fbpx
Santorini cakdera winter clouds DP (5)

Athens, Santorini and Mykonos in January and February: Visit Greece Off-Season

    Traveling to Athens, Santorini and Mykonos, three of the most popular Greek islands, during the off-season can be surprisingly rewarding. You will discover a different face of the beautiful Mediterranean country, which is typically associated with beaches, sun and clear blue skies.

    What is the Weather like in Winter in Greece?

    People sometimes think that Greece is a tropical country. This couldn’t be further from the truth! 

    Although it’s located in South Europe, Greece has four seasons.

    While winters in Greece are much milder than in North Europe, they can still be cold, rainy and windy. Snow is not uncommon in some areas, especially in the north. 

    The average temperatures are around 10C – 15C (50F – 57F). 

    Crete is considered to be the warmest place in Greece because it is located in the south.  

    With that said, on most years there’s a natural phenomenon called “the Halcyon Days”. These are a few sunny winter days in Greece, when the skies are clear and blue, and the temperature can be over 20C / 68F. These days usually fall in January, though unfortunately it’s impossible to predict exactly when.

    Why Should I Go to Greece in Winter?

    So, given the weather is unpredictable and unsteady, why would anyone want to visit Greece in winter? 

    First of all, you would see a completely different side of Greece’s most popular destinations. You would enjoy fewer tourist crowds, more authentic experiences, and considerably lower accommodation prices

    While some places would be too quiet, others still have a large permanent population, and there would still be plenty to do. You would enjoy the beautiful landscapes under a completely different light, and would see some things you couldn’t see in summer, like holiday decorations, traditions and some special days.

    Here are a few pros and cons when visiting Greece in winter.

    winter beach Greece DP

    Pros of Traveling to Greece in Winter

    • Admission tickets for the ancient sites and museums are half-price, and there is free admission on the first Sunday of each month
    • Accommodation is less expensive (up to 30% for hotels and even more for airbnbs)
    • Some tour operators might be offering special discounts 
    • Car rental prices are lower
    • There are no heat waves or any of the extreme summer temperatures
    • There are virtually no waiting lines for the archaeological sites, museums and hop-on-hop-off buses, making family visits more pleasant
    • Group sizes will typically be smaller, and it will be easier for kids to concentrate on what the guides are saying
    • Cooking classes and food tours will rarely be fully booked in winter, and you might end up having a private family tour if no other people show up
    • The airports and ferry ports are much less busy
    • It is easier to find taxis, transfers and last-minute tours

    Cons of Traveling to Greece in Winter

    • It is too cold to swim for most people, though if you go to Athens you could swim in Lake Vouliagmeni, at the Athens Riviera 
    • Daylight hours are shorter, as sunset is around 17.00 – 18.30 depending on the month
    • Visiting the ancient sites like the Acropolis on a rainy day is best avoided, as the surfaces might be slippery
    • There are considerably fewer flights and ferries to the Greek islands

    Special Days in Greece in Winter

    Greeks celebrate several special days during winter. Apart from the festivities on Christmas / New Year’s Eve, there is another religious holiday called Epiphany, on January 6th. In various coastal towns all around Greece, a priest throws a cross into the sea, and young men jump into the water and dive for it. This is a fascinating tradition to experience.

    epiphany-pixabay-Greece1160792_1280
    Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

    Another important day, which normally falls in February or early March, is Tsiknopempti, best translated as “the meat-eating Thursday”. On this day, Greeks eat lots of meat, in preparation for the upcoming Lent period, when animal products are traditionally not consumed. On this day, you will typically see large groups of people sitting at tavernas eating and drinking like there’s no tomorrow!

    One more thing worth looking out for are the carnival festivities. The Carnival usually falls in the second half of February / beginning of March, and you will typically see children (and adults) dressed up with colorful costumes. 

    Carnival Apokries Greece festivals and celebrations MH 3

    Read here about the various Greek Festival and Public Vacations.

    Let’s see what to expect in winter in three of Greece’s most iconic destinations: Athens, Mykonos and Santorini.

    ATHENS IN WINTER: SHALL I VISIT ATHENS WITH KIDS IN WINTER?

    Our short answer is YES, DEFINITELY! Here are 6 reasons why.

    1. The Heart of Athens Beats in Winter

    The Greek capital is fully alive in winter. Visitors are often surprised to see that the sidewalk cafes and bars are full of people at any time of day. Street vendors, musicians and all sorts of buskers add lots of color to the vibrant city.

    chestnut winter greece adobe

    Anyone who has visited the Acropolis or the Ancient Agora in August will definitely remember the scorching sun, extreme heat and long queues. This wouldn’t be an issue in winter! In fact, winter can be a great time to visit the Greek capital, whether you are interested in exploring its ancient past or just want to pick up the vibe. 

    You will get to see the sites and different neighborhoods, like the famous Plaka, under a completely different light, and you will get a feel of the local Athenian way of living.

    2. Accommodation in Athens: Wide Choice At Better Prices

    Athens is a bustling capital year-round, and all hotels in the historical city center operate as usual, and often offer reduced rates. While their outdoor hotel pools will typically be closed, indoor pools are likely to remain open.

