You have booked your tickets to visit Greece this summer and now it is time to pack your bags. But your country of residence might have a completely different climate than the one in Greece. Should you pack your winter jacket “just in case”? Do you need to wear tights under your dresses? Should you leave your leather boots at home?
This article will not give you advice on trends. It provides you with general information on preferred materials, forms, and colors for a hot and dry summer. There is also a list of essential items for your Greek vacation, along with some tips on how to blend in with the locals.
What is the Climate of Greece?
To begin with, it is important to remember that Greek summer is generally hot and dry. On average, expect temperatures that rise up to 31 degrees Celsius during the day. But packing a thin jacket (e.g. a jean jacket or a shawl) is recommended, since nights can get a bit chilly.
In Northern and Western Greece (e.g. Ioannina), the climate is usually more humid and cool than in other parts of Greece. Some of the most popular Greek destinations, such as Santorini and Mykonos, are sunny, windy, and warm. Vegetation is sparse, so be prepared for prolonged sun exposure.
With the exception of Athens, Greek summer is bearable, as long as you pack the following essential items. The Athenian summer is usually the hottest, with temperatures often rising over 40 degrees Celsius. It is therefore recommended to schedule all your outdoor sightseeing activities early in the morning and spend the afternoon in indoor museums (e.g. Benaki Museum, Acropolis Museum).
The Essentials for Your Greek Vacation
- Sunscreen with High SPF. Greece is one of the sunniest countries in the world. Apply sunscreen to your face and exposed skin before leaving the house in the morning to protect it from damaging UV rays.
- Hats. A straw hat or a breathable jockey hat that protects your head and face is essential when sightseeing during the day. Hats don’t only protect your skin, but they also help you maintain a low temperature.
- Sunglasses. UV rays can be harmful to your eyes. Not only that but sunny weather can make your eyes feel tired and appear red. Sunglasses are an essential accessory for Greece. Make sure to get your pair from an optic shop rather than from a retail shop. Sunglasses should not only come with tinted lenses but also with UV protection. Tinted lenses with no UV protection can cause more harm than good! Moreover, although small sunglasses are trendy right now, you should opt for glasses that cover the skin under your eyes when sightseeing or sunbathing.
- Reusable Water Bottle. Avoid leaving the house without water and make sure that you stay hydrated. In some islands and villages tap water is not drinkable; purchasing bottled water is recommended.
- Swimsuits. Greece is known for its countless breathtaking beaches and swimming spots. Even if you are not an avid swimmer, you will get the urge to take a quick dive into the waters. If you don’t own a quick-dry swimsuit, always pack a second one to change into while you’re drying.
- Beach Towel. Assuming that you will be spending time by the sea, a beach towel is essential. If you will be visiting unorganized beaches, you need a second one to lay onto. You don’t want to dry yourself with a towel full of sand.
- Moisturizing / After-Sun Cream. Dry and hot climates can dehydrate your skin. Moreover, prolonged exposure to the sun can lead to sunburns and skin blisters. A moisturizing cream (usually based on aloe-vera) is an essential item.
- Mosquito Repellent and Fenistil Gel. It is recommended to spray your legs and arms with a mosquito repellent before sunset to avoid mosquito bites. Mosquitos are usually active at dawn and dusk. A gel or topical cream for skin irritations and insect bites (e.g. Fenistil) might come in handy. You can always purchase these items from any pharmacy in Greece.
- Face Masks (2021 only). Face masks are required in public spaces according to the 2021 COVID-19 restrictions. This rule might be lifted once the vaccination plan is completed.
Clothing Items to Pack for Greece
- Lightweight, Breathable Fabrics. Linen blouses and pants, cotton shorts, loose dresses and skirts are the clothing items you should aim for. Avoid tight jeans and materials such as wool, polyester, fleece, nylon, vinyl, and leather. Moreover, you might think that exposing more skin equals feeling breezy. This might be the right strategy when visiting humid and warm locations. But, when visiting sunny and dry destinations, such as Santorini, flowy, light-colored, and breathable clothes that cover your body will better protect you from the heat.
- Light Colors. Although you can easily wear a total black outfit once the sun is down, it is recommended to wear light colors, such as white, beige, and pastels, during the day. You want to reflect the sunlight, rather than absorb it.
- Shawls, Kimonos, and Light Jackets. You don’t need a winter jacket when visiting Greece in the summer. But, with the exception of big cities, such as Athens, temperature tends to lower during the night. You may need to wrap yourself with a shawl while drinking your midnight cocktails by the sea. If you are planning on visiting Central and Northern Greece, such as Chalkidiki and Pelion, a light jacket (e.g. a jean jacket) might be needed.
- Comfortable and Breathable Shoes. Two to three pairs of shoes are usually enough for your trip to Greece. Leather sandals for strolling in the city or island town. Canvas casual shoes for those who don’t want to expose their toes. Flip-flops or waterproof slippers for the beach (avoid wearing leather shoes in the hot sand). Breathable sneakers for hiking and outdoor sightseeing tours.
