A TripAdvisor user, giving advice to a traveler with questions about Greece in February, compared tourists visiting off-season in the Greek isles to lingering guests at a dinner party: the hosts are tired and just want to clean up and go to bed but you’re still hanging around asking for more to eat and drink. Visit when the islands are meant to be seen, she wrote, in the summer when the party is in full force and the hosts are ready and willing to have you.
We visited Santorini, Naxos, and Paros in October and early November, more accurately named the shoulder season, a little crack of time in the year before the tourist season closes and the true “winter”, as the islanders call the off-season, begins. Some people were a little perplexed by our presence but we never felt like unwelcome guests. However, the signs of a party winding down were evident. This is what off season on Greek islands is like.
There were even a few moments when we felt like we had the whole Aegean Sea to ourselves.
By the end of October, restaurants on Kamari Beach in Santorini started to pack away their lounge chairs as the air became cooler and only the brave remained to dip their toes in the cooling blue waters.
One benefit of the quieter season is not having to compete for a beach-front table.
A downside was that many services had ceased, like this cafe on the hike from Fira to Oia in Santorini. We could only imagine of the pints of draft Alfa beer served in frozen glasses cooling our parched throats.
Our city walks in Naxos and Paros took us through narrow streets abandoned by other humans. Had we not received the memo about the apocalypse and subsequent feline takeover?
It may have been a little windy at St George’s beach in Naxos, but who minds a little sand in their teeth when you have the entire beach to yourself?
The islands seemed as they may have been decades ago, before they became popular cruise ship stops and were simply homes for their inhabitants.
Some may perceive the benefits of a shoulder season as negatives. Colder weather meant some days were too cold to swim. Fewer people meant many restaurants shut their doors for the season. Services can even cease altogether, as we discovered of the ferry services from Santorini to Kos island, forcing us to alter our plan to travel to Turkey by ferry. But it was worth it for those moments when we shared the tavernas with more locals than tourists, swam in the Aegean sea as if it were our private pool, and strolled the quiet, streets with cats as our tour guides.