If you’re heading to Europe for a winter getaway, why not stop by to visit Greece for a few days? While Greece may not be a popular destination in winter, you get to enjoy its rich history without the chaotic summer tourist crowd. (Who needs the summer heat when you live in Singapore anyway?) Having a Mediterranean climate, the weather feels just right, cold but not to the extent of freezing. Moreover, since it is considered the off-peak season, there is a 50% discount for all attractions in Greece.
Where to Go
A definite must-go is the Acropolis of Athens and Parthenon. Tickets are priced at 10 Euros in winter to enter the Acropolis alone, and 15 Euros to buy a 5-day package to visit various attractions around Athens.
To get around Athens, you could use the Metro, or ride on the open top hop-in hop-out tour buses that go to different areas in the city. One baffling thing to note is that you are not allowed to take photos inside Metro stations, even though it isn’t explicitly stated on signs. Nevertheless, the Metro is a cheap option to travel around Athens, with a 90 minute ticket priced at 1.80 Euros.
Good places to buy souvenirs are Plaka (near the Acropolis) and Monastiraki. In Monastiraki, visit the Athens Flea Market located next to the Metro station.
If there is only one place you can visit in Greece, let that be Santorini. This picturesque island is the best place to take stunning photos. To go there, you can either take a plane from Athens International Airport or a ferry from Piraeus Port in Athens. The former is a much shorter journey (around 45 minutes) and saves you time to explore Santorini more. In winter, you get the chance to see the real Santorini without its usual summer crowd lining the walkways and beaches photobombing you. Even half of the locals take the chance to travel during this off-peak season. It is quiet and quite empty, allowing you to have a nice stroll around the towns. It is the perfect place to go if you want to get out of a busy city.
When staying in Santorini, it is better to choose a hotel in Fira (aka Thira), the capital. (I personally recommend staying at Pelican Hotel due to its location and extremely friendly staff.) There are many shops open in Fira compared to other towns. Although Oia is the town with the most Instagramable scenery, especially its famous sunset, most restaurants (and public toilets) are closed in winter. Instead, you can easily take a bus from Fira to Oia for just 1.80 Euros. The bus ride takes around 20 minutes, though the bus operates with a fixed schedule of an interval of about 1.5 hours. Alternately, you can rent a car.
Whether or not you get to see the sunset depends on the weather. I visited Oia twice, and it was sunny on the first day but cloudy on the second. It is also important that you do not choose a hotel that is too far from the main roads as Santorini has cobbled streets which are quite uncomfortable for walking, and very inconvenient for pulling your luggage.
In summer, tourists get to ride donkeys around Santorini, but that isn’t the case for winter. Instead, these huge Greek donkeys at hard at work carrying sandbags for renovation.
If you have some extra time, you could take a local tour to Meteora from Athens, where you get a spectacular view of 11th century monasteries on the rock towers, and visit one or two of them.
What to Eat
Gyros is a type of Greek fast food that is affordable and filling. It has grilled meat, tomatoes, lettuce, french fries and onions wrapped in pita bread. At Fira, Santorini, gyros can be as cheap as only 2.50 Euros for pork, and 2.60 Euros for chicken. It’s so good, you’ll have dogs following you around if you eat it away from the stall.
- Grilled Fish
My first thought was that the dish was going to be an overpriced grilled dory since the menu did not elaborate about having side dishes or specify the type of fish. However, it was actually a whole big fish, served with broccoli and french fries.
Greece is ultimately best explored in winter when it’s off-peak season. In summer, Santorini and tourist attractions in Athens would be stuffily swarmed with people, and you would not be able to take the beautiful photos you desire. In short, it would be a nightmare. If you plan to travel to different countries in Europe and can only stay in Greece for a few days, the Acropolis of Athens and Santorini are the places you should definitely visit. Most importantly, make sure you have a good pair of walking shoes!
Photos owned by Gwenice Gwee