Swimming in Greece

No matter the reason for visiting Greece, you should plan for swimming to be at least part of your itinerary. The Greek beaches and the endless summer sunshine are the main attraction. Read our advice to make sure your experience swimming in Greece is positive an safe.

Swimming in Greece

The Greek coast is filled with spectacular beaches that are some of the cleanest in Europe. In fact, the sea and the sun are one of the major reasons so many visitors choose Greece over other destinations. During the months of July and August the sun shines constantly and cloudy or rainy days are rare.

Most bathers prefer to swim in beaches that are lined with sand, while few opt for the isolation of more rocky shores. Many sandy beaches slope gently for a considerable distance making them ideal for children, while others slope more abruptly.

The waves are gentle during the summer, especially in the morning, and the majority of the most popular beaches are calm during the day.

Waves pick up later in the afternoon, but rarely are large enough to disturb swimming. Although not an absolute rule, the northern parts of the Aegean Sea islands are more exposed to the northern “Meltemia” winds, and thus a bit more rough for swimming.

Most beaches of Greece are of the “swim at your own risk” variety, and if you ask the locals at your location they would be happy to point you towards the best waters.

Practicalities

The beaches are less crowded in the morning before 11:00 AM, and then right before sunset. Surprisingly enough, in our experience the beaches become very busy when the sun is the strongest between 11:00 AM and 4:00 PM.

The beaches of Greece are most crowded between July 25 and August 15 when most Greeks take their summer vacation. During this time even the most isolated beaches see a considerable number of more swimmers, and the traffic on the way to the beach becomes difficult.

Even during the heat of the summer the water of the Greek seas feels cool and crisp, and offers welcome relief from the intense heat of the summer sun. In general, further north the water temperature is a bit cooler than southern Greece.

Where Are the Best Beaches in Greece?

Greece has over 13000 km of coastline. No matter where you choose to vacation near the sea, you will be within a short drive from a beach.

But not all beaches are created equal. To visit some of the best beaches of Greece you need to do a bit of homework, and sometimes to go out of your way to get there.

If you plan to do a lot of swimming in Greece, both the coast of the mainland, and the vast majority of the Greek islands offer wonderful beaches.

We have an extensive section with reviews and ratings of Greek Beaches. 

If you are interested in visiting the best ones, read our reviews of the best rated beaches of Greece.

Private and Organized Beaches

There are no private beaches in Greece.

The vast majority of beaches in Greece are free for all to enjoy.

Legislation stipulates that no one may impede the public from accessing a beach.

If a private residence, or a hotel takes up the entire beach front, it must provide reasonable access to the beach from public areas. If anyone impedes your access to a beach, you may file a complain with the police.

Some beaches are organized by the local municipalities or private organizations to offer a host of services to swimmers.

You are not obligated to purchase such services, and you may enjoy the same beach on your own if you prefer.

Beaches Requiring Entry Fee

There are some “closed” beaches though. They are operated by municipalities or are leased to private entities, and they may require an entry fee.

This fee usually cost anywhere from €3 to €12 per person. Prices may be different for weekends.

For the entry price many organized beaches, offer fresh water showers, changing cabins, umbrellas, toilets, bars restaurants and lifeguards, amount other services. However, there is no uniformity on the services they provide.

Some organized beaches do not include much with the entry fee, and charge extra for sun beds, parasols, etc.

Others don’t allow visitors to bring their own food and drinks. So, before you head out, make sure you know what you will be paying for, and what’s included.

The organized beaches that require an entry fee are usually located around major cities, and especially around Athens.

Swimming Attire

Swimming attire appears in few variations. You will find a multitude of beach stores near every popular swimming spot in Greece where you may buy beach towels, bathing suits, parasols, floats, and a plethora of beach accessories.

Men most commonly wear “Speedo” style bathing suits, although Bermuda trunks are equally fashionable.

Omitting the top piece of a bikini is a common practice in the most touristy beaches of Greece, but it’s a diminishing fashion trend.

