Category: Winter in Greece (page 1 of 7)

A winter daytrip to Paleochora in southwest Crete

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This 9-minute film by  fitness and travel buff William Taudien shows Paleochora, Crete from ground level, in the air, and even under water.

 

Just a few weeks back, I wrote about a new promotional video that tourism authorities on Crete had produced to encourage more travellers to visit the island in winter.

Since then, I’ve been keeping an eye on social media to watch for current photo and video posts, to get a better feel for what the island is like at this time of year. The latest we have ever been to Crete ourselves was in late October and early November 2017, when the tourist season was wrapping up and most hotels and restaurants were either already closed or shutting down. Despite a few days of inclement weather, we had a great time, but we often wondered how visiting in winter would compare. It seems other people are curious, too — in online travel forums, I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of people asking whether winter travel to Crete and other places in Greece would be worthwhile.

This week I got some answers when adventure traveller, fitness buff and vlogger William Taudien published the video I posted above.

 

William has been living near the Crete city of Chania for the past three months. In late December, he took a daytrip to Paleochora, a small town on the island’s southwest coast which happened to be the last stop on our late autumn holiday two years ago.

After a bumpy 90-minute bus ride through gorgeous mountain scenery, William arrived at Paleochora to sunny skies and comfortable temperatures in the low 20s Celsius — weather similar to what we had experienced. Conditions were ideal for William to film ground-level video while wandering the streets, the seafront on the east side of town, and beautiful big Pachia Ammos beach to the west, which he had all to himself. With his drone, he captured amazing aerial views of the colourful town, the beach, and the spectacular mountain and Libyan Sea surroundings. He even shot some underwater scenes while swimming and snorkeling.

Everything looked pretty much as it had when we spent three days in Paleochora, with one major difference — as William explains in the video, restaurant options are extremely limited in winter, especially if you’re looking for somewhere to have lunch.  

Although he had an enjoyable trip to Paleochora on that particular day, William told me in an email that “It seems like the weather is a bit unstable in the winter.” In fact, right after his daytrip, the weather changed rapidly when a massive storm system that meteorologists named Zenobia swept across Greece, lashing the country with gale-force winds, heavy rains, and snowfalls in some regions. Zenobia pounded Greece for the final four days of 2019, and weather conditions remained unsettled into the first week of the new year.

But conditions improved, and sunshine and mild temperatures returned. In his email, William told me he took another daytrip a few days ago, this time to explore the village of Hora Sfakion on Crete’s southern coast. And, once again, he went swimming. “It was really sunny and nice,” he said.

Now, as I look out my window at gloomy grey skies and the temperature below the freezing mark here in Toronto, I keep daydreaming about paying a winter visit to Chania, and taking daytrips to places like Paleochora and Hora Sfakion if the weather is decent. Definitely something to keep in mind for next winter!

Travel video promotes Crete as a winter holiday destination

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This 2-minute promotional video by Incredible Crete features enticing views of Cretan food and wine, and wonderful winter scenery

 

If you think Crete is a place worth visiting only in summer to experience its exquisite beaches, historic archaeological sites, outdoor activities, food, wine and culture, the island’s regional tourism authority wants you to think again — and to consider paying Crete a winter visit.

Incredible Crete, the island’s official tourism agency, recently released a promotional video entitled Crete: Sense the authentic winter! in a bid to boost off-season travel to Greece’s largest island.

Crete is one of the most popular islands in Greece, but many people mistakenly believe it’s a summertime destination “open” only from April to October. While it’s true that winter isn’t suitable for beach fun like swimming, sunbathing and water sports, and the Samaria Gorge (one of the island’s top outdoor tourist attractions) is closed to hikers for weather and safety reasons, that doesn’t mean Crete completely shuts down for the season.

On the contrary, Crete is a veritable winter wonderland.

Lakkoi village in Crete seen in a winter photo from mapio.net

This winter photo of Lakkoi village, in the Chania prefecture, is from the Lakkoi page on mapio.net 

 

Chania and Heraklion are superb city-break destinations year-round, while many of the island’s museums, historic and archaeological sites remain open, albeit on reduced hours of operation. Plenty of tavernas and restaurants continue serving renowned Cretan cuisine and wine, while outdoor activities are available, including scenic walks and trekking, and adventure snow sports in some areas. And of course there’s one thing that doesn’t disappear just because it’s winter: Crete’s gorgeous natural scenery — from mountains and valleys to coastlines and beaches — is beautiful to behold 365 days a year.

