Greece is a vast country with many varying microclimates. It can be visited year-round, with different areas coming into their own during certain months of the year. While the south is generally warmer and drier than the north, the islands remain at a pleasant temperature, whereas the cities can reach uncomfortable temperatures.
Like much of Europe, Greece is more expensive and busy with tourists during the peak season - especially around late July and August. In general, the best time to visit Greece is in the shoulder season, from May to June and from September to October.
If you want to make the most of Greece’s beaches, hotel pools and island activities, summer is the best time to visit. You will pay a little more for things like accommodation, but the water is warm, and everything is guaranteed to be open.
As peak season starts to wind down, many activities start to shut up shop for the winter, pools are emptied as they are too cold to swim in, and bustling island tourist towns and resorts start to empty for the quiet period. Stick to major islands like Santorini, Corfu or Crete if travelling away from the Greek mainland during winter. The network of ferries also starts to run less frequently, and crossings to the islands can be rougher.
Major cities like Athens and Thessaloniki remain busy year-round, while popular attractions like Meteora, Delphi, and Mount Olympus are especially beautiful to visit in the shoulder seasons, when the temperatures are cooler and the coach tours disappear. Rain and snow can cause travel disruptions in winter, but prices will be much lower.
From April to October, you can expect warm sunny days throughout much of Greece, with the hottest months being June, July and August. Avoid the major cities at these times as sightseeing can be unpleasant with the crowds and the intense heat.
Northern cities like Thessaloniki see average maximum temperatures of 32 °C in July and August, whereas Athens, the hottest capital in Europe, can see temperatures of up to 38 °C. Expect average temperatures of 26°C and sea temperatures of around 24 °C in summer on islands like Mykonos.
The Meltemi winds are dry seasonal winds that affect much of the Aegean. From June to September island chains like the Cyclades (eg. Mykonos, Santorini, and Naxos), Sporades, and the Dodecanese can see strong gusts. Avoid the brunt of these by avoiding north facing beaches and accommodation, the Meltemi winds can reach around 7-8 on the Beaufort Wind Scale, so a more sheltered beach is a must for sunbathing. Western Greece and the Ionian Islands are more protected due to the mountains that run through the mainland - it’s often overlooked that Greece is the third-most mountainous country in Europe.
Between November and March, the weather can be grey, cloudy, and showers can be common. The Ionian and Dodecanese islands can see the heaviest rainfall in winter. The northern parts of Greece have cooler temperatures in January, with an average of 5.5 °C in Thessaloniki, but southern parts like Crete remain warmer at around 12.5 °C.
Greece comes alive with local festivities in December like Christmas markets and celebrations, as well as New Year’s being celebrated widely. But January sees one of the biggest celebrations in Greece, the Patras Carnival or Patrino karnavali.
The festival has over 180 years of history with events beginning on the 17th of January. Street parades, balls, live music, a treasure hunt and other social events last all of the way into February. The public holiday of Clean Monday marks the end of carnival, many people will spend time outside flying kites to mark the occasion.
On March 25th, more celebrations kick off for Greece’s Independence Day. The date marks the official beginning of the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire in 1821. Throughout the country there are celebrations with marching bands, patriotic speeches, military parades, and a special dish is made with deep-fried cod and garlic sauce. The phrase Chronia polla is used a lot during this time, meaning ‘live many years’.
Just before Easter it’s important to note that many shops are closed and the churches are overflowing during the Greek Holy Week. This important religious period lasts from Palm Sunday to Easter Day and can be a fascinating time to witness the strength of religion in Greece. But it can also make travel difficult due to the many services shutting down.
A more modern cultural event is the Athens Epidaurus Festival which takes place every summer between June and August. Historic settings like the precipitous Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the ancient theatre of Epidaurus hold Greek plays, comedy performances, and concerts from the likes of Sting and the Foo Fighters.
It’s a wonderful time to be in Greece, but make sure to book tickets well in advance as they sell out quickly.
Planning a trip to Greece? Read our Greece travel guides.