Long gold-streaked beaches, light summer breezes, dazzling sunbeams warming the skin and the sound of crashing waves echoing in the distance; this is what dreams are made of. Actually, this is what Greece is made of, which is precisely the reason why this astonishing country is one of the most favored holiday destinations around the world.
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Besides the obligatory holiday daydreaming, though, there is a number of practicalities that need to be handled before you embark on your dream trip to Greece. Yes, it’s quite unfortunate but even holidays require the laborious task of planning and organizing; it’s one of life’s hard truths we all have to deal with. And that’s exactly what we’re about to do, as below you’ll find solid advice on how to plan your trip to Greece to ensure your days are carefree and thoroughly thought-out!
What is the best time to visit Greece?
Parga in spring - credits: kostasgr/Shutterstock.com
Let’s get one thing out of the way: contrary to popular belief, Greece is superb all year round so choosing to visit it during winter is perfectly valid; don’t let anyone tell you any different. Of course, with it being a country surrounded by beautiful seas, it’s only natural that it is more popular for the magical summers that it offers its visitors with a free hand. And to be honest, If I were to choose a time to introduce Greece to first-time visitors, it would be during the warmer months, as I think that is when Greece is in full bloom -not just literally, but figuratively as well.
The Greek climate
Contrary to popular belief, Greece is not an exotic country where the sun shines 365 days a year. Our climate is mild and the sun shines more often than not, however, we do get a winter season and it can get chilly and windy. No Chicago in February, but still.
City reflection on a lake in Kastoria, Greece during winter - credits: Dimitrios Rizopoulos/Shutterstock
Therefore, visiting Greece in the dead of winter, between the months of December and March, might not be ideal if you’re looking to enjoy the sun and the sandy beaches Greece lavishly offers, especially if you’re planning to visit the perfect Greek island for you. This doesn't mean there are not plenty of reasons to love Greece in the winter! You could still have a merry old time if you decide to visit Athens and get to explore the city in a less touristy and more unexpected way, however, if you’re looking to capture an Instagram-perfect picture of you by the sea with a drink in hand, sporting an enviable tan, you can cross the winter months out of your planner.
Athenian street overlooking the Hadrian Arch - credits: Viacheslav Lopatin/Shutterstock.com
On the other hand, if you are thinking of coming in the middle of summer, you should be warned that it gets hot -really hot- and crowded. The Greek islands, especially the most popular ones like Mykonos and Santorini, get swamped by locals and visitors alike, while Athens, especially during the month of August, is much quieter.
Little Venice in Mykonos - credits: javarman/Depositphotos.com
Best time to visit Greek Islands
It all depends on what you’re after, however, we would consider as the best time to visit the Greek islands either the late spring or the early autumn. If you like to experience the bustling, cosmopolitan destinations and have no problem with the temperature rising above 35oC and the island of your choice being at full capacity, making the cost of your stay higher as well, then July and August are the months for you. If however, you prefer a quieter scene, which will offer you less choice in what you can do on the island along with a much sparser crowd, late April, May, June, September, and even October is what you should aim for.
Of course, the same does not apply to all Greek islands, as they are distinctively different from one another and offer different things. For example, due to its comparatively large population of permanent residents, in comparison to most Greek islands, Crete is one of the few, if not the only, island you could visit all year-round, with lots of fascinating Cretan sites waiting for visitors to discover them. Being a favored destination, the months of June, July, and August are the most crowded ones still, but its big size makes this problem a lot less prominent.
The picturesque, narrow streets of Chania's Old Town in Crete - credits: Patryk_Kosmider/Depositphotos.com
Ikaria, a personal favorite, is the exact opposite. Hiding its staggering beauty in a remote destination and not being popular to visitors from abroad, to enjoy the island to its fullest, you should pay it a visit in either July or August, as it will be too quiet outside of those months. An added bonus of the island is that its cool climate offers the optimum destination to shy away from the extreme heat of the summer.
