece actually akin to the ancient spring rite festivals with epic feasting which leads into dancing, singing and fireworks. It’s a great time to get invited to a Greek home.
If you’re planning a trip to Greece for Easter, remember: the date of Greek Orthodox Easter is tied to the Julian calendar, so it won’t necessarily match up with Catholic Easter, which is calculated using the Gregorian calendar.
- Apokreas (Carnival season):
The carnival season begins 3 weeks prior to lent and concludes after Easter. It represents quite a long window across which the various Apokreas take place.
Each region has its own version of Apokreas. Patra in the Peloponnese for the biggest and wildest celebrations, whereas Skyros in the Sporades sees entire towns dressed as goats. If you’re planning a trip, check the calendar. Each year the date of Apokreas is different.
- August Moon Festival:
The August moon festival also takes place across the different towns of Greece. The loose concept is simply using the warm, moon filled nights of August to host evening performances and parties. These range from all night raves in the outskirts of Thessaloniki, to classical music performances inside the Acropolis in Athens.
- Thessaloniki International Film Festival:
10 days of independent film screenings are held in Thessaloniki in mid-November. Athens has it’s own open-air film festival in summer but this one is cooler.
- Ejekt Festival – 26 June:
Athens premier rock and indie fest sees international guitar slingers descend on the Greek capital for a long day of barre chords and pentatonic riffs.
- Free Earth Festival – 29 – 29 August:
Free Earth Festival is Greece’s premier Psytrance festival taking place on the island of Halkidiki (yep, home of the famous Olives).
Worst Time to Visit Greece
So far in this post, we’ve focused on the positives (we’re glass half full people) seeking out the best times to visit Greece. Now let’s look at the negatives!
There isn’t any real bad time to visit Greece. The weather is better than pretty much anywhere else in Europe all year round, and there is enough going on to keep a visitor busy at any time of year.
However, do bear in mind that it does sometimes get cold during the winter and it has even been known to snow in the north around Thessaloniki. Personally, I would also avoid the summer holidays at pretty much all costs as the crowding is simply too much.
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When to Visit Greece – A Month By Month Breakdown
By this point, you’ve probably already picked your personal perfect time to visit Greece. However, if you are still wondering what the best time to visit Greece is, then this month by month breakdown might help your final decision a bit easier.
Greece in January
January is Greece’s coldest month. In Athens, daytime temperatures can dip to a chilly 7 degrees (which to be frank could be summer where I am from) so bring a jacket. The Greek Islands can be very wet.
Needless to say, tourists are scarce at this time of year so you take advantage of low prices.
Notable festivals in January are New Years Day (also St Basils Day), Orthodox Christmas, Epiphany and The Patras Carnival.
Greece in February
As with January, February can see cool temperatures and damp rainfall in the islands. Tourists are still thin on the ground and prices low.
The Carnival Festival starts in February ahead of the lent, as well as Clean Monday.
Greece in March
March in Greece may be your sweet spot where you can expect decent weather and still take advantage of quieter attractions and lower prices.
Notable festivals are Greek Independence day which also coincides with Feast of Annunciation.
An early easter can also fall in late March.
Greece in April
In April the weather is very nice throughout the land. Expect warm days that would rival a northern European summer and lesser and lesser rainfall.
From a tourism perspective, Greece does begin creaking into life around April and seasonal bars and hotels begin the deep clean.
Prices are still fairly low except for Greek holidays.
Orthdox Easter usually falls in April although the date does vary. The Athens International Film Festival and St Georges Day also take place in April.
Greece in May
May sees the start of the long summer so bring sun creams and head for the beach. May is when package tourists begin arriving in the Greek Islands so football becomes heavier, and beds more expensive.
Sometimes, a particularly late fall of Easter will mean it falls in the first few days of May. Other notable May festival are May DayWorkers Day and the Athens Jazz Festival is also worth checking out.
Greece in June
Visiting Greece in June can mean catching the magic of summer just before the prices spike and the unwashed masses arrive. Expect perfect days and lovely nights and merry-making.
There aren’t many outright bargains to be had, but you can still find hostels at fair prices.
June sees the Ejekt Rock Festival in Athens, the Athens and Epidaeous Festival as well as Navy Week – a huge national festival where Greece celebrates it’s naval and sea faring heritage.
Greece in July
If you visit Greece in July you are stepping into high season. The days can be very hot and the beaches busy. Some islands get more hectic than others and the likes of Santorini can feel like floating sardine tins.
Big August festivals are the Hyrda Puppet Festival and Hippocratia Festival in Kos. Oh, and the Raki Festival in Amorgos is certainly a lively one.
Greece in August
Simply put, August in Greece can be bedlam which will either be your personal vision of heaven and hell. Zante & Kos are hopping with party toddlers, Mykonos is packed with Instagram characters, and Corfu can feel like a forgotten British colony.
Prices are at their highest in August and days are at their hottest – it can be difficult to sleep if you don’t have AC.
Festivals in August include the Olympus Festival on Mount Olympus, the Chania Rock festival in Crete, the festival of the Assumption of Virgin Mary, as well as the Free Earth Psytrance festival in Kalidaki.
Greece in September
September is when temperatures and prices begin to come down, but the hotspots remain busy. If you are looking for a package deal, there are some bargains to be had, especially if you can be flexible.
Late September can be a great time to visit Greece as it mixes the mellow vibes with some of the most pleasant weather.
There are also a couple of wonderful niche festivals such as Festival of Trades of Traditions in Rhodes, the Pistachio festival of Aegina.
Greece in October
October is another good time to visit Greece. The weather is pleasant but not uncomfortable and even popular spots tend to be quiet. The Acropolis ticket price slashes itself in half and there are plenty of bargain flights to Athens.
There are no top rate festivals happening in October but the Chestnut Festival in Crete is one for fans of Chestnuts.
Greece in November
This is definitely the low season. Some of the islands may feel like they are half asleep and hostels will have plenty of beds available. The weather is generally bright and cool but nights can get chilly and there is some rainfall.
The religious calendar keeps going with Feast of The Archangels and Saint Andreas Day in Patras.
Greece in December
In December, Greece is substantially warmer and dryer than much of Europe but can see plenty of rainfall on the islands and cold nights. Some tourist hotspots will be all but hibernating.
December Festivals are St Nicholas Day, Christmas Day (they respect the Western date and then Orthodox Christmas in January), as well as New Year’s Eve of course.
Final Thoughts on the Best Time To Visit Greece
Still with me? Good. I do hope you found our best time to visit Greece guide to be useful and most of all, I hope it helps you to plan an epic trip to Greece. Wherever you intend to do a bit of island hopping in the summer, city breaking in spring, or simply heading to Crete for some winter sun, you’ll have an awesome time.
Make sure you are fully prepared for your trip (this can save a lot of money too). Find out what you need to pack for your vacation to Greece.
See you on the road!
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