Greece is known as the perfect destination for a summer holiday. However, this unique and diverse country has much more to offer than just the perfect beach. Greece has gorgeous mountains for hiking, and many cultural festivals all around the country, but also a holiday in the snow is part of the possibilities. Although ski resorts in Greece can not compete with the more popular European countries because of their smaller size. For those who like to combine white slopes with more than just apres-ski, a winter holiday in Greece is a great option!
When is there snow in Greece?
Like any holiday in the snow, you have to visit Greece during the right time of the year for a winter break. On average, Greek ski resorts are open from December to March. On a good year, November and April can be white as well, but do not have any certainty. January and February are best when you book in advance.
Unfortunately, due to climate change, even winter sports in France nowadays can end up in a non-white disappointment. The weather becomes more and more unpredictable all over the world. In Greece, winter sports used to be a big thing years ago. Nowadays, the number of open pistes is limited, and we should all try to keep them open for the years to come.
Slopes in Greece
Greek has 200 kilometers of slopes with 117 lifts. Although this is only 1/5 of the number in France, it is enough to count as a winter holiday destination. Most of the ski resorts in Greece are located in the North of the mainland. Examples of these are Kaimaktsalan, Falakro, Vasilitsa, and Metsovo.
The exception, and at the same time the biggest ski resort in Greece, is Mount Parnassos. This mountain is only 3 hours away from Athens, towards the Nort-East.
Why visit the snow in Greece?
In Europe, France, Austria, and Switzerland are the countries to visit for snow in the winter. In fact, not many Europeans know that there are more countries to choose from when booking a winter sports holiday. But there are, and Greece is one of them.
In Greece, a day in the snow can be as cheap as €15,-. This price includes unlimited access to ski lifts and equipment rental. Although Mount Parnassos is slightly more expensive, Greece is much cheaper than other European countries. In France for example, a budget-friendly resort will cost at least 50 euros per day. Of course, there is a difference in quality related to the difference in price. French resorts are much bigger, with a larger variety of routes and difficulties. However, this is not needed for everyone.
As a beginner, or year-long amateur, you will spend a lot of money in France, only to stay on the practice slope and fall on your butt continuously. I am an amateur in snowboarding myself and would choose Greece over a more famous country each year. I don’t need more than a couple descends on an easy slope. I enjoy those but know that I will physically never be able to do more. Why pay a premium price if I will never use the premium functions?
For me, Greece is the perfect country to keep my clumsy snowboard skills intact while being able to enjoy the things I like even more. Greece is also the perfect place to discover if winter sports are something for you without immediately spending a lot of money to try.
Mountain villages, nature, and interesting sites
In Greece, many ski resorts are close to other interesting sites you often miss during your summer holidays because they are too far inland. When you’re tired of going down the slopes, there are many things you can do in the area around. Traditional villages, religious buildings, and archeological sites are a few examples of things you can combine with your winter holiday. Here is an overview of the most interesting sites you can reach within 1 hour from the piste.
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- From Kaimaktsalan, you can reach Agios Athanasios in 40 minutes. This is a traditional Greek mountain village in which every building is built from the same stone. Cars are not allowed inside, making this the perfect quiet and relaxing getaway.
- Falakro is close to the archeological site of Phillipi. At the site, there is a well-preserved theatre, built in the 4th century B.C., as well as various ruins that date back to Roman times. Phillipi is a great place to explore the history of Greece.
- The Metsovo ski resort is in the Zachori region. Zagori is a mountainous region in the North West of Greece with many traditional villages and stone bridges, all surrounded by breathtaking views. If you’re looking for a more active but off-piste experience, a hike to Dragon Lake might be something for you.
- Metsovo is also very close to the city of Ioannina. Ioannina is a beautiful city, located around a lake and surrounded by mountains. The city has a rich history and amazing places to eat. The city is just one hour away from Metsovo.
- Driving one hour from Mesovo, you can also reach the incredible site of Meteora. Meteora offers a combination of a unique natural phenomenon with spectacular religious buildings. A must-visit!
- Within 40 minutes from Parnassos lies Arachova. This mountain village is the holiday destination for the rich and famous Greeks. It is a traditional village that offers tasty food and a luxurious stay.
- The archeological site of Delphi is also close to mount Parnassos. This site has been on the UNESCO world heritage list since 1987. Delphi was considered to be the center of the world in ancient times, and the Oracle of Delphi was the most important shrine throughout Greece.
Although the Greek winters have enough snow for winter sports, they are still Greek and full of sun. What usually happens is that at night or early in the morning, it will snow on top of the mountain. However, during the day, the sun will come through. You can ski or snowboard without being cold, underneath a clear blue sky, and with a magnificent view of the surrounding landscape.
Even better is the big difference in temperature between the high mountains and the coastline, villages, or cities below. It is very well possible to have a day in Greece on which you can ski in the morning, and have fresh fish by the sea in a shirt in the afternoon. This is a unique and incredible experience.
Falakro is the biggest ski resort that can offer this experience. At Pelion, close to Volos, you can ski overlooking the blue Aegean sea.
At Kaimaktsalan an even more unique experience of hot and cold awaits. In Pozar, a small village close by, there are hot springs you can visit after a day in the snow. Next to a freezing waterfall, warm water surfaces from deep underneath the earth. This water is believed to have healing power and be extremely good for your skin and hair. But even if you do not take the potential health benefits into account, the 37-degree (99 F) warm water is a blessing in the cold winter months.
Close to mount Parnassos you can find a similar experience. At Kamena Vourla and Thermopylae, there are thermal baths as well. Thermopylae is known from the movie 300, as it was the battleground in the Greco-Persian Wars the movie is based on.
- When the real Greeks go on a winter break in their own country, they will never stick to one mountain for an entire week. Instead, they will choose different resorts that are close together. An example. Instead of just visiting Kaimaktsalan, you can combine this piste with Seli and 3-5 (TriaPente) Pigadia.
- Many of the Greek ski resorts require quite a ride up the mountain. Unlike the more famous winter destinations, there is often no Gondola that can take you to the resort. Before starting your way up the mountain, it is good to ask the hotel or the ski resort how you will be able to get to the resort that day. Sometimes snow can block the passage, and they will open just one particular road.
- To stay warm the Greeks combine their winter break with a lot of traditional, heavy, but tasty food. Fried cheese or meat stew are on the local and seasonal menus. Try them!