Doing away with the entire bathing suit is practiced mainly in dedicated beaches and clubs. But don’t be surprised if you encounter the phenomenon in isolated beaches and coves.

Safety

Greece is a paradise for swimmers, and it’s easy to let your guard down when you are in paradise.

For the most part, the beaches of Greece are safe. Shark attacks are unheard of, and tides are barely perceptible throughout the country (with few exceptions).

But, perhaps it’s this perception of being in a very safe place that leads to swimmer’s getting in trouble.

According to the Hellenic Center for Disease Control & Prevention (HCDCP), deaths by drowning occur >400 times per year.

That’s 20% more drowning deaths than the European average. (source: HCDCP pdf)

Preventing Accidents While Swimming in Greece

HCDCP provides some safety tips to minimize a chance of an accident int he water, among which are:

  • Don’t rely solely on a lifeguard.
  • Don’t distance yourself from children playing near or in the water.
  • Avoid alcohol when swimming
  • Swim at a maximum distance of 50 meters from the shore, and parallel to the shoreline.
  • Take shelter from the sun and the heat.
  • Keep well hydrated.
  • If you go swimming in a remote area, let someone know the location and return hour.
  • Dont’ dive head-first in unknown waters.

Lifeguards

Some of the organized beaches have lifeguards posted for certain hours of the day during the high season.

If you are used to the USA lifeguard rigid protocols, you will find that in Greece lifeguards are not as vigilant watching for distressed swimmers, nor do they man their post continuously and without interruption.

So don’t let your guard down just because the beach has a lifeguard. Think of them as your back-up in case of trouble.

Shade and Sun Protection

The most popular beaches have parasols and sun beds already set for bathers.

A typical set-up includes one large parasol with two sun beds that can be rented together for anywhere between 4 and 8 euro.

Choose and empty parasol, and simply sit there. Sooner or later the caretaker comes for payment and/or an order of drinks.

You might want to bring your own parasols to the beach, especially to more isolated beaches where there is no protection from the sun.

Even in the presence of organized parasols, you may plant your own anywhere in their proximity. The parasol owners do not own the beach.

The sun can be relentless between 12 noon and 5 in the afternoon, so the best time to swim anywhere in Greece is between 9-11 AM and 5-8 PM.

The sea is usually very calm in the morning hours, and as a rule the afternoon breeze brings some waves of varying sizes and intensity.

Sunscreen is an essential accessory for everyone’s swimming experience.

There are worse things, but getting a nasty sunburn on the first day of a vacation, rendering yourself out of any seaside activities until departure, is a sure way to ruin your holiday.

Having said that, sunscreen is in demand and therefore expensive during the summer months (read more about prices in Greece).

So it would be wise to budget for it, or bring some with you if you live in a not-so-sunny area.

Snorkeling and SCUBA Diving

If you plan to snorkel, there is no overstating the need to invest in a quality silicon mask which fits well around your face.

The cheap plastic masks sold at tourist shops usually fill with water very fast and make it impossible to see. If you enjoy snorkeling, you already know the value of investing in a quality silicone mask from a diving shop.

Snorkeling Mask Choices

A snorkeling mask with a wide glass area is best for snorkeling since it offers a wide angle of view.

The masks that have two lenses – one for each eye – are better suited for deep diving but restrict the field of view for casual snorkeling.

A good mask should cost over €35 and you can find them in outdoor gear stores, or specialized scuba diving stores.

A good shave is also prescribed for male divers since a beard will not let the mask create a seal around the face, leading to a mask full of water and frustration.

Eliminate Fogging

If you have ever snorkeled you probably know that lens fogging can be a frequent problem. Surfacing and cleaning the mask every few minutes can be vexing and taxing.

There are a variety of products in the market that promise to keep a snorkeling mask clean.

Such anti-fog products work, but experienced divers would tell you that your own (free) saliva to be just as effective.

Before you enter the water rub some of your own saliva on the inside of the lens and rinse it with sea water.

