Few tourists visit Greece in January. Yet, the Mediterranean country is an interesting destination to visit during winter. Here is all you need to know if you decide to take a January holiday in Greece.
Visiting Greece in January
Few people planning a short break in January will consider going to Greece. Many visitors think that Greece is just a summer destination, and believe that everything shuts down during the off-season.
It’s true that many places in Greece, like the smaller islands, are seasonal destinations. Even the famous Mykonos and Santorini are very quiet in winter.
Anyone who chooses to visit in January will see a completely different side of the islands, without the summer crowds or the busy beach bars.
However, not all of Greece shuts down in January. The biggest cities, like Athens and Thessaloniki, are vibrant and lively.
Similarly, the mountain villages and ski resorts around the country are ideal for people who want to take a ski holiday, or just to enjoy the winter landscapes.
Let’s see what the weather is like in Greece in January.
Greece weather in January
Let’s face it – January, along with February, is the coldest month of the year in Greece. Here is what the average temperatures look like at a few different areas of the country:
- Athens: 4-13C (39-55F)
- Thessaloniki: 2-9C (35-48F)
- Corfu, Ionian islands: 5-14C (41-57F)
- Rhodes, Dodecanese: 9-15C (48-59F)
- Coastal towns in Crete: 8-16C (46-61F)
- Kalamata, Peloponnese: 5-15C (41-59F)
- Epirus: 0-9C (32-48F)
This is a good deal colder than the 30-35C (86-95F) temperatures in the summer months!
Wherever you go, you are also likely to get several rainy days. Athens and the Cyclades are relatively drier than Epirus, the Ionian islands, west Peloponnese and Crete.
Snow is not uncommon, especially in the north of the country and at the mountainous regions. This is an ideal time to visit a ski resort in Greece, like Parnassos or Kalavryta.
With all that said, blue skies and sunny days are actually quite common. Photos in this article have been taken in January!
Swimming in January in Greece
You typically won’t find beach weather in Greece in January. The sea temperature is around 14-16C (57-61F) on average, and maybe a couple of degrees warmer in Southern Greece.
On most years, January has a few sunny days when the weather is pleasantly warm, known as the Halcyon days. According to traditional stories, the weather gets better to allow a bird, called the halcyon, to lay its eggs with safety.
People who are used to lower sea temperatures should be able to swim on these days. In fact, several Greeks swim during the coldest months of the year. It’s supposed to be good for you 🙂
The Epiphany celebration – Theophania
On the 6th of January, during the annual event of the Epiphany celebration, hundreds of people around the country dive to retrieve a cross that a priest has thrown in the water.
This day is a public holiday in Greece, and if the weather is nice, it’s a real bonus for participants! You can read some more info in this article about Greek celebrations.
Let’s see the best places to visit in Greece in January, and what to expect.
Explore Athens Greece in January
All things considered, visiting Athens in January is a great experience. The city won’t be as packed as it is during the summer months. Instead, you will find plenty of Athenians, a buzzing atmosphere, and, incidentally, the winter sales.
Some of the famous ancient city’s top attractions are the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora and all ancient sites in Athens. As sunset is earlier in winter, opening hours are shorter, with the larger sites closing at 17.00.
On the positive side, tickets cost half-price, there are considerably fewer tourists compared to the peak season, and you won’t face any heatwaves. That said, avoid the occasional rainy days, as the ancient marbles can get slippery, and bring a scarf when it’s windy!
January is a great month to visit the world class museums, galleries and other indoor attractions in Athens. The Acropolis Museum, National Archaeological Museum or Benaki Museum are among the best museums in Athens.
People on a budget can check out this list of free museums and galleries in Athens – there are many!
You will find that most shops, restaurants and cafes are open in January. You might not be able to sit outdoors on the coldest days, but you will find plenty of indoor places to eat and drink – plus, Christmas parks will still be open in the first week.
