Throughout the winter in Greece, there are days that we treasure like precious little gifts: days when the sun shines not just bright but warm on our faces, bringing the temperature up, and the scents out of the flowers and the citrus in the trees. Reminders of the season ahead, these days are lifesavers in the cold, dark depths of winter, but also make us long intensely for actual springtime.
And then it arrives. In what seems like an overnight transformation, gardens suddenly burst at the seams with color – literally, as grass and flowers peak through every crack in the walls and gaps between tiles. The sun keeps shining, the temperature hovers around that 25°C sweet spot, and the wind teasingly tickles your skin. Hiking through nature, the perfume of the hills and valleys is overwhelming, and at the beach, we find pleasure in the cold water and the sand between our toes, not yet too hot to leisurely stroll in. People seem happier, too; smiles are wider, and maybe, just maybe, this is the beginning of the end of the latest coronavirus wave.
It’s also Easter this season, and nothing makes Greeks more excited than the prospect of an upcoming celebration.
From the mountain villages to the island archipelagos, we love Greece in the spring, but below is a list of destinations for which we have already created guides, specifically for the months of March through May. We couldn’t possibly rank them, so here they are in alphabetical order:
Lesser known than the neighboring Cycladic islands of Naxos, Ios and Koufonisi, we love Amorgos in the spring for its rich network of hiking trails. On hikes over the hills, dramatic landscapes covered in wildflowers are set against the blue of the Aegean.
To experience nature and authentic life in typical Cycladic villages you see on postcards, explore the area around Aegiali, on the northern end of the island. Famous in the summer for its beaches, in spring it is ideal for a walk through the villages of Tholaria, Langada and Potamos – three unbelievably relaxed villages with whitewashed houses and typically narrow streets.
A visit to the island’s most well-known landmark, the Byzantine Monastery of Hozoviotissa, is also wonderful in spring, and easier to accomplish than in summer, as there are 300 steps to be climbed to reach it.
If the evenings are chilly, warm yourself up with some local traditional psimeni (roasted) raki, the grape-based alcoholic drink flavored with mountain herbs. The island has a wide variety of aromatic plants growing wild such as oregano and thyme, that you can either pick yourself while hiking or purchase from many village shops for a few euros.
Another destination offering seldom-tourist-trodden hiking trails (especially off-season), is Chios. Famous for its unique mastic tree resin, used to flavor everything from liqueur to gum, and its mandarin oranges, the island also boasts a forest of chestnut and plane trees, and fascinating picturesque villages. While mastic is harvested in the fall, the citrus trees are in bloom now, making the air smell like heaven.
Kampos is the king of spring on the island. Chios owes its nickname Myrovolos (meaning fragrant) largely to the gardens and orchards of Kampos. If you prefer biking over hiking, take a ride on the tarmac bike lanes when the air is laden with the scent of mandarin blossom, cycling between citrus groves and vegetable gardens and along narrow streets lined by impressive mansions.
If you want to peek into the interior of a typical walled garden here, visit the Citrus Estate for a tour of the Citrus Museum and try fruit pies and other mandarin sweets.
We enjoy Corfu year-round, but there’s something special about strolling around the streets of the Old Town without the summer crowds. The sea might still be chilly, but this island offers so much, we rarely miss beach life here.
Wander around the Old and New Fortresses, the Palace of St. Michael and St. George and the Achilleion Palace. Or go even further back in time with a visit to the site of Paleopolis with the ancient temple of Artemis Gorgon and the 6th century BC tomb of Menekratis. Spring is also ideal for a visit to the lush gardens of Mon Repos, the 26-hectare estate by the sea just outside of the main town.
Nature lovers shouldn’t miss the wetland of Korission, a Natura 2000 protected area located about 30 km from Corfu town. With the landscape in full bloom, spring is one of the best times of the year to see some of the many permanent inhabitants and seasonal visitors to the wetland, such as red-footed falcons, European flamingos, kingfishers, herons and great white egrets.
Easter on Corfu is something else. The island celebrates with a wide variety of unique local traditions, but the most popular of all is that of the “Botides.” Throughout Greece the tradition is to make as much noise as possible on Easter Sunday to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. In Corfu, in the historic city center, the locals achieve this by throwing jugs of all sizes, even enormous amphora-like pots, from their balconies to smash on the street below. This cacophony is accompanied by music from the dozens of philharmonic bands of Corfu. In 2022, Easter Sunday falls on April 24th.
The East Macedonian town of Drama is surrounded by mountains covered in dense greenery, and spring here is one of the most beautiful times of the year. In addition, a short distance away, nature-lovers find many options for day-trips.
