An Aegean Winter

Ahhh summer…. The best time of year to dive into sparkling waters from the bow of a boat and toast to perfect weather from a rooftop terrace overlooking an island vineyard. Greece is the ultimate summer vacation.

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Ahhh winter…. The best time of year to eat a quiet dinner at the harbor and visit historical sights in the peaceful silence and embracing mystery of a ghost town.  Greece is the ultimate winter vacation.

We liked Athens, but we loved Aegina. If nothing else, for the fact that it’s quite unusual for foreigners to pick a Greek island in the middle of winter.  Which, was precisely what made Aegina all the more magical.

So, here are the top seven reasons you should skip over the summer months, and instead book those tickets for January.

7. The Price is Right

As with most places around the world, visiting in the off-season provides an additional perk to the lack of crowds and availability of accommodations; prices. Our AirBNB was $200 for four nights in January. In the month of June, according to the current listing, it would be around $300. Not too huge of a difference, but significant enough to feel like it’s more of a budget-friendly option. We also found restaurant pricing to be incredibly competitive, with a nice meal at the harbor only setting us back about 20 euro in total. And don’t even get me started on the affordability of the gelato….

Rumor has it that some restaurants are prone to inflating prices during tourist season. So, while there’s no real way to know if our food was “off-season rate,” it certainly was a surprise to find so many affordable places in such ideal locations along the coast. And some restaurants offered promotional deals we likely wouldn’t have found during the summer. I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that some offers available in the winter are no longer to be found in summer months.

Please take notice, there is a reason that “The Price is Right” is number seven on my list; there are far better reasons to visit Aegina in the winter than simply having the better price tag.

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6. The Weather is Perfect

I’m an Ohio girl, so a perfect weather doesn’t usually exist in my world. But Aegina certainly knows how to do things right. Greece in the winter definitely makes for a less pleasurable swim, but if taking a dip isn’t the highest on your priority list, you might want to consider giving January a second thought. During our stay, the temperatures never fell below the 50’s, and there was plenty of warm sunshine to go around. I was surprised at how quickly I broke a sweat hiking up the hill of Paleochora or wandering through the streets of Aegina in direct sunlight. Now, maybe that was in part due to my epic winter coat from Costco, but Aegina’s weather certainly met our needs when it came to comfort while we explored the island. Windy? A bit. Chilly in the evenings? Of course. But with a few layers the brisk sea breeze is hardly a vacation ruiner.

I apologize for my inability to control, predict, or guarantee weather patterns. I cannot say with 100% confidence that you will be this lucky. All I’m saying is, if you know how to bring the sunshine, Aegina is waiting for you.

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5. Come on In, Stay a While

I am certain that Aegina sees a lot more foot traffic during the summer months. Especially on the harbor front where restaurants, shops, and tourism services are all clustered together on one beautiful strip of neoclassical architecture dotted with pistachio stands. In the winter, only about half of the restaurants are open, some even operating sans patio seating. But the ones that continued service during the off-season were warmly welcoming with their friendly hosts, a perfect view of the harbor, and plenty of open seats to choose from. And with open seats, comes a sense of casual dining and relaxation.

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Ever been that person, waiting for a table in an overcrowded restaurant, eyeing the groups that have long finished their food but just sit there kibitzing while your stomach starts to eat itself? In Aegina, you might be seated, served, and finished eating within about a half hour. And the best part? No one is staring down your table. You can leisurely enjoy your meal without feeling as though you’re taking up someone else’s space. And the waiters are just as patient; we stayed at a restaurant for so long one day that they were genuinely surprised to find us asking for the check.

Added bonus: you get to witness what restaurant employees do in their down time. Sometimes, their friends would even stop by to hang out at a table or smoke a cigarette to keep them company. It was endearing, truly.

4. The Serenity in the Air

When I was initially searching for an AirBNB on the island I purposefully searched for locations further from the port. I wanted somewhere quiet, tucked away, but within walking distance to everything we needed. Due to some very strange circumstances and an even stranger series of unfortunate events, the one I wanted was no longer available. So, I was forced into the heart of the harbor. But my fear of what that might mean for our level of comfort was quickly put to rest upon arrival.

IMG_0939Let me start by saying that I would book this house again if it were on a mountain, in a ditch, or on another planet. It. Was. Incredible. But even more incredible, was the fact that we were practically right on the edge of the harbor and yet it was uncharacteristically quiet. We were within two minutes of the harbor, five minutes of the pier, and 10 seconds to the pizza place next door, and yet…nothing. No noise. No crowds. No unnecessary motorbikes tearing by outside the windows. Just, serenity. The island was blanketed with peace and quiet, which made for a particularly relaxing and lovely stay.

3. What Road Rage?

As soon as we decided we were going to Greece, I knew I wanted to rent a motorbike and explore the villages on wheels. Unfortunately for me, however, I failed to realize we would need a motorcycle license in order to stick to just two. So, instead, we ended up on four; a lime green ATV. Tipping hazard or not, it can be quite intimidating to drive an unfamiliar vehicle in a foreign country for the first time. Especially without being able to read the road signs. But motor rentals of all kinds are incredibly popular on the island since you can see the entirety of Aegina in just one day behind the wheel. So, here’s one of the more obvious benefits to visiting during the winter: less traffic.

As we navigated out of the harbor and into the abyss of winding island roads dotted with villages and fantastic views of the ocean, I wondered just how chaotic the roads might be during peak-season. If I thought drivers in the United States were annoying on a normal, everyday basis, how awful would it be to stick hundreds of them on ATVs and send them off aimlessly chasing down island attractions? We were, to say the least, delightfully cheerful at the lack of motor vehicles en route on our journey around the island.

P.S. Regardless of your comfort with driving in a foreign country, being on the open road with no one else to worry about except yourself and your ATV, is the definition of vacation. Live it up!

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2. Eerily Captivating Ghost Towns

Ever wondered what it’s like to see a sleeping tourist destination? To walk through a deserted town, only imagining what it might look like with crowds? Do you enjoy taking in local architecture and pacing through the inner streets without a care as to whether you might be intrusive? Say hello to the ghost towns of Aegina Island.

It was at first quite surprising to find ourselves in the empty streets of beachside villages, meandering around abandoned harbor-view hotels, and walking down boardwalks littered with debris and overturned chairs. It was apocalyptic, haunting, and simply captivating. Near Agia Marina Beach, the only business open was a small convenience store, and in Vathi, a quaint snack bar. We passed by partially-renovated shops and silent island resorts, and navigated our ATV around bend after bend of a welcomed serenity. The effects of the off-season were mysteriously invigorating.

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1. Aegina is Worth It

Don’t get me wrong, Aegina is worth visiting any time of the year. This island is historically engaging and culturally embracing. The food, people, and inspiration is something you just can’t miss. So, no matter what time of year it is, book yourself a ticket. But know that – as with any destination – the off-season maintains hidden gems you just can’t find during peak tourism. You might stumble upon a sight unlisted, an experience unfamiliar to most, or even just a better understanding of the world that continues when the cruise ships leave. After all, any place worth visiting, is worth visiting at any time of the year.

See you in Greece!

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eko

 

Special thanks to Judy C., Amy I., David O., and Carollynne O. for their investment in the publication of Gui Ren!  Learn how you can add your name to this list and receive exclusive content by visiting www.patreon.com/FishtailPublishing

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