Map from Google - Greece
The climate of Greece is Mediterranean
on coasts and islands, with mild, rainy winters and hot, sunny summers, while the mountainous areas of the north have cold and snowy winters, and mild summers, with some chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. The northern cities, located in inland areas of Epirus, Macedonia and Thessaly, have a slightly continental climate, with quite cold winters, during which air masses coming from the north can sometimes bring snow and frost, and hot summers, sometimes torrid.
On the coast of south-central Greece and on the islands, which have a Mediterranean climate, winter is mild and rainy
. The rains are abundant on the coasts exposed to the west, for instance in Corfu
, where even 200 millimetres (8 inches) of rain fall in December, and on the islands close to Turkey (see Rhodes
In the islands, during winter the wind
often blows; precipitation often occurs at night and in the early morning. In the islands, snowfalls are rare, and generally occur only in the northernmost ones during the most intense cold spells (eg in the Sporades, see Skiathos
, and in Euboea).
Winter temperatures in Greece decrease progressively as you head north: the average daily temperature in January ranges from 12.5 °C (54.5 °F) in Iraklion (Crete
), to 9.5 °C (49 °F) in Athens, to 5.5 °C (42 °F) in Thessaloniki. In plains and valleys of the north (see Thessaloniki) where the climate is more continental, winter is a bit cold, although the rainfall is not abundant. In Thessaloniki, there is on average one day out of three with freezing nights.
Here are the average temperatures of Thessaloniki.
Average temperatures - Thessaloniki
In Thessaloniki, rainfall, not abundant, sees a maximum in autumn and winter, and a minimum in summer, when rare thunderstorms occur. Here is the average rainfall.
Average precipitation - Thessaloniki
In inland and mountainous areas
, winter is cold, especially in the north, on the border with Macedonia and Bulgaria: here snow and frost prevail. At the same altitude, the temperatures in the mountains of northern Greece are lower than those recorded in the Italian Apennines.
In Florina, located in the extreme north, on the border with Macedonia, at 800 metres (2,600 feet) above sea level, the average temperature in January is 1 °C (34 °F). In a year there are an average of 27 days with snow. Here are the average temperatures.
Average temperatures - Florina
On Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece with its 2,917 metres (9,570 feet), it is possible to practice cross-country skiing. In the Peloponnese, the large peninsula connected to the mainland in the isthmus of Corinth, the highest peak is Mount Taygetos, 2,404 meters high.
Sometimes Greece is affected by cold air masses
coming from Northern Europe or Russia: in these cases, the temperature drops remarkably even in mild areas, and snow
can occur in the northern plains (see Thessaloniki); even in Athens, which generally has mild winters, during these brief periods the weather become cold and rainy, and during the most intense cold waves, it may even snow.
The spring is pleasant and sunny
in most parts of Greece, with less and less frequent disturbances.
Starting from the month of May, in northern areas and in the mountains ranges, some thunderstorms in afternoon may occur.
In addition, in the Aegean Sea, a wind that blows from the north or north-east, called Meltemi
(or Etesian), begins to blow on sunny days in May, and continues especially during summer (see below).
The following average temperatures, relative to Methoni, small town situated on the southwestern coast of the Peloponnese, are representative of the southern islands and coasts of Greece.
Average temperatures - Methoni
In the coasts and the islands the rains experience a maximum in winter and a noticeable minimum in summer, when it almost never rains. Here is the average rainfall in Methoni.
Average precipitation - Methoni
Summer in Greece is hot and sunny
. Although Greece is not protected by the Azores High, the weather is consistently sunny, so that there are onf average 12 hours of sunshine per day in July.
Only in the north and the mountainous areas, where the sun usually shines anyway, at times there can be showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon, especially in June (in July and August they are a bit more rare): in Thessaloniki, in June there are six days of rain on average. Of course, in mountainous areas, the temperature decreases with increasing altitude, and get cooler or colder especially at night.
