If I had to give one piece of advice on travel in Greece, it would be to go in low season, particularly in the month of April. This advice may seem blatantly obvious to many, but the stark contrast between high and low season in Greece is unbelievable, unlike any other European country that I’ve visited. High season in Greece starts with a bang in May, continues with force through the summer months, and exits with a grand finale at the end of September.
I chose to visit in April, not because I knew any better, but because everything was significantly cheaper. I found that low season in Greece was truly low season, where even the most popular destinations were quiet. In Santorini, for example, hostels had high vacancy rates and great prices, as did the inter-island ferries, for which we were able to purchase last minute tickets upon boarding with no hassle or line-up. I did, however, get a small taste of what high season would have been like, and to this day, I shudder whenever I think about it: We were strolling through the narrow alleyways in Santorini on a fine April morning while window-shopping, since most shops hadn’t opened for the day, even though it was almost noon. It was ever so quiet and peaceful, with the sound of the Sea in the distance as we walked between the pristine white walls of the town. All of a sudden, I heard a loud horn, followed by an overwhelming wave of chatter and footsteps. Owners were scurrying into their shops, and the store doors were swinging open for business by the dozen. A flurry of people swarmed the alleyways – it was pure chaos. About half an hour later, there was a mass exodus down the hill and towards the Sea. Completely puzzled as to where all the people had come from, we stopped to ask a shop owner. He politely smiled and pointed to a paper hanging on his door, which was a Cruise Ship schedule. Apparently, during low season, it was only worthwhile for shop owners to be open for select hours during the day, to accommodate the few waves of Cruise Ship tourists passing through the Island.
My best experience in Greece by far was my visit to Ios – a small island that is often overlooked in guidebooks. We were forced to stop in Ios due to the lack of direct ferries between Santorini and Mykonos during low season. Ios was deserted in comparison to Santorini, as the locals literally vacated the island for low season, and to our benefit, we essentially had the island to ourselves. We didn’t bother renting an ATV, nor did we have a map, and it was difficult to find people to ask for directions. Some might consider this a downfall to travel, but I think it’s a perfect way to discover a destination – through sheer exploration.
We selected a road at random, and embarked on a path that we hoped would lead us to somewhere promising. We had been walking for quite a while without a soul in sight, completely unaware of our destination. As we lost ourselves in the barren land that seemed to have entrapped us, an eerie feeling crept in as I began to worry that we were somewhere where we weren’t supposed to be. Our curiosity led us to nevertheless trudge along, truly believing that we would stumble upon something worthwhile. An hour later, I spotted the ocean, and the excitement began to set in, as we had just discovered a hidden gem. Gigantic rocks and boulders stood tall as the waves crashed against them. We scaled a few of the rocks to get a better look from the top, where we stood awestruck as the mist from the waves cooled us down. Just beyond the lookout was a magical cove, where fragments of the natural rock formations appeared to have fallen off over the years, forming a cliff that encased the crystal blue water hundreds of feet below. We stayed there for hours in order to truly appreciate a very rare commodity in European travel – the ability to spend the day by the Sea, without any other tourists!