acationing in Greece is a pleasure in any season. Most folks opt to visit Greece during the summer months, when the sun is high and the surf is warm. But little do people know that a visit to Greece during the winter months can be equally as exciting and fulfilling, and even more steeped in pure Greek culture.
The benefits of visiting Greece in the winter months (considered December through March) are that while most of the other tourists are off vacationing elsewhere, those who call Greece their home embrace the off-season tourists with a first-hand look at what it means to be Greek.
For those of us who enjoy a little less of the tourism factor in our vacations, Greece in the winter is the ideal get-away. Hiking, biking, any exploration of nature is easier now, with the slightly cooler weather, and the number of other tourists at a minimum. Winter is the time to delight in the food the locals savor, to enjoy the nightlife known only to the locals and to participate in some activities and celebrations the locals relish only with their own.
Skiing in Greece is an after thought, or nonexistent one for most looking to vacation, while in fact, Greece provides some of the best skiing mountains in the world. Macedonia, Pelion, the Peloponnesus, Pelion and other cities to the north have ski centers and chalet type buildings in the mountains that provide ski lifts for downhill as well as cross-country runs.
Because Greece is blessed with such a temperate climate and beautiful natural environment, sailing in the winter is also a preferred sport by some. The cooler weather and less hustle and bustle from tourist crowds make it easier and even more enjoyable to sail and enjoy the natural surroundings. Whether it is bird watching, or ruins exploration.
Island culture abounds in the winter months, when tourists do not outnumber the locals. The usual tourist spots that are open in the summer months tend to close come wintertime. This means that the establishments that are open, are regular spots the locals visit. In turn, this generally means better Greek food to enjoy, and better yet, deeper, richer Greek culture including dog slide races, river wild rafting, and Alpine skiing.
Another great positive for enjoying Greece in the off-season, is of course, the lower rates. Traveling over seas is already costly enough, but if Greece is calling you, add lower rates on everything from airfare to hotel rates to the list of positives.
Apokreas, or carnival season, takes place in Greece around the end of February. The island of Skyros, Athens and Patras hold huge celebrations at this time of year. Apokreas refers to the time right before the 40 days of fasting before Easter begins. This involves feasting, celebrating, drinking and dancing – every night. What better way to see Greece than during this time, when many locals are celebrating more than they do the rest of the year?
More reasons to enjoy Greece in the wintertime is that ferries are always running to and from the mainland to the islands. If the weather becomes questionable or nasty, travel may become difficult, but for the most part, winter weather still tends to be quite exceptional.
The ruins are much more enjoyable to visit during the winter. The crowds are not in place, and neither is the heat. So it is easy to linger among the ruins, such as the Acropolis, the monasteries on top of the rock towers in Meteora or the Oracle of Delphi. One of the most amazing views of Athens can be seen from the Acropolis at sunset. Part of the reasoning behind visiting Greece is, no doubt, to explore the history of the native land, and the ancient ruins, so why would not someone want to take as much time as possible?
The picking of olives and production of olive oil is an important aspect of living in Greece. Homer referred to it as a “liquid gold” which is more a true statement today then he could have ever believed. A full 60% of Greece’s cultivated land is devoted to growing olives. The fruit is hand picked by families and even relatives and neighbors join in on the fun. Since this process generally starts toward the end of the year, those visiting Greece during the winter can help pick olives themselves, and really be a part of Greek family traditions.
With so many reasons to visit Greece during the winter months, how could anyone who is thinking of planning a trip not be seduced by the history and natural beauty that are in abundance in this amazing Mediterranean country.
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