Nas beach, Ikaria - credits: NDT/Shutterstock.com
Greece in the winter
If you would like to experience Greece in the winter, don’t worry, you’ll still have an amazing time and you don’t necessarily have to stick with Athens; just stay away from the islands and opt for the mainland. Destinations such as Meteora and Ancient Corinth, are perfect for those looking to get an authentic Greek experience, while Ancient Corinth is close enough to Athens that you can combine it with your trip to the capital. Enjoy a tour around Meteora or a tour around Ancient Corinth to get to know these magnificent regions of Greece in a fun, smart, and compact way!
Panoramic view of a monastery in Meteora - credits: matzsoca/Shutterstock.com
Arachova is another exquisite winter destination of Greece, gathering a large and diverse crowd, especially around Christmas time. It offers wonderful landscapes, mouthwatering traditional dishes, and even the opportunity for visitors to embark on a skiing adventure in its mountains; after all, Arachova has one of our favorite ski resorts in Greece!
The town of Arachova - credits: Vagelis Pikoulas/Shutterstock.com
If you want to visit Greece -which you should- don’t restrict yourself to clichés; think outside the box. Greece offers much more than meets the eye and you can find a perfect destination depending on when you decide to come around.
We are one of the lucky countries that still get to experience every single season along with its distinctive charms, so join us and let’s appreciate them together! Whether you plan on visiting during spring, summer, autumn, or winter, you can tailor your trip to fit your needs. Rest assured that you will leave satisfied and eager to come back!
How many days should you spend in Greece?
A young couple with their dog in Meteora - credits: NataliaD/Depositphotos.com
Everyone knows that the days you’ve been saving from your annual leave are more precious than gold. That’s why you should be careful to spend no more and no less than the amount you absolutely need in the interest of getting the most out of your Greek experience.
Needless to say, you can plan a visit to Greece just for a weekend getaway and still have a fabulous time, however, although it is a relatively small country, don’t expect to have the time to explore it to its fullest within just a couple of days. Most importantly: don’t try to squeeze in more than one destination if you don’t plan your stay to be longer than a fortnight. But even if you’re planning to stay for a couple of weeks, packing your days with a gazillion destinations will only result in spending more time on transportation rather than on the beach, while you’ll fail to get an authentic experience and explore each destination adequately, being always on the run. Two or even three destinations are fine, but any more than that will transform your vacations into a fruitless wandering around Greece’s regions, and that’s definitely not what you should aim for.
Indicatively, if you’re interested in exploring the striking Greek capital before hitting the beloved islands, three days should do the trick. Within 3 days you’ll have plenty of time to visit Athens’ most significant landmarks and archaeological sites, wander around its vibrant streets and picturesque neighborhoods, taste its delectable cuisine, and explore its diverse nightlife while mingling with the locals. For the Greek islands, there is no golden rule, as the number of days you should spend depends on which island you have your eyes on. If you want to visit one of Greece’s biggest islands, such as Crete, then the more days you book the merrier. Definitely don’t do less than three though cause you won’t get to see and experience everything you should. For smaller islands, a couple of days should do. But again, they’re comparatively tiny and there are significantly fewer attractions, there are a lot of beaches you will want to luxuriate in; better safe than sorry!
How far in advance should I book a flight to Greece?
Athens' International Airport signboard - credits: Paul Cowan/Shutterstock.com
The early bird catches the worm; you snooze, you lose; first come, first served; day late and a dollar short. There are so many ways to get the point across, so please don’t wait till the last minute to book your tickets! If you want to visit during the summer, in addition to running the risk of your desired flight is fully booked, which will complete your plans for a relaxing Greek holiday, even if you do find tickets, their prices will be sky-high. Contrarily, if you plan ahead and book your tickets early, not only will you cross off your list one less thing to do and you’ll be rid of unnecessary stress, but you might also be able to strike a bargain in regard to the prices of your tickets.
