Greece › Crete › When To Go
by Santorini Dave • Updated: March 23, 2023
When is the best time to visit Crete?
The best time to visit Crete depends on your preferences and interests. Generally, the shoulder seasons of late April to early June and September to early October are the most popular times to visit. During these months, the weather is typically warm and sunny, with fewer crowds and more moderate temperatures compared to the peak summer months of July and August.
In the shoulder seasons, you can expect pleasant weather for sightseeing, hiking, and exploring the island’s archaeological sites, beaches, and charming villages. The sea temperatures are also comfortable for swimming, particularly from June onwards.
The peak summer months of June to August offer the warmest temperatures and the most sunshine. This is the best time for beach holidays, swimming, and water sports. However, it is also the busiest and most expensive time of year, with larger crowds at popular tourist sites and destinations. Keep in mind that temperatures in Crete during the summer can sometimes exceed 90°F (32°C), making outdoor activities less comfortable.
If you prefer a more relaxed atmosphere and cooler temperatures, consider visiting Crete during the off-season, from November to March. The weather during this period can be cooler and more unpredictable, with a higher chance of rain, particularly from December to February. However, you’ll find fewer tourists, lower prices, and a more authentic experience of the island. Note that some tourist sites, accommodations, and restaurants may have reduced hours or be closed during the off-season, especially in smaller villages.
- Best Time for Good Weather and Swimming: The warmest weather in Crete (and all the Greek islands) is between late May and early October when it’s sunny, hot, and the water is perfect for swimming. Water temperature heats throughout the summer months and is warmest in August and early September. Since most people go to Crete for the beaches it’s pretty quiet at the holiday spots in early May and late October though the weather is still quite nice.
- Best Time for Sightseeing: If you’re visiting Crete more for the sights, history, wineries, and food then you don’t need hot temperatures just warm pleasant weather. So the months of late March, April, May, October, and early November are great times for touring the sights. The weather is still warm by northern European standards though there can be some rain and warmer clothing should be packed. Crete’s main cities of Heraklion, Chania, and Rethymnon have a large local population and stay active and open year-round.
- Best Time for Greek Island Hopping: There are some incredible islands (Santorini, Naxos, Paros, Mykonos) that are a 2 to 5 hour ferry ride from Crete. Hopping on a ferry and exploring these nearby islands is a highlight of traveling to Greece. Santorini has a longer tourist season than the other islands so you can happily visit there anytime between late April and early November (though check ferry schedules for connecting ferries in the off-season). For the other islands mid-May to early October is best. Ferries between Crete and nearby islands will run from April to October for sure. They might also run in late March and early November but for the rest of the low season you’ll need to travel via Athens (whether by flight or ferry).
- Best Time for Saving Money: Hotels in Crete are much cheaper in the shoulder season (April, May, and October) than in the summer months but there’s also a lot less going on so you need to weigh the pros and cons. Transportation, food, and drink prices tend not to vary much by season. If you want good weather but cheap hotels then late May, early June, late September, or early October are great times. There are no guarantees but the first three weeks of October can often have great weather.
- High Season (July to early September): Hot, sunny weather with lots of people – but never so many that it’s unenjoyable. Prices are at their peak. Sea water at its warmest and best for swimming. Ferries and flights run with the greatest frequency. If you’re in Crete for the buzz and nightlife of the larger towns then this is the time to visit.
- Shoulder Season (May and June, September and early October): Great weather. Sunny and warm but not blazingly hot like the summer. Tourists are around but it’s never crowded. Everything is open in June and September but May and October will definitely see some closed doors. The sea might not be warm enough for swimming in May and October.
- Low Season (late October to April): This is winter and that means gray skies, cool weather, and rain. The main towns of Heraklion, Chania, and Rethymno have large local populations and never go completely dead, even in winter. Ferries and flights have very limited schedules though there’ll be at least one a day going to Athens.
- Crete in January (20% Crowded): Damp, cold, and windy (by Greek standards). January is the coldest month on Crete. The tourist spots are quiet with few tourists but local life hums along at a friendly pace. Most restaurants and hotels in the tourist towns are closed but the cities of Heraklion, Chania, and Rethymnon have a large local population and always hum along with a good beat. The beach towns are completely shutdown. (Average Max Temperature: 16°C. Average Rainfall: 78mm.)
- Crete in February (20% Crowded): Much like January. There is a little less rain than December and January. (Average Max Temperature: 15°C. Average Rainfall: 64mm.)
- Crete in March (30% Crowded): A noticeable change occurs in March from the previous 3 months. There is less rain, more sun, and warmer temperatures. This can be a nice time to visit for hikers and sightseers but visitors should pack for some rain and cool nights. (Average Max Temperature: 17°C. Average Rainfall: 52mm.)
- Crete in April (40% Crowded): A great month for hiking, sightseeing, and touring the wineries. On warm years it’s possible to have a few beach days at the end of the month. By the end of April most hotels and restaurants in the beach towns are open. (Average Max Temperature: 20°C. Average Rainfall: 21mm.)
