Your Seasonal Postcards from Greece

Holiday snaps aren't just for the summer; here are some of the sights that make Greece picture perfect.

Reaching for the gods

Your feet sink into the deep snow making your ascent difficult and slow-going in the cold weather, but the reward for your pains as you reach the climbers’ shelter called ‘Yiosos Apostolidis’ is well worth the effort: fresh homemade food, good tsipouro (a grape based spirit) and warm company with spontaneous music and singing often carrying on into the small hours around the common table. At night you will see the dramatic ‘Stefani’ ridge from which, according to myth, an angry Zeus would send out his lighting bolts. Then when the sun comes up (weather permitting, of course) you will be able to take in an incredible panoramic view of the surrounding peaks and the Aegean in the distance from Greece’s tallest peak, Mytikas (2,918 m). • Bookings: Tel. (+30) 235.1082.840

Celebrate the holidays with Dionysus

Many Christmas traditions have their roots in ancient pagan practices, but in the region of Macedonia in the north of Greece these bubble to the surface during events which combine Christian celebrations with Dionysian rituals. Elaborate animal costumes are worn, bells are rung and huge bonfires are lit to ward off evil spirits and call on the earth to awaken. Alcohol flows freely as street bands play lively music well into the night, driving participants into ecstasy. Among the most notable such events are the ‘Purifying Fires’ that are lit in Florina on the 23rd of December, and the ‘Ragoutsaria’ in Kastoria over the 6-8th of January during which costumed revelers dance to music played by brass bands. Also over the same three-day period, strange beasts can be seen dancing in the narrow streets of many villages in Drama, filling the air with the sound of ringing bells.

Warm hospitality

The wintertime is an opportunity to experience a different Greece from the sun-drenched islands and beaches known so well. Aside from its islands and coasts, Greece also has dramatic snow covered mountain ranges, rivers cutting through gorges and dense, evergreen forests. Think winter sports, amazing hikes and hearty Greek cuisine eaten by a warm fireplace and accompanied by superb wines. If this Christmas you decide to explore the Greek mountains, start your trip from a hotel of the Guest Inn network of traditional and agrotourism lodgings throughout the country. All members of the network are carefully selected according to strict criteria and will provide a great starting point to explore the lesser-known corners of the Greek countryside. •

The most romantic Christmas since 1977

After 38 years, the “Full Cold Moon” – as the last full moon of the year is known – is due to make its appearance on Christmas Day. According to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the impressive December moon will be visible in Greece, hitting peak fullness at 13:11 local time. Since it is expected to be a very special, particularly enchanting night, it may be worth enjoying from one of the city’s roof gardens, sipping your cocktail of choice, or while strolling along pedestrian-only Dionysou Areopagitou Street in Thissio, where you can take some photos of the Acropolis bathed in moonlight, or perhaps from Lycabettus Hill. This is a favorite spot for Athenians looking for a bird’s-eye view of Athens with a beer or soft drink from the canteen that stays open round the clock. Whatever you decide, don’t miss it! Your next opportunity will be in 2034.

Jingle boat

Alongside the Christmas tree, many families in Greece maintain the longstanding tradition of decorating small wooden boats come the holiday season. The tradition is a reference to the long and close relationship Greeks have always had with the sea. Over the holidays on the islands children would often go from house to house singing carols while holding improvised paper and wooden boats, while sailors and fishermen would hang lanterns on the rigging of their ships and caïques as they were tied up in port. So don’t be surprised if when walking through the streets of Athens during the holiday season through the curtains of a window you see the outline of a small boat twinkling with Christmas lights.