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