Greece is intertwined with summer holidays, sandy beaches, salt on the skin, hot sun, light mood, endless walks in island alleys and fresh delicacies with ouzo. But there is another face of Greece that not many know of; the winter face with the oxygen-filled smell of fir and pine, the snow-covered green landscapes, the white mountain peaks that seem to tear the sky, the panoramic stone-built villages with the smoking chimneys, the rushing rivers among centuries-old plane trees, the countless museums and the legacy monuments. Greece will surprise you this winter, especially if you like outdoor activities. Here are 10 perfect winter destinations in Greece to add to your list.
Also read: 10 of the Best Islands to Visit in Greece
- Plastira Lake
Plastira Lake is found in Karditsa Prefecture and has developed significant touristic interest. It is located in the arms of dense fir forests, snow capped mountain peaks and in the middle… the Greek Fjords. This Lake, despite its artificial origin, has given liveliness and natural wealth to the mountain villages nearby and has become a destination for all seasons. In winter, though, you will discover a more mysterious but romantic version of Plastira Lake.
Places to visit:
- Villages Neochori, Kastanies, Neraida will take your breath away with their unparalleled panoramic view.
- You can visit the Botanic Garden in Neochori and learn more about flora and fauna of the place. Moreover you can practice in archery nearby Botanic Garden.
- Village Neraida has a shooting center if you want to try your shooting skills.
- In Kalyvia, you will find Tavropos Mountain Bike Center, if you want to indulge in biking near the Lake, the forest or even the mountain.
- Hikers will love Educational Bolomiti Forest with 6 gorgeous marked paths.
- What a great experience it would be to gallop on the shores of the Lake with horses from farms in Kalyvia and Morfovouni.
- You could rent canoe and kayak and row among the fjords observing the majesty of nature in the middle of the Lake, especially when everything is snowy.
- Thessalic Agrafa offer their slopes for climbing and adrenaline rush for those who prefer difficult levels.
- If you like fishing, this is your chance. But taking into consideration the environmental needs of the Lake, there have been established regulations that allow only rod fishing.
Neochori offers guest rooms and hotel rooms with spas and private swimming pools with huge glass windows so as to enjoy the snowy scenery outdoors while relaxing in hot water indoors.
The Castle Town of Monemvasia
Giannis Ritsos, a great Greek poet born in Monemvasia, likened his home birth to a stone ship. This stone ship has its anchor dropped at the southernmost tip of Peloponnese in Laconia’s prefecture. Others have named it “Gibraltar of the East” due to its formation that is similar to the rock of Gibraltar. The Castle Town is located upon a peninsula of 400 meters which used to be part of the mainland of Peloponnese; after a strong earthquake it was cut off taking its current form. The first view of the medieval walls takes you to another era; behind these walls you see the byzantine churches, the imposing mansions with the ecosigns, the marble imperial thrones, the defensive structures of the outer fortress and the paths on which knights, pirates, crusaders and emperors walked. Monemvasia in winter has another taste; the waves flirt with the rocks, the view from the amphitheatrical cafes is wild and the medieval scent with the cloudy cold weather enlivens the scenery of ancient times.
Places to visit:
- Take the same footsteps as those of emperors along with the sea wall and glaze upwards towards the well preserved mansions of the Upper Town
- Walk through the main path of the castle town in Lower Town with the cafes, bars and small taverns; taste famous handmade pasta (goges and saitia) and try to find the nectar of Medieval Monemvasia, the sweet wine Malvasia.
- Travel to Byzantium through sacred temples, such as Elkomenos Christos in Lower Town
- Admire Agia Sofia, the church replica of the authentic Agia Sofia in Instanbul. The church is built on top of the rock, in Upper Town, with a magnificent sea view.
- Learn about local traditions through the two Folklore Museums in Reichia and Velies.
Loutra Pozar (Hot Springs)
The Loutra Pozar (or Loutra Loutrakiou) are found in the Northern part of Mount Kaimaktsalan at 37 Kilometers. It’s a distance of nearly 45 minutes. Loutra Pozar are mentioned in ancient times of Alexander the Great for the properties of thermal baths. Macedonian Kings and army Generals used to bath in those natural hot spas in order to heal their wounded bodies after compacts. Pozar in Slavic means “fire”. The area is well known for the hot springs of 37ºC temperature. The hot waters with their healing action are quite helpful for gynecological, dermatological, respiratory, rheumatic, and circulatory problems.
