The Easter holiday in Greece is a special occasion celebrated throughout the country. With its unique blend of Christian traditions and local customs, the holiday is an ideal time to visit the Mediterranean country. As spring makes its annual appearance, Greeks celebrate this solemn occasion in a variety of ways worth discovering. Here are the best destinations to experience Greek Easter.
The island of Corfu is home to lively Easter traditions and celebrations. Including parades, the throwing of pots and a series of local customs, Corfiot Easter is a great excuse to enjoy a spring holiday in the Ionian island. The weather may not be perfect for endless days of swimming or sunbathing, but the busy schedule of Christian celebrations will certainly keep you busy.
One of the jewels of the Saronic Gulf, Hydra makes a great Easter getaway. The island enjoys a unique tradition of having the epitaph (the funeral bier of Christ, containing a large icon depicting the burial of Christ and heavily decorated with flowers) enter the sea on Good Friday in the fishing village of Kaminia, which is 10 minutes from the main port. This tradition is a way of blessing the waters and the seafarers. After the procession, people gather around to eat seafood in nearby tavernas and houses.
If you wish to enjoy this solemn time surrounded by stunning scenery, then your best bet is to visit Meteora. The unique atmosphere of this area filled with monasteries perched on top of massive boulders makes the occasion particularly exceptional. Take advantage of its location and explore the surrounding nature, but make sure to attend mass, held at 7:00 PM in the six monasteries still operating. We recommend that you visit Varlaam monastery on Maundy Thursday for the ceremony of the Last Supper. Take part in the Easter festivities in Kalabaka with the smell of roasted lamb on the spit filling the air on Easter Sunday.
Chios Easter is known throughout the country for its explosive celebrations in the coastal village of Vrontados. There, the rocket battle between the village’s two parishes has taken place for centuries; it dates back to a tradition during the Ottoman occupation. The rocket war, which attracts thousands of visitors each year, is an impressive show to watch; however, in recent years, authorities have adopted safety measures to protect participants and spectators.
Peloponnese is certainly a favorite place to spend a great Easter away from the cities and crowds. One particular town in Arcadia, Leonidio, celebrates the occasion with a unique and lesser-known tradition. On the night of the Resurrection, the sky is filled with homemade hot air balloons released by the villagers. This tradition that dates back to the 19th century was brought to the area by local sailors who witnessed a similar custom while on a trip to Asia.
There is no denying that Patmos offers a truly unique Easter for visitors. The place where the Book of Revelations was written takes on a solemn air during the Holy Week. Among the many celebrations, the Washing of the Feet ceremony in Chora and the reading of the Gospel in seven languages in the Monastery of Saint John the Evangelist feature among the most impressive. The festivities end with a procession of the monastery’s icons on the Tuesday after Easter Sunday. When you are not attending church, try to explore the breathtaking natural landscapes of the island.
Syros may not be the first destination that comes to mind when you think of the Cycladic islands, but this island is worth a visit. With its stunning neoclassical houses, its unique traditions and scenic beauty, Syros, the capital of the Cyclades, has a lot to offer. But on the occasion of Easter, it gives visitors a beautiful message of peace and hope, as both Catholic and Orthodox church members join together at the end of the procession on Miaouli Square, Ermoupoli’s main square, for prayers and hymns.
Easter is the occasion when many Greeks from the cities return home to their parents’ villages or familial homes. If you don’t want to hop on a ferry to an island but would rather stay on the mainland, it is a great opportunity for you to discover the real Greece outside your summer vacation. Whether you wish to combine your break with outdoor activities, such as hiking, or local customs, you can find it all across the country.
In Epirus, in the Zagorochoria region, Easter is the time to relax and explore the stunning nature blooming under the spring sun. In Thessaly and Pilio, Easter means discovering a plethora of unique traditions and customs, some dating back to antiquity, while enjoying a quiet time away from the hustle and bustle of the cities.
For those who prefer complete isolation, the northern rural centers in the region of Macedonia shine with a blend of local and Ottoman traditions and easy access to some of the most beautiful forests and green spaces in the Mediterranean. Wherever you choose to go, you can be sure you will spend a magical time feasting and celebrating with the locals.