The best time of year to visit Greece without ruining the planet

If you have booked a holiday in Greece for June, July or August you have made a big mistake. Unless you are heading for the mountains in the North you are in for multiple unpleasant surprises.

In this post I described the horrors of visiting Santorini. And that was at the end of October! Many people recommend September as the ideal month in terms of weather. They lack an understanding of Greek tourism. It is mainly small business, family run or short termist approaches. By September they are exhausted, they are sick and tired of tourists. Even the beaches, even if they are empty feel used and out of energy. Maybe you can’t see rubbish, but you can feel the presence of thousands that packed the sand before you.

Severe heat presents a problem on multiple fronts. First of all you can’t really do anything. Running from shade to shade is no way to live unless it is a dystopian movie. When the heat is unbearable even in the evening you are reduced to sitting in the room with the AC on and jumping in the pool briefly with multiple lotions slathered on generously, hats, umbrellas and any other available technology against skin cancer.

But it gets worse. Because those ACs are simply pumping out more heat and noise. We have just moved the problem beyond sight. And Greek islands have no sustainable energy sources. So if you drive around you will usually find a petrol burning electricity station producing inefficient quantities of power. Which is why even Santorini often is left without power.

And without water. Greek islands barely had enough water for their few inhabitants a hundred years ago. Now they have to carry it over from the mainland and truck millions of bottles of it for you to drink. And forgoing all the problems of the energy demanded for that, they all also end up in landfills. Like the famously hideous one in Santorini. Every Greek island has one, some islands actually export their rubbish in trucks that get on the boat with you. It is a ludicrous reminder of just how unsustainable this is. Getting millions of people on a little rocky island.

But wait, it gets worse. Because as is well documented, severe heat also increases the chances of forest fires.

These past 3-4 years in Greece have been devastating. Personally I blame the current government which has dramatically changed the approach to fire fighting. They also do not enforce any measures to reduce fire hazards, always pretending to pass responsibility to citizens.

And that is Greek tourism in a nutshell. An important sector of the economy which relies 100% on the ability of the State to provide infrastructure:

  1. Power Infrastructure. A joke. The government brags about wind energy which is produced by destroying Greek mountains. At the same time power cables are overland! They destroy your pictures as a tourist and they greatly increase the fire risk as most wild fires are started by faulty electric cabling. (And then everyone pretends it was arson.)
  2. Water infrastructure. Non existent. And given the fact that tourists stupidly keep going to the same few islands it is a hard one to solve. This isn’t just about the water you drink, it is even more so about toilet waste disposal. For too many years the easy solution was just a pipe going out to sea. This is still often the case.
  3. Waste infrastructure. Greece just keeps getting fined from the EU because we recycle less than everyone else. Landfills are disgraceful and largely unregulated anarchy.
  4. Communication infrastructure. The most expensive in Europe for most things (mobile and fixed line internet) and far behind in terms of available speeds. So much for being a digital nomad.
  5. Transport infrastructure. We Greeks don’t even think of getting on a boat with our cars to go to an island. Prices have rocketed as it is essentially monopolies of government cronies. There is no rail network and prices of motorway tolls are out of control. That is usually motorways built on government loans and european funds, somehow we end up paying them back in tolls for decades…
  6. Tourism infrastructure. Closed! This may sound crazy but most Greek antiquities are free to visit. Free to loot. Completely unprotected, often without even a fence to pretend we care. The Greek government seems to focus only on public relations campaigns like the one for the Elgin marbles, or on opening new museums which then get abandoned. Due to lack of staff they are often closed. Or open severely restricted hours. Or closed due to strikes. But the real problem is the lack of information. You drive along and see a fantastic ruin but there is no information anywhere about it.

But please come to Greece. It is still one of the most beautiful countries I know. Just don’t “do” Mykonos, Santorini and a quick run up the Acropolis. Come in April or May if you like the sea to find fresh beaches and locals that are still happy and energized. Go to smaller islands or – better still- thousands of kilometers of great beaches that are off the mainland. Come any other period other than the summer months and enjoy antiquities, nature and (depending where you go) great people that generally speak English and are very hospitable.

A friend once told me that “tourism destroys all it touches”. This is true of much of Greece, more now than ever before. So be careful where you touch.

PS All the images on this post are from the Acropolis of ancient Siphai. One of thousands of important archaelogical sites left to crumble (literally) in Greece. So come quick and see them at least. Good luck learning more about them, here is the official Ministry of Culture page on this site:

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *