2019: 12 Destinations For Each Month Of Greece – February

Epirus - Vikos Gorge exploring hiking Greek destinations mountains

Introduction

Growing up, I loved music and dancing.

Childhood being such an impressionable age I can still recall certain school plays, dance routines and little poems that we laughed and jumped around to in those years of innocent bliss.

There was this one cassette tape however, I can vividly recall singing along to and memorizing and driving everyone insane with. It was called the twelve months and it had twelve songs, one for each month of the year.

They were catchy and simple and looking back now, even a bit sentimental. Not that I minded that last part. You could say I always had a flare for the dramatic.

The twelve months of Greece were distinctive in mood and rhythm and lyrics. They had a message to pass and they did quite successfully. Every month is special, every month has something to offer.

If one wished, that message could stretch onto a whole range of areas of our lives. Differences between months, seasons, people, languages, all oh so evident but oh so exciting. Adding the necessary spice in our life.

If you know anything about Greece, then you must know that like the cassette of my childhood years, and the world we live in nowadays, it has variety, it has differences that can be discovered and it has spice.

epirus - Greek destination mountains winter - rocky climbing

A typical view of the Pindus area and surrounding mountains, only without the snow!

February- Pindus – Northern Greece

February is often a time in Greece when temperatures are at their lowest. With summer season pushing into late September, and December offering not-yet-freezing temperatures, February can be what winter enthusiasts wait for all year around. The area of Greece known as Pindus takes up most of the northern part and is often referred to as the spine of Greece.

It is the biggest and longest mountain range in the country and has peaks that reach 2.637 meters. Popular both for hiking and skiing, Pindus dominates the landscape starting from the northwestern border with Albania and traversing diagonally and down.

The mountains of Parnassus, Giona, Oeta and Vardousia further down in Central Greece are also considered to have once been a part of the Pindus Range.

Map below will help to visualize the above information.

 

Winter is one of my favourite times to explore Greece.

Small villages high up in the mountains come alive and the heavy touch of snow in some areas, adds another layer of charm to the cobblestone streets. The smell of chestnuts becomes overpoweringly sweet and fireplaces are filled to the brim, spreading the aroma of pine and beechwood. This might just be personal preference, but nothing warms up your appetite for warm soups, hearty meat dishes and local wine than below zero temperatures.

Epirus - Greek destination - rocks stone arch bridge hiking tramping exploring
Epirus - Greece destination hiking exploring stone houses mountains and climbing

Northern Greece is mottled with villages that offer all the above. Charming guesthouses, warm fireplaces, traditional meals and mountains waiting to be explored. Always popular amongst locals, are the villages of Zagori or Zagorohoria in the Pindus area.

Forty-six villages in total, similar in architecture and style, impossible to see all at once. The eager visitor will need to expect a second or third visit to fully explore the area.

For those looking for a more adventurous winter experience, hiking in the area might be an option, depending on the weather and your skill level.

Local guides and expert advice regarding weather and suitable track conditions should always be obeyed . The mountains, while pretty, can be very challenging to non-experienced hikers and weather conditions could disguise the landscape significantly.

North Greece Epirus - Mountains Pindos hiking stone hosues

In addition to winter activities and excursions, February might also be a great month to experience cultural and religious festivities all around Greece.

Preparations for Easter begin far in advance and depending on when Easter Sunday is on that year, celebrations can begin as early as February.

Greeks all around the world celebrate the “opening of the Triodion” a peculiar expression that might be easier understood if I tell you that the Triodion is a liturgical book of the Greek Orthodox Church.

The Triodion sets out the propers for the three-week fasting period before the Sarakosti (Great Lent) as well as the 40 day Great Lent period and the Great and Holy Week.

This year will see us celebrating Easter Sunday on the 28th of April.

Τhat means the Triodion will open on Sunday the 17th of February.

So, what happens then. The first three weeks that will follow are each dedicated to something specific and for those that follow the Christian faith, odes to be sang each day.

One of the most celebrated dates in modern times, however, is Tsiknompeti, which directly translates to tsikna (the thick smell of grilled fatty meat) and Thursday. And yes, it is celebrated on a Thursday.

Every corner of every village and every balcony or terrace of every apartment building in Greece is covered in barbeque grills and thick waves of meaty smoke. Why is that important?

Traditionally, the consumption of meat is discouraged on Wednesdays and Fridays, making Thursday the ideal day to celebrate.

It is also the last chance for people to stock up on their meat eating, before fasting from animal products, including dairy as well as any other human pleasures.

The second week of the Triodion is also called Apokries or Carnival. Both names of which relate to the no meat eating practices.

Greek – apo kreas – without meat

Latin – carnem levare –meat remove

Carnival celebrations are officially discouraged by the Orthodox Church due to their pagan origins, however, elaborate costume wearing, masks, parades, street events and pranks are all very common.

Festivals are organized in advance in many cities around Greece, the most known of which is in Patra.  It attracts thousands of people from all around Greece and Europe each year.

 

We hope you learnt something new about Greece and have a better idea of what to expect when you are visiting in the month of February.

  • Stay tuned for the next installment of this monthly series. Twelve months, twelve destinations across Greece, each with something else to offer.

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