I’m sure you already know that there are a ton of booking sites on the internet you can use, still, I feel obliged to mention my favorite websites/apps that I have found work best and offer the best deals. Skyscanner and Airtickets are a couple of firm favorites when it comes to booking airplane tickets and renting a car. Ferry Hopper and Travelplanet24 are exclusively for maritime transport while they also include information about the best things to do at your desired destination. And lastly, Expedia, and Kayak, offer a more inclusive experience, giving you the opportunity to book airplane tickets, ferry tickets, hotels, rent a vehicle, as well as check out what’s the best activities to engage in at your final destination. All of the sites above aim to compare the available pricing online and present you with the cheapest options.
Choose unique places to visit in Greece
I totally get you drooling over the idea of visiting as many Greek islands as humanly possible at once, however, I promise you that in real life, this is not the way to go; as I’ve already mentioned above, packing a ton of destinations in one trip will do more harm than good. As a result, you have to be wise about the locations you choose and take into consideration a number of factors, including the time of your visit, your traveling arrangements -are you traveling with your family? Solo? With your significant other?- and the vibe you’re after.
If you’re traveling with kids, then having a read of the best Greek islands for families, will give you the answer. Alternatively, you can read which is the right Greek island for you, which will help you make an educated decision regarding your Greek destinations by providing you with valuable local information.
One thing I should stress though is that no matter where you go, please do not -and I repeat: do not- skip Athens. Why would you? Despite the Greek islands getting all the hype for their striking beaches and their party ways, Athens can offer you just as much if not more! An abundance of archaeological sites, a plethora of art galleries and other cultural stimuli, incredible food, crystal-clear beaches a few minutes away from the city center, and delicious flavors from all over Greece. Incorporate the Greek capital in your holiday itinerary in order to get a better taste of what it is to live in Greece like a local!
Get your accommodation sorted
Great Britain hotel Athens - credits: Leonid Andronov/Shutterstock.com
Unless you fancy staying at the ‘Stars’ hotel -a funny inside joke between Greeks that refers to sleeping on the beach with the starry night sky as your ceiling- along with your plane -or ferry- tickets, you should sort out your housing situation the earliest you can. If your destination of choice in Athens, with the Greek capital being a big city, the choices you have regarding your accommodations are plenty, but before booking a hotel you must decide on the neighborhood. Thankfully for you, you can find all the information about where to stay in Athens and how to choose the right neighborhood all in one place.
On the occasion, however, that you are planning to visit the Greek countryside or the Greek islands or both, your options are much more restricted as there are considerably fewer accommodations available whether you’re looking at conventional hotels or AirBnbs. As a result, my advice for that will mirror my advice for your tickets: please don’t let yourself and your company resort in last-minute bookings, as there is probably a high chance of not finding what suits your needs and stumbling upon exorbitant prices that would have been easily avoided a few months prior. If you go ahead and book your accommodation after having done your research in each destination you plan on visiting, you’ll cross off your list probably the most stress-inducing elements of your holidays, while you’ll also be able to budget yourself way better and more accurately, knowing the exact amount your stay will cost.
Before booking your room, just have a few things in mind: the absolute most important thing to aim for -sharing the first spot of the list along with cleanness- is close proximity to the heart of the region you reside in. And when I say close proximity, I mean that your accommodation of choice should ideally be within walking distance from the city/town/village center -or at the very least, the public transport station that will connect you with the rest of the region; trust me when I say that there is nothing better than being a short walk’s distance from your bed after a wild night out!
What should I pack for my trip to Greece?
Packing a suitcase - credits: Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com
You’ve booked your tickets, you’ve made reservations, you picked the best accommodation available, and now its time to start packing for your dreamy Greek summer holidays. If you want to pack lightly, yet effectively, follow our advice below and enjoy a comfortable stay with everything you possibly need!
Itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini
First and foremost, we’ll talk about the no.1 Greek summer essential: swimsuits! If you choose to spend your time in Greece on one of our breathtaking islands -good for you!- you’ll probably spend most of time of the day in a swimsuit. Therefore, make sure to pack at least two with you, in order to change between them, never staying wet and icky. You should also pack a swimsuit cover-up in order to walk the streets without making the commitment of changing out of your beach attire. This way, you’ll stay fresh, and ready for a quick dive at any time.