Places to visit:
- Loutropolis with well organized private pools, spas, hamam, outdoor pool and natural waterfall bath
- Almopia Cave Park consists of a complex of 15 caves and a museum with prehistoric artifacts.
- Hiking, archery and climbing begin with groups from Aridaia and explore a large area; horse riding begins from village Orma.
- Lake Verogitida, which never gets frozen, hosts many species that migrate their to survive winter.
Palaios Agios Athanasios (Old Saint Athanasios)
One of the most popular fairy tale winter destinations in Greece is Palaios Agios Athanasios or the Stone Village as it is called. It is located near the boarders of Greece with North Macedonia, at Pellas prefecture. Palaios Agios Athanasios is a traditional village with high standards services provided. The whole settlement consists of chipped stone houses with wooden characteristics. You will find renovated guest houses for your accommodation that fit harmonically with the natural scenery. If you visit the village in the heart of winter you will most probably enjoy a snowy landscape. When night falls, lights turn on illuminating the stone walls and the snowy pathways inviting you to enter the cafes and little welcoming taverns. The lit fireplaces and traditional rakomelo (honey with raki) will warm you up.
Places to visit:
- State-of-the-art ski Resort in Mount Kaimaktsalan where you can get active via skiing, snowboard, snowmobiles and airboard trail.
- Climbing and hiking routes through Black Forest.
- Flying with a double parapente over the Lake Verogitida.
- Archery, horse riding, mountain bike and 4×4 routes
All these activities begin with groups from Palaios Agios Athanasios with trained guides.
In the center of Peloponnese, in Arkadia prefecture, there is a large village near Mainalo Mountain, called Vytina. Surrounded by firs, pines and chestnuts Vytina is a cosmopolitan winter destination for Athenians, especially during snowy winter.
Places to visit:
- Once you enter Vytina you can not miss the great temple of Agios Tryfonas made of back marble in 1846.
- The tree-lined Road of Love is a must-stop as well as the little Forest of Othonas is magical.
- Nearby you can take pictures on the magnificent Zarziou bridge; a stone single-arch bridge of 18th
- Vytina is a productive village, so don’t miss to buy fir honey, chestnuts, local cheese and other traditionally handmade products.
- If you want to experience the real pure beauty of Peloponnese then make a detour to Prodromou and Filosofou monasteries of 16th over the gorge of Lousios. The monastery of Prodromou seems like is hanging from the slope of the gorge with an unbelievable view over Lousios River.
- The strategic location of Vytina allows village touring among neighboring historical villages., such as Dimitsana, Stemnitsa and Karitaina.
The sight of this sacred place is awe-inspiring! The gigantic boulders of 200 meters altitude that have being forming for thousands of years now, have become the nests for tens of monks and hermits inside caves and monasteries throughout the centuries. Meteora are found at the northwestern end of Thessaly. On their peaks monks have built incredible monasteries with an admirable and extremely difficult way. Today only 6 out of the 30 monasteries are renovated, saved and open for public. During winter, black hued mysterious spine-chilling Meteora make contrast with the golden-yellow hues of trees found in their foothills.
Places to visit:
- Visiting Monasteries of the Transfiguration, Varlaam, Agios Nikolaos the Resting, Rousanos, Agia Triada and Agios Stefanos, with explanatory exhibition of artifacts, will be rejuvenating as you will have to use the hundreds stairs to reach the peak of each Meteoro.
- Climbers have a unique chance on tasting their boundaries on this remarkable geophysical phenomenon.
- Kastraki and Kalampaka are the two picturesque villages that accommodate visitors in a number of renovated guest rooms and hotels with Meteora’s view in breathing distance.
- Adventurous visitors have also the opportunity to go for rafting in Aliakmonas and Venetiko Rivers through old plane trees, rushing waters and an incredible dominant view of the Meteora boulders.
Santorini is an island in Cyclades connected with summer vacations, sun, sea, romance, incredible sunsets and the view of the caldera. So, could a Greek island become a winter destination?
Of course! Santorini is a cosmopolitan island that attracts thousands of tourists each summer… which might make your vacations a little bit noisy. So, choosing it as a winter destination will make things a lot easier.
Places to visit:
- You can enjoy your walks in the marble cobblestones of Oia without having 3281 tourists in front of you.
- In village Vothonas you can explore the Wine Museum located underground.
- You can book your accommodation in cave-like hotel rooms and taste local food in restaurants with 50% lesser money.
