If you're planning on spending the holiday season in Greece this December, you'll be happy to find low hotel rates and fewer crowds, but you may be wondering what winter is like in this famously sunny destination. If you're seeking a break from the cold, you'll find mild, but not warm, weather in most parts of the country.
It probably won't be warm enough to enjoy the beaches, but it's still nice enough to explore the ruins and beautiful islands and coastline. Plus, traveling in December offers the added bonus of experiencing the Christmas season in Greece. And even if you don't visit the mountains seeing them topped with snow is quite the sight.
December Weather in Greece
Across Greece, the average temperatures in December can reach highs of 57 Fahrenheit (14 Celsius) and lows of 43 F (6 C). It differs from city to city and also can vary drastically depending on if you are traveling to the mainland or among the islands. Generally, both are cold and rainy, but some islands like Crete and Rhodes, which are more south, are sunnier.
You can go skiing if you take a trip to the mountains. For resort towns like Aráchova and Kalavryta, December is still pretty early in the season, but you might get lucky with some fresh snow. Greece is pretty dry year-round, but December is one of the rainier months. It may not be the best month to visit the Greek beaches, but the temperature is still mild and comfortable, especially when compared to other countries in northern Europe.
What to Pack
With mild temperatures throughout the month, you probably won't need to pack your heavy winter gear unless you are planning on getting outdoorsy in the mountains. However, the temperatures are on the cooler side in December so make sure you pack long pants, sweaters, and warm jacket. Remember, it will get cold at night, so you may want to bring a scarf and hat.
December Events in Greece
In December, there's a lot going on in the lead up to Christmas Day and New Year's Eve. In comparison with most Western European countries, Greece's celebration is solemn and moving. It's a time for faith and family, with blissfully few of the commercial trappings visitors are accustomed to seeing elsewhere.
There will usually be a small travel crunch just before Christmas and just after January 1 and again after January 6, as some Greeks go home for the holidays and then return to Athens. Note that many businesses, sites, and museums will close irregularly through the holiday season and especially during celebration days, for which every town has their local traditions.
- The feast of St. Nikolaos is on December 6, which is when many Greeks exchange gifts.
- In Athens, Syntagma Square (as well as Kotzia and Klefthmono) will be decorated with ornaments made by schoolchildren in December.
- Up in Florina, a two-and-a-half hour drive from Thessaloniki, December 23 and 24 you can see the traditional holiday Bonfire Festival.
- On the island of Chios on New Yer's Eve, ship models are created and carried around by groups of fishermen singing songs.
- On New Year's Eve, look for a free city-sponsored concert and fireworks.