Stay hydrated at all costs
The excessive sun exposure you’re probably not used to and you are definitely going to experience during your stay in Greece, can cause dehydration if you’re not careful enough, and the only way to prevent it is by drinking lots and lots of water. Thankfully, in most places in Greece -unfortunately, however, not most of the islands- you can drink water from the tap. Therefore, it’s a good idea to pack a water bottle with you, in order to save the environment of excess plastic and you from the cost and effort of buying bottles of water everywhere you go. Saving the planet and money at the same time; what a great combo!
Girls walking with their suitcases in Syntagma Square - credits: Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock.com
Slather on sunscreen like your life depends on it
I cannot stress enough how absolutely essential it is to cover with copious amounts of sunscreen every exposed surface of your body in high SPF sunscreen, including your lips, hands, and feet -the amounts of time I’ve sported a flip-flop-shaped burn on my feet are more than I’d like to admit. Premature aging and red skin are never in style, so protect yourself from the ruthless Greek sun in every way possible. Don't forget to pack with you the highest SPF sunscreen you can think of and renew your sunscreen application every couple of hours and don’t hesitate to pair it with a big straw hat and sunglasses in order to survive the summer heat in fashion.
Paper-thin clothes are the way to go
We do understand that fashion is a creative expression of one's personality, however, believe us when we say that if you visit Greece in the midst of summer, and especially if you visit Athens, fashion will be the last thing on your mind. What will be the first, is to dress as weather-appropriate as possible in order to avoid getting too hot. We highly suggest you bring along with you the lightest clothes you own -the thinner the better- and preferably ones that are made of “breathing” materials, such as cotton that will ensure adequate ventilation. Stay away from heavy fabrics like jeans -unless they are in the form of shorts- and synthetic materials that will make you to overly sweat. Of course, it’d be wise to pack a light sweater with you for the more chilly winter nights, especially if you visit the Greek islands, but depending on the month you visit Greece, chances are, you’re not going to need it.
Cobbled streets and high heels are a match made in hell
There is absolutely no need to suffer during your Greek vacations on painful high heels, as the cobbled of the Greek islands are an absolute no-no for anything other than flats. Instead, you should pack a pair of comfortable sandals. You could also bring snickers with you, but personally, I would avoid them since just the thought of socks makes me sweat, and I would bring a pair of hiking sandals that are as comfortable as snickets but not as suffocating for your toes. Additionally, depending on how familiar you are with the sea, you could pack a pair of slip-on water shoes so your skin never has to touch the bottom of the ocean or the sharp rocks you can find on the shore. All in all, a pair of comfortable flats is essential, but if you don’t pack them, don’t worry, there are plenty of Grecian-style sandals to be found in every corner of the country, combining style with comfort.
A full face of makeup? That’s a full bag of yikes
Everyone who likes wearing makeup -I hear you, I do too- should be extremely cautious in regard to what they bring along to their Greek trip. Heavy foundation and caked skin will immediately melt off and create a mess. Therefore, you’re better off opting for a tinted moisturizer, or even better a tinted sunscreen, and waterproof cosmetics. Try putting on as little as possible, allowing your skin to breathe while also preparing yourself for minimal damage in case the weather gets to you. Besides, everyone knows that tanned skin is glorious and requires minimal coverage -if any.
Visitors with their luggage on Monastiraki Square - credits: Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock.com
Let’s get practical
You don't need me to tell you to pack your electronics and your chargers with you, you know that already. However, something you may not know is that depending on where you’re coming from, you may have to pack a power adapter that will allow your chargers to fit in the Greek power sockets. We advise you to also bring a portable charger, which is a great investment no matter where you go, as you may find yourself on hour-long journeys with no power outlet accessible or even worse, out of juice while trying to find your way around using GPS. It can also come in handy during the long hours on the beach. Better safe than sorry, am I right or am I right?
