Spring is the season of rebirth, youth, and beauty. It’s where nature’s artist goes all out with colors and fragrances, and beautiful places become stunningly gorgeous. Imagine the sheer beauty that Spring brings out in one of the most beautiful places in the world- Greece!
Though Summer in Greece is a dream holiday with good reason, ask any local and they’ll tell you that Greece is at its most gorgeous during Spring: even the aridest places are green with new grass and resplendent with wildflowers, the weather is mellow and warm, the days sunny without being scorching, and still, there are few tourists to crowd the beautiful vistas.
Beyond that, if you are fortunate enough to visit Greece in April, you will be experiencing the height of the Easter season, which is a unique mix of folklore, tradition, religion, and party that you won’t find anywhere else!
Greece is April is a completely different experience to Greece during the Summer months, so read on to find out what to expect, where to go, and what you shouldn’t miss out on!
- A Guide to Visiting Greece in April
- Pros and cons of visiting Greece in April
- The weather in Greece during April
- Holidays in Greece in April
- Where to go in Greece in April
- Planning your trip to Greece in April
A Guide to Visiting Greece in April
Pros and cons of visiting Greece in April
Technically, April isn’t quite the high season yet, but it’s close. That means that you still won’t have the full range of services available that you find during peak season (June-August), but you will have a lot more available than in earlier months.
For Greeks, Easter is the prelude to the high season, and because there are a lot of locals visiting different places in Greece, services begin picking up. Therefore, you will need to check whether the services you need (especially for travel between the mainland and islands) are available when you need them.
The weather in Greece during April is fantastic. The sea is quite calm and inviting in most places during April, but it’s not yet warm! Temperatures in the water can range from 5 to 16 degrees Celsius.
Unless you’re a fan of swimming in chilly waters, consider that swimming won’t be an option in Greece during April. If you do swim in chilly waters, however, you will have all the gorgeous beaches to yourself!
April is a great month to visit if you like exploring museums and archaeological sites, as it’s the first month of the summer schedule! They are open from early in the morning to late afternoon (around 5 or 6 pm), so you get a lot more time to explore a lot more places without the swarming crowds of tourists interfering with the experience.
Lastly, prices are still relatively low in April, so you have a great chance of finding bargains. Especially regarding accommodation, however, make sure you treat the weeks of peak Easter celebrations as the high season, not because of international tourists, but because of local ones!
The weather in Greece during April
Greece during April is comfortably warm. Expect an average of 17 degrees Celsius during the day in Athens, with many days going up to 20 degrees or more! Depending on how north or south you go from Athens, these temperatures will be slightly lower or higher.
For example, if you go to Thessaloniki, the average temperature will be 15 degrees Celsius, but it can also frequently reach 20 degrees. If you go to Crete, the average will be 20 degrees and it can get well into summer temperatures during the day!
When the sun sets, however, it can get chilly, so make sure you pack a jacket and a couple of sweaters or cardigans. Temperatures during the evening or night can drop to 10 to 12 degrees Celsius.
Weather-wise, expect it to be mostly sunny. Bright sunny days with gorgeous blue skies are the norm during April. There may be the occasional Spring shower, but they are becoming rare. April is one of the months when winds are gentle or non-existent in the Cyclades, so it’s a great time to visit and enjoy all the gorgeous scenery without any wind.
Treat the sun like you would in summer, however, and make sure you pack your sunglasses and sunblock, even though it won’t be scorching or forbidding for any outdoor activities, even during noon.
Holidays in Greece in April
April is the month of Easter, most of the year, and the holiday colors the entirety of the month, in preparations, customs, and festivities. There are some more events and holidays to look out for, as well:
Greek Orthodox Easter
Though Easter is a moveable holiday, more often than not, it will be celebrated sometime during April. For the Greek Orthodox culture, Easter is the single most important religious holiday of the year. Yes, it’s bigger than Christmas!
In truth, preparations for its celebrations begin with Lent, as each week marks an event, anniversary, or commemoration of the divine drama or the participants in it. For example, the Virgin Mary is lauded and celebrated for 5 weeks leading up to Holy Week and Easter Sunday.
These are called Salutations to the Virgin Mary. The fifth one is called “the Akathist Hymn” (the Hymn Where We Won’t Seat). It is a beloved hymn that was composed in Byzantine times in Constantinople and praises the Virgin Mary.
While it is sung, nobody sits down. It is deeply associated with the heritage of Byzantine Greece and the first successful defense of Constantinople against the Ottoman Turks. Participating in it is a deeply spiritual experience, regardless of your personal beliefs.
Schools are closed during Holy Week and Easter Week (so it’s a two-week break). While it’s not a general holiday, Holy Thursday and Holy Friday are customarily half-days regarding work, and many stores will be closed in the afternoon or in the morning and evening, respectively:
During Holy Thursday, the evening service is the “12 Gospels Mass,” where 12 different excerpts from the 4 Gospels are read, narrating the events leading to and during the Passion of Christ.
During Holy Friday, in the morning, there is the service of the Deposition or Descent from the Cross. During the service, there is a full re-enactment of how Jesus Christ was taken down from the Cross after the Crucifixion and how he was interred.
