Being on the Mediterranean, Greece is one of the warmest countries in Europe during the winter. The mild weather makes it a good time to explore the countryside and the islands alike. The biggest benefit of travelling in the winter is that there are hardly any tourists, and you can have most places of interest to yourself. The only places that will still have many tourists roaming about are in major cities, most of all Athens. If you want a relatively undisturbed voyage, winter is the perfect time to go! Athens itself has decent weather throughout the winter, where exceptionally cold nights are few and far between.
The coldest places in Greece can be in the far north of the mainland, towards the bordering countries. I would highly recommend dressing up! The cold will be slightly more uncomfortable but you will relish in the small moments that you are outside to take pictures if you are going on a road trip. Renting a car in Greece is considerably cheap and probably the best way to explore the country, though the gas is quite expensive, and I wouldn’t recommend it for inexperienced drivers, as the traffic and driving habits of the Greek people are questionable. Greece has one of the highest road fatality rates in Europe. I would recommend a diesel powered car as the gas is cheaper. Driving in Central Athens can be scary, and I would recommend avoiding it, but with more practice and experience it will soon become a ball in the park – you just have to pay extra attention than you would at home, pay attention to the signs, try and stop before the traffic lights. I’d recommend starting in smaller towns first. But renting a car from the airport and sticking to the main highways is pretty straight forward.
On the islands, it is convenient to hire a car and use that for island exploration. Prices are very cheap in the winter, and its the perfect time to explore as there are not that many cars on the road! You will witness more of the local way of life, which will give you a different perspective of the island other than what summer tourists usually expect. It is arguably the best way, as there are limited bus services and the car gives you a lot of freedom. You wouldn’t want to pay for a taxi, plus, wherever you would like to go on the island, there won’t always be one around. So I would say hiring a car is a must in the winter, otherwise you will find it very challenging to travel around it, unless you’re okay with walking for several miles at a time!
In winter, Rhodes is one of the islands with the best weather, and I have spent the last two weeks exploring the hidden parts of this island thanks to a local companion I met while road tripping through the Balkans. It’s a fantastic island to explore, with many parts of it showing majestic beauty which makes you feel small and connected to nature. This winter I have also been to Santorini, absolutely perfect with close to zero tourists to be in the way of your photos, as well as Mykonos, Syros and Naxos. I have also spent a few days of spring on the islands of Aegina, Poros and Hydra, with Hydra being the most interesting of the three. I have been to Santorini in both summer and winter, and the two seasons are completely different when it comes to the amount of tourists – summer time you’ll find that the island is extremely crowded, and you would be lucky to get on a bus, whereas in winter you will be free of that hassle. But you probably won’t find any hostels open.
Ferry services are also more limited than they are during the winter, and island hopping usually requires booking separate tickets and researching whether you can get from one particular island to another. For example, from Syros, you can still get to Mykonos, Naxos and Santorini. Hellenic Seaways and Blue Star Ferries are the main ferry companies taking you across the islands.
Also, unfortunately the ancient sites on the islands close early, around 2pm so you would be waking up very early in the morning to make the most of your day! Still, there’s something beautiful about it, just the feeling of having the whole island or place to yourself is bound to offer a great getaway. I’m not saying it’s better than summer travel, it’s just a different experience. If you want to explore more rather than party hard and sip on cocktails, there is no better time to go than winter!