Another one bites the dust
And by that, we mean another mosquito, hopefully. Those little blood-sucking devils are everywhere during summertime. As soon as the sun goes down, they come out to play and bite. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to protect yourself against their attack. You can spray yourself with bug spray, of which there are plenty in the market, you can buy mosquito plugins, or you can even buy mosquito repellent bracelets. In any case, we suggest you also pack some ointment and cortisone cream in the unlikely event that mosquitos win the fight. Don’t worry though, their bite marks will have probably gone away by the next day anyway.
If you take our packing suggestions into account, rest assured that you’ll make everyone jealous of your packing abilities. Light luggage that includes everything you will need for a fun and comfortable stay in Greece is both yours and our objective.
Of course, even if you forget to pack any of the aforementioned necessities, it’s not the end of the world. You can find anything you're looking for in Greece; no materialist needs will get in the way of your dream holidays! Just look at the bright sun and the iridescent sea, who cares about clothes in such a majestic setting?
Plan your transportation in Greece ahead
Private transportation - credits: Corepics VOF/Shutterstock.com
Although figuring your way around Athens is relatively easy with the buses, railway, and underground system covering the vast majority of the city, transporting people with ease and efficiency, the Greek islands and countryside are a completely different story. While in Athens you can go wherever you like, whenever you like, public transportation at the Greek islands and countryside will take you only so far and at specific times in the day, while the taxi system is incredibly pricy outside the Greek capital and definitely no worth it; I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend my money on souvlaki wraps, than on overpriced transportation.
From my point of view, your best bet is to plan ahead your transportation and be in the know from the get-go. Educate yourself on how to use public transport - especially if you visit Athens, learning how to use the Athens’ Metro system will save you a load of trouble- explore the different lines that accommodate your needs best and print out a map for your convenience before landing.
If the idea of driving yourself around is appealing, then you can rent a car in one of the many rental companies in the country. Rentalcars.com, Carflexi.com, and Economycarrentals.com are excellent trustworthy companies you can depend on if you wish to rent ahead, but there are plenty of other local businesses in the center of Athens or near Athens’ International Airport and the port of Pireaus waiting to help out the travelers.
Alternatively, you can choose to explore the regions of Greece by joining some of Greeking.me’s tours and trips that include private transfers and will make your life much easier and much more enjoyable; it’s all up to you!
Mind your step, you might fall into a tourist trap!
Candid image from Greeking.me's 'Athens for Foodies' tour
This one is the trickiest bit. With Greece being a massive tourist attraction - especially during the high-season summer months- there are tourist traps everywhere across the country and specifically in the most visited areas, such as around the most momentous archaeological sites and the most popular Greek islands such as Santorini and Mykonos. Now, unless you’re a local -in which case you wouldn’t be reading this blog post- it is hard to recognize said traps and steer clear from them. What you can do, however, is ask those who know better -aka the locals. The Greeks haven’t gained the reputation of being admirably hospitable for nothing; therefore, put this attribute to good use by asking around wherever you go for the best places to see, eat, drink and shop. By the way, have you seen our Greek Island Hopping guide?
What’s more, in order to get the most authentic, off-the-beaten-path experience, you should try to incorporate as many local experiences, tours, and adventures with the help of local companies that will show you the city from a local’s perspective, making sure you get a glimpse of what it’s like to be a Greek and get to wake to this amazing country day in and day out. From a ‘Heraklion for Foodies’ culinary tour to a ‘Mykonos Sunset Sailing Cruise’, a ‘Mythical Music Presentation’ in Santorini, a ‘Delphi Day Trip from Athens’, and everything in between, you’ll get an inside scoop on the best parts of Greece without you having to move as much as a muscle; that’s a win-win situation if I’ve ever heard one!
You know, I almost get jealous of people who are about to experience Greece for the first time. That first salty scent once you reach the shore or you get off of the airplane. That first dive into the crystal clear waters. The first Greek summer sunset. They’re all such mesmerizing experiences you cannot duplicate in any other part of the world no matter how hard you try.
Follow my advice above, and you’re bound to be a winner! Make the best of memories you will cherish for the rest of your lives; stress-free and well-educated you have no reason to straddle the fence; book your tickets, pack your bags, and come visit the homeland of the Olympian gods!