Greece is a wonderful Easter destination and even if you aren’t Orthodox Christian, a visit to one of these places during this period will be an experience that will stay with you forever. From the famous pottery smashing in Corfu to fireworks in Hydra, here are 11 Greek Easter destinations that you should add to your list.
Easter is a huge celebration throughout Greece, even more so than Christmas. It is during this time when Orthodox Christians throughout the world celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection. As a result, Greeks take Pascha very seriously and commemorations begin from the week beforehand.
On the island where the Bible’s Book of Revelation was written, here visitors are welcomed to the historic monastery of St. John the Evangelist, which UNESCO has declared a world heritage site. The main festivities are the Washing of the Feet ceremony in the central square of Chora, the reenactment of the Last Supper, and the reading of the Gospel in seven languages and in Homeric hexameter. The very spiritual celebration of Easter on the island concludes with the procession of the monastery’s icons on the Tuesday after Easter Sunday.
During Greek Easter, on Easter Sunday, Saitopolemos takes place in Kalamata. This is where groups of people wearing traditional costumes hold and light long handmade tubes filled with powder. Each year, thousands of people visit Kalamata over Easter to witness this historical tradition dating back to the Ottoman period.
On the beautiful island of Spetses, the Epitaphios processions of each of the four main churches of the island come together on the main town square in front of the Poseidonion Hotel on the evening of Good Friday. Locals carry around the Epitaph, which is beautifully decorated and the city is lit with pretty lights and Easter candles.
This Cycladic island is filled with many Orthodox and Catholic churches, the main being The Epitaphios of the Catholic Evangelistria, the Assumption of Panagia, the Transfiguration of the Savior, and Saint Nicholas, all meet at the main Miaouli Square and Easter services take place. Locals participate in the procession often carrying spears, or sponges, which is a clear reference to the passions of Christ.
This Cycladic island, located near Santorini and Milos, has its own Easter traditions, which honour Panagia (Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ). The annual tradition has it that locals clean and whitewash their houses in preparation for the passing of the icon of Panagia. Starting on Holy Saturday, the icon goes around the village, outside all the homes, which are given a blessing.
Corfu is by far the most popular Easter destination in Greece. Each year thousands of local and international visitors arrive on the island to celebrate the resurrection with a variety of traditions, one of the most famous being the throwing of clay pitchers (botides). In the town’s historic centre, with thousands of people, locals throw ceramic pots off their balconies, yelling “Xristos Anesti” (Christ is Risen). Bands play music throughout the town, and everyone is outdoors (day and night) taking part in the festivities.
On the Dodecanese island of Kalymnos, the anticipation for the Resurrection builds with the loud sound of dynamite exploding. This can be heard throughout the entire island, from the main port to the mountainous villages. After midnight mass on Easter Saturday, fireworks take place and the island celebrates with traditional local food and music.
Meteora is by far one of the holiest sites in Greece and come Easter time, it is truly magical. During this time you will hear chanting Byzantine hymns and you will see glimpses of holy icons inside the 30 monasteries all lit up. After the midnight service visitors are welcome to head to Kalambaka or Kastraki towns nearby where the local taverns serve traditional Magiritsa soup. On Easter Sunday you can enjoy the local celebrations in the nearby town of Kalabaka.
The Byzantine town of Monemvasia e is filled with flowers during Easter time and on Good Friday you can follow the Procession of the Epitaph through the narrow, cobbled alleyways of the town, alongside a band playing music. The entire Holy Week is filled with many commemorations and events that culminate on Easter Sunday.
Easter is a wonderful time to visit Chania, as you can experience local Cretan customs and traditions and visit many historical monasteries that invite guests to experience the true meaning of Pascha. At this time of year the town’s spring charm also comes to life and not only is it blossoming with flowers, but the sun is also shining and the warmer weather may even allow you to have a swim.
This is a very popular destination for Athenians to celebrate Easter, as it’s only a two-hour drive away from the Greek capital. Nafplion has special celebrations that take place throughout the entire Holy Week. On Good Friday, follow the procession of the Epitaph through the narrow streets and alleyways, and at the end of it, you will find all four Epitaphs of the various churches on the main town square in the centre of the city.