The UK recently removed five Greek islands, including Lesbos, Zakynthos and Santorini from its list of countries where you’ll need to quarantine upon return. Wherever you’re starting from though, an ‘off peak’ trip to the Greek Islands can be so much more than anything you could ever experience during tourist season. From better prices to secret restaurants, there’s so much to love.
Oh, and if you love sunsets, all the best are reserved for October and November. That’s right, mid summer doesn’t even compare, which is saying something!
Off Peak, Same Great Greek Weather
As far as weather goes, anywhere warmer and sunnier than where you are now is often a good look as winter approaches, or begins to flee. With Greece covering so much territory from North to South, East and West, you’ll want to focus on islands which fall furthest South.
Crete is an easy choice, with temperatures still around 20°C, 70°F even in late November. Santorini and other Cycladic Islands can also be wonderful, with many locals arguing October is actually the best month of the year to visit, thanks to calm winds, fewer crowds and gorgeous skies as the sun moves across the horizon.
There’s still wine, there’s still sun and for those staying in villas, you’ll have even better access to fish and vegetable markets, with fewer people competing for top produce.
For culture creatures, Athens stays remarkably warm and lovely though most of October and even into a bit of November too, with the added benefit of bustling city, attractions, huge dining scene and side trips via boat or plane. Much like the islands, October can be a magical time to visit.
If you’re coming for seclusion or inspiration, you can’t beat Greek Islands off peak.
Off Peak Pricing And Availability
Many Greek Islands run as seasonal businesses, with people coming from the mainland just to catch the major tourist season on islands from late May through the end of September. It’s big business.
But that doesn’t mean everything closes on the islands, and in fact, all the places deemed acceptable by locals are always open. From restaurants to luxury lodging, there’s so much benefit to a trip outside of peak summer. Prices for nice hotels or villas on sought after islands often cut themselves in half once September ends.
Hot tip: some boutique hotels and villas decide when to close based on bookings, so try to get in early with off peak season booking requests, in case it’s the difference in your favorite spot staying open, or not.
Prices aside, off peak can be all the difference in securing any reservation at all, with many of the most coveted villas or B&B’s on islands like Milos, Santorini or Spetses booked a year in advance for peak season, but widely available if you have off season flexibility. And that’s just lodging. The food is even more compelling off peak!
Here’s a perfect guide to Santorini
On popular islands, all the touristy restaurants will shut down for winter, leaving local places where actual Greek people eat as the only options. In other words, if you want truly amazing Greek food, and the ability to get a table – there’s hardly a better time than October November, or April, May. You may even find yourself access to some “secret” restaurants which hide out while tourists are around.
Off Peak Greek Island Hopping
With a bit of planning, you can island hop in winter much like in summer. Popular islands retain some ferry service, or limited flying schedules which allow guests to move around the islands and check out the unique feel each has to offer without the crowds.
Santorini, for example has a year round local population estimated around 15-20,000, but each day during summer cruise ships typically bring 10,000 tourists, or more, onto the islands. Experiencing the Cycladic islands without the excess which nearly doubles the amount of people is one of the most rewarding travel experiences.
Ferry Hopper is the best resource to check trip schedules and book tickets for off peak months, with updated availability and prices. You’ll also find things like journey time.
Not all islands retain much connectivity, and those that do typically only have service a few times a week, so planning and coming up with backup plans will ensure smooth sailing, at least figuratively. Who knows what the waves will do!
Greece Off Peak Is Lovely, So Go
Travel has changed in the last 8 months, but not all for the worse. People are seeking less crowded, more meaningful experiences and a trip to the Greek Islands without the crowds is magical. You get all the culture, food and views people pay top dollar for, just without all the bustling crowds of people.
It may take a bit more planning than peak summer, but you’ll save at every turn, and find islands in a form that few summer travelers could ever imagine. The only question is: where to?