I'm currently traveling around Greece in my usual way, without a plan or schedule (Those remind me too much of work).

So I'm in the Patras area and thinking about checking out Kefalonia, but I know it is well into the off-season and a lot of stuff will be closed. I wasn't planning on swimming and like the idea of the solitude of a fairly deserted island. I'm not looking for the party atmosphere of Mikanos, parades, or anything fancy, however, I don't want to be completely cut off from basic services and availability of some tours, historic sites, or other activities. If I'm interested mainly in the natural beauty of the island and sightseeing is it still worthwhile to visit this island in the off-season at all or is it a complete ghost town?

Are there better islands that are a better choice for the down-season? I'm open to just about any of them (don't have to be Ionian) since I have plenty of time left on this trip to just roam.

So long story short: What islands are best bets when traveling in the winter months?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Mark Mayo, Dirty-flow, Vince, Rory Alsop, Karlson Nov 6 '13 at 17:37

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Could you clarify what you mean by 'best' or 'worthwhile'? Some people love it when an island is a ghost town, and indeed you say initially that you like solitude...I'm not entirely sure what exactly you're after in an answer? – Mark Mayo Nov 6 '13 at 3:23
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    @MarkMayo: It seems to me that he is pretty clear. I was also worried by the "best" in the question title but he says he doesn't "want to be completely cut off from basic services and availability of some tours, historic sites, or other activities", which I think makes it a reasonable question that can be answered objectively. – hippietrail Nov 6 '13 at 7:20
  • @JohnFix: I recommend editing your question title to include the specific island Kefalonia and generally make it more like your longer question body. I think people are answering the question title and not reading your full question. – hippietrail Nov 6 '13 at 7:23

Tough question! Each island is different and it's difficult to vote for the "best" ones. In addition, I don't think there more than 100 living persons that have actually been to all of them to be really able to compare them (~6000 islands from which the 117 are inhabited).

Nevertheless, I'll try to share my opinion taking into account the preferences that you've listed. I've been to a lot of them but mostly in summer (June-August). Greek islands are much different during winter, and in my opinion more beautiful (even if you lose all the action, the sun, the snorkeling etc). Please note also that in November, there's no partying in any Greek island and most probably you will be cut from most tours and historic sites.

  • The ones with the most available choices at this season, are the biggest ones, with enough local population to make keeping the businesses open worthwhile. Crete, Rhodes, Corfu/Kerkyra. In Crete you will never get bored, there are many things to do and visit. Great archeological sites. Amazing food. Airplane is a real option. It's in the south, you will get the best weather possible ATM in Greece. On the other hand, you won't get a feeling that you are actually in an island, has similarities to the mainland. As with all these 3 islands, it's way too big, you will have to rent a car. Rhodes is a very beautiful city, with a nice medieval flavour that you won't experience anywhere else in Greece. Most businesses will be open, because the city has a university and therefore a vivid life. A lot of different landscapes to explore. You are in the Dodecanese, so you can easily jump into a ferry a visit in a few hours a nearby remote island for a couple of days. Corfu is another island with fortifications made by the Venetians. Nice city, quite touristic during summer with a lot of Italians visiting.
  • Go to the close ones to you, in the Ionian sea. Zante/Zakynthos, Kefalonia and Lefkada are big enough to have all the necessary services. There's nothing to be afraid of, you won't be left alone in a deserted island :) IMO Kefalonia and Lefkada have nice nature too. Zante unfortunately the last decades has been more prone to self-destruction in the name of quick profit.
  • Go to the Cyclades. Very different style from all the aforementioned islands. Usually the main village (called "Χώρα"="Chora" which can be literally translated as "country") is a picturesque village with narrow sidewalks and little white-blue houses as you have probably seen in movies or in advertisements. Santorini, Mykonos, Sifnos, are all big enough and well known to have a decent amount of things to do even during winter. Santorini has a volcano, amazing scenery, but be careful, it might be more expensive compared to the other options.

Finally, consider the idea of island hopping in smaller islands. I usually take 2-3 close islands in a row :) This is easier to do in the Cyclades, Dodecanese or Sporades where islands are close to each other. Also I personally prefer visiting much smaller islands than what I've proposed you. I've had my best trips in islands with less than 200 inhabitants, even during winter (Donoussa, Koufonissia, Kastelorizo, Agios Eustratios, Psara, Kassos, Arkious etc). But in these cases being a Greek may have made the interaction with the locals easier and you know what to expect in every situation.

Hope that helps! In any case, enjoy your stay :)

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    BTW: I wound up in Argistoli on Kefalonia and had a great time though it did seem like if I had gone a week later it would have wound down quite a bit further than it already had. – JohnFx Nov 28 '13 at 2:04

To get good weather, you want to be as far south as you can. Crete, Rhodes, Kos and Karpathos all will meet a budget easily.

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    He mentioned many preferences in his question, but weather was not among them. – hippietrail Nov 6 '13 at 7:21

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