With September coming to a close, Greece’s shoulder season is almost over. Having just returned from an extended vacation in Greece, I can confirm that what Rick Steves says is true: now is a great time to visit Greece. With the off-season wrapping up at the end of October, I can’t think of a better time to book a last-minute ticket to Athens or Mykonos.
Between the refugee crisis in Kos and the debt crisis, I was hesitant to visit Greece. Had it not been for my friend’s persistence, Greece would still be on my bucket list. Despite my unnecessary concerns about pretty much everything from demonstrations to ATM usage, we had an amazing time. Thanks to our flexible standby tickets, we ended up extending our trip. Had the real-world (classes, job interviews – ew) not been beckoning, I would have loved to stay longer.
When we arrived in Athens in mid-September, it was hot. I shudder to think of what it must be like in July, as we went through several liters of water just walking through Montasouraki and the National Gardens.
As someone who despises crowds, visiting the Acropolis was surprisingly painless. I’ve heard reports of insane overcrowding during the summer, but we were able to take our time exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site without elbowing our way through crowds.
I expected Athens to be overwhelmingly crowded and told my friend I wanted to head to the islands as soon as possible. However, Athens was surprisingly calm for a European capital supposedly in crisis mode. Aside from the odd peaceful demonstration, life in Athens seemed to be going on per usual.
Even when walking through the touristy Plaka district, the only thing that ended up being my overwhelmed was my new FitBit. Greece had me averaging around 14,000 steps per day (woo!)
Once we got the islands, things were still low-key and uncrowded. There were no shortages of beach chairs, and we found seats on the ferry without issue. Naxos was uncrowded and even ever-popular Santorini and Mykonos felt relaxed.
Between the two of us, we were easily able to keep our costs low and comfort level high. Dining out, we usually spent less than 30 Euro per meal between the two of us – even in Athens. This accounts for the fact that my friend used to spend their summers working in a Greek family restaurant and was determined to try everything.
If we were feeling frugal, it was easy to find a gyro somewhere for less than 3 Euros. Even with the recently hiked VAT taxes (23% on restaurants and travel) prices are low. Tipping goes a long way in Greece and is always appreciated.
In Naxos, we stayed in a charming guesthouse with a balcony facing the island’s mountain villages. Our room, which was complete with a kitchenette, sitting area, and bedroom was only 25 Euros per night.
Tip: In the off-season it’s generally better to do your bookings in person or email the hotel directly. Had we booked online we would have spent about 30% more for the same room. You can also haggle with the people waiting for the ferry offering rooms.
You might not expect a lot for 25 Euros, but the owners were lovely, always offering us an espresso or frappe before heading to the beach, and wine with cheese when we came back in the evenings. From my understanding, most guest houses and family-owned businesses operate this way. If you’re on a budget and want to experience authentic Greek hospitality, I recommend staying in a guest house! Not only will you save money, but it can offer a better insight into life in Greece than a standard hotel.
Photos courtesy of Margo Studios
Perhaps one of the greatest advantages of visiting Greece in its current state is the warm welcome you’ll receive from a nation genuinely eager to receive tourists. Greeks are known for being warm-natured, hospitable people by nature, and the service we received in both Athens and on the Islands was unparalleled.
If you wanna soak up the last bit of summer while nibbling on some feta and helping an ailing economy, hop on the next flight to Athens or Mykonos. With tourism paramount to an economic revival in Greece, it feels good knowing that our vacation was more than just a self-indulgent get-away…a selfless act of civil service even 😉 In all seriousness, if you have the time and funds, Greece is the perfect end of Summer destination.