Seasonal Planning for Crete Travel
When visiting Crete, it makes sense to pack layers. Although the weather rarely gets cold in summer, long pants (or skirts for women) can still be useful to have at monasteries and religious sites. Those visiting during the hottest six months of the year (May-October) will probably want to bring shorts and swimwear, while rain gear will come in handy for the wet winters.
For more information, check out Ultimate Guide to Crete: An Island for All Seasons and How Many Days Should You Spend on Crete?
|Pros||Cons||Best for||Where to Visit|
|June through August (Summer)||Good beach weather, long daylight hours, extended opening times at museums||Attractions are very busy, accommodation can be pricey||Visiting beaches, sightseeing||Heraklion Archaeological Museum for its longer hours, off-the-beaten-path beaches for sunbathing|
|September through November(Fall)||Cheaper prices, cooler temperatures, and fewer crowds than in summer||The weather can sometimes be chilly or rainy||Relaxing on beaches, exploring archaeological sites, trying fresh vegetables and olives at harvest time||Phaistos, Malia, and Gortyn to discover ancient history|
|March through May (Spring)||Blooming flowers, comfortable temperatures, celebrate Easter and Greek Independence Day||A chance of rain in early spring, some attractions are closed on holidays||Enjoying the flowers, experiencing Greek Easter customs, visiting archaeological sites||Spinalonga in April and May, to avoid the crowds of later in the season|
|December through February (Winter)||Thinner crowds at major attractions, off-season deals and discounts, Christmas celebrations||Many attractions are closed or have limited opening hours, weather can be rainy and cold||Eating fresh lemons and oranges during the winter harvest, enjoying Christmas treats and traditions||The Cretan mountains for hiking and some light winter sports|
Summer (June through August)
Many people visit Crete for its beaches, and summer is the perfect time for sunbathing—average temperatures hover in the 70s and 80s Fahrenheit, with little chance of rain. If you’re looking for seaside relaxation and guaranteed good weather, summer is the best time to visit Crete.
It’s worth noting that things can get very busy in the summer months. Sites like Knossos and Spinalonga get particularly crowded. If you plan to visit during the high season, careful planning will ensure that you get the most out of your trip.
Accommodation in Crete sells out quickly in the summertime, so make your arrangements in advance. When planning your itinerary, you might want to work in some off-the-beaten-path locations. The plus side of sightseeing in Crete in the summer is that everything is open late, so you’ll have the opportunity to soak in the island’s incredible archaeological heritage.
Resort towns line the northern coast of Crete; these, along with the cities of Heraklion and Chania, see a large number of visitors in the summer. To escape the crowds, travelers can head down to the southern coast, or inland to charming towns such as Archanes.
Navy Week (June): Most notably celebrated in Soudha Bay, near Chania, Navy Week is dedicated to swimming, sailing, and the sea.
Cretan Diet Festival (July): Celebrated in the city of Rethymnon, this festival is all about Cretan food. It features cooking classes, wine tastings, booths selling local products, and musical performances.
Feast of Agios Titos (August): This festival celebrates the patron saint of Crete. Events are mainly held in Heraklion.
Fall (September through November)
If you’d love to hit the beach but are keen on avoiding crowds, fall can be a good time to travel to Crete. The weather stays pleasant throughout the season, with average temperatures in the 60s and 70s Fahrenheit. Although you may run into a few rainy days, especially in November, the beginning of fall is usually warm and sunny.
Most attractions continue their summer opening hours until November 1st, making September and October a great time for sightseeing. Archaeological sites are scattered all around the island, with many interesting ones an easy day trip from Chania or Heraklion.
Fall offers comfortable temperatures for trekking around Crete’s inland archaeological sites—the Minoan cities of Phaistos, Gortyn, and Malia, along with the famous Knossos, are very much worth a look. It’s also a good time to see Spinalonga, a well-known islet with a Venetian fortress off the coast of eastern Crete. Regular boat service to Spinalonga stops in the winter, and summers are very busy; the best times to visit are in fall or spring.
Finally, there’s one more great thing to do in Crete in the fall: eat. The island is famous for its rich and healthy diet. Fall means harvest time, when vegetables are falling off the vine and tender Cretan olives are at their finest. Foodies can check out this six-day itinerary, or this longer one featuring walking tours and a cooking class.
World Tourism Day (September): Celebrated around the world on September 27th, in Crete, World Tourism Day features free food samples and free admission at some of the island’s attractions.
Oxi Day (October): Taking place on the 28th of October, this national holiday commemorates Greece’s refusal to allow Mussolini’s troops to enter the country in 1940. Oxi, sometimes written ohi or ochi, means “no” in Greek. Travelers can expect closures and parades in most Cretan towns.
Chestnut Festival (October): In the village of Elos, this yearly festival offers visitors a chance to taste many types of chestnut products.
Spring (March through May)
In Crete, spring means blooming flowers and warming temperatures. It’s the perfect time for outdoor sightseeing before the crowds of summer arrive, since most attractions will have started their extended hours by April 1st. Visitors will also be able to experience a Cretan Easter (dates are usually different from Western Christian Easter; check in advance to confirm).
Tantalizing traditional sweets, like tsourekakia (sweet rolls) and kalitsounia (cheese and herb pies), are eaten around Easter. Processions take place throughout the island on Good Friday, while Easter Saturday is celebrated with bonfires and a midnight mass. Some attractions may be closed for the holiday.
Many other big events happen in the spring in Crete, like Greek Independence Day. If you plan to visit at this time, pay special attention to the dates you choose—you may want to align with a specific festival, or avoid closures on public holidays.
Greek Independence Day (March): On March 25th, the declaration of the Greek War of Independence is celebrated with parades throughout the country.
Festival of Agios Georgios (April): Cretans celebrate Agios Georgios, the patron saint of shepherds, on April 23rd each year. A large event takes place in the village of Asi Gonia, where hundreds of sheep are milked in the town square.
May Day (May): May 1st is now known as International Workers’ Day in Greece, but it also corresponds with an older tradition known as May Day. May Day is celebrated in Crete with flower shows and decorative wreaths.
Winter (December through February)
Winter is the off-season in Crete. The weather can get rainy, or even snowy (especially in the island’s mountainous regions). However, sunny days aren’t uncommon either. Typical temperatures are in the 50s and 60s Fahrenheit, rarely dropping below freezing.
Although some attractions have shortened winter hours, visitors can expect reduced prices, especially on accommodation. Those looking for a peaceful vacation with plenty of culture to enjoy will enjoy traveling to Crete in the winter.
Many restaurants and attractions in the tourist-oriented resort towns close down for the offseason. However, visitors will find plenty to do in Heraklion and Chania, where businesses remain open to serve the locals. Winter is also a great time to enjoy a quiet visit to the island’s archaeological sites without the crowds. Those looking for an adventurous experience can head up to the White Mountains or the Dikti Mountains for some hiking and winter sports.
Christmas (December): While Christmas lights and plastic trees can be seen on Crete, a more traditional Christmas decoration is the karavaki (small boat). Other traditions include caroling and eating Christmas sweets, usually flavored with fruit and honey.
Epiphany (January): On January 6th, head to Crete’s coastal villages to see the “Blessing of the Waters” ceremony (where a priest throws a cross into the water, and swimmers have to dive in to retrieve it).
Carnival (February): Greek Carnival, known as Apokries, is celebrated before the beginning of Lent. It’s marked by street parties featuring music, dance, and costumed performers. Celebrations are held in Rethymnon and Malia.