A vacation to truly relax: Archeological sites to wander around on your own, contemplating the life of the ancient Greeks without distractions; museums without the queues; a cool breeze that smells of earth and sea; an occasional light rain and a jacket in the evening; seafood in abundance for lunch, and the first hearty, winter stews for dinner; warm water; a beach to yourself. Greece may be more known as a summer destination, but anyone who visits in the fall can vouch for the many advantages of the season.
We love most of Greece in the fall, but below is a list of destinations for which we have already created guides, specifically for the months of September through November.
In fall, the famous party island of Mykonos begins to follow a different script: the super yachts depart, the nightly parties come to an end, the beach bars are boarded up and the Athenian DJs and singers return to the capital. The beaches begin to empty, and the groups of tourists wandering the alleys of the main town, Hora, become sparser, giving space for the authentic Mykonos to breathe once again.
When you visit Mykonos in the summer, it can seem like all there is to the island is restaurants, bars and clubs, when in reality there is so much more. In the fall, go cycling through the vineyards, or have a go at some kayaking or horseback riding, explore the sights of Hora without the crowds, or pay a visit to the impressive archeological park on Delos, the nearby islet which was once an important cultural and commercial crossroads. This time of year, you’ll have it almost to yourself.
We love Corfu any time of the year, but our favorite month on the island is probably September. During this warm fall month, we’ve been able to derive much more enjoyment out of all the experiences it has to offer. The period from the end of August to mid-October is the best time to enjoy strolls, food and even the beaches as the weather still allows for swimming and sunbathing.
Fall is also ideal for a visit to Mon Repos, the 26-hectare estate by the sea a little outside of the main town, and we love strolling around the streets of the Old Town without the summer crowds. If you time your visit right, you might also get to enjoy some of the events taking place during the annual Corfu Literary Festival, including everything from book talks, to gastronomy events, to cricket matches.
The tiny Cycladic island of Donoussa, which lures visitors with the promise of a calm, authentic island experience, has become fashionable. August is no longer a good month to fully appreciate what it is all about. But the other months are! As September rolls around, most visitors making their way to this small, out-of-the-way island are hikers from abroad and longtime visitors who know that this time of year suits the island better.
This is the month of quiet, enjoyable walks without the searing temperatures of the high summer, and swims in waters as calm as a swimming pool after the summer meltemi winds have abated. There are also two panigyris (traditional festivals): that of Stavros at the port and of Aghia Sophia in the village of Mersini; these are the favorite such events for the locals as they mark the end of a long, tiring summer, bringing the season to a close on a celebratory note.
As the days grow shorter and Athenians return from their holidays on the islands, the “real Athens” reappears; areas frequented by locals start to bustle with life again, while the streets of Plaka, crowded with tourists in the summer, are transformed into a pleasant oasis of calm in the center of the city. This is the best time to go sightseeing and to visit the archeological museums popular with foreign tourists, but also to experience life in the city as the locals do.
For as long as the weather allows, the Athenian Riviera offers plenty of options for swimming or dining by the sea, and rooftop bars and restaurants stay open for evenings spent under the stars. As the weeks pass, people also start to find their way back to their neighborhood tavernas, and to the streets in the center of the city, eager to check out the season’s new hotspots.
As fall sets in, a dramatic change begins to sweep over the island of Aegina – an island popular with both tourists and Athenians in the summer, thanks to its close proximity to the capital (only a 35-minute boat ride with hydrofoil). In September, the island celebrates its most famous product with the Fistiki Fest (the pistachio festival), which usually draws people from Athens to the island for one last weekend. After that, most hotels and beach bars close, and life settles into a slower pace. Now Aegina can make you feel like an explorer.
It rarely rains much on the island before mid-November, and the dry landscapes that smell of pine on one side of the island, and of sage on the other, make for beautiful hikes, while the sunny weather begs for afternoons by the sea.
The island of Syros surprises most visitors. While its main town, Ermoupolis, is the capital of the Cyclades, it looks little like what you would think of as a typical Cycladic settlement. In fact, the whole island carries a different vibe; the way of life here is different, less dependent on tourism, and your visit here will undoubtedly inspire less time at the beach, and more time wandering the stone paved streets admiring the impressive architecture.
In the fall, the kind weather allows you to stroll the streets for hours, discovering the alleys, the grand mansions in the Vaporia neighborhood, and the large, beautiful churches. For an excursion, take a cab to the medieval settlement of Ano Syros (or Apano Chora – meaning upper village). As opposed to many other islands, Ermoupolis is a busy town year-round, so there are plenty of things to do.
The Villages of the Dodecanese
There are many reasons why visiting the villages on the Greek islands in the fall is preferable to going in the summer: it’s easier to find tables at the tavernas, fewer tourists stand in the way of getting to know the locals, the sun burns less and the heat won’t stop you from exploring – not to mention visitors who come in the shoulder seasons are often welcomed with particular joy, as growing the tourism season is an ambitious goal on most islands.
Winter visits may not always be viable option, as ferry routes are few and sometimes disrupted by harsh weather conditions, but in the fall the islands in the Dodecanese show their best side (not to mention the sea is still warm enough to spend time at the beach).
The truth is that most of Greece shines in the fall. The mountain villages get cold first, with the first snow sometimes falling as early as in late November, creating postcard-like landscapes. Further down the mountains, the first rains make forests and fields come alive again, and rivers run a little faster, making outings into nature, whether to hike, ride or paddle, truly joyous. Near the sea, beaches return to their idyllic natural state, with clear waters (void of summer’s oily film of sunscreen) and places to stretch out and be alone. In the cities too, life returns to a more authentic version of itself, allowing visitors to experience them at their most dynamic.
We could hardly include all the places we love to visit in Greece in the fall in this list, but here is another list of experiences to have around the country before winter arrives.