 

Venetian Harbour at Heraklion Crete seen in a photo by the municipality of Heraklion

The Koules Fortress and the Venetian Harbour at Heraklion are seen in a photo from the municipality of Heraklion website. Below is a picture we shot at Chania’s harbourfront during a late October trip to Crete.

The historic harbour at Chania Crete

 

 

As the Sense the authentic winter video demonstrates, Crete can overwhelm your senses even in winter, and that’s why tourism officials are hoping to encourage more travellers to give the island a look during the off-season.

Should you be interested in exploring Crete during the winter, you’ll find information about activities, accommodations and attractions in these online resources:

Incredible Crete, the island’s official tourism website, is packed with an extensive array of information and photos to help travellers plan island visits;

♦ The Creti.co blog article suggests its Top 10 reasons for spending your winter holidays in Crete, while …

♦ the Cretan Beaches website suggests its own 11 Reasons to visit Crete in winter;

♦ The Crete in Winter page of CreteTravel.com describes places to visit, and includes links to accommodations;

♦ The official website for the city of Heraklion is loaded with information about the city, including news and event listings, maps, photos and videos, and offers a  special Visitor section with details about museums and attractions.

♦ the official tourism website for Chania also features extensive information for visitors, while

♦ the Fabulous Crete blog post Winter in Crete from a different side of view has descriptions and photos showing what the island is like in the off-season.

Additionally, a simple web search for “winter travel to Crete,” or similar topics will yield scores of additional sites and articles, including websites for specific accommodations that are open year-round on the island.

 

Below are more winter photos of Crete, followed by a video of breathtaking mountain and valley scenery in the Lasithi region in early winter of 2019.

Winter view of Heraklion Crete harbourfront in a photo from the Festivalaki page on Facebook

The snowy Psiloritis mountains provide an impressive winter backdrop to this photo of the Heraklion harbourfront. The image is from the Facebook page Festivalaki: Cretan festival of Arts & Culture.

 

Rethymno Crete harbourfront photo from the Facebook page for Festivalaki Cretan festival of arts and culture

The harbourfront of Rethymno is captured in a winter photo by Theofilis Papadopoulos.  The image was shared on the Festivalaki page on Facebook.

 

Festivalaki Facepage page photo of Chania Crete harbour

Another photo from the Festivalaki Facebook page, this time showing Chania’s historic harbourfront with a snow-capped mountain backdrop

 

Winter hiking photo from Incredible Crete page on Facebook

From the Incredible Crete site, a photo of winter trekkers visiting old mountaintop windmills

 

Incredible Crete photo of climbers on Spathi peak of Dikti Mountains in Lasithi region of the island

Also from Incredible Crete, an image of adventure climbers on the Spathi peak of the Dikti Mountains

 

Stunning winter views of the Lasithi region are shown in this clip of photos and videos by Renos Drone Works

 

Zameer Pactyan published this video of Mount Psiloritis and the White Mountains on January 4 2020. Breathtaking panoramic views of the mountains can be seen starting from the 45 second mark in the film.

The awe-striking autumn and winter scenery at Kastoria in Northern Greece

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Τα Χρώματα Του Φθινοπώρου Kastoria (The Autumn Colours of Kastoria) is a beautiful 4-minute film by Kastoria-based Studio Trasias

 

“Let me guess — I bet you are thinking you would rather be in Greece right now.”

That’s what a friend remarked when he saw me gazing wistfully out the windows at our gym as snow fell over downtown Toronto today — our second major winter storm in less than a week.  At daybreak, the neighbourhood had looked lovely under a blanket of wet snow, but morning rush hour traffic had turned the streets and sidewalks below us into a sloppy mess of puddles and dirty slush. Meanwhile, the snow on rooftops, trees and gardens had already lost its crisp white brilliance as a grimy film of brownish-grey dust from traffic, construction and air pollution started to settle on its surface.  My friend was right: I wasn’t looking forward to the wet slog home after my workout.

“Yes, I really do wish that I could be in Greece right now instead of here,” I replied. “I would much rather be in Kastoria when it’s snowy.”

Although my friend  has travelled to a few island and mainland destinations in Greece, he didn’t recognize Kastoria by name and wanted me to tell him more about it — as well as why I would be happy to travel there in off season.

