3000 year old heritage, unique local customs and picture-perfect scenes
You can’t blame 10 million people for wanting to flock to sunny Greek shores during the hot summer months. It’s the long accumulation of 50 years of hard work on behalf of the Greek tourism authorities to attract high season holiday makers to the enjoy the sunshine, cultural heritage, and unique landscape of this diverse mythical destination. Since the opening of the very first hotels in the late 1960s, they’ve successfully built a viable infrastructure, developed an inter-island ferry schedule; and created many thousands of jobs in hospitality from up market venues to tiny tavernas, all for this express purpose.
But….there is another way. Visit during the low season October to April and you’ll find still warm temperatures, at least compared to northern Europe, although you’ll need to bring a jacket. While the winter may see more grey skies and some rainy days, there are some fabulous opportunities to live like a local, explore the Acropolis without the crowds and hike through an incredible environment without fear of heat exhaustion. The sprawling capital of Athens in particular can be overwhelmingly stifling during the summer, but makes for a special low season city break complete with world renowned ancient landmarks and cuisine to die for.
The 6000 Greek Islands are awash with diversity, each with its particular history, culture and personality. Some 227 are completely uninhabited and many with a small tourist scene will shut up shop totally once the summer is over. Even medium-sized islands will have a much reduced ferry schedule and many shops, restaurants and bars close. Idyllic for some, but others may find this limiting. Plus, if you are on a set schedule, be aware that your route off some islands might be restricted. This is particularly true in the Aegean where high winds mean cancelled crossings. A good low season bet is to visit islands with a large resident population, such as Crete, Rhodes, Corfu, or Zakynthos, which retain a sound infrastructure with winter activities. Alternatively, pick islands which are close to the mainland, like Aegina, Poros, Hydra and Spetses which exude a charming authenticity but offer the convenience of facilities for locals taking a winter break away from Athens.
Adventures in Nature
It’s famed for its islands and beaches, but the majority of Greece is rural mountainous landscape filled with a plethora of certified hiking routes, many of which are at their best in the low spring and autumn season. Although there are many beautifully scenic island trails, some of the very best are found on the mainland, particularly in the Peloponnese, the southern peninsula. The Vikos Gorge takes in bays, cliffs, caves, springs and a monastery. Or try the 75km Menalon Trail. It’s split into sections of varying difficulty, so choose an option that’s right for you and take time to relax as well. Bird watchers will be in their element with chances to spot beautiful species such as pelicans, flamingos, cormorants, vultures and several different types of eagle. At Lake Kerkini many thousands of migrating birds overwinter and it’s possible to take a boat onto the water for an unforgettable wildlife experience.