Taking the train from Drama railway station towards Xanthi, you will pass through magical landscapes travelling alongside the Nestos River (the adventurous can stop halfway along the route which takes a little over an hour for whitewater rafting or canoeing in Paranesti). Hiking in the fir-forest of Elatia, to the Fraktos waterfalls, or to the natural swimming pools created by the waterfall of Aghia Varvara in Dipotamos, is another great experience. If you’re looking for even more of a thrill, go paragliding from the high point of Falakros, or discover one of the biggest river cave systems in Europe the Aggitis cave.
If you like road trips, you can’t go wrong on the coast of the Peloponnese. Many parts of its largely arid middle peninsula of Mani begin to take on the aroma of summer as early as April. Turning your head one way as you drive along the beautiful coastal road that takes you to Exo, or Outer, Mani, you may see a little snow still clinging the peaks of Mount Taygetos. Looking the other way, the sea glimmers in the spring sunshine.
Turning off the coastal road towards the villages of Mount Taygetos, with their sturdy stone-built homes and iconic tower houses, you’ll find squares with cafés shaded by plane trees, water flowing in fountains and streams, and the sound of birdsong everywhere.
This is the ideal season for hiking on Mount Taygetos – one of Greece’s most fascinating mountains. Experienced hikers can attempt the main trail through Viros Gorge, which was once part of the ancient Royal Road from Sparta. For an unforgettable experience, take the path that starts at the village of Sotirianika and follow the old stone walkway called Biliovo to reach Altomira. There are also plenty of impressive hikes in Rintomos Gorge and around Kardamyli.
On Easter Sunday, the place to be is Kalamata’s western beach to witness the spectacular (albeit somewhat hazardous) custom of the ‘rocket war.’ It is said that the firing of the homemade rockets – with the deafening crack of gunpowder – originated as a way to scare the Ottomans. In Kardamyli, the procession of the Epitaphios on Good Friday ends up on the waterfront road after passing through the back streets and small squares to be honored by local and visitors lining the road.
Mentioning to friends that you’re going to Mykonos off-season, you might get a few raised eyebrows. Why, they might say, would you go then, when the whole point of Mykonos is the parties? What they don’t know, however, is that this famous island with a spot on so many young people’s bucket lists is much more than the clubs, restaurants, and summer romances. Going to Mykonos in the spring is like finding a secret island; one that is peaceful, contemplative, while also humming with anticipation.
In the summer, the roads of Mykonos are busy with drivers (some intoxicated). Springtime on the other hand, is a wonderful time to go cycling and horseback riding, as well as to visit the vineyards, go kayaking, and to explore the sights of Hora without the crowds. In addition, the archeological park at Delos may draw over 100,000 visitors per year, but pre-season there are just two little boats a week.
Mykonos also has close to 600 churches, and Easter is known to be glorious on the island.
The Pilio peninsula with its charming villages is one of those places we love because every time we visit, we’re convinced we’ve come at exactly the right time of year. However, after much consideration, we think spring is when the area is at its most paradisiacal self. This is when the apple trees are in full bloom, and the flowers have the landscape looking (and smelling) its best.
From the villages, a large variety of landscapes are within easy reach; you can hike in alpine terrain in the morning and enjoy a late lunch in the warm seaside sunshine. At this time of year, hikers can view a magnificent waterfall that will gradually disappear in the summer months. A hike towards the sea is appealing, even if it is a little early for a swim as the waters are still a bit chilly. Our Pilio beach favorites are Mylopotamos and Fakistra, while a nice hiking route is along the trail beginning at Tsagarada and ending at the gorgeous beach of Damouchari.
No matter which route you take, keep an eye out for the delicacies that nature offers during this time of year, including wild asparagus and black bryony (at the tavernas, enjoy a traditional plate of wild greens with eggs).
There are few places better to be in spring than on Rhodes. As a destination, it offers a wide variety of activities, accommodation options and experiences to be had, and while there are certainly great beaches to choose from for your first swims of the year, you’ll have just as good of a time discovering the medieval Old Town and the nature of the inland.
Twelve meters deep, in the spring, the medieval moat surrounding the Old Town is full of wildflowers. Extending for 2.5 km around the old city walls, this is a popular place for strolls, runs, and cultural activities in the warm spring weather. Entering the Old Town is like stepping into a living, open-air museum, and the list of sights is too long to include here. Find our guide to them, with a map included, here.
Venturing out of town, pay a visit to the famous Valley of the Butterflies. At this time of year, its most famous inhabitants, the butterflies, have yet to arrive – but on the flip side, neither have the tourists. This beautiful valley, which was thankfully saved from last summer’s wildfire which burned a lot of the surrounding forest, features ponds crossed by romantic bridges, twittering birds, peacocks, rushing waters and winding trails under a dense natural canopy, and if you make it as far as the Monastery of Kalopetra, you will be rewarded with a panoramic view of Rhodes.
Spring is also a great time to discover Rhodes by bike, and touring its charming villages.