- Straw / Raffia Bags, Canva/ Cotton Tote Bags. Straw and raffia bags are the most popular bag of choice in Greece during the summer. Canva tote bags are a much cheaper alternative. Although leather bags are still a popular choice, sunlight and heat can damage the leather material. Additionally, leather items – especially black leather items- tend to absorb heat. As a result, your personal items will start overheating and your skin might get irritated. You may want to avoid carrying your favorite black leather handbag during your daytime sightseeing activities.
Unnecessary Items for Your Summer in Greece
- No need to pack your high-heeled pumps. Most Greek villages are built amphitheatrically. You will most likely need to walk on cobblestone streets, rather than asphalt. Therefore, balancing on stiletto heels won’t be an easy task. Thick-heeled sandals and platform shoes are a better alternative. Wearing heeled shoes is much easier in cities. But keep in mind that the overall atmosphere in Greece during the summer is very relaxed and laid-back. High heels are not a staple item.
- Avoid packing clothes made of vinyl or leather. Walking around Athens or Santorini wearing a black leather jacket, or a pair of vinyl skinny pants sounds like a nightmare. Not only do these items of clothing contrast with the relaxed summer atmosphere, but you also risk getting a heatstroke. The same applies to leather bags – especially black leather bags. Leather can be damaged under prolonged sun exposure. Leather boots are also not weather appropriate for your summer vacation in Greece.
- Tights are not essential. Tights don’t get a weather/fashion pass for summer. Most Greek women either expose their bare legs or wear long skirts/ pants to cover them. Tights (in any color) are considered a fall/winter accessory.
Are There Clothing Laws in Greece? Is There a Greek Dress Code?
Greece does not have laws that prohibit people from wearing specific items of clothing. People are free to wear whatever they want, as long as they don’t walk around in their birthday suits. Women are also allowed to sunbathe topless (unless stated otherwise) and there are many nudist beaches across the country. But there are a few written and unwritten rules you may want to know.
It is generally prohibited to wear high heels or shoes with spiky soles when visiting ancient theatres and sights, where the floor is made of marble or mosaic. Wear flat shoes and avoid damaging the floor or… your ankles.
Moreover, Greece has many picturesque monasteries and churches that you can visit. Women are usually requested to wear long skirts and cover their chest and shoulders before entering a monastery. If you don’t own a long skirt, don’t worry; most monasteries will lend you a skirt for free. Men should also make sure that they do not enter a monastery shirtless or in shorts.
There are no specific clothing rules when visiting churches. However, you want to avoid entering religious sights in your beach attire. If you come across a liturgy, it is recommended to look presentable (e.g. don’t enter in your beach attire). The priest, however, might welcome you in regardless of your clothes.
It is common to enter businesses and shops in swimsuits, as long as they are located in close proximity to the beach. Dining in seaside seafood tavernas wearing your beach attire is also common. But you may want to visit your hotel room to shower and change clothes before visiting the city center or island town. This is more of an unwritten rule, rather than a requirement. Being denied entrance to a restaurant for your choice of clothing is very rare occasion in Greece. But, taking the collectivistic elements of the Greek culture into consideration, you might get a few stares.
To sum things up, there are no laws dictating what people can or cannot wear in Greece. Public nudity is prohibited with the exception of nudist beaches and other designated areas. Topless sunbathing is generally allowed. There are, however, written and unwritten rules when it comes to visiting museums, archaeological sites, monasteries, churches, and private businesses.
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What Is the Greek Fashion Sense?
Modern Greeks usually dress casually in the summer. However, the concept of what “casual” means is different from country to country. Comfort is important but so is attractiveness. You will rarely see locals wearing sandals with socks, crocks, or oversized t-shirts with logos. But you will see less people going to work in ties and blazers or walking in high-heels.
Modern Greeks prefer loose-fitting and less structured clothes in the summer. But they might add belts and other accessories to create an attractive silhouette. Shapeless items of clothing and anatomic shoes are often considered “unattractive” and are less popular among younger generations.
Plain cotton t-shirts or loose-fitting linen shirts and short trousers are the most popular items of clothing for men. Women usually wear flowy maxi/midi/mini dresses, skirts, and shorts paired with tops, t-shirts, or blouses. Long linen pants are also a popular clothing item. Women like wearing makeup but it is usually minimal compared to other parts of the world (e.g. USA). There is a focus on creating a healthy-looking complexion, rather than changing facial features.
When it comes to footwear, men often wear canvas sneakers or moccasins, whereas women prefer flat leather sandals or slip-ons. Flip-flops are usually worn at the beach or for grabbing something fast at the local kiosk or mini market.
It goes without saying that each person has their own personal sense of style, and you will see many locals dressed in their own unique way. If you would rather blend in with the locals, adding some of the above-mentioned pieces to your suitcase will do the trick!
Marialena Perpiraki is a journalist and writer from Athens, Greece. In 2020, she founded Helinika as a cross-media platform.
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