Crete enjoys an average of 300 days of sunshine each year and this is high on the list of reasons that holidaymakers return to this beautiful island year after year. The climate of Crete is a temperate Mediterranean climate and the weather is characterized by long hot, dry summers and mild, sometimes rainy winters. There are relatively few days a year when it rains, but when it does finally rain it tends to be rather heavy and quite spectacular. This results in Crete being surprisingly green for most of the year despite the many hours of sunshine, and with a magnificent display of wild flowers in the spring. There are significant differences between the coastal zone and the mountainous areas, as well as between the west and the east part of Crete , when it comes to the weather conditions. The mountains of Crete form an East-West barrier to prevailing northerly winds and they trap the clouds sweeping down the Aegean leading to a sunny coastline most of the time. The sun is stronger here than most visitors are used to so you will need to bring your sunscreen with you from March to November.
March / April: The weather during March and April is a little unpredictable but it ranges from beautifully warm and sunny to cloudy with the chance of some rain. You will definitely need a sweater or fleece for the evenings as they are decidedly cool. The sea is also chilly (though it tends to be warmer than most swimming pools) averaging 17°C / 63°F, but we do see the first people swimming. The roads are virtually empty and this is perhaps the best time of year to experience Crete’s scenery at it finest. Crete is very green after the winter rains, there is still snow on the mountains and a blanket of colourful wild flowers covers the island. The many orange groves are covered in blossom infusing the air with an incredible fragrance. This is a wonderful time for bird watching, with many different varieties of birds stopping off here on their journey north. Walks can be arranged for you with flora and fauna specialists who can greatly enhance your experience of Cretan nature. Some of the tavernas in the coastal villages will not yet have opened but there is still plenty of good food to enjoy and the service will be excellent and particularly welcoming as there are few tourists about. The Orthodox Greek Easter usually occurs during April (though very rarely on the same date as the Catholic Easter). This is the most important holiday of the year and the Greeks will joyfully welcome you to join in with the long weekend of events and celebrations. A holiday on Crete during the spring affords a fantastic experience for those seeking a relaxing time with plenty to do and see. This time of year is not appropriate for sun worshippers but the weather is generally very pleasant and ideal to enjoy Crete’s many museums, churches and archaeological sites (including Knossos) whilst they are crowd free. The first direct charter flights from the U. K. arrive into Chania and Heraklion Airports at the end of March and beginning of May.
May: The weather is usually very good though we do get the occasional spot of rain or a few clouds and the nights are still cool so you will need to bring a light jacket or fleece. Rainfall is particularly unlikely later in the month and you will definitely need to bring your sunscreen with you. The sea is starting to warm up and all of the beach tavernas are open by May 1st (May Day when the Greeks drive out to the countryside/beaches to put wild flowers on their cars and enjoy a long lunch). A few more tourists start to arrive in May but things are in many ways similar to March and April in that the roads and popular sites are still fairly crowd free. The weather is not yet very hot making this an excellent time for enjoying some of the wonderful walking trails and gorges that Crete has to offer, including the famous Samaria Gorge which usually opens at the beginning of May.
June: This is without a doubt my favourite month of the year as you are guaranteed to get excellent weather and the sea and swimming pools are much warmer. June seems to be one of Crete’s best kept secrets as there are surprisingly few tourists about despite the fabulous warm and sunny weather. The wild flowers are now few and far between but the island is still very green and the highways are lined with tall and colourful oleander bushes.
July / August: The weather is very hot and sunny and the sea is beautifully warm, making this the perfect time to indulge in a lot of swimming, snorkeling and/or water sports. This is the time of year when the Meltemi winds sometimes blow in from the north-west. They are generally considered a blessing as they provide a much appreciated cooling breeze. They are at their strongest in the afternoon and often die down at night, but occasionally meltemi winds can last for days without a break. The evenings are also hot and balmy with the temperature only cooling slightly, making air conditioning a must if you intend to sleep well. The first 2-3 weeks of July are unexpectedly quiet as only couples without children tend to holiday at this time, but this all changes drastically from the last week in July and during most of August when you are in “high season”. Unsurprisingly there are many tourists about, particularly families with children who are on their summer break from school. Crete is also a favourite destination for Greeks, and particularly Athenians during the first 3 weeks of August. It is difficult to find a spare seat on a ferry or plane from Athens to Crete at the beginning of August as many government/public agencies close down for a few weeks, and there is a mass exodus from the country’s stifling capital. You must also book early if you intend to find car hire or an available villa during the high season. Despite the crowds and heat, August is a fun month with a great atmosphere when there are a number of feast days during which many villages hold street parties to which all are invited, and many tavernas have evenings featuring live Cretan musicians and dancers. You can always escape from the crowds to the comfort and peace of your own villa and pool, or to a taverna in a small village, or to a quieter and perhaps less well known beach. The last week in August is once again quiet as the Greeks have gone back to work, and families with school children have also left the island.
September / October: These months are very similar to May because the weather cools down slightly and is generally very pleasant, and the island is considerably less crowded. Some evenings can be cooler, and there can be occasional rainfall (particularly during the last 2 weeks of October) so you will once again need to bring a jacket or fleece with you just in case. After the long hot summer, the island can look drier and less green, the sea however is much warmer than in May and swimming in the crystal clear turquoise sea (or your pool) is still immensely enjoyable. This is another excellent time for visiting Crete’s many cultural sites whilst they are relatively quiet, or walking the many wonderful trails and gorges that Crete has to offer, including the famous Samaria Gorge which usually closes at the end of October. Bird watchers will also enjoy this time as many birds seem to stop off at the Lake Agia reservoir on their journey south for the winter.
The Winter. November – February: Many people ask what Crete is like in the winter. “Tourist season” usually ends on the last Tuesday of October when the last direct charter flights from the U. K. depart from Chania and Heraklion Airports. The weather in Crete can be very changeable in the winter with gloriously warm and sunny days, cold nights, and then spectacular storms with torrential rain, thunder and lightning. You will need a jacket in case it rains in November or December but it is also not unheard of to still be on an empty beach in November in your bathing suit, or in a T-shirt at Christmas. We do experience winter here on Crete , and the weather is most likely to be cold and stormy during January and February when you will need sweaters and a warm coat, but it is nothing like as cold or as long as winter in the U.K. A holiday on Crete in the winter months is a totally different proposition than in the summer but it can also be incredibly enjoyable and rewarding with many sunny days and absolutely breathtaking scenery incorporating snowy mountains, empty sandy beaches, and turquoise seas.
The Chart below gives an average daily temperature but please bear in mind that due to global warming, the temperature can be a few degrees higher, and in July and August there can be heat-waves during which the temperature increases dramatically. (Statistics supplied by GNTO).