Pros and cons of visiting Greece in low season
Greece, Travel Tips

Pros and Cons of Visiting Greece in Low Season

This spring, I had the extreme pleasure of accompanying my sweet mother on her first trip overseas. Together, we narrowed our choices down to a few European countries, and in the end, she chose beautiful Greece.

But this wasn’t just an ordinary trip–we’d also be celebrating her birthday on March 12th.

We knew this would mean catching the tail end of low season in Greece (mid-October to mid-April), but we knew it would come with some positive trade-offs.

Our eight days were split between the capital of Athens and the volcanic island of Santorini–slow travel is always my priority and mom was 100% on board with that plan.

Naturally, we wound up having a spectacular time, even in spite of some less-than-ideal weather, but more on that later. Below are some of the biggest pros and cons of visiting Greece in low season to help you decide if it’s right for you.

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Pros and Cons of Visiting Greece in Low Season

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Pro: Fewer tourists

The fact that fewer tourists frequent Greece in the low season was apparent in a number of different instances in both Athens and Santorini.

In Athens, for example, I had no trouble booking a great hotel room close to the Acropolis only a month or so before our departure.  When booking Attalos Hotel, I chose a room with a balcony but otherwise wasn’t able to specify preferences.Pros and cons of visiting Greece in low season

Upon arrival, we were pleased to find we’d been given a 9th-floor room (out of 10 total floors) with a stunning view of the Parthenon from our spacious private outdoor space. We were far enough from the street to avoid traffic noise and just one floor from the rooftop bar that was empty more often than not (pictured above).

At popular Athens attractions that would have been crawling with people during high season, we never had to fight for elbow room. We had excellent, unobstructed views of the changing of the guards at Syntagma Square, the walking streets of Monastiraki were never cramped, relieving any concern over pickpockets, and when visiting the Acropolis, tourist-free photo opportunities were ample.Pros and cons of visiting Greece in low season

The story on Santorini was similar; we secured a gorgeous suite with a private balcony and caldera views at Blue Dolphins Apartments with little fanfare (a type of room that would have been extremely scarce, not to mention expensive, during high season).

Visiting even the most popular of places on the island, we encountered few other tourists, if any–at Red Beach, it was literally just the two of us, the beach, and the stormy sea. At the Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum, we waited exactly zero minutes to begin our tour, and the same amount of time to begin our tasting at the conclusion of our self-guided tour.Pros and cons of visiting Greece in low season

Waiting is not something you will do much of when you visit Greece in low season! Nor will you feel like a pain in the butt when you ask your server to take your photo because for once, he actually won’t have other things to do.

In Oia, what is arguably the most popular village on the whole island, we not only found parking just one block from the village center, but our lunch was served with a sizzling side dish of setting sun. Seats with a view are a luxury that would be damn near impossible to obtain during high season (without a few sacrifices, that is)–I could hardly believe we’d just waltzed into a restaurant and gotten the best seats in the house.Pros and cons of visiting Greece in low season

This story played out over and over again during the trip–we always had a choice of seats in restaurants and always received prompt, attentive service.

If avoiding crowds is important to you, visiting Greece in low season might just suit you perfectly.

Con: Many businesses are closed

Low season in Greece means many businesses are not going to be open; in the islands especially, many shops and restaurants operate ONLY between May and October and close up shop for the winter months.Pros and cons of visiting Greece in low season

Truth be told, we didn’t really notice this in Athens. We were able to do and see everything we wanted to, and I’m sure this is due to the city being populated year-round.

On Santorini, our options were severely limited when it came to dining, shopping, and attractions. Many hotels are closed for the winter months as well.

March seemed to be the time of year when the island begins their intensive prep for the high season. Roads are being repaved, buildings are under construction, and roads and walkways are often filled with debris, whether from stormy weather or renovation projects.Pros and cons of visiting Greece in low season

At times, this caused some problems. The night of my mom’s birthday, we hoped to find a restaurant nearby so we wouldn’t have to drive (and because it was far too cold to be outside for long). In our small village of Firostefani, after wandering for about 15 minutes, all we were able to find was an Italian restaurant that had (thankfully) just opened its doors for the season.

And our attempts at planning ahead didn’t make things any easier–when we asked locals if they knew what, if anything, was open around the island, very few could give us concrete answers which left us to figure it all out by trial and error.

During a sightseeing drive, we visited Perissa Beach only to find that every beachfront shop was shuttered closed and the only beachgoer was a lone dog burying his poop. To our disappointment, the Akrotiri Archeological Site was not open to visitors, either.Pros and cons of visiting Greece in low season

Overall, there was enough open on Santorini to keep us entertained and fed for a few days, but it certainly would have been nice to have more options.

