Greek Carnival in Patras and the Peloponnese

Apokries, as the carnival season is known in Greece, is a big deal throughout the country and local traditions make for a range of striking and unique celebrations—from the street parties and burning effigies in Rethymno (Crete) to the Venetian-style carnival on Corfu and the traditional, rustic celebrations in Tyrnavos and Naxos that bear obvious similarities to the pagan carnival traditions of central Europe. The biggest, liveliest and most famous carnival in Greece, however, is without a doubt the carnival in Patras.

Going back over 180 years, Patras Carnival is the biggest festival in Greece and one of the biggest in Europe. It kicks off with the beginning of apokries (this year on January 28) and, over the next three weeks features a number of events, including balls, parades, street theatre, and of course the Children’s Parade (February 11, 2018). The festival culminates with its two major events on the last weekend of the carnival: the Night Parade on Saturday February 17, 2018 and its world-famous Grand Parade on Sunday February 18, 2018.

While the modern, cosmopolitan character of the Patras Carnival might not give it away, the Greek carnival actually has its roots in ancient Greece and in the worship of the god Dionysus. For ancient Greeks, Dionysus was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, ritual madness, fertility, theater and religious ecstasy—a hefty title, and they made sure to celebrate him accordingly. Epic feasts, processions, singing, plays, masked dancing, and lots and lots and lots of wine.

And we have the perfect way to give a nod to Dionysus and the origins of the apokries carnival season. Our Wine and History in the Peloponnese tour takes you on a journey that introduces you to the intertwined stories of viticulture and ancient Greek civilization: Enjoy a private guided visit to the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus and a guided winery tour of the award-winning Domaine Skouras Winery—complete with a wine tasting session showcasing four exquisite ambassador wines. Available as a day trip from Athens—or from Patras, upon request—Wine and History in the Peloponnese is the ideal tour to combine with a weekend at Patras Carnival.

Culture, wine, and splendid celebration are just the right ingredients for an unforgettable apokries experience in Greece.

The main Carnival dates for 2018:

Jan 28: Triodion – The beginning of the carnival period

Feb 8: Tsiknopempti (Smoky or Barbeque Thursday) – Traditionally a day on which Greeks head to tavernas—or fire up their grills—and tuck into some serious quantities of grilled meat prior to the arrival of Lent

Feb 16-18: main Carnival weekend – The last three days of apokries during which carnival lovers don their costumes and take to the streets in numbers

Feb 19: Kathara Deftera (Clean Monday) – The first day of the Great Lent, usually spent outdoors, flying kites and picnicking on delicious Lenten fare

Ski & Snowboard Holiday

Greece is an undiscovered gem in Europe’s snow sport scene: a winter wonderland with almost 200 km of pistes and 24 resorts of various sizes up and down the country, Greece is a must-visit destination for skiers and snowboarders looking for new slopes and a unique take on snow sports.

Whether you’re in north, central or southern Greece, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy a day out on the slopes. There are dozens of ski resorts and centers throughout Greece, from the northern borders to the Peloponnese, and experienced skiers and snowboarders can also enjoy a wealth of opportunities for cross-country skiing and backcountry rides in pure untouched powder—even as far south as Crete!

Greek ski resorts are mostly medium-sized, and a number of them are actually smaller ski centers, so don’t expect the massive networks of pistes you’d typically find in the Alps. Instead, prepare yourself for a real treat: a variety of runs across gorgeous terrain, often with spectacular views across the Greek countryside and—you guessed it—the Aegean Sea. Even the tiniest ski center has heaps of character and comes with plenty of options for sightseeing, cultural tourism, and great food in the vicinity. After all, where else in the world could you go straight from enjoying excellent snow to savoring a delicious souvlaki or tucking into some authentic Mediterranean home-cooking at a local family-run taverna?

Transportation and Gear

If you’re based in Athens or Thessaloniki and don’t mind a bit of a drive, you can plan in some time on the slopes as a day trip. Two of the biggest resorts in Greece, Parnassos Ski Center on Mount Parnassus and Kalavrita Ski Center in the Peloponnese, are just under a three-hour drive from Athens, while Thessaloniki is surrounded by resorts, including Elatohori, 3-5 Pigadia, Vitsi, and Kaimaktsalan. Remember that mountain roads can be challenging even on a good day—much more so if you have to drive over snow or ice. Make sure your vehicle can handle the terrain and is equipped with appropriate tires, and have snow chains at hand just in case.

If you don’t feel like driving up the mountain yourself, you can take advantage of a number of “snow bus” services—shuttle services that transport snow sport enthusiasts from the city to resorts and back, leaving in the early hours of the morning and bringing you back in the evening.

Snow bus services usually stop at gear rental shops, where you can rent anything from skis and boards to goggles, but it’s always a good idea to confirm this in advance with the company you’re using. If you’re thinking of trying a smaller ski center and/or are driving yourself, call in advance to confirm the possibility of renting gear from them or check with local snow sport shops in the city.

The Resorts

Central Greece:

Agrafa – Karamanoli

Agriolefkes – Pelion

Koziakas – Pertouli

Mount Olympus – Vryssopoules

Mount Parnassos – Fterolakka/Kellaria

Mount Parnassos – Gerontovrachos

Tymfristos – Velouchi

Northern Greece:

3-5 Pigadia – Naoussa

Hriso Elafi

Elatohori – Katerini


Lailias Ski Area – Serres

Orfea Valley – Paggaio



Vigla Pisoderi/Verno – Florina

Vitsi – Kastoria

Voras – Kaimaktsalan



Profitis Elias – Metsovo


Helmos – Kalavrita

Ostrakina – Mainalon


What to See and Do

Chasing the snow takes dedication, but if you’re only visiting Greece—or as specific area—for a short time, you’ll want to treat yourself to a complete, well-rounded experience. The best place to start is with one of the great guided tours that will introduce you to the Greece’s fascinating history and rich cultural heritage. There’s a wealth of unique cultural experiences to choose from in Athens, and longer ski or snowboarding trips to resorts like Kalavrita or Mainalon can be combined with a wine and history tour to discover the highlights of the Peloponnese. Heading north from Athens, a trip to Mount Parnassus and the country’s most cosmopolitan ski resort is ideally combined with a stay in the picturesque village of Arachova and a tour of the world-renowned Delphi archaeological area. Or why not combine snow sports in the north of Greece with visits to some of the country’s most popular destinations to enjoy the unique blend of ancient Greek heritage and Ottoman influences and the region’s rich and distinctive cuisine to match it!

Useful Links – Information and updates on the status of various resorts throughout the country – Weather and snow condition information – Piste information and resort facts (including piste categories and lengths per resort)

VisitGreece – Winter Vacations – Inspiration for ski resorts and things to do in the winter in Greece

The Thing About Greece – A documentary about snowboarding in Greece