- Crete in May (70% Crowded): There’s a big differences between early May (when cool overcast days can still be common) and late May (when the days are consistently sunny and warm – sometimes hot). (Average Max Temperature: 24°C. Average Rainfall: 11mm.)
- Crete in June (80% Crowded): June is a hot sunny month and the unofficial start of beach season when tourists arrive in large numbers. (Average Max Temperature: 28°C. Average Rainfall: 1mm.)
- July Weather on Crete (90% Crowded): Hot and sunny. Along with August July is the busiest month on Crete. Book rooms at least 3 months in advance for July visits – 6 months in advance for luxury hotels. (Average Max Temperature: 29°C. Average Rainfall: 1mm.)
- Crete in August (100% Crowded): Hot and sunny with occasional strong winds (called the meltemi) that can cancel ferries and catamarans. Book rooms at least 3 months in advance for August visits – 6 months in advance for luxury hotels. (Average Max Temperature: 29°C. Average Rainfall: 1mm.)
- Crete in September (85% Crowded): Hot and sunny but cooling a little from August. The weather is similar to June but the water temperature is warmer as the sea heats over the summer months. Winds have died down. September (and June) are the best months to visit Crete for beach weather with smaller crowds. Hotels are still very busy and can be fully booked months in advance. (Average Max Temperature: 27°C. Average Rainfall: 10mm.)
- Crete in October (70% Crowded): October is much like May but the weather is moving in the opposite direction. There is often a large difference between early October (when days can be hot and sunny) and late October – when you can have some cool cloudy days and visits to the beach are not a guarantee. (Average Max Temperature: 24°C. Average Rainfall: 40mm.)
- Crete in November (40% Crowded): The cooler days of winter arrive in November. Early November can still get warm days when a visit to the beach could be possible. Most tourist resorts are closed by early November. Heraklion, Chania, and Rethymnon stay active throughout the winter months though tourist-related activities dwindle. (Museums and historical sights stay open through the winter.) (Average Max Temperature: 21°C. Average Rainfall: 69mm.)
- Crete in December (20% Crowded): Be prepared for cool, cloudy, and rainy, though there are often stretches of clear skies and sunny days. Heraklion and Chania are the hubs of most activity during the winter as most other towns are shut down or quiet. (Average Max Temperature: 17°C. Average Rainfall: 89mm.)
- Crete Travel Guide
- The Best Hotels in Crete
- The Best Hotels for Families in Crete
- Where to Stay in Crete
- The Best Things to Do in Crete
- Heraklion Airport – Rental Cars
- The Heraklion Port Guide
- Maps of Crete
- The Best Hotels in Santorini
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I will be flying into Heraklion, Crete for 3 days. I have booked a stay in Chania. What do you think is cheapest or best transport to Chania? Bus? Private transfers are so expensive!
All the best,
Yes, bus is cheap and easy. There’s a bus from the airport to the bus station in Heraklion. For there catch a different bus to Chania. It will take about 3 hours to get from the Heraklion airport to Chania.
Do you think that it would make a big difference in terms of crowds and heat if we went to Crete July 11-22 or July 19-29? Flights are cheaper July 19-29 but I am worried that it will be hotter, more crowded, and hotels will be more expensive? What do you think? We have 2 young children. Thanks a lot!
Could there be a big difference between those dates? Sure, it’s possible. But in July one week is likely to be pretty much like the next. And it’s not impossible that the earlier week could be hotter than the later week. Crowds will be very similar too.
Hi Dave, we are going on honeymoon to Greece in the beginning and middle of April and plan to stay in Chania, Crete for 4 days. Are there any recommended activities during this time? We looked at the Samaria Gorge website and it seems it only opens in May.
It’s worth it to take the bus to Rethymnon and walk around that beautiful town for an afternoon. Heraklion and Knossos are farther, not as picturesque, but probably more rewarding (for most) for the history, culture, and great archeological museum. Farther still (and requiring a rental car) is Crete wine country and the wonderful Lassithi Plateau and its charming villages.
Hi Dave. We have a trip to Crete booked for September and want to rent a car for 7 days. We are flying into Heraklion and leaving by ferry. My question is, can you give me a rental car recommendation that we can pick up at the airport and drop off at the port. We are reading horror stories about some companies.
There’s a Budget/Avis booth at the Heraklion ferry port. I’m sure they accept drop-offs.
Thank you so much for all the advice on the website. We have 9 days planned between Santorini and Crete. We like being outdoors, beaches and hikes, but we also like eating good local food. We don’t care too much about nightlife. From your website, it looks like we would be fine for 3-4 days in Santorini and specifically either Oia or Imerovigli. Is there enough to do on Crete near Chania to fill 5 or 6 days?
Our current plan: Fly Athens to Santorini, 3-4 days in Santorini (we would hire a car), Ferry from Santorini to Heraklion, (hire another car) and stay for 5-6 days near Chania. Then fly Chania to Athens. What would you change with this plan?
