Crete is an ideal place to visit all year round. The mild climate and unique mountain landscapes attract visitors before and after the summer tourist season. Crete's stunning natural beauty motivates visitors an imperative need to discover its mountains, its gorges, its paths, and its nature.
And Crete is not just beaches, after all. Read on and we will show you 3 unforgettable routes for winter drives in Crete.
Transportation is also easier in winter once you enter Crete. The road network is much less congested then and you can enjoy your time in Crete and its 4 prefectures: Chania, Rethimno, Heraklion and Ag. Nikolaos. There are countless opportunities to experience everyday life in the villages and towns of Crete, and the off-season months are a perfect opportunity to do so.
In addition, you will get far better-personalized services, and the accommodation, the rentals and all the travel services will be cheaper too. In general winter holidays in Crete will be 40% less expensive compared to similar vacations in the high season summer months!
3 unforgettable routes for winter drives in Crete
The biggest advantage of visiting Crete in winter is that you can avoid the crowds and enjoy your trip without queuing at archaeological sites or museums. In addition, ticket prices may be lower than at other times of the year.
Every first Sunday from November 1 to March 31, most archaeological sites and museums in Crete offer free admission. So take advantage of this great opportunity to explore the island's rich history and culture without spending a lot of money.
There are many interesting museums to visit in Crete, for example the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, which houses one of the world's best collections of Minoan art. You can visit all the museums, archaeological sites and exhibitions without worrying about the long queues in summer and without having to squeeze through the crowds to listen to your guide. In winter, things are easy and pleasant. Crete is green and the mountains are covered with snow (usually starting in December), which makes everything much nicer than in the dry summer
You get closer to the "real' life in Crete. Some of the attractions of Crete are always there in winter - like the famous mountains. And yet there are other pleasures that are only possible in the winter months - a secret that really only the locals know. With your rental car in Crete
you can experience the diverse landscape of this magical Greek island.
Crete is home to some great archaeological sites, including the world famous Palace of Knossos. Getting to know the sophisticated and advanced Bronze Age society of Crete (the first palace of Knossos is about 1500 years older than the Parthenon) is one of the most important cultural experiences in Crete. Of course, a site of such enormous importance is very crowded in the high season. In winter on Crete, you can visit the impressive excavations of Sir Arthur Evans and reflect on the myths of the Minoans (e.g. Theseus and the Minotaur) at your leisure.
You can combine this tour with a visit to the archaeological museum and a sightseeing city tour in Heraklion or with a road trip to Anogeia to discover the real Cretan life. The villages of Crete are where the true Cretan culture thrives. Visit the mountainous, famous Anogia, where you can hear the most beautiful lyre in the world. Cretans are famous for the speed and skill of their lyre playing - traditional Cretan music quickens the pulse. Anogia has produced some of the most legendary players in Crete.
The city of Rethymno and its region are an ideal tourist destination in all seasons, and the mild winter weather
is not only a luxury, but a common phenomenon.
At this time of year, Rethymnians enjoy the opportunity to leave their homes, breathe in the fresh air and participate in activities that rejuvenate body and mind.
The most interesting aspect of Rethymno in winter is the Carnival - the largest in Crete - with an impressive parade on Carnival Sunday and a plethora of other activities that mark the festive season. The program includes a city tour by bicycle, live Cretan music and serenades, and a children's parade.
Winter is also a good time to visit Rethymno's museums at leisure, without being rushed by large groups of tourists.
For nightlife in winter, it is recommended to visit the cafes and clubs around the Rimondi Fountain - some are open, but it depends on the demand of the public. Some bars that are open all year round
A quick stop in Margarites to discover Cretan pottery is a must. The village of Margarites has been known for centuries for its excellent ceramic art. Here you can visit the artisans' studios and buy truly unique pieces, including innovative designs from ancient Greece - like the Pythagorean cup.
Winters in Chania are often bright because the city is colorful, with cheerful traditional architecture, sparkling Christmas decorations in December
, ornaments and all kinds of fun activities. Here are some of the most interesting things to do in Chania in winter.
In Chania, follow in the footsteps of the Venetians, the Italian conquerors of Crete who were responsible for building the massive fortifications of the old town, and the best place to explore is the Toponas neighborhood to the west of the city. Near the harbor and sandwiched between the massive Western Wall, the seafront and the Old Town's main street, Chalidon, Toponas is a maze of alleys, each with its own story to tell. So grab a map or Google Maps and hit the road.
Perhaps the most fun for kids of all ages is the Santa Run in Chania, which takes place on December 26 on the 1st. It starts at 1:00 p.m., but to participate in the run, you must register by December 1 at the Santa Run House (on the side of Chania's Central City Market, 9 Hortatson Square). Here you can also get your Santa costume. Of course, you can also be a spectator and buy souvenirs at the Santa Run House if you wish. Registration costs € 15 for adults and €10 for children between the ages of 4 and 12. The proceeds will go to institutions that take care of children with health problems. For more information, visit the official website of the run.
Parking in Chania can be a real problem. In the northwest of the city (where the run starts), you can find a free parking lot 100 metres to the left on Akti Kanari - the coastal road to the left of Pireos Street.
Does Crete get cold in winter?
While you will likely want to skip swimming at the beach (unless you like cold-weather swimming), there are still tons of things to do in Crete in wintertime. But Crete is still a perfect winter destination. The island lies in the subtropical part of the Mediterranean and it offers mild winters especially along the coastline many sunny days with pleasant temperatures. The actual temperatures in winter stay relatively warm.
Wintertime in Crete is not only snowy but also less crowded. The most typical winter months of the year are December– January, and February. On the coast, snow is very rare, however, from time to time, such as in February 1992, February 2004, and January 2017, it can snow even in Heraklion.
The average highs are generally around 15-16°C/59-61°F and the average lows are around 9-11°C/48-52°F from December through February. If you are looking for some snow, you’ll be happy to know that there are opportunities for skiing and winter sports in Crete’s interior mountains.
In addition, waves of bad weather can occur in winter, with wind and rain, so the sun in this season is not always guaranteed while there are fewer tourist facilities available so are the people! This means that you can explore authentic Crete and especially the villages which all of them are kept in pristine condition and are picturesque.
Are there Flights to Crete in Winter?
There are some direct flights to the island from Europe between November and March. The island remains very well connected with most European cities. Several airlines like Wizz Air, Volotea, Transavia, etc offer flights mostly via Athens or Thessaloniki to both Heraklion airport and Chania airport therefore be prepared of changing two planes in order to spend your vacation on Crete.
Which is the warmest part of Crete in the winter?
If you don’t care at all about the warm weather and you only want to do sightseeing, enjoy the cultural heritage and visit places like Knossos and Heraklion Archaeological Museum, then you can literally visit Crete any time of the year as chances are you will definitely get some sunny weather and temperatures above 10 degrees Celsius. However, South Crete is generally a couple of °C warmer (but water temperatures are roughly similar). The east of the island has less rain than the north and especially the north-west. In general, eastern Crete is warmer than western Crete, the southern part of the island is warmer than the northern, the western part of Crete has more vegetation and in the mountainous areas the weather is cooler. Most places in Crete receive over 2000 hours of sunshine a year, with the sunniest areas - South Crete and Gavdos - receiving over 2400 hours. During the summer months, daylight can last up until 9.00 pm. Crete experiences relatively little air pollution compared to many other Mediterranean countries, which makes the UV rays in our sunlight very strong.