    If you are an Airbnb traveler, off-season prices also tend to be lower, as there is less demand compared to high season. Sometimes, there is even room for negotiation with the owner.

    Some hotels on the picturesque Athens Riviera, on the coast, remain closed during winter. Regardless, you would still have plenty of options if you want to stay by the sea. Hotel prices would be much lower than in summer, and you could catch some incredible deals.

    Athens winter clouds DP

    3. Family-Friendly Tours and Activities in Athens For Kids in Winter: Abundance of Choice

    Sightseeing tours in Athens operate year-round, with the exception of the sailing tours in the Athens Riviera.

    Acropolis winter clouds athens DP

    Athens has dozens of cinemas and theatres, and you will find dozens of performances and shows that your children will enjoy. Note that the outdoor cinemas are closed in winter.

    Is there any ice skating rings in Athens?

    If your children are tired of museums, archaeological sites and restaurants, you can take them ice-skating. Every year, several venues offer this popular winter sport, though you’d need to check for the latest information. Some useful addresses are:

    • Athens Heart, 186 Pireos Street – the largest permanent ice rink in Greece 
    • Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Faliro 
    • The Atrium of the Megaron Concert Hall, Vasilissis Sofias Avenue
    • Escape Center, Leoforos Dimokratias in Ilion
    • The Christmas Factory (open from November 27, 2021 to January 6, 2021)

    4. Day trips and Excursions for Families from Athens in Winter: So Many Choices

    Winter is a great time to explore some of the areas in mainland Greece. Areas like Delphi, Nafplio, Mycenae and Kalavrita are easily reached on a day trip. You can even do Meteora as a day trip from Athens if your kids are not too young (via train).

    Or you can do a popular ferry excursion to three Saronic islands, Aegina, Poros and Hydra, which runs 364 days a year!

    If you want to spend a few nights away but still stay on the mainland, you can visit Meteora, Thessaloniki, Mt Pelion or the thermal spas in Edipsos. 

    Nafplio view, Peloponnese, Greece SH-min

    5. Winter Shopping in Athens: Great Deals

    The main shopping street in Athens is Ermou Street, located between Syntagma and Monastiraki metro stations, which will most likely be within walking distance of your hotel. 

    During the January and February sales, you will find discounted clothes and other items that you will love to take back home. 

    Other areas to go shopping include Plaka, Koukaki and Kolonaki, in the centre, whereas there are a few shopping malls outside the center.

    The biggest (and best) shopping malls are: 

    • Golden Hall: located in front of the Olympic stadium on Kifisias Avenue – 20 minutes by car from Syntagma, Athens city centre.
    • The Mall Athens: located in Marousi, a northern suburb.
    • McArthur Glen & Smart Park: located In Spata, near Attica Zoo, around 30 drive from Syntagma.

    6. Restaurants in Athens in Winter: Open All Year Round

    Even in winter months, Athens is a vibrant city, and there are endless taverna and restaurant options. Many restaurants offer outdoor dining, usually using heaters when the weather is cooler.

    Moreover, popular restaurants will be more accessible as there will be fewer tourists.

    Note that, unlike accommodation prices, food and drink prices remain the same year-round. Still, food in Athens is very affordable.

    GREEK ISLANDS IN WINTER

    The Greek Islands of Mykonos and Santorini in Winter: There are Pros and Cons

    While summer is the most popular time to visit the Greek islands of Santorini and Mykonos, there are certain advantages if you decide to visit in winter, especially if you are not overly interested in beach time. 

    • Winter is a great time to appreciate the cosmopolitan Greek islands without the crowds. You can take in the picturesque Cycladic architecture, and explore the narrow whitewashed alleys in the traditional villages. 
    • If you and your family are into photography, you will be able to capture the natural beauty, colors and landscapes of the islands.
    • You may even have the tranquil beaches to yourself.
    • In addition, your children will love playing with the friendly, well-fed cats, and the famous Mykonos pelican.
    • You will even be able to chat to the friendly islanders, who won’t be rushed and busy like they are in summer!
    Mykonos winter DP (5)

    Take Advantage of Savings: Ferries, Flights, Accommodation, Car Rentals

    Cost-wise, there are some benefits of traveling during off-season when it comes to ferries and flights.

    Ferries to Mykonos and Santorini

    • Ferries cost the same all year round. The difference is that in the summer months there are more ferry companies with more routes (with faster ferries).
    • The rule is that the faster the ferries, the more expensive the ticket. 
    • For example, you can travel from Piraeus to Mykonos in the off-season for less than 40 euros per person from Athens. In July, you can find the same tickets at the same prices, plus a ticket for 65 euros that will get you to Mykonos an hour earlier.
    • The same applies for Santorini as well.

    Flights to Mykonos and Santorini

    • When it comes to flights, the general rule is that if you book early, you fly cheaper.
    • The price differences between summer and winter are not great, as people staying on the islands in winter can only get to the mainland by plane or ferries (limited).
    • Be aware that the weather in winter is not always good for travelling by ferry. In any case, try to book your tickets as early as possible, even if you are traveling to Greece in winter.