If you do this before the mask gets wet you should have a fog-free lens for at least half hour or more.

Buy a Quality Snorkel and Fins

To go with the mask, you need a snorkeling tube to breath through.

A €2 snorkeling tube works fine, but a €25 tube with a filter makes snorkeling much more enjoyable.

The snorkel with the filter allows breathing even when small waves crash over the tube. We recommend them highly if you don’t want to breath in a mouth full of seawater every few minutes.

A pair of quality fins can also enhance your snorkeling experience by allowing effortless propulsion through the water, and by keeping their shape after many many dives. Expect to pay over €40 for a good pair of fins, and you can purchase them at the multitude of scuba diving shops in Greece.

Regulations Concerning the Underwater Activities SCUBA Diving Regulations

(Offical ource: Greek National Tourist Organization reprinted by permission)

Underwater activities with breathing apparatuses are allowed from dawn to sunset.

The use of special equipment for the search and localization of antiquities as well as the existence of such equipment on the boats (yachts, sailing boats etc.) is strictly forbidden.

The lifting or removal or photographing of antiquities is forbidden. Any discovery of antiquities should be immediately reported to the local Archaeological Service or Port Authority or Police Authority.

The underwater fishing with breathing apparatuses is forbidden.

The establishing and function of diving schools are subjected to special licenses issued by the Ministry of Culture as well as by other Authorities.

No scientific or professional work at the bottom of the sea is to be carried out without the previous consent of the Ministry of Culture or the competent Authorities.

All divers should conform to the above restrictions and respect the provisions of the Law 5351/32 on antiquities.

Sea Areas for Underwater Activities (SCUBA Diving) (With the use of oxygen tanks)

Attica

For educational purposes only.
At the second port of Vouliagmeni, at Varkiza bay at a distance of 100 m. from the small island Artemis. and along the coast from Kavouri to Legrena

Crete

In Hania: along the coast from the bay “Megalou Sfakou” to the bay “Afraton”
In Rethimno: along the coast of “Korakiou” and the western part of “Panormos”
In Heraklion: along the coast of the bay “Fodele” at the cape “Hersonissos”, North of “Gournes” and at cape “Diakori”
In Lassithi: along the coast at a distance of 500 m. east of the area “Panagia”

Other Islands

Mykonos: Along the coast at a distance of 500 m from the shore except the area included between cape Agios Georgios and Cape Alogomandra
Kalimnos: Along the coast near the bay Vlihadia to the cape Agios Georgios,Rhodes: For educational purposes only. Along the coast of Kallithea at a distance of 120 m. north and 120 m. south of the bay
Corfu: Along the coast between the cape Roda to the cape Drastis at a distance of 500 m. from the shore. Along the coast from Paleokastritsa to cape Arkoudila at a distance of 500 m. from the shore except the sea area of Lagoudia islands: Along the coast from the cape Kountouri to cape Agni at a distance of 500 m. from the shore except the sea area of the islands Vido and Lazareto
Lefkada: Along the coast of the bay Balou of Meganissi island
Paxi: Along the coast of the island at a distance of 500 m. from the shore, except the following areas:
From the cape Koukoutsa to the area Litharia including the reef
From the cape Geromonahos to the area Tripitos
From the cape Pounta to cape Loutou
From the cape Laka to the Erimitis bay
The area Voutsi
Zakinthos: Along the coast of Laganas bay at a distance of 500 m. from the cape Agios Sostis to the cape Dafni
Chalkidiki – Sithonia Peninsula: Along the east coast from cape Armenisti to cape Drepano at a distance of 500 m. from the shore

Mainland

Kavala: Along the coast facing the cape Kakoskala and at both sides of the cape Kakoskalo
Achaia: Along the coast near Lambirion
Argolid: Along the coast, east of the cape Steno
Messinia:  Along the coast of Kalamata bay and the coast of Bouka and the bay Voedokilia in the area of Pylos
Magnesia:  Along the part of the coast at the island Mikro Adelfi and round the island Tsougriaki

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