EXPLORE an abundance of history, art and culture, stunning nature, snow-capped mountains, and empty beaches in a fresh and cool climate with no crowds of holiday makers in sight. Just a few of the reasons that I think Athens and Greece is well worth visiting during the autumn and winter months.
When most people think of coming to Greece they think of holidaying on the beautiful Greek islands – golden sandy beaches, turquoise seas, clear blue skies with not a cloud in sight, and of course the scorching hot sun! The sun, sea and nightlife is the reason most people come to Greece – to spend the days relaxing on the beach working on building that rich brown sun tan to make their friends green with envy, only occasionally moving from the beach to cool down by jumping in the sea and in the evening eating mousaka or souvlaki and drinking ouzo whilst watching the sun set before heading to a bar or nightclub or maybe even spending all night partying on Paradise Beach or another of Greece’s notorious 24hour party venues. Sounds like paradise, right?
Not for me. Beach holidays honestly bore the pants off me – overly crowded beaches full people who act like skin cancer is going of fashion and hysterical young people who have just discovered sex, drugs, alcohol and electronic music and want to tell you extremely loudly and drunkenly all about it before vomiting on your shoes. Personally I value my pale, British-rose complexion and, after seeing many badly aging sun-worshipers in Australia, nothing on earth would persuade me to BBQ my skin by spending hours lying in the sun. No, beach holidays really are not my cup of tea. So why do I live in Greece?
I love to explore nature, culture, art and history – something that Greece and Athens in particular has in abundance. I love Athens because there is so much to see and do here – there are so many historic monuments, museums, art galleries, theatres and temples, not to mention the fantastic local food and cosmopolitan nightlife – Athens truly has something for everyone. Getting lost in Athens is one of my favourite things to do, history and culture can be found in every nook, cranny and crevice of every street in every district here. If one could possibly ever get bored of this city then you only need to take a bus or train for one or two hours in any direction to be surrounded by beautiful Greek countryside, or in less than a day you can reach any of the famous Greek islands. Yes I love Athens – I find the summer here overwhelmingly hot and humid. The streets and all tourist attractions are crowded with burnt looking holiday-makers rushing around madly trying to see everything Athens has to offer in one day before travelling to the islands of flying home. Also for someone who likes to do things spontaneously (or like me is just incapable of planning anything), Greece in the summer is just a nightmare as it is necessary to book accommodation and transport months in advance. Also everything from accommodation to food to souvenirs to concert tickets is far, far more expensive during the high season.
Perhaps it’s because I am British and therefore accustomed to a cooler climate, but for me the perfect time to visit Athens and Greece is during the winter. It is now mid-November here and the temperature is still around 15-20 degrees C in the day – meaning it’s comfortable to walk around in – and in the evenings it’s still warm enough to sit outside wearing just a small jacket.
Also there is no need to book anything in advance and in the slower winter months many hostels and hotels give special room rates especially on longer stays and give complimentary upgrades where possible. Working in hospitality I know that during the high season all staff and businesses are working flat out and stretched to breaking point – during the winter months people working in hospitality have much more time to spend socialising with customers – so if, like me, you enjoy chatting to the local waiting or bar staff when you go out then the winter months may suit you much better.
I find the whole atmosphere in Athens is much more relaxed in the autumn and winter months, there are certainly still plenty of tourists, travellers and backpackers here – but none of the stereotypical holiday-makers that Greece is full of over the summer. During the summer most of the visitors to Athens are Europeans (especially Brits) on summer vacation or Aussies or Kiwis escaping the winter at home by holidaying in Europe. Most just briefly pass through Athens to get to or from their island holidays. During the autumn and winter months here in Athens you can meet such a mixture of different people of all ages and backgrounds from all over the world. This week we have guests at Athenstyle hostel from Korea, China, North America, Japan, Germany, Poland, England, Ecuador, Portugal, Brazil, Malaysia, India, New Zealand, Venezuela, Canada, Russia, Holland, Finland, Czech Republic, Peru and Argentina. Also, as most people are back-packing or travelling rather than just on holiday, most people stay in Athens for several days or even week. For me I much prefer this, as people in the hostel have the time to get to know each other and also the staff and owners (who are not quite so busy at this time of year) and so now often it feels like a family home here rather than just another busy hotel.
If, like me, you love nature and the outdoors then the autumn and winter are the perfect time to enjoy the countryside around Athens and Greece. The colours are so beautiful and vibrant, the smell of the earth after the rain is wonderful and the air is cool and fresh. Most of the Greek islands at this time of year are near deserted – the sea is still warm enough to swim in if you are brave like me – and you can explore the stunning beauty of the Greek islands in the cool fresh climate without being surrounded by crowds of holiday-makers. Nightlife is pretty much non-existent on the islands at this time of year, but there are still traditional tavernas where you can enjoy Greek food with the locals and sip hot rakomelo (raki with honey) whilst watching the sun-set across the breathtakingly beautiful and near deserted scenery (just remember to bring a jacket for the evenings). Now that sounds like paradise!
Most archaeological sites in Athens and around Greece still open although they operate a reduced winter service from the 1st November – 31st March so a little more planning is needed, but is well worth it to be able to see the amazing historical sites without them being ridiculously crowded with tourists. Also, every Sunday during the winter most public museums and archaeological sites across Greece are free of admission!!
So if you love the sun, sand, and sea, busy beaches and scorching hot humid weather, drinking, drugs, electronic music and partying with lots of other holidaymakers then Greece in the summer is the perfect holiday destination for you. However, if you want to explore the stunning nature around Athens and Greece in a cool, fresh climate, visit all the archaeological and historical sites without them being crowded with holiday-makers, if you’re interested in meeting a variety of helpful, relaxed locals and travelers and backpackers from all over the world, and if you like to travel spontaneously without having to book weeks or months in advance or if you’re travelling on a budget – then you may find that the perfect time to visit Athens and Greece is during the autumn or winter.