WHEN TO COME

 

Each year the island is visited by around 2.5 million tourists, most arrive in July and August simply because this is the time of year that as a rule annual holidays are booked for the guaranteed sunshine. As you can imagine it becomes very busy with a crush on the more popular beaches. However, don't despair you can always find quiet, out of the way places. During the rest of the year the island is practically empty with the sunshine less scorching and lots more pleasant. Although summer lingers on long after August and begins long before June.

In the winter months the population of the island's resorts is halved as most people depart for the main towns and villages or the mainland, having made their living in the tourist industry during the summer months. These lucrative prospects have of course changed the image of the island related to its economy, with more Cretans selling their lands and herds and replacing them with holiday accommodation, rented rooms and hotels, tavernas and in some cases gift shops and supermarkets.
  

Numerous festivals are celebrated during the year. All Greeks love to sing, dance and drink, especially wine, so like most of us they will always find some suitable opportunity to hold a celebration. Wine festivals and feast days are the most popular, attracting visitors not only from all over the island and mainland Greece, but from all over the world. The largest of these is the run up to Easter and carnival time, this allows them to go wild and play practical jokes and tease each other. Parades are held in all major towns and villages with traditional and outlandish costumes being worn. Floats, cavalcades and masquerades all go to make these amusing pageants. Other processions and pilgrimages are from many of the islands churches and monasteries on the first Sunday after Easter.

  

MARCH - APRIL - MAY - JUNE

 

The last of the winter weather has gone, the sun illuminates and warms the mountain slopes, beaches and villages. The Easter celebrations begin 'paska' this is the best time for short trips and long strolls. The weather holds splendid sunshine days and flowers adorn the fields. Not yet 'quite' right for the sea, but perfect for the countryside and all is ready to welcome you. Albeit, this is the time when the first intrepid swimmers do appear. You could experience a few cloudy and breezy days in March, albeit there is always a slight and normally welcoming breeze on the island.  In March 2001 there was a heat wave with temperatures as high as 30 C but that was an exception.


 Unless you fly from the UK, you will unfortunately for the first two of these months still will have to fly via Athens and catch the shuttle, ferry or bus to the island as the first charter flights do not arrive until the beginning of May. (This of course could change in the near future). From late April onward the sea is warm enough to swim.

   

Everything is in bloom at this time of the year, flowers, herbs, trees and almond blossom will greet you everywhere. Villages are clean with the pavements and tree trunks freshly whitewashed ready for the Easter festivals, whitewashing the trees also helps prevent the infestation of ants. Transport is available to rent everywhere and ferry boats and planes are not yet full to capacity. 
Mosquitoes are the only problem, so make sure you buy a repellent and use it especially in the evening when sat in the open. Purchase an electric mosquito machine to plug in your room before you leave for the evening, making sure your shutters are closed at night. 


The 'meltemi' seasonal North winds have not yet started to blow, the sea is calm and nature is at its best. May is considered the best month for outdoors activities. A jacket will prove useful for the evening though.

  

JULY - AUGUST

     

 
Hot-hot-hot, the water is warm and crystal clear, the temperature will soar so - protect, protect, protect - with creams, hats umbrellas and whatever you should not expose yourselves or children especially to the mid-day sun temperatures at this time of year can rise over 40oC. and drink copious quantities of water (leave the alcohol for the evenings). It is hard to do anything else during these months, than spend the entire day at the beach.  Guaranteed to be windy and
very hot and busy. July and August are the months that the seasonal North winds blow. Excellent time of year to take to the sea in boats or driving around the island in open top cars and jeeps keeping you cool, however transportation is very busy at both ports and airports and not forgetting the traffic!

  
So be prepared for delays. Transport is very difficult to come by at this time, it is probably best to book in advance if you require a car or motor bike. This is the time of year when most Greeks leave the big cities and towns on the mainland to holiday. All through August the island is alive with people. During the day the resorts are bustling and at night the cities and towns are a hub of activity. This is the time of year for celebrations, dancing, plays and festivals especially leading up to 'Panayia' (Lady Day) on the 15th August.

  

SEPTEMBER - OCTOBER - NOVEMBER

       

 
After the blaze comes the calm. The heat wave is nearly over. Summer lingers on until the end of October. The sea is pleasantly warm and calm, and the beaches have less people (some totally deserted). is still here but the intense heat wave is over, summer lingers until the end of October. The rain normally doesn't appear until early November, but there can be the occasional summer shower in October.  Excellent time for visiting the mountains.
October is still sunny, very few windy days but some rain will fall, especially in the west part of Crete. The weather is very good for outdoor activities. October is the month that the traditional drink of Crete, 'tsikoudia' (raki), is distilled from the grape skins. Warm clothes are rarely necessary. 

  
You can move with ease, boats and planes depart on time and are not as congested. The museums and streets are not jammed with crowds. Peace and tranquillity reign once more. Transport is easy to obtain and the roads are quiet so you can enjoy the scenery much more, even the ferry boats and planes are on time and not full to capacity. November is the beginning of winter. If you come prepared it won't make any difference, the sun is still strong in the day time but the nights start to get cold, and of course it gets dark early, so you just have to make the most of every day. The south winds start and sometimes they carry sand from the Sahara desert. This sand covers the sky of Crete and it creates very unusual weather conditions. The main problem in November time is there are no more direct flights from now until May so you have to fly to Athens and then catch the shuttle across. 

 

DECEMBER - JANUARY - FEBRUARY

       

 
One thing you have to remember is when it rains in Greece it pours. You could be unfortunate and have very bad weather for your stay at this time, though most unlikely. Once again if you come prepared you shouldn't be caught unaware in a downpour but will most likely be taking off layers as the winter sun appears but it is always windy. There is a one week period during January when the weather is generally good and the winds cease, this spell is called the Halcyon Days. You will always find accommodation in the main towns and will also be able to hire a car or motorbike. The roads can be slippery and the lightning strikes can cause rock falls on the roads, and not forgetting divots on dirt roads as the rain comes down in torrents from the hillsides. 

  

The locals will welcome you with open arms and will have plenty of time to sit and talk, you'll see families out in every field on the island picking their olives and would always welcome a helping hand! The air is fresh and the views at this time are crisp and clear, revealing the unique and natural beauty of this island. The fields are green and fertile the colours abundant and copious wild herbs fill the air with their rich smells. The almond trees bloom in February, the first trees to bloom. The weather is unpredictable and cold days alternate with warm ones.

 

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