Sun-drenched landscapes, ancient landmarks, and fresh, delicious food are a handful of things that make Greece an eternal favorite for travelers. Each summer the mainland and islands heave with the weight of tourists, but it’s possible to enjoy warm beach days and vibrant villages in the more relaxed shoulder season.
Between the busy summer and the quiet winter months you can take advantage of two shoulder seasons – in the spring (April to June) and autumn (September to October). Our favorite might be the latter, when the sea is at its warmest.
Let’s look at why Greece might be the ultimate shoulder season destination, from peaceful days in cooler and quieter Athens, to seeing a more authentic side to the islands. Here are seven compelling reasons to make Greece your next shoulder season escape.
Athens is cooler and quieter
As the summer heat begins to wane, Athens transforms into a city of tranquility and temperate charm. During the shoulder season the weather is more agreeable than the scorching summer months, when temperatures can tip up to 40°C (104°F), making trips to the Acropolis seem more like a hellscape than ancient wonderland.
During the shoulder season you’ll still enjoy warm, sunny days without the discomfort of intense heat. Plus the historic streets and Plaka district will be quieter, giving you more space to enjoy the city’s rich history and vibrant culture.
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See the local side of the islands
When the tourist tide recedes during the shoulder season, Greece’s islands unveil their genuine character. As the summer throngs disperse, the islands return to their regular rhythms and you’ll enjoy an authentic glimpse into local life and traditions.
Popular beaches empty out, and the locals emerge to enjoy warm days without the crowds before the winter sets in. If you venture further from the well-trodden paths, you’ll find quaint villages, quiet beaches, and the true essence of the Greek islands.
Warm seas for autumn beach days
The blue Aegean Sea to the east, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, and the Ionian Sea to the west are all at their warmest just after summer when the crowds begin to disperse. Luckily in September and October the weather is still on side and you can enjoy sunny autumn beach days without the crowds, just like the locals do.
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Seek out spring fairs and harvest parties
Greece comes alive with festivals and local traditions in the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn. Ancient Athens celebrated the end of winter with Anthesteria, a three-day festival in honor of the god Dionysus. The more modern This Is Athens festival brings over 100 events to the capital each May.
At the other end, in autumn, you’ll find harvest festivals across the country. September and October are the time of grape and olive harvests, and in small villages and big towns there will be events to celebrate the year’s bounty with traditional dances, drinking, music, and fun. Join one of these events to immerse yourself in the culture of Greek life.
Chilled out museums and sites
Greece has such a profound past and it’s a joy to connect with culture past at the great museums and galleries, especially in the capital. The joy of the quieter shoulder season is having more time and space to contemplate ancient artifacts and artworks in the peace of quiet museum halls. Better yet, you won’t need to queue for as long, giving you more time to soak up the nation’s artistic and historical treasures. Plus, without the crowds you won’t feel the need to rush through the halls and can chill out and enjoy an in-depth cultural immersion.
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Seasonal produce, seasonal eating
While there will always be a Greek salad on the table, traveling in the shoulder seasons gives you the opportunity to taste fresh, local produce that’s otherwise no on offer. Unlike the USA, UK, and Australia – where produce is available much of the year – eating is Greece aligns with the seasons. This is especially true on the islands, where you’ll be able to enjoy specific regional dishes and ingredients, some which are only available for three weeks each year.
When spring arrives in Greece you can expect juicy strawberries, crisp asparagus, and tender artichokes at center stage. Then in autumn, look for sweet pumpkins, fragrant apples, and bitter greens used in earthy, seasonal dishes. Greek tables are a haven for comforting meals that reflect the changing colors and flavors of the season.
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Best of all, it’s cheaper than the summer
The shoulder season presents an opportunity to explore Greece’s beauty without denting your wallet! High season means high prices, so for more budget-friendly Greece travel you look for trips and tours that fall outside the peak summer months. Plus, if you play your cards right and book far enough ahead you’ll be able to take advantage of shoulder-season deals and travel sales to get an even better rate on your once-in-a-lifetime Greek adventure.
Ready to explore Greece in 2024? Let us know where you’re most excited to visit in the comments…