Here are the 30 best to do in Athens, at all seasons – after all, it’s a year round destination. And by the way, January is the beginning of the winter sales season, so it’s a good opportunity to go shopping in Athens.
Finally, the Acropolis and other ancient sites are free to visit on the first Sunday in January. Here’s some more information.
Visit Thessaloniki in January
Thessaloniki is Greece’s second largest city. It’s an incredible destination for anyone who likes Roman and Byzantine history, due to its number of historic sites.
The city is full of Roman sites, like the Roman Forum, the Galerian Complex and the Rotunda. You will also bump into several Byzantine churches, some of which are included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Museum lovers will thoroughly enjoy the excellent museums dedicated to Thessaloniki’s 5,000-year history. Most visitors will start with the city’s symbol, the White Tower, the Archaeological and the Byzantine Museum.
For an insight into modern and contemporary culture, allow some time for the fantastic Folk Life & Ethnological Museum and the numerous art museums in the city.
Apart from its history and culture, Thessaloniki is a wonderful place to wander around and soak the ambiance. The Upper Town, the long sea promenade and the various colorful neighbourhoods are all worth a visit.
Not to mention the city’s iconic nightlife, which thrives year-round. Stroll around the iconic Ladadika, but also wander off to Valaoritou and Polytechneiou streets, and explore the various tavernas and bars.
Here is my detailed guide about why Thessaloniki is totally worth visiting! And here’s how to get from Thessaloniki Airport to the city centre.
Tip: Thessaloniki typically gets much colder than Athens. Bring some cold weather clothing, and get ready to explore!
Getting to Thessaloniki
There are several international flights arriving at Thessaloniki airport year-round. If you are in the capital, you can take a domestic flight, bus, or train to Thessaloniki from Athens.
Day trips from Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki is an excellent base from where you can explore numerous nearby places. Here are some of the best day trips from Thessaloniki.
The Greek islands in January
Generally speaking, the Greek islands receive very few tourists in January. Compared to Northern Europe, winters on the islands are fairly mild. Yet, despite the winter sun, rainy days, gray skies and strong winds are common.
Most of the coastal resorts on the Greek isles shut down in winter. Hotel, restaurant and shop owners take some time off, and do all the necessary repairs.
However, the biggest cities and towns, like Heraklion and Chania in Crete, or Rhodes town, remain lively year-round. So while it won’t be a beach holiday, it will be a good opportunity to experience local life in the Greece off-season.
While the winter months are probably not the best time to visit the Greek islands, you can find some bargain prices for accommodation, especially on the most expensive islands.
This is your best bet if you want to spend some quiet time at some of the most iconic destinations in Greece. Here is why you should consider visiting Santorini in winter. Bonus: did you know that sunsets are actually more colorful?
Getting to the Greek islands in January
Ferries run to the Greek islands year round. Whether you want to board any of them in winter is another matter, as the Aegean Sea is likely to be rough, more than during the meltemi season.
You will find domestic flights to many of the islands from the Athens international airport. However, there are few – if any – direct flights from European airports to the Greek islands in January.
Visiting mainland Greece in January
Despite the seasonal rains, winter is a lovely time to explore mainland Greece. You will be able to visit the ancient sites with few other tourists, and take advantage of the much lower accommodation prices in popular destinations.
Here are a few travel ideas for places to visit in January in Greece.
Ancient Delphi and Arachova
The amazing site of ancient Delphi is a popular day trip from Athens. Once considered the navel of the world, Delphi is located in a region called Sterea Ellada, in central Greece.
Delphi town, close to the ancient site, is rather non-descript. While you can find a few restaurants and hotels, a much better choice is Arachova, a charming mountain town a short ride away.
While retaining its traditional character, Arachova is also popular with skiers who visit the nearby Parnassos ski resort. Booking your hotel early is recommended.
Even if you are not going skiing, the average low temperature in Arachova at night is below zero, so be prepared!
