A visit to the Greek Islands in winter reveals an enchanting allure that settles over the crisp breeze of the Mediterranean after the summer crowds dissipate. While many travelers associate these idyllic isles with sun-soaked beaches and bustling summer nightlife, the off-season is equally captivating.
In this article, we’ll embark on a journey to discover the best Greek Islands to visit in the winter. Ancient history, picturesque villages, and serene landscapes take center stage. Get your passport ready and let’s get going!
Can You Visit the Greek Islands in Winter?
Absolutely, it’s worth visiting the Greek Islands in winter! Many of the inhabited islands are accessible and waiting to be explored. You’ll experience fewer crowds and cooler temperatures, but you’ll also have unique access and a front-row seat to local culture. While the summer months are undoubtedly the peak season, the winter unveils a more authentic and tranquil side to these enchanting islands.
Each island has its own unique charm and activities to offer during the off-season. It’s an ideal time for those seeking a quieter, more contemplative Greek island experience. From the historical treasures of Crete and the serene beauty of Naxos, the Greek Islands in winter promise a delightful escape for those willing to venture off the beaten path.
If you visit in the winter, you’ll want to keep in mind that lodging, restaurants, shops, museums, archeological sites, and attractions may have limited hours and availability. So, booking in advance is essential.
Should I Visit Santorini in the Winter?
Visiting the Greek Island of Santorini in the winter can be a captivating and unique experience for travelers. It’s an opportunity to escape the summer crowds and explore this iconic island from a different perspective. While the island may not boast its trademark sun-drenched beaches and vibrant nightlife during this season, it compensates with a serene and peaceful atmosphere. The charming villages with their whitewashed buildings, blue-domed churches, and narrow winding streets take on a more authentic and intimate allure. Plus, hotel prices are usually significantly cheaper, sometimes up to 50 percent off summer rates.
So, why didn’t I include Santorini on my top Greek islands to visit in winter? Because it can feel like somewhat of a ghost town from November to March. Many of the tour operators and business owners move off the island in the off-season, so you’ll find very little to do in the way of activities. Also, the weather tends to be unpredictable during these months with occasional rain and it’s typically very windy, but the temperature tends to average around 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you decide to visit Santorini in the winter, I recommend going by air. You can get a direct flight from Athens. The slow ferries also operate year-round from Athens to Santorini but are canceled frequently due to the wind and rough seas.
5 Best Greek Islands in Winter
While there are many Greek islands you can visit in the winter, I’ve narrowed it done to the top five. These islands made it to the top of the list based on weather, activities, accessibility, and overall charm.
Aegina is my favorite Greek island to visit in winter. It’s only a one-hour ferry ride from the Port of Piraeus in Athens, and ferries run daily to/from the island year-round. This makes Aegina a great escape from the hustle and bustle of Athens for a weekend getaway or a day trip. There are hotels open year-round and you can get a sea view for a lower cost in the winter.
Aegina has nice beaches and a mountainous region in the middle of the island. Renting a car to explore the shoreline, villages, archaeological sites, Greek Orthodox churches, forests, and mountains is an excellent way to explore. Or consider staying in Aegina Town for a low-key visit to enjoy restaurants and walks next to the marina.
Crete is the southernmost island in Greece. It’s also typically the warmest Greek Island in winter. The population shrinks in the low season, ensuring a feeling of having the island to yourself with local residents. Be aware that this also means fewer hotels, shops, and restaurants are open so book your lodging in advance.
To get to Crete from October to April, I recommend air travel. Ferries run year-round from Athens to Crete, but the seas can be very rough. There are direct flights from Athens. Flying into and basing yourself in Heraklion, the capital of Crete, is an excellent option. It has museums, hotels, and more.
One of the most fun things to do on Crete in the winter is to rent a car and explore. With few people on the roads, you have the opportunity to get up close and personal with the history that exists on this large island.
Corfu (or Kerkyra) is one of the most popular northern Greek islands in the Ionian island grouping. It’s an accessible island to add to your Greece winter destinations. Just remember to bring an umbrella, because there can be a fair amount of rain.
The best way to get to Corfu in the winter months is to fly. There are direct flights from Athens. You can also fly from Thessaloniki, Greece, or Milan, Italy, but expect at least one layover from those cities.
Corfu is a popular destination for Christmas in Greece. The island dances with thousands of lights during the magical time of year, including light displays on the ships. Steeped in the traditions of the Greek Orthodox Church, priests also do a blessing of the waters. And, of course, food is plentiful throughout the entire Christmas season that goes from December 25 to January 6. In addition, the Old Town of Corfu is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It has three Venetian forts that were once used in defense against the Ottoman Empire. You will be transported back in time, as you walk through the streets of Old Town.
Naxos is a large island with a significant number of year-round residents. This means there are more conveniences than on other islands in the winter months, and you can enjoy the island without the high-season crowds. However, there are fewer hotels open in the winter, so you’ll want to book in advance.
To get to Naxos in December, I recommend a direct flight from Athens. You can take the ferry, but there are only a couple that run in the winter months and the sea can be extremely rough to get there. So, ferries are often canceled, making it challenging if you’re on a tight schedule.
Naxos Town is the perfect place to stay in the winter. It’s a very walkable port town and wandering the streets is a fun way to immerse yourself in the island culture. You’ll discover several corridors that lead to beautiful architecture and views. You can also hire a car to explore the mountain villages around the island. I love to drive all the way to the unique Apeiranthos village, which is paved with marble walkways, and make a stop in the traditional village of Halki on the way.
The island of Rhodes is an excellent winter destination for history lovers. There are some must-sees on the island of Rhodes any time of the year. Visit the medieval city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, as it will captivate you. Also, go to the Acropolis of Lindos, a well-preserved archaeological site that offers stunning views of the sea and fishing village below. Even if the sea is too cold, you can still enjoy time on the sandy beaches of Rhodes.
Rhodes has mild winter temperatures, compared to the summer heat, making the off-season a perfect time to explore the vast amount of history on this island. To get to Rhodes in December, air travel is recommended.
Suggested Reading: The best Greek island hopping routes.
Enjoy the Greek Islands Year-Round
The Greek Islands are a year-round paradise waiting to be discovered. They offer a wealth of experiences whether you choose to visit in the winter or during the bustling summer months. Each season presents its own unique charms and opportunities for exploration. In winter, you’ll find a peaceful, authentic side to the Greek Islands, with a chance to connect deeply to culture and history. During the summer, the islands come alive with their famous beaches and activities, providing a more energetic and lively atmosphere.
No matter when you choose to go, Greece’s timeless beauty, warm hospitality, and rich heritage will leave an indelible mark on your heart. I hope your Greek Island adventure is an unforgettable journey that transcends seasons.
What Greek Island are you interested in visiting in the winter? Share in the comments below.