 

I explained that Kastoria is a small city situated in northern Greece, nearly 600 kilometers northwest of Athens. Internationally famous for its centuries-old fur garment industry, the city is built on hillsides overlooking Lake Orestiada. One of the city’s top attractions is a pedestrian promenade that extends along the lake shore, offering panoramic views of the nearby Grammos and Vitsi mountains. I haven’t been to Kastoria myself yet (it’s on my bucket list), but I have seen plenty of photos and videos, and know I would enjoy strolling the lakeside path to see the beautiful fall colours or admire the snowy winter vistas.

“It would be so much prettier than here,” I said. “Kastoria looks like something you would see on a Christmas greeting card.”

“You must show me pictures of it sometime,” my friend said. I knew I had bookmarked several Kastoria videos I had watched on YouTube, so I promised that I would share my favourites here on the blog so that he — and any of my readers who also aren’t familiar with the city — could see how beautiful it is, and why it fascinates me so much.

On this page, you can watch two beautiful short films by Studios Trasias of Kastoria; one showing the city with fabulous fall foliage, and the other capturing Kastoria’s wonderful winter scenery. You can see several more short videos on page 2.

 

There’s nearly 4 minutes of beautiful winter scenery in ΚΑΣΤΟΡΙΑ ΜΑΓΙΚΗ ΟΜΟΡΦΙΑ (The Magic Beauty of Kastoria), another film by Studio Trasias 

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Winter views of Nymfaio, the pretty ‘fairy tale’ village in northern Greece

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This film by Studios Trasias captures breathtaking views of snow-covered Nymfaio, a traditional mountain settlement in the Florina region of northern Greece. It’s regarded as one of the most beautiful villages in Europe.

 

Alpine gem: When winter storms brought freezing temperatures and snowfalls to many parts of Greece this week, my social media newsfeeds quickly filled with photos and videos of snowy scenes from places as diverse as Ancient Messenia, Kalavrita, Meteora, Arachova and Thessaloniki, and such islands as Kefalonia, Evia, Skopelos, Skyros, Lesvos and Crete.

The winter wonderland scenery in many of the images looked impressive, but far more striking are the scenes in this film of Nymfaio, which I stumbled upon today while researching for another blog post I’m writing.

Situated at an altitude of 1,350 meters on a ridge of Mount Vitsi in the northern Greece region of Florina, Nymfaio has been inhabited since 1385. It is often described as looking like something out of a fairy tale, and it has been named to lists of the most beautiful and most picturesque villages both in Greece and in all of Europe. From the opening seconds of the video, it’s easy to see why — Nymfaio looks simply picture postcard perfect under a crisp blanket of fresh snow. 

Though it’s a year-round travel destination, Nymfaio isn’t a place you can easily visit for a quick look-see — roughly a 7-hour drive north of Athens, it’s well off the main tourist routes in the southern half of Greece. (It’s much closer to and easier to reach from the cities of Ioannina and Thessaloniki, which are less than 2 hours’ driving distance.) But this alpine gem certainly appears to be well worth the trek, particularly for visitors who have already seen or who want to avoid the busy tourist magnets like Athens or the islands.

If you’ve become intrigued by Nymfaio and want to learn more about it, here are links to websites and blogs offering photos and detailed information about the village:

♦ the Nymfaio page on Greece Virtual will take you on a virtual tour of the village with its more than 20 panoramic / 360-degree photos;

♦ In April 2018, the Greek travel agency Fly Me to the Moon published a destination spotlight on Nymfaio on its blog;

♦ In May 2016, the U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper highlighted Nymfaio in a feature list of the best places to visit in northern Greece;

♦ In a 2014 post, the travel blog Moco Choco profiled Nymfaio as one of the 10 most beautiful mountain villages in Europe;

♦ The Discover Greece article Nimfaio, The Mountain Nymph of Stone and Snow includes photographs and information about accommodations in and near the village, which the Greek tourism website describes as “one of the best winter holiday destinations in Greece”;

♦ the Visit Greece article A Fairytale Escape to Nimfaio in Florina includes photos and brief descriptions of the history, traditions and activities of what it hails as “a year-round charming destination.” 

 

Greece, mainland Greece, northern Greece, Nymfaio, Nymfaio village,

The red marker pinpoints Nymfaio’s location in northern Greece on this map from Google

 

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