When is the best time for a Greek island holiday? Often, holiday makers choose by the weather, picking August for scorching days or either end of the season for days that are a little cooler. What about trying to get under the skin of a Greek island and choosing a trip to coincide with a festival?
On a sailing holiday, there is plenty of opportunity to visit places on shore. Greek islands are tempting, with pretty coastal villages, tavernas situated on the water’s edge, bougainvillea climbing up white washed walls, smells of summer herbs and fantastic food and drink. As an extra, what about timing a holiday so you can visit one of the island festivals? Here is a guide to some of the Ionian island festivals that just might whet your appetite.
Easter is a movable feast and the biggest festival in Greece. After the religious festival, there is a time of live music and feasting. There are celebrations held in most places, including the smallest villages. This can be a very beautiful time on the islands as it is early spring and the flowers are out in abundance. Choosing Easter to enjoy a sailing vacation would give the opportunity to enjoy the celebrations no matter which island is chosen.
The Union of the Ionian Islands is celebrated on May 21st. This is the anniversary of the day in 1864 when the Ionian islands became united with Greece. A good place to catch this is in Argostoli and Lixouri, on Kefalonia. There should be dancing and singing in the squares in both towns and lots of food to enjoy.
In Zakynthos, a festival of poker and backgammon is held each June. It lasts for six days and nights and is suitable for players of all abilities.
The Vassiliki Watersports Festival in Lefkas is a fairly new feature on the festival calendar, the first one being held in 2006. It takes place around the end of June and would make an ideal place for a visit, being the largest event of its kind in Greece. There are various activities on the water, including windsurf slalom and yacht and catamaran racing. There are also onshore activities, including mountain bike racing, live bands, Greek dancing and tavernas open until well into the night.
1962 saw the first International Folklore Festival in Lefkas, which has become an annual summer event. It runs for the last week of August, starting with a parade on the first Sunday. Traditional dance and song from all over the world is celebrated and over the course of the week, thousands of singers, dancers and musicians entertain vast crowds of islanders and visitors.
The Zakynthos wine festival, from the end of August to the first days of September, is an opportunity to celebrate and enjoy the local wines.
Check out the islands and you may discover there is a festival that suits you. All the islands have festivals in honour of their patron saints and many of them hold wine festivals.
Jane Simpson writes regularly on travel in the Greek islands for a range of websites and blogs. She has enjoyed a rich variety of holidays in Greece, including a sailing vacation.
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