Why would you want to come to Crete in winter?

The last article about winter tourism in Crete discussed the steps needed to make winter tourism possible, or at least more accessible. In this one I’d like to list a few reasons for coming to Crete in winter. I am sure that I’ll miss some so if you have been to Crete in winter or live on the island please add your views in the Comments section.

The White Mountains seen from Marathi beach

The White Mountains after a heavy snow fall

What seems to me to be the most attractive aspect of visiting Crete in the winter is not the warmer weather but the amazing contrast between Crete and northern Europe: as autumn progresses and northern countries slide into a world of grey and white, in Crete the first heavy rains that usually occur around October or November clear the air of the summer dust and make grass sprout within days. December brings the first spring flowers, snow capped mountains and emerald fields whilst the wind in the olive trees turns them silver.  By February and March Crete is at its most colourful – and in a sense its most powerful .

Flowering almond trees above Platanias

Flowering almond trees above Platanias

The warmer weather is of course another very attractive aspect. I don’t want to bore you with weather statistics but suffice to say that when the sun shines it is strong and warming and you could easily sunbathe on a good day. Even the sea doesn’t get that cold. The lowest temperatures (in late February) are just above 15°C.
And when it rains (which happens around 60 days of the year in the North-West of Crete where it rains most) it generally pours – none of this never ending drizzle and greyness – then it passes and the sun comes out again.

What you will also appreciate in the winter is that there are no crowds. It’s a perfect time to visit museums and famous archaeological sites. You can actually enjoy strolling and dreaming of the past through the empty alleys of Knossos instead of having to elbow your way through throngs of tourists in the baking summer heat.

An olive grove in winter

An olive grove in winter

Winter is also a great time to go to places like Elafonisi or Balos that are nowadays best avoided in summer. And of course, if you like walking, winter is a wonderful time: green, cool and full of flowers. But you’ll have to accept that the weather, unlike the period from May to September, can be unstable (and sometimes really vile).

A very pleasant side-effect of the lack of tourists in winter is that you will be noticed and treated as a visitor, a guest, and not a faceless number in the crowds.
Of course if winter tourism ever takes hold in Crete there will be more people and you won’t be able to spend a whole day in, say, Elafonisi and only meet two or three other human beings but I am sure that it will always remain a low key and relaxed affair for people who look for more than generic sea and sun.

Before any significant winter tourism occurs I suggest that it is best to avoid staying in the purely touristic resorts because they shut down in winter. Even if you find accommodation there won’t be much life, maybe no restaurants open, possibly not even shops. It is probably best to stay in towns such as Chania where life goes on in winter and hire a car (you can get really good deals in winter) to go around.

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7 Responses to Why would you want to come to Crete in winter?

  1. Joanne Shepherd says:

    I thoroughly agree. Crete is wonderful in the winter. I much prefer to walk around Chania during the winter months, but the villages are also lovely. Almyrida (Apokoronas) , a beach resort for example, mostly closes down, but in Plaka just a little higher up, the bars and Tavernas remain open and the atmosphere completely changes. The local Tavernas in Drapanos, Kefalas, Kalives, Armenoi and Vamos are still open, and it is wonderful to sit in the village squares in the sunshine and watch the world go by. I love to go to Drosastalia Taverna in Armenoi on a Sunday afternoon – it is usually packed with Greek families and has a lovely atmosphere – full of love and chatter. Not to mention a trip to Omalos when it has been snowing.

  2. Crete is fabulous in Winter, but it can get really cold at times, make sure the house you stay in has an open fire.

    • Jean says:

      Very few places for tourists will have an open fire place. Certainly no hotels! But you are right, you will want some form of heating, at least in the evening. If there is no central heating air-conditioning will also warm a place up. It’s expensive to run but not your problem if you are a paying guest.

  3. bob Scott says:

    It is no coincidence that many groups of walkers interested in the flora of Crete come here in March and early April. In our experience, the only problems that brings is that many tavernas and ‘rooms’ are not open and things like a boat trip to Spinalonga are often scuppered (pardon the pun) because of the weather. BUT, it is really a wonderful place to be throughout the winter (to hell with the rain) and if you like to see the spring flowers, get over here any time late February onwards until mid-April.

  4. Jette Drost says:

    If you go to Crete in winter NEA CHORA in the outskirts of Chania is perfect – in walking distance from Chania with all its attractions. In Nea Chora restaurants and tavernas are open, as the locals go there. The weather can be rough at times, but sitting in the sun in the little harbour, hiding from the wind, you can enjoy the sight of the snow-clad mountains and se the fishing boats come and go.

    • Jean says:

      Excellent recommendation. I agree 100%.
      Nea Chora beach is also popular with the locals when they want to go for a winter swim.

  5. We love to come in the winter months, we’ve had snow, rain, storms but it’s still great, fly to Athens then ferry across, nothing better to be up at dawn waiting for the first glimpse of sun on the snowy peaks, the smell of woodsmoke in town, an evening indoors with a log stove, hot chestnuts & the best potatoes baked in the ashes or a quick dash through the rain to a favourite taverna where you can sit in the warm, eat fresh fish and mountain greens and watch the waves breaking over Chania harbour.

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