When to Go to a Greek Isle

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If April arrives and I haven’t planned my year’s travels by now, it’s time to get on with it forthwith. There are only two questions, of course, that really matter. Where to go, and when. The rest is mere detail.

The easiest one to answer is the first one, at least in part, for it will be a sad year if I don’t find myself in Sifnos even once. And if as usual it’s going to be no more than once, then the trickier decision that must be made is when. I share my thoughts here in case, dear fellow traveller, you are also contemplating a visit to any Greek isle. And if you aren’t, trust me, sometime you must.

Though you may for your varied reasons feel otherwise, I would never even think of going in July and especially in August. As everywhere anywhere around the Mediterranean, it’s way too hot then for my liking and, given what I’ve heard from everyone around there, much too crowded.

Far better is September when the seas have soaked up a full season of the sun’s rays,  when the weather is still consistently warm, when shopkeepers, restaurant owners and, well, everyone is taking a deep breath after the hustle of summer. “I have time to talk then,” one taverna owner once told me. “It’s when the good visitors come.”

September, too, is when I first saw Sifnos. How can something so sunburned, so rocky, so barren, be so beautiful? I wondered.

Then I decided to come in early April and saw an entirely different island altogether. Lush and green after the rains of winter and both the land and its people filled with the optimism of a new season, it was a paradise of wildflowers. Pinks, purples, soft yellows, crimson reds. Daisies, lupins, poppies and tons I’d never before seen. It was Easter, too, the most anticipated of holidays on the Greek calendar, and one that even visitors with no religious bent whatsoever will find themselves happily caught up into. But it’s cooler at that time of year, often windy and sometimes uncomfortably so, and only the hardiest would contemplate going for a swim then.

But if you’re thinking of Easter some time and want warmer weather, 2016 is a good time to make that happen. Orthodox Easter falls much later than usual this year on May 1. No promises, though I do speak from experience, but the weather should be consistently better and the seas warmed up enough especially at the shallowest beaches that a swimsuit must go into your bag. And something that happens rarely, Easter Sunday is also May Day, a time when Sifnian families celebrate spring by going for long country walks in the sunshine and gathering flowers as they go, then later weaving these into wreaths that will hang outside every doorway. I’m betting that they’ll still find time to fit that in between feeding everyone, foreign guests included, at their various Easter feasts.

You see? I’ve pretty much talked myself into it, and I’m betting that you might have too.

Sharon Blomfield is the author of The Sifnos Chronicles: tales from a greek isle and, new in spring 2019, Sifnos Chronicles 2: more greek island tales. These books are available at To Bibliopoleio, The Book Shop in Apollonia, Sifnos, at Tithorea, a Greek food shop in Rockwood, Ontario, Canada and on Amazon.

 

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