While in the islands and along the coasts the heat is tempered by the breezes, in the continent, especially in inland areas and in large cities, the heat is intense. In Thessaloniki, in July and August, the average maximum temperature is 31/32 °C (88/90 °F), but in hotter periods it can easily rise to around 35/36 °C (95/97 °F).
, while overlooking the sea, in summer is the hottest capital of Europe: the average daily temperature in July and August is 26 °C (79 °F) in the coastal areas, but it reaches 28 °C (82 °F) in the central part. Maximum temperatures of 36/38 °C (97/100 °F) are not rare. In addition, it should be remembered that Athens is a polluted city, burdened by a nasty blanket of smog.
Average temperatures - Athens
In summer, in the Aegean Sea the Meltemi
, a northerly wind typical of the warmer months (July-August), often blows, and even though the weather is nice, it can make the sea dangerous. This wind can blow for periods of two to four days, but sometimes for weeks. The Meltemi is caused by the difference in Atmospheric pressure, between the western Mediterranean (where the Azores High dwells in summer), and the Eastern Mediterranean along with the Middle East (where a low-pressure area forms, due to the exceptional heating of the Iranian plateau and the deserts of the Middle East). For this reason, these winds can not be considered as mere breezes, and can be pushy and annoying.
Autumn is quite late, so much so that in September a summerlike weather is still prevailing, especially in the south and in the islands. The weather remains mild even in November (except in mountainous areas), however, starting from October, the rain begins to fall, and at the same time the Meltemi ceases to blow.
The temperature of the sea in the middle of the Aegean Sea (see Naxos
), never becomes very warm, because the prevailing wind, the Meltemi, prevents its heating, mixing the upper layers of the water.
Sea temperature - Naxos
In the southern part of the Aegean Sea (see Crete), and in the Ionian Sea (see Corfu), the sea temperature in the summer it gets a little higher.
Sea temperature - Heraklion
When to go
- For swimming and sunbathing, the long summer
, from early June to mid-September, is good. In this period there isn't any cloud over long periods, the heat is intense at times, but on the coast and islands it is tempered by the breezes. In Aegean Sea, as already mentioned, the Meltemi
- For visiting the historic and archaeological sites and the cities, the best seasons are spring and autumn
. Summer is often too hot, especially in the mainland. Of course, the hottest months are July and August, but June and September are hot too, with average highs around 28/30 °C (82/86 °F) in the capital.
The winter is cold in the north and in mountainous regions, while it becomes windy and rainy in the south and in the islands, and therefore is not the best season to visit Greece. On the other hand, in this period it's possible to make excursions and visits to historic and archaeological sites, with greater tranquility and solitude, due to the low amount of tourists.
In general, the best times are the month of May, when the maximum temperatures are around 25/26 °C (77/79 °F) in Athens and Thessaloniki, and the period from the second half of September to the first half of October; the former offers longer days and a nature in bloom, while the latter offers a warmer sea, which can be attractive in the pauses between excursions.
In October, the temperatures are pleasantly warm and resemble those of May, but the days are shorter, and sometimes it rains, especially in the second half of the month. In November, the sky is often cloudy and the rains are frequent, even though it's generally not cold. In April, the temperatures are already mild, and the weather is often sunny, even though some disturbances may still pass, so a trip to Greece may be advisable even in this month.
What to pack
: in inland and mountainous areas: warm clothes, down jacket, hat, gloves, scarf. In Athens and in central and northern coastal areas: warm clothes, sweater, jacket, raincoat or umbrella. In Crete and the southern islands: clothes for spring and autumn, sweater, jacket, raincoat or umbrella.
: light clothing, sunglasses, sunscreen, a light scarf and a sweatshirt for the evening, especially in the islands of the Aegean Sea where the Meltemi blows. For the mountains, sweater, jacket, hiking shoes, raincoat or umbrella.
See also the Greek Islands