    Mykonos Accommodation: Off-Season

    • In Mykonos, you will find several family-friendly accommodations throughout the year, mainly villas or airbnbs as opposed to hotels. Most of the hotels that are open throughout the year are in the main town (Chora). 
    • Price-wise, the price ranges are very wide when you compare rates off season versus high season, especially if you prefer to stay in a mid-range or upscale villa. In many cases, the price is double when you compare high and the low season price. 

    Santorini Accommodation: Off-Season

    • In Santorini, in the low season of January or February, you can find relatively easy accommodation options in amazing locations like Oia or Imerovigli, locations where during summer, availability is very limited. 
    • The price difference of renting a high end villa in January or February compared to August is huge. Hotel room or suites that cost 800 euros per night in July you might find for less than 250 euros in February.
    • Overall, in winter, Santorini is cheaper and has more accommodation options than Mykonos. 

    Car Rental Savings

    • Car rentals are cheaper in the off season in both Mykonos and Santorini. That said, the price difference is not great.
    • Choose the month you are planning to visit strategically, as prices vary by month (as opposed to high/ low season).
    • In any case, if you decide to go with a local company, you might be able to negotiate a better price.

    No Savings in Tours or Organized Activities

    The prices for the activities or organized tours don’t differ between the summer and winter months. That said, entrance to archaeological sites and museums are reduced during off-season (there are also days with free entrance) throughout Greece.

    SANTORINI IN WINTER: PROS AND CONS OF VISITING SANTORINI IN JANUARY OR FEBRUARY

    The iconic island is famous for its stunning sunsets and views to the volcano’s caldera. But it’s not just a tourist destination – its permanent population is about 11,500 residents, of whom about 3,500 are schoolchildren.

    Santorini cakdera winter clouds DP (3)

    Here are the pros and cons of visiting Santorini in winter:

    Pros

    • You will find much better prices at villas and airbnbs, often a third or a fourth of the summer prices
    • Flights from Athens will typically be cheaper than in summer
    • You will be able to take fantastic photos without the hordes of tourists and cruise boat passengers who visit in summer
    • You can dine at local restaurants and mingle with the locals
    • You and your children will love hiking the lovely Fira – Oia trail
    • You can visit some of the island’s wineries i.e. Argiros or Venetsanos and have a more personalized experience
    • The famous Santorini sunsets are actually more picturesque during winter, due to the fact that the air is drier and crispier!
    • Decide last minute to do a cooking lesson, food tour or tour the island with a licenced guide (no need to book well in advance)
    • Visit Akrotiri Archaological Site will less people

    Cons

    • Not all hotels or high end restaurants will be open until March. 
    • There will be no sailing tours and volcano tours.
    • You will probably not be able to swim, as the water will be too cold.
    • The amazing Museum of Lost Atlantis will be closed

    If you can only visit Santorini in winter, by all means go for it. Even though you won’t experience the island in its full glory, there’s something very romantic and peaceful about it, and you won’t regret your trip. 

    MYKONOS IN WINTER: PROS AND CONS OF VISITING MYKONOS IN JANUARY OR FEBRUARY

    The famous, cosmopolitan island is best known for its summer party scene and its wonderful sandy beaches. If you go in winter, you won’t see any of that – instead, you will experience the island’s natural beauty. 

    Mykonos has a permanent population of about 11,000 residents. About 2,000 of them are schoolchildren.

    Mykonos winter DP (5)

    Here are the pros and cons of visiting Mykonos in winter:

    Pros

    • It will cost you much less to rent any of the luxurious villas and hotel rooms on the island, and you will enjoy the peaceful accommodation
    • You can eat at affordable tavernas and cafes, alongside the locals 
    • Flights from Athens will typically be cheaper than in summer
    • You can explore the iconic Mykonos town, Little Venice, quaint churches and old windmills without thousands of other tourists
    • You will see a quiet side of the busy, bustling island
    • You can enjoy meeting the locals who, despite the island’s fame, are known for their friendliness, and you will be able to participate in local activities and traditional festivals
    • It will be easy to hire a last-minute car / guide and see the whole island, for example villages and resorts like Ano Mera, Ornos and Agios Sostis
    • You can visit local farms, e.g. a winery or local cheese-making farm.
    • Decide last minute to do a cooking lesson, food tour or tour the island with a licenced guide (no need to book well in advance)

    Cons

    • Many hotels, gourmet restaurants and iconic beach clubs will be closed
    • Most of the shops will either be closed, or undergoing renovations for the next tourist season
    • There will usually be no sailing tours 
    • Unless you are used to swimming in cold water, you will miss out on the incredible sandy beaches – but still, you can enjoy seeing them without any people
    • You won’t be able to visit Ancient Delos, as the archaeological site is closed to visitors during winter.

    Best season to visit

    • summer
    • autumn
    • winter
    • spring
    • All
    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

    No comments yet!

     
    Nearby

    Find out the where to go and what to do in Greece with the family. Book with us for amazing family memories.

    Relevant Articles

    Get inspired by our top ideas for vacation in Greece. Discover our blog full of ideas, insights about Greek destinations, reviews for kid friendly activities, hotels, beaches, museums and so much more!