A Grave Mistake? Greece at Christmas

Nov 8th, 2008, 07:16 AM
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A Grave Mistake? Greece at Christmas

Ciao a tutti.

This is my first post here, having been referred to this site by a friend who evidently entertains discussion on these boards frequently. I am in a bit of quandary as I try to resolve my winter travel plans and can use some advice.

I live in Rome but am an American college professor/artist. I return to the US in July 2009 and have opted to stay in Europe for the holidays this winter to cram in some travel in between studio and teaching responsibilities. I'm alone in my adventures this winter and this presents a challenge in determining where to go.

After waffling for weeks between Istanbul, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Malta and Greece, I finally decided to book a round trip ticket from Rome to Athens from December 22- January 1—and to fill in the blanks later. My first thought was Athens to Santorini to Crete and back to Athens. However, in checking lodging opportunities I notice that so many places in Santorini are shut down after November 1, leaving me to wonder how I will cope with being alone for the holidays for the first time in life, and on a relatively remote Greek island in the off season where very little seems to be happening.

I chose Greece over Istanbul, Tunisia, Egypt or Morocco specifically because i wanted to avoid a frenetic environment while traveling alone, opting instead for a relatively quiet chain of visits throughout the islands. I wanted someplace with mild winter climate. Now I am questioning my decision and need to make changes quickly if I want to opt out of the trip to Greece and change plans.

So here are my questions:

1. will my planned itinerary be as disastrous as I think it might be? if not, are there suggestions about places to go/stay to ensure the best trip possible?

2. Given the time frame (December 22 - January 1) is there a tried and true itinerary (involving decent weather, good accommodations and stimulating art/cultural experiences) that anyone can recommend for Greece/Greek Isles or one of the other countries--Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia or Malta (or some combination thereof)?

Thanks in advance for the advice. I hope to hear from some of you more seasoned travelers. I'm a dope when it comes to this stuff, especially when doing it alone.

Grazie tante,

robroma is offline  
Nov 8th, 2008, 07:51 AM
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Well first point - it isn't Christmas in Greece

And I wouldn't guarantee a mild climate either - snow has been known in Athens

As for the islands - very few tourists so the locals go on holiday / fix the properties / do something else

If you want some life then go to Crete which is big enough to have a life outside tourist season
alanRow is offline  
Nov 8th, 2008, 07:57 AM
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Another vote for Crete; I think life on Santorini in Dec. might be rather bleak.
grandmere is offline  
Nov 8th, 2008, 11:39 AM
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I was on the island of Rhodes over New Years a few years ago. It was very quiet but most things were open. Kos was a waste of time as everything is closed so we left after just one day. I haven't been to Crete but I've heard it's the best island for winter travel to Greece.

I did have the privelege of seeing snow in Athens, but no complaints about that.
P_M is offline  
Nov 8th, 2008, 12:08 PM
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I have been to Greece twice in December, and have found snow, rain, gales and warm sunshine. The weather can change from one day to the next.
I'd suggest sticking to the mainland or Crete. If you go to any smaller island, plan to stay just one night.
There is no need to worry about accommodation. One or two hotels will stay open on most islands. On the mainland or Crete, stick to the bigger towns. Avoid resorts which will be shut.
GeoffHamer is offline  
Nov 8th, 2008, 12:30 PM
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Since no one seems to be saying "ditch Greece, and head for Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Malta or Istanbul," I'm getting the impression that Greece, in and of itself, isn't such bad choice. That's good to know. Maybe I will spend a couple of days in Athens at the start, then Crete for the bulk of the trip and a stop on one or two smaller islands for a night on the way back to Athens.

So no one thinks it will be a disaster?

Thanks again for the input

robroma is offline  
Nov 8th, 2008, 01:09 PM
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Cyprus can have mild weather during December/January and can have lovely sunny days with snow in the mountains. Many tourists stay in Cyprus over Christmas/New Year although the Orthodox Christmas is not until January. People live in Cyprus year round.
Odin is offline  
Nov 8th, 2008, 02:39 PM
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First of all, Greek Orthodox Christmas is Dec 25th, not January.

Secondly, why go to the islands at all? The tone of some of the above posts is: "Which is the least boring island in winter? Answer: Crete" I love the Greek Islands in summer, but wouldn't bother in the winter. It's business as usual in Athens, and there will be far more to see and do.

Suggest you stay on the mainland, base yourself in Athens, and take short trips to Delphi, Peloponnese, etc.
Heimdall is online now  
Nov 8th, 2008, 08:32 PM
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We were in Athens one time the second week in December...and it snowed. But we thought it was nice and it was truly beautiful!
We had come from Turkey after visiting our daughter who was teaching at an American Air Base...and the weather was very nice in Istanbul (a tad warmer than Athens) Both are great and beautiful cities!
(since you will be alone, perhaps you could fly to London, being able to enjoy the plays,musicals, church music, ...and be around people with whom you might be comfortable.)
Just a thought....but you'll probably have a pleasant holiday adventure wherever.
mari5 is offline  
Nov 9th, 2008, 01:00 AM
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Further to my last post, I think Greece at Christmas is a wonderful idea. Unlike some other Orthodox countries, Greeks celebrate Christmas the same day as the west, but in a more low-key way. Easter is the most important religious festival in Greece.

Greeks are a warm-hearted people, and I believe you would enjoy the mix of ancient sites, museums, restaurants, etc in Athens. Should you wish to venture outside the city, there are far more things to see in the Peloponnese, for example, than on any island.

The only mistake you are making is thinking that when in Greece you have to go to the islands. IMHO the mainland would be a far better choice for a winter trip.

You wrote: "Maybe I will spend a couple of days in Athens at the start, then Crete for the bulk of the trip and a stop on one or two smaller islands for a night on the way back to Athens." That would be very difficult, as few ferries to Crete in winter stop at other islands enroute. Most of the ferry traffic is Piraeus>Crete>Piraeus. If you still wish to visit an island, you could take an overnight trip to one nearby Athens such as Aegina, Hydra, or Syros (capital of the Cyclades).
Heimdall is online now  
Nov 9th, 2008, 01:58 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I think you'll have a great time, if you stick to larger places. Rhodes and Corfu are both pretty good for that, as well as Crete.

There's quite a nice page on Greek Christmas at


and if you come and visit us at explorecrete.com, we'll do our best to assist further
sheila is offline  
Nov 9th, 2008, 07:11 AM
Join Date: May 2003
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Ciao robroma!
I'm from Greece and i can give you some advice.

First of all i have to tell you that nowadays we celebrate Christmas just like every country in the west. It is a festive season for us and we tend to go out a lot. The only day you may find (almost)everything closed is Christmas day where we spend it with our families. But at night the party begins again for those who are not exhausted already!

I think i would skip Santorini AND Crete and visit Athens with two sidetrips on the mainland. One choice is to visit Nafplio and from there have some daytrips and also visit Arachova which is a village close to a ski resort and close to Delphi and there it will be CROWDED during the holidays. (like myconos in winter . From there you can go to Delphi, Galaxidi etc.

If you really want to visit the islands then i would suggest to cancel the trip to Greece during the winter and come when the time is right (JUne before you return to US maybe? It will be truly wonderful then!)

cristine27 is offline  
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