The interment is symbolized by the Epitaph, a heavily embroidered cloth depicting Jesus lying in his tomb. The Epitaph is ceremonially displayed in a wooden bier, which is very ornate and usually carved. It is also decorated with flowers to the point that it is often completely covered with them.
The decoration is always done by the ladies of the congregation beforehand, and it is a highlight of the church. In small communities, the decoration of the Epitaph is a point of competition between parishes.
At the nighttime service, the Epitaph is brought out of the church in a holy procession, in a symbolic funeral. The congregation follows the Epitaph holding candles and singing some of the most beautiful Byzantine hymns you will ever get to hear.
During Holy Friday, customs demand actions to be in accordance with a state of public grieving: flags are at half mast, music is turned down low or just isn’t played at all, and people are supposed to be relatively modest in their activities (i.e., not very loud or overtly happy).
Playing happy music loud on the radio is considered a social faux pas that goes against the traditions and respect of the majority of society, so keep it in mind!
Bars and venues are open during the nighttime service, so, especially if you find yourself in Athens and don’t feel like attending and fully immersing yourself in the folklore and mysticism, make sure you get a vantage point to enjoy the view of all the candle-lit processions and the music that will waft to you in the still of the fragrant night!
Holy Saturday is Resurrection Day. Expect most venues to be closed unless otherwise specified! In the morning, there is the “small Resurrection” mass, where supposedly the fact that Christ is Risen isn’t yet widely known but is a message being spread only between Jesus’ disciples and followers.
The churches are already decorated in white and red, the colors of joy and rebirth, but things are still quiet. It’s in the midnight mass that things go wild and public! The midnight Resurrection Mass is held outdoors after the Holy Light has been given to the congregation.
Participants are holding white or elaborately decorated candles to receive a flame that has come from Jesus’ grave in Jerusalem. This light is considered sacred, and there are a lot of legends and traditions surrounding it, as it is supposed to be a representation of the Holy Spirit and to bless the bearer of the light and their household, to which the faithful take the flame without allowing it to be extinguished.
While outdoors, the priest sings the triumphant hymn that Christ Has Risen from the tomb and beaten Death. It is the most optimistic song in the Greek Orthodox Church, and the congregation sings along as fireworks go off all around.
Fireworks are many and loud, so keep that in mind, too! Regions across Greece have special ways of celebrating Resurrection with unique customs, as we’ll see below, so choose where you’ll be during Resurrection Day strategically!
Finally, Easter Sunday comes around, which is the day of partying for Greeks. It is an outdoor partying day, traditionally, with song and dance while the lamb is roasting on a spit over an open fire.
Food and drink are plentiful, and festivities begin early- sometimes as early as 8 am, to ensure the lamb is cooked to the bone by lunchtime, which is the early afternoon for Greeks. Easter is a time to spend with family and friends, so if Greek friends invite you over, make sure to attend!
You might be interested in: Easter Traditions in Greece.
Feast of Aghios Georgios or St. George (April 23)
This is a very important anniversary, and there are a lot of panygiria (feast day celebrations) taking place all over Greece, especially in smaller communities, monasteries, and specific churches or chapels. There is singing, dancing, and food shared for free. If April 23 falls within the lengthy celebrations of Easter described above, the Feast of St. George takes place on Monday after Easter Sunday.
Athens Jazz Festival
If you love jazz music and are in Athens when it takes place, you’re in for a treat! The Athens Jazz Festival is international and attracts top-tier jazz talent from all over the world.
Where to go in Greece in April
In truth, anywhere you choose to go to Greece in April, you will have an amazing experience. The weather is great; nature is triumphant in its rebirth, you have the Summer schedule for all the sites and museums, and a sun that is forgiving if you stay out exploring for too long.
However, if you want to immerse yourself in the sheer life experience that is Easter in Greece, you might want to be a little strategic in where you choose to go, so you can participate in some of the most iconic, unique, and colorful customs that only take place during Easter, in specific places. Here is a short list of the top destinations for Easter and Spring in Greece:
Athens and Thessaloniki
It would be a grave omission not to mention Greece’s capital and ‘capital of the North’ as they are not only gorgeous during Spring, but they also have many of the mainstream festivities for Easter for you to enjoy. In Athens, all the sidewalk citrus trees are blooming, so at night, the scent is heavenly!
Make sure you take a stroll around the historic center of Athens and some of its more artistic and cosmopolitan neighborhoods, such as Exarheia, Koukaki, and Kolonaki. Walking around in Athens’ archeological sites is a special treat as a lot of them are decorated with wildflowers and grass.
In Thessaloniki, on Holy Thursday, you will see red fabric hanging from the balconies as the families dye their eggs the dark red crimson of Easter.
Enjoy the Epitaph at Aghios Nikolaos Orphanos, surrounded by paintings from the 1300s and faithful re-enactments that feel like you have time-traveled back to Byzantium or attend the service at the Rotunda, one of the rare times services take place there, for a similar effect.