If you want to ensure there are plenty of options for dining and entertainment during your trip to Greece, particularly in the islands, you’re better off waiting until late April or early May to visit (this is often referred to as shoulder season).

Pro: Lower prices

As to be expected, you’re likely to find much lower prices during the low season in Greece. This goes for everything from hotel rooms to attractions to food to transportation.Pros and cons of visiting Greece in low season

If you plan to travel the Greek islands by ferry, you will find inflated prices during the busy season. You can always save on ferry tickets by booking them a few months in advance.

If you plan to fly (Santorini has its own airport), you can save on flights by booking well ahead of time, too. Flights are generally going to be more expensive than ferries, but the amount of time saved by flying is significant.

As mentioned above, we definitely saved money on accommodation by traveling Greece in low season–prices can go up as much as 50% in the high season, and those rooms with amazing views? Well, expect to pay an arm and a leg for those babies or be relegated to the viewless chambers of less-than-glamorous budget hotels.Pros and cons of visiting Greece in low season

Of course, hostels are a good way to save money on accommodation no matter the season. Caveland in Santorini is absolutely dreamy!

Con: Cold and wet weather

We’d done our research on weather, so going into this trip we knew we’d encounter some rain. What we were pleased to find was that while it rained the majority of days we were there, it never once rained for the entire day. Sun breaks were common, and sometimes it simply remained overcast without getting us wet.Pros and cons of visiting Greece in low season

However, it’s worth keeping in mind that low season in Greece will be pretty darn chilly, often rainy, and sometimes extremely windy.

December is commonly the wettest month of the year, and January is the coldest. March is the month when the rainfall starts to ease up; as I mentioned, we definitely got rained on, but it never really impeded our activities.Pros and cons of visiting Greece in low season

If you plan to travel Greece in the low season, be prepared with cold weather clothing and gear to protect you from rain and wind.

Pro: Lots of greenery

An unexpected positive to arise from the rainy season was an abundance of greenery everywhere we went.

Atop the Acropolis, an area that is typically rocky, barren and dry, the ground was instead blanketed with green and yellow. In fact, flowers bloomed all over the city in the parks and plazas.Pros and cons of visiting Greece in low season

Santorini, a volcanic island known for its extremely dry climate and challenging conditions for growing plants, was similarly blanketed with beautiful green shrubbery and bright yellow flowers.

Locals admitted they had never seen Santorini looking so verdant (and that they were coming off of an unusually wet winter). We couldn’t help but fall in love with the sweet plants that had taken over the island and secretly reveled in the fact that we were fortunate enough to be there at just the right time to see this rare event.Pros and cons of visiting Greece in low season

Okay, okay, so there’s ONE major plant-related downside to traveling at this time of year: The beautiful bougainvillea that normally drapes over walkways and creates bursts of vibrant color against the white backdrop of Greek buildings…are not in bloom. Womp womp.

Otherwise, if you want to see Greece greener than you’ve ever seen it, low season is the time to do it!

Would you ever consider visiting Greece in low season? Do you think the pros outweigh the cons?I'd still visit Greece in low season! Absolutely gorgeous!!

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  • Reply Steph April 18, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    I was lucky enough to be living in Greece this time last year – which was an unusually warm winter/spring, unlike this one! Shoulder season is the shiz in the islands. From what I could work out, Greek Orthodox Easter tends to signal the start of shoulder season with businesses slowly opening up.

    Another thing to bear in mind is that a lot of accommodation options close down over the winter, and if you find a good deal then do check that it has sufficient heating before booking. If you turn up on an island with no booking then it might be a bit of an adventure trying to find something (apart from the expensive hotels).

    Athens, on the other hand, I much preferred in the winter. It has a different (and fun) vibe as so many seasonal workers return from the islands – families and friends reunited for some quality time, music everywhere. And if the sun shines you can always take the tram to the beach. The only downside is all the indoors smoking.
    Steph recently posted…How I Fell in Love with Sailing, II: A Tall Ship AdventureMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis April 24, 2017 at 5:08 pm

      That’s such a good point about checking for heating! In our room, we were able to use the AC unit to keep us warm but without that, we would have been in serious trouble. I enjoyed shoulder season when I went a few years ago too. Warmer weather and a good vibe without being overly crowded 🙂
      Leah Davis recently posted…10 Surprisingly Affordable US Travel DestinationsMy Profile

  • Reply LC April 19, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    Your photos are gorgeous and I’m glad you and your mother had a ball! I travelled to Corfu and Athens, also for about eight days in October 2015. We missed out on some things – Corfu was definitely closing up for the season and it was cloudy our entire time on the island. On the flipside, it was nice to visit Athens in the off season – it’s an awesome city but I imagine it’s upsettingly hot in the summer months! Totally worth visiting in the cooler months.

