The Greek islands are definitely not the first destination to come in mind when thinking about winter holidays. However, over the last years, we notice that more visitors consider visiting the Greek islands for winter holidays. Even foreign air companies, such as Ryan Air, are continuing their daily low-cost flights from Athens to Greek islands, such as Rhodes, Santorini and Crete, all year round.
Winter in the Greek islands
Winter season in Greece lasts from early November until late March. This is the season when the weather is getting colder and tourists have long gone. This is the season when most tourist businesses in the islands close and Greek ferries are reducing their schedules. However, this is also the season when the islands are returning to their normal paces and authentic lifestyle. Winter season in the islands is giving you the rare opportunity to see the low rhythms of the Greek countryside, the agricultural activities by the locals and a totally unrecognizable Greece compared to the busy summer season. Winter temperature in the Greek islands varies from 5oC-15oC. Most days it is sunny, while in the Cyclades sometimes it gets windy. Occasionally it rains (especially in November and February-March) but these rains last for few hours. Also it rarely snows. Therefore the weather is great for country activities, such as hiking. Swimming in the sea must be off the table because the sea water is cold in winter months.
Where to go
If you eventually decide to come to the Greek islands for winter holidays, you should better choose large and popular islands, such as Crete, Rhodes, Corfu or Santorini. These islands have many permanent residents and university students that give life to the towns even off season. Also such large islands have more tourist businesses, such as hotels and restaurants, available in winter, while in the small islands most hotels and restaurants close down when the tourists are gone.
What to do
Walking around and sightseeing are nice pastimes for visitors to the Greek islands for winter holidays. Ancient sites and museums are open all year round, although in winter they usually close at 15h00 and public museums do not open on Mondays. Apart from sightseeing, the good weather also allows hiking and cycling in winter. Some travel agencies organize hiking, cycling or cooking tours for winter visitors over those last years. Some winter visitors are also coming for special hobbies and activities, such as bird watching.
Winter ferries to the islands
Although some schedules and ferry connections stop after the middle of October, the Greek ferries are working all year round if you want to visit the Greek islands for winter holidays. In this season, most ferries depart from Piraeus port (Rafina port has fewer schedules than summer) and frequency of schedules may be less, depending on the island. For example, in winter there is one ferry per day from Piraeus to Chania, while in high season there are two ferries per day. However, ferries in winter run normally.
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