The Greek Islands
It’s the perfect time to visit the Greek Islands. In April, at the peak of the Easter season, all the Greek Islands are verdant: the fields are green with wild greens and wildflowers, the wind is mild or completely absent, and you will partake in some of the most unique and beautiful Easter traditions in all of Greece. Here are some examples:
Skiathos: The Epitaph procession, unlike anywhere else in Greece, takes place at 4 am in accordance with the sacred Mt. Athos protocols. The service begins at 1 am, as it would have been for the women who went in secret to give last rites and bury Jesus back then. The experience is otherworldly, the quiet of the night adds to the mystique, and the procession with the candles is beautiful.
Patmos: The entire island fully participates in the observances, so for the entire Holy Week, there will be no meat consumption anywhere since it is the strictest week of Lent. On Holy Thursday, there is a re-enactment of the Last Supper, especially the part where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, in the main square of the island’s Chora.
Tinos: The Epitaphs of the many churches in Tinos’ Chora all meet at a special junction at the port’s promenade in a resplendent ceremony of joint hymn singing. Some of the Epitaphs, on the way back to the church, are taken in the waters of the sea by the bier bearers, to bless the waters and seafarers.
Santorini: Somehow, Santorini manages to be even more gorgeous during Spring. On Holy Friday, all the streets of Pyrgos village are lined with tin lanterns, giving the village an otherworldly effect of a trickle of fire traveling down the slopes. As the Epitaph procession begins, youth strike metal objects in rhythm, which gives an effect that has to be experienced, not described.
Syros: The only, perhaps, place in the world where Orthodox and Catholics celebrate Easter together, whether the dates coincide or not. The Epitaphs from all churches of both denominations converge in the large main square of Ermoupolis, Syros’ capital, in a union you won’t easily experience elsewhere.
Chios: Chios is gorgeous in April, with all its castle villages and gorgeous verdant slopes. During Easter, it attracts a lot of people from all over Greece, who participate in the custom of “Rocket Wars” between two ‘rival’ parishes in the villages of Vrontados: in a custom that originated in medieval times, on Resurrection Day, at midnight, thousands of home-made rockets are released in the village sky from the roofs of the houses surrounding the rival churches. The spectacle is amazing in the night sky, and everything is done with good fun.
Corfu: Corfu is another very popular destination for Easter. Its unique architecture and lush nature is even lusher during Spring. There is also the extremely popular custom of “Botides” that causes Greeks from all over the country to go to Corfu to participate.
On Resurrection Day, early at 6 am, a fake earthquake takes place to symbolize the real earthquake that took place during Resurrection at the church of Panagia Xenon (Virgin Mary of the Foreigners).
After that, the Epitaph is taken out in procession once more, but with the joyous bells of the ‘early Resurrection.’ That’s when the “Botides” custom takes place, where huge clay pots are thrown from the balconies to banish evil spirits. They are painted red and white, and people cheer with each one that smashes on the ground while the town band plays joyous traditional songs.
Leonidio is a town in the Peloponnese, in Arcadia, where the gorgeous custom of the “hot balloons” takes place each Resurrection Day at midnight. The balloons are actually human-size lanterns that have been homemade by the congregations of five different parishes in town.
They are allowed to live and light the otherwise completely dark sky as the joyous bells of Resurrection fill the air. The custom is a beautiful conclusion to what is a deeply spiritual series of observances you won’t want to miss, surrounded by the beauty of nature.
The gorgeous castle village is like a young bride during Spring, with flowers and blades of grass springing up between the age-old stones and decorating the castle walls as only nature can. During the Epitaph procession, the congregation follows holding white candles in a symbolic representation of what is to come.
And on Easter Sunday, in the evening after the sun sets, there takes place the Burning of Judas: a larger-than-life wooden idol representing Judas is burned. As it is filled with explosives and fireworks, the result is stunningly impressive!
Kalamata, a city in the Peloponnese, celebrates Easter Sunday with a custom that commemorates the Independence War of 1821: the Arrow War or “Saitopolemos.” In the war against the Ottoman Turks, the fighters of Kalamata made a special type of arrow-like projectile filled with explosives which they shot at the enemy’s horses.
The horses startled and created chaos in the Ottoman army. On Easter Sunday afternoon, observers rush out, often dressed in traditional clothes, armed with homemade projectiles, and light them, creating a loud, bright, joyous spectacle you won’t want to miss!
Planning your trip to Greece in April
Because April is the unofficial beginning of the high season, you are likely to find a lot more options as you plan your vacations. There are bargains to be had and early package deals, so look out for them.
However, though the tourist season hasn’t really begun yet, treat it as though it has for the Holy Week of Easter and Easter Sunday! You will need to compete with locals for accommodation and booking in various restaurants and venues, so make sure you make your reservations at least a couple of months in advance- the earlier, the better!
When designing your itinerary, make sure you book your tickets for all ferry and flight trips you will need. While it’s unlikely that anything will be fully booked during April, Easter Week might thwart your plans if you wait too long.
Regarding your own comfort and preparation, pack layered clothing: make sure you can keep yourself warm with a good jacket during the chilly evenings but can take off layers down to a t-shirt if the temperature rises enough. Sunglasses and sunblock are a must, no matter when you come to Greece, but especially during Spring and Summer that is fast approaching!