  • Reply Rika | Cubicle Throwdown April 20, 2017 at 12:09 am

    I think the pros outweigh the cons here – I would probably ONLY travel to Greece in off-season. I’ve seen photos of high season there and it’s just not for me at all… wayyyyyyyy too many people!
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted…A Weekend in Okayama CityMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis April 24, 2017 at 5:10 pm

      Yeah I can’t really imagine being in Santorini at the peak of high season, I think I would get completely overwhelmed!

  • Reply Ella April 21, 2017 at 6:34 am

    I’m glad to read about what it’s like to visit Greece in March. I often daydream about staying in Santorini, specifically in the month of March and how it would be different to staying there in the high season. It’s nice to know that there are many pros to visiting in March, even if it gets rainy haha.

    • Reply Leah Davis April 24, 2017 at 5:15 pm

      It’s quite a lot different from the high season, and even shoulder season (the last time I visited I went in May). There are plenty of good things about it, and overall I think it’s a worthwhile experience!

  • Reply Eliza April 22, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    I had no idea that a lot of shops and tourist attractions shut down in Santorini during the low season. Honestly, I thought Greece was such a popular tourist destination that it never really had an “off” time! I’m glad there was still enough for you and your mom to visit and do. The pictures are beautiful!

    • Reply Leah Davis April 24, 2017 at 5:20 pm

      Thanks Eliza! Yes, the islands get pretty sleepy in the winter, as it’s quite cold, wet, and windy!

  • Reply Miranda April 22, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    I love your pictures! Looks like you two had a wonderful time. Greece has been on my bucket list, and for me the pros definitely outweigh the cons!

    • Reply Leah Davis April 24, 2017 at 5:21 pm

      Aw, you should definitely hit it up then! I would suggest late March/early April.

  • Reply Samantha April 22, 2017 at 6:19 pm

    Oh such an informative and helpful post. With beautiful pictures to boot! Looks like you and your mum had a great time. I really think there’s something to be said about visiting a popular place at a not popular time of year. From this post, the holiday seemed very special indeed and you got quite the different experience to those visiting when it’s busy.

    Have pinned for future trip inspiration!

    • Reply Leah Davis April 24, 2017 at 5:32 pm

      It was very special! You’re right, there’s something unique about visiting when there are fewer tourists and more locals–it’s an entirely different experience, really! Thanks for pinning it, Samantha!

  • Reply Tarah Vongbouthdy April 22, 2017 at 7:20 pm

    Looks like you and your mom had a great time even though it was low season! Low season definitely has its perks, but it would be kind of upsetting with lots of places closed. We are heading there early May, so I’m interested to see the difference just in two months.
    Tarah Vongbouthdy recently posted…5 Delicious Places to Eat in Oahu, HawaiiMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis April 24, 2017 at 5:33 pm

      My experience in May (the first time I visited Greece in 2015) was very different from this one! You will have plenty of options 🙂 Enjoy!

  • Reply Katherine April 22, 2017 at 7:28 pm

    I’d probably travel here during off-peak season to skip the crowd and get lower-priced deals. I love your photos! OMG Greece is my ultimate dream.

    • Reply Leah Davis April 24, 2017 at 5:42 pm

      Thanks Katherine! I think the low prices are totally worth it!

  • Reply April 22, 2017 at 7:29 pm

    Your pics are amazing ! I think I woujd stick to high season .. even tho more – I like lots of options !


    • Reply Leah Davis April 24, 2017 at 5:42 pm

      I would like to go back for high season someday as well. I think it would be fun with all the people and things to do, not to mention the beach weather!

  • Reply Grace Silla April 22, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    I visited Greece in June and it was fantastic! It was definitely much more crowded than your photos, however. But admittedly, I’d choose June again despite the crowds 🙂 I think July and August might be overwhelmingly busy though!

    • Reply Leah Davis April 24, 2017 at 5:44 pm

      I don’t think I would mind the crowds at all. It would take longer to get places, but otherwise I think lots of people adds a fun atmosphere! 🙂

  • Reply Chirasree April 22, 2017 at 8:20 pm

    First of all belated happy birthday to your mom! Greece is one such country that I want to visit soon. Your post came quite handy. Glad you shared it. I especially liked the Perissa beach picture. It looked serene.

    • Reply Leah Davis April 24, 2017 at 5:45 pm

      Aw, thank you Chirasree! I hope you make it there soon 🙂

  • Reply Kristine Li April 22, 2017 at 8:49 pm

    The greenery in Santoini looks so different! I was in Santorini in Jan last year, it was near empty and so quiet, I loved it! But yeah, finding food was near impossible at Oia, there was only ONE restaurant opened for business so I could have lunch. Fira was fine – there were still places to eat and chill at. Otherwise, I’ll always choose low-season =)

    • Reply Leah Davis April 24, 2017 at 5:51 pm

      Oh man, that’s a bummer! I think there were a few places open in Oia when we were there. Fira was definitely bustling in comparison though haha.

