Many Greeks stop swimming in September. You’re more likely to see peeps in their 20s or 30s, or older and retired Greeks – the type who swim for their health until it’s really too cold (and occasionally old dudes with that creepy yuk factor). It’s rare to find families enjoying the beach on autumn weekends even though the sea is warm and the temperatures balmy. Greeks have this thing about children catching cold.
Here’s a list of my current best autumn beaches in Greece – on the eastern side anyway. In no particular order. The Ionian has its own gems. That’ll be a Next Time post…
- Xylokastro is between Corinth and Patras on the Corinthian Gulf, in the Peleponnese.
- This is where the mountains meet the sea. There’s not many more spectacular vistas than this in Greece.
- The Corinthian Gulf in autumn offers sublime, more settled swimming conditions than summer.
- Xylokastro is a 120km, two-hour drive from Athens. You can take a bus, or a fast train to nearby Kiato and then get a local bus.
- A mainly Greek holiday destination. The population shrinks to a sleepy few thousand off-season.
- Hotel rooms (only a few places to choose from) start from 40 euros per night, off season. Take a punt and bargain even further.
- Can’t recommend the water quality high enough, as you can see. The red umbrellas shade outside seating at the Touristico Peripetero – the beachfront cafe and restaurant which has been keeping customers happy for many decades.
- Varkiza is south of Athens on the coast road to Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon.
- It’s only 22km from the centre of the city. How beautiful is that?!
- Take a 171 bus from the centre of Athens. The bus stops at the public beach, but you can walk up the hill to better tiny bays and coves such as this one.
- If you see a fat old guy on the beach eating beans out of a can, then move. He’s in the creep category.
- Treat yourself at Georgiadou, the main bakery for coffee and treats such as sweet custard pies (bougatsa), cheese pies, rustic bread, chocolate cakes and oh so much more that I put on weight just thinking about it.
Get on a ferry!
- Yup, the beach umbrellas are still up and the iced coffee is still being delivered to your sun lounger at Kamari Beach on Santorini. Kamari’s water is deep sea green.
- Santorini remains one of the busier islands in autumn, but by October you can start bargaining hotel and pension room prices down. Some beaches will no longer have loungers, but that’s what sand is for. Or in the case of Kamari, it’s pebbles, so toughen up.
- Temps by day are warm, but by late afternoon and sunset you definitely need a jacket or a wrap. There have been storms in recent weeks – so expect a bit of everything!
- After the sun has gone down in Fira and you’ve hung your beach towels out to dry, (pictured below) the colours still amaze.
- Even the beach at the main town of Hora isn’t crowded in autumn.
- Hora is busy but not bursting at the seams. Beach bars are bustling, not heaving.
- I recommend nearby Ornos Beach (pictured below), located in a lovely bay. Packed in August, but eases up considerably from early September.
- Only several km from Hora and the port. Frequent buses.
- You’ll get a roomy apartment or villa for 40 euros a night or try your luck for half of that.
- Lots of stray animals benefit from the summer visitors but soon face starvation when the season ends. So please, if you’re on Mykonos and you have a kind heart, please share some of your lunch with taverna cats. Thanks!
- The island of Syros is 144km from the port of Pireaus.
- It’s about a four-hour ferry trip. Tip: Get on the ferry early, or you’ll be stuck in what I call the Smoking Bitches section – at the stern where all the smokers and people with dogs sit. The dogs are fine but the smokers… Greece needs to seriously play catch-up on that one.
- Syros has a population of about 20,000 and is open all year round.
- Ermoupoli is the capital of the island and of the Cyclades. It has always been a significant port town, and during the 19th century it was even more significant than Pireaus. Not so, today. The port has suffered a major downturn along with the Greek economy, which, by the way, is gradually looking a bit brighter.
- Again, please feed the taverna cats, especially if you’re visiting shallow Vari Bay (pictured below), which is very safe for swimming. There is a large, grey and white tom cat with a severe eye infection that needs treatment. He’s been treated once before, but it needs more. A good diet might help him. How diners can eat cheerfully and ignore his plight, is beyond me.
- Tinos is a short ferry ride from Mykonos.
- Blessed with almost no tourists at all from September. It was hard to find any to take pictures of.
- It’s what I call “a sleeper hit” island, as its tourism is low key compared to most Cycladic destinations.
- The island is a religious pilgrimage for devout Greeks, especially the church of Panayia Evangelistria.
- Many pilgrims make their way the 800m from the ferry wharf up the steep hill to the church on their hands and knees as sign of devotion. They buy knee pads, and often clad their feet in plastic bags to protect their feet.
- Tinos has excellent beaches, 80 windmills, tasty food options in the port. About 15 minutes walk west of the port is great swimming.
- I like the autumn sunset on Tinos, sitting on a beach…
- Try the coast to Batsi (top picture) or Fellos Bay (above) near the port of Gavrion.
- It is west facing so cops the wind during the summer but it’s bliss during autumn.
- Shallow, crystalline, uncrowded and quiet.
- Andros is 2 hours from the Attica port of Rafina by ferry. 17 euros a ticket for adults.
- There’s several morning and afternoon ferries each day.
- Andros is the northern most Cycladic island.
Back in Athens…
- Akti Vouliagmenis is located in a posh, Athens, seaside suburb. 13km from the centre of the city. You can see the main beach (4 euro for a white wood sun lounger) in the background, but I prefer to swim here.
- I paddle boarded today across the bay and only fell off five times.
- The entrance to this spot is almost opposite the turnoff to Vouliagmenis Lake, a popular swim spot with locals.
- The bus stop is across the road. Take bus A2 from the Athens centre, and change to buses 114, 116 and 149 at Voula Town Hall.
- You simply dive off the jetty into sparkling clear, green water.
- There’s also a ladder to climb down into the sea.
- And after you dry off, you can have lunch, just a few metres away. Perfect.