Getting to Ancient Delphi and Arachova
While public buses to Delphi and Arachova run year-round, and are fairly frequent. However, renting a car will give you more freedom to explore the area. You will also need to have snow chains with you, just in case.
If driving in Greece sounds daunting, you can also take a guided tour to ancient Delphi, including a stop at Arachova.
Nafplio, Mycenae and Epidaurus: The Peloponnese in January
Peloponnese is a large region of Greece south of Athens. It’s home to amazing archaeological sites like Ancient Epidaurus, Ancient Olympia and Ancient Mycenae.
The most popular town to visit in Peloponnese is Nafplio, a lovely coastal town with stunning neoclassical architecture and an impressive Venetian castle. Visitors should also consider a trip to Kalamata, a vibrant coastal city in the south.
If you are looking for ski resorts, check out Kalavryta, Zireia and Mainalo, attracting dozens of visitors every winter.
People visiting Peloponnese in January will be rewarded with beautiful winter landscapes, snowy peaks and some great prices for accommodation and attractions.
Getting to the Peloponnese
You can drive to Peloponnese in a hired vehicle. As an indication, driving to Nafplio from Athens will take you just under 2h. Moreover, there are numerous guided tours to the Peloponnese, combining several popular destinations.
Greece’s hidden secret: Epirus in January
Epirus is a large region in Northwestern Greece with spectacular nature, often described as Greece’s hidden secret.
Some of the highlights in Epirus include the incredible Pindos mountains, the wild Voidomatis river and Vikos gorge, said to be the deepest in the world.
Among the winding roads, you will come across dozens of traditional mountain villages which have kept their authentic character. Papingo, Aristi, Syrrako and Zitsa are just a few of them, along with Metsovo, which is popular with skiers.
The largest city in Epirus is the lakeside Ioannina. A city full of history and legends, with lovely architecture and thriving student life, Ioannina is a worthwhile destination in its own right.
Getting to Epirus
The area is best explored by private vehicle. Driving to Ioannina from Athens will take you around 4h 30. Again, you will need to have snow chains, as snow is common in the area.
What to pack for Greece in winter
Packing for Greece in winter can be confusing, especially if you only have hand luggage, but it’s perfectly doable.
The best advice is to bring clothes that you can wear in layers. Include a few thermal sweatshirts if you are planning to spend lots of time outdoors. Don’t forget to pack comfortable, anti-slippery shoes.
This article with what to pack for Greece for any season goes into more detail.
Frequently asked questions about Greece in the winter
Visitors coming to Greece in January and the winter months often ask questions like these:
Is January a good time to go to Greece?
If you are mostly interested in history and culture, and do not mind the occasional rain or cold nights and days, January is an interesting time to go to Greece.
How hot is it in Greece in January?
Depending on where in the country you go, average temperatures in Greece in January range between 0-16C (32-61F).
Which Greek island is hottest in January?
The warmest islands in Greece in January are the ones in the south, like Crete and Rhodes. Be aware that rain is common.
Can you visit the Greek Islands in January?
It is possible to visit the Greek islands in January. However, note that there will be few (if any) direct flights from airports in Europe, and that most of the beach resorts will be shut down. The average high temperature on the islands will rarely exceed 16C (61F).
Is Mykonos open in January?
The clubs and beach bars in Mykonos will not be open in January. Most people visit Mykonos between mid spring and mid autumn. January is a good time of the year if you want to see the island without the crowds.
More travel tips about Greece
If you liked this article, take a look at these other ones:
- Tipping in Greece
- How to book a train in Greece
- A guide to Greek souvenirs
- Greece tourist attractions
- Hottest Greek islands in October
- Useful words and phrases in Greek
- Athens in November
Hi, I’m Vanessa from Athens! I’m a summer person myself, but I also love sunny winter days, and snow-capped mountains! Follow my FB page for more travel advice and tips about Greece.