  • Reply Maegan April 22, 2017 at 9:51 pm

    It would be nice to have the town tourist free but I hate that there were less food options for yall. Your mom looks like she had a blast!

    • Reply Leah Davis April 24, 2017 at 5:52 pm

      Yeah we wished for that too! But in the end we both had an awesome time 🙂

  • Reply Alice Chen April 22, 2017 at 9:52 pm

    Super great to know! I have wanted to visit Greece for forever, and off season is the best choice because of the lack of people. It’s good to know so many places are closed though.
    Alice Chen recently posted…Itinerary: The Ultimate 7 Days in BeijingMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis April 24, 2017 at 5:54 pm

      Yes! I had an idea we’d run into that problem but not to the extent we did.

  • Reply Lolo April 22, 2017 at 11:25 pm

    I always wondered if it was worth going during low season. Ya the prices are great and there aren’t many tourists, but for me I’m in love with bourgeanvillas sonI would be sad they haven’t bloomed, but it’s still a consideration!

    • Reply Leah Davis April 24, 2017 at 6:07 pm

      Haha! Totally understandable, they do make it soooo pretty!

  • Reply Yuen Mi April 23, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Beautiful pictures and great points. I also love travelling during the rainy seasons. The colours are much more vivid and you get better photography too.

    • Reply Leah Davis April 24, 2017 at 6:09 pm

      Why thank you! I would prefer to avoid rain if possible 🙂

  • Reply Bella WW April 23, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    I could definitely live with those cons, as long as there won’t be too many tourists 😀
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    • Reply Leah Davis April 24, 2017 at 6:11 pm

      I figured that would be a major selling point for a lot of people!

  • Reply Derek April 23, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    Hey Leah,
    Thanks for this post. I’ve heard that low season has so many places shut down. It’d consider staying in certain places though to get a feel for the local vibe. We stayed in Crete in an Airbnb and it seems like a place I’d stay to relax even if I couldn’t do all the tourist stuff. The weather though, I didn’t realize it was cold and wet in the winter. Might be a big enough turnoff for my wife.

    • Reply Leah Davis April 24, 2017 at 6:13 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it, Derek! The weather was certainly disappointing at times :/

  • Reply BestTravelsandVacations April 24, 2017 at 4:34 am

    Totally agree with Miranda. Your smile shows you two enjoyed the trip a lot . 🙂 <3

    • Reply Leah Davis April 24, 2017 at 6:13 pm

      Thanks! We enjoyed it very much 🙂

  • Reply Scott Adlhoch April 24, 2017 at 5:27 am

    I love your pictures! Hope you enjoy your stay in Greece. I am also planning to visit Greece this year later in November and your travel guide will help me a lot.

    Thanks for sharing this article…

    • Reply Leah Davis April 24, 2017 at 6:15 pm

      Wonderful! I hope you enjoy your trip, Greece is amazing.

  • Reply Lucy April 24, 2017 at 5:32 pm

    A really lovely post – Greece is so beautiful – whether high or low season – and you gave a great round up of points to consider. Did you visit Atlantis Books in Satorini? It’s one of my favourite bookshops in the world xx

    • Reply Leah Davis April 24, 2017 at 6:16 pm

      Thanks Lucy! I didn’t visit Atlantis–I think maybe we walked past it but didn’t go in for some reason! Next time 🙂

  • Reply Nick Stamoulis May 1, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    Good job doing your research into the weather! So many people don’t! I think the biggest con to traveling to Greece in low season is that you won’t really enjoy the beaches. Sure you can go- but you won’t be lounging around getting a tan!

    • Reply Leah Davis May 1, 2017 at 3:25 pm

      That’s probably the main reason I would like to go back in the summertime–Greek beaches are gorgeous and I want to get a tan while swimming in the sea! 🙂

  • Reply Anna May 12, 2017 at 8:28 am

    Indeed it’s far better to visit Athens off season and apart from the weather you won’t notice closed stores/restaurants (it’s the capital after all and doesn’t cater mainly to tourists like Santorini does). Same goes for major cities like Thessaloniki, Chania and Heraklion to name a few. The islands open up mid to late April. One thing though about ferry prices, booking in advance doesn’t mean lower prices. Unlike airfares ferry prices are standard and they change only between low and high season (difference isn’t dramatic though).
    Weather wise November is more likely to be dry than March, but you never know!!

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