For many, vacation planning revolves around the summer months. It's no different for Greece, where prime tourist season takes place between June and August. However, if you're considering a tour of Greece's beautiful destinations, did you know that the offseason is also a fantastic time to visit Greece?
Because of Greece's location and popularity, offseason months are regarded by many as better times to visit than the summer months. The main reasons for this are: a milder climate, less expensive, fewer tourists and even better hospitality.
Now that we've piqued your interest, are you wondering what there is to do during the offseason? While some things may close or function in a limited capacity, there is still plenty to see and do in Greece and here are some of our favorites:
One of the most popular spots to see in Athens, the Acropolis offers the chance to explore history by visiting the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena, and the Erechtheion. Because you will need to hike to reach this elevated plateau of monuments and ruins, doing so during the mild weather of the offseason makes it easier to enjoy. Once you make it to the top, you won't fight crowds of people. You can leisurely make your way through the area, taking all the time you want. There is a fee to visit the Acropolis, however, fees are waived certain days and weekends during the offseason. For more information, you can visit Odysseus Culture online.
Though not as popular as the nearby Acropolis, Ancient Agora is rich in history and worth a visit. The agoras offered places of assembly for the people of Athens, most notably Socrates and Saint Paul. Other places to see and visit include the Temple of Hephaestus, Stoa of Attalos, and the Tholos. There is an admission fee to Ancient Agora as well. If you plan to visit both locations in Athens, consider buying a Unified Ticket which allows access to both locations over five consecutive days. For more information, visit Odysseus Culture.
Athens International Film Festival
The offseason is the prime season to take part in the Athens International Film Festival. The event takes place in late September, spanning almost two weeks. If you're a movie buff, love to learn about film culture, and want to see some of cinema's newest and best, you can purchase tickets to participate. Athens offers multiple screening locations as well as guest speakers within the industry, not to mention several after parties! Visit their website for more information.
If you choose to travel deep in the offseason, one of the most festive times to do so is during Carnival season. Carnival celebrations take place throughout Greece as a way to begin the Lenten season. For Athens, this kicks off with Tsiknopempti or "Burnt Thursday". The theme of Carnival during lent is "Apokreas", which translates as "no more meat". Therefore, Tsiknopempti is the last opportunity for Greeks to enjoy meat before Lent begins. Tsiknopempti translates as "Smell of Burning Food Thursday" and is a day-long, all-the-meat-you-can-eat celebration. The main Carnival weekend includes a plethora of music and a parade.
The Chestnut Festival
The festival takes place in the Elos Village, a part of Crete surrounded by olive and chestnut trees. The festival celebrates the harvest of the chestnuts, so the date varies depending on the harvest but typically happens in late October or early November. Local dance ensembles and traditional folk music coincide with delicious chestnut treats such as roasted chestnuts, pastries, chestnut inspired dishes, and other sweet desserts. These savory offerings are best paired with Tsikoudia, a blend of Raki and Cretan honey. To stay up-to-date on the next festival, visit their Facebook page.
While Tsikoudia pairs well with the chestnut delicacies of Elos Village, it has a festival all its own. This festival takes place in Voukolies in West Crete. Tsikoudia is a by-product of wine making using the seeds, pulps, and stems of grapes. It contains 37% alcohol and compares to Scotch or Gin. The making of Tsikoudia celebrates a healthy grape harvest, typically in late October or early November, and involves food along with plenty of Tsikoudia samples.
The Rethymnon Carnival is the Crete version of Apokreas, similar to the Athens Carnival. It also ushers in Lent and begins when the "town crier" travels through the village announcing the event. There is a treasure hunt for children, various parties, dance groups, and a parade. The "Kantáda" is a four-hour serenade by various Carnival groups who sing throughout different parts of the village. The Grand Finale involves a float parade full of costumes, pictures, and sounds. The next day which is "Clean Monday" (or the first day of Lent), involves a vegetarian feast to begin the Lenten season.
Greece is lush in beauty, culture, and history, no matter what time of the year. If you're searching for the best season to enjoy everything it has to offer, consider offseason travel. You can immerse yourself in whatever sights and festivals you choose without the chaos of summer crowds or sweltering summer sun.