- You can go discovering the lesser known villages, Firostefani, Megalochori, Pyrgos, Imerovigli.
- You can enjoy the volcano tour without 40ºC, melting and sweating.
- You can tour the archaeological site of the Akrotiri Museum with your own pace, you and your map.
Kastoria is found, in the homonymous prefecture, Northwestern of Western Macedonia. When you first visit Kastoria you come across with the imposing and charming traits of Macedonia; dominant mansions, paved alleys, archaeological and historical monuments, Medieval and Byzantine churches surrounded by clumps of trees. Kastoria is the land of fur industry. This craft industry goes back 500 years and has endowed the town with wealth and worldwide fame.
Places to visit:
- Lake Orestiada has been in that place for 10.000.000 years and is considered to be an important wetland hosting thousands of birds in its climate. It’s a nice idea to go for a walk on foot or by bicycle around the coastal line where you will meet the Cave of the Dragon with the stalagmites and stalactites of thousands years of age as well as the oldest monastery in Western Macedonia, Panagia Mavriotissa built in 12th
- A primitive look of an old chapel harmonized with the natural environment found inside a cave is called Chapel of Ai Nikolas the Hunged Man
- The Folklore Museum of Nerantzi Aibazi, the Byzantine Museum with historical artifacts from 12th to 17th c. , and the Museum of Macedonian Struggle are a few sights promoting the cultural legacy of the era.
- In Paleontology Museum in Nostimo you will observe fossils of trees of 20.000.000 years found inside solidified volcanic lava.
Metsovo belongs to the prefecture of Ioannina. It is built among the slopes of Pindos mountain range at the Eastern part of Ioannina. It was considered to be the strategic crossroad of Epirus, Thessaly and Macedonia indulged in an economy based on trade, handcrafts and farm animals; hence the wealth found in the town of Metsovo.
Places to visit:
- The square with the sculpture of the two bears is the first sight entering the town. Thousands of tourists take photographs in front of these bears every year.
- The restored mansion of Tositsa family, important national benefactors.
- Averof Art Gallery is definitely worth visiting to admire the artistic masterpieces of many great painters of 19th and 20th
- This legacy is also found in the monasteries and churches around the town, like the stone curved monastery of Agios Nikolaos with the wooden belfry whose sight soothes the soul.
- Northwestern of Metsovo is located the Artificial Lake Pigon Aoou. This paradise of rare flora and fauna among green forests of pines and beeches adds unique beauty to the mountain nobility of Metsovo.
- The Karaoli – Politses – Zigou ski resorts are very popular for outdoor activities, such as skiing, hiking, horse riding, mountain biking and 4×4 routes.
The most popular winter resort near Athens, built in the foothills of Parnassos, is Arachova.
It is the closest location to decompress following slalom runs on the country’s largest ski resort’s slopes. It gives a distinctive vista, has superb hotels, a vibrant nightlife, but it also has traditional delicacies you can lick your fingers over. It is lovely with its stone houses and winding streets.
Places to visit:
- The towering Clock is one of the first things one notices upon entering Arachova. It is also referred to as “The Hour” and is the Arachova’s sign.
- With stores and all-day hangouts for coffee, pastries, and drinks, Lakka Square is the ideal gathering place. Particularly on bright days, people like to sit at the outdoor tables.
- You can get to the church of Ai-Georgis, the patron saint of Arachova, after climbing 264 steps.
- Livadi is a tiny village with lovely chalets, classic stone homes, pubs, and cafes. The scenery is lovely when it snows.
- Korykeion Andron, a stunning cave located above Livadi, is worth including in your trips if you feel like going on a hike or exploring in a 4X4 vehicle to see the natural sculptures of stalactites and stalagmites.
- For those seeking excitement and enjoyment in the Parnassus ski resort, there are some off-piste “black” runs with extremely deep snow, as well as the Snow-Funpark in Kelaria.
- You can visit the archaeological site of Delphi (10 klm away) to experience the unique spirit of the location and the museum housing some of the most significant artifacts.
In conclusion, during winter in Greece you can experience unique natural beauty, rare geophysical phenomenon, museums of cultural and religious legacy, countless possibilities for outdoor sports and accommodation for all tastes. If you wish to book your room it would be wise to start searching at least 2 months earlier, especially near Christmas holidays. During those days, the snowy landscape adds more to the already beautiful scenery making all of the above destinations ideal for winter excursions.