In answer to the first question, the answer is a definite YES. Crete is a big island and offers a lot. Chania is a good base and from there you can do a number of things. Since you seem to like hiking, then the Samaria Gorge hike is a no-brainer – doing a tour with transportation is recommended. It is longish and challenging enough to be tiring, yet absolutely rewarding. It is a full-day trip, so that is one of your five days taken care of. As for beaches – and depending where you base yourselves – Chania’s beach strip runs westwards for about 15kms and while it is populated by hotels, restaurants shops and bars there’s plenty of room for everyone. Look for the special beach clubs that cater for beach browsers like yourselves.
If you really want the Robinson Crusoe beach experience, you will take a Gramvousa Peninsula beach cruise to some stunning turquoise waters and golden sands. With your own wheels (doable also by bus), you can visit Elafonisi Beach on the southwest tip of Crete, or nearer Chania you can explore the sizeable peninsula protruding north-eat of Chania (where the airport is) and find some fine beaches there (seek out Seitan Limani Beach for the ultimate private beach setting).
Fine dining is par for the course in Chania Old Town, though you may want to look among the restaurants and tavernas on the east side of the harbour rather than the obviously touristy joints on the main harbour. As for changing the plan, no reason to change it. It is a popular itinerary and works for many. The only suggestion would be to hire your car in Chania rather than Heraklion, as you may be up for an extra premium to drop the car off in another town (but check). You can easily catch a bus to Chania from Heraklion.
Me and a few of my girl friends are planning to travel to Greece In the beginning of July for about 6 full days. We have been contemplating whether we want to go to Athens and then Mykonos, or Santorini, and have now come to the idea of just coming to Crete. We really wanted to include Athens in our itinerary because of its historical aspect and as a very important city, but we also want the ideal Greek island experience. We have now been leaning towards Crete because of its great beauty and it seems like there may be a lot more to do here. What are your suggestions? We want our trip to consist of outdoor activities, beaches (of course) and beautiful waters and views, basically the ultimate Greek experience with the Greek cities and towns. We know that Mykonos is more of the party scene which we would have liked, but that is really not as important for our trip. We are young 20 year old girls and we really want that traveling experience. It seems like if we do go with Crete, we may be able to take a ferry to Santorini as this island is also one of the most beautiful (or at least according to the internet it is). If you could provide any feedback it would be so greatly appreciated. Also, we are looking for something inexpensive (hotels or such), our main focus is on sightseeing, views, exploring, etc. opposed to accommodations and where we stay and what not. Of course we will need a decent place to stay but we really want to be out and about getting the most beautiful experience that we can.
Crete is indeed a wonderful and varied island and many young people come to the island for exactly the reasons that you outline. Whether it will be the “ideal Greek island experience”, depends very much on who you are and what you are looking for, but as you seem to have honed in on Athens and Crete, let’s concentrate on those two areas.
Athens is always a good choice for people transiting the country and is busy all year round. It can be challenging if you don’t select comfortable accommodation, so don’t skimp on sleeping comfort in Athens and do your research. There is of course budget ‘backpacker’ accommodation (look around the Plaka area to max out your bucks) and there are swish designer options (try the Coco-Mat Hotel for a real buzz!). There is a lot to see and do in Greece’s capital.
Crete is large and generally ‘zoned’ in terms of destinations: the West, the Centre and the East then there is the more spread-out and localised South Coast. Opting for an initial base in Chania – or more specifically the Agia Marina/Platanias strip might just give you the right starting point for your adventures. They might include walking the Samaria Gorge, sailboating the beaches of the Gramvousa Peninsula, luxuriating in the azure waters of Elafonisi or schmoozing the night away in ritzy Old Chania Town.
The Centre focuses on the party scenes of Malia and Hersonisos which might appeal to you, but be aware – it’s not very Greek and it can get quite rowdy. The Centre does however have the must-see Knossos citadel and if you like history, the Heraklion Museum.
The East centres on the hip town of Agios Nikolaos which is very popular with younger people and Elounda village a little further north. There’s a nice beach scene here and the environment is a little more ‘island-looking’ with mountains, blue seas and little islands off-shore. Of the two centres Elounda village is the lower key and more ‘villagey’ in feel. Agios Nikolaos is more ‘towney’ and perhaps offers a bit more in night-life.
Note that Crete is large from end to end and while the bus services are excellent, you may want to consider hiring a car to get yourselves around. Driving is easy (at least around the North) and rental fees are reasonable if you shop around the local agencies. Finally, hotels/rooms/apartments can range in price from cheap to astronomically expensive. Starting rates for a budget room would be around €35.00 for two while a room in a hotel would be around €50.00 to €70.00. Early July is still shoulder season so room rates and availability are OK but from July 20 to around August 20 it is peak season and everything is more expensive and in greater demand. Do the research and decide. Crete offers a lot.
Amazing information, thank you so much!
My boyfriend and I are travelling to Greece, arriving in Chania on June 3rd and spending 4 nights here then have a ferry booked to Santorini, there for 4 nights and then 1 night in Athens. We have all ferries and hotels booked. My concern is if we are going to have enough time to leave Chania by bus in early am 515am to catch the ferry at 0830 in Heraklion? It says it takes 2.45 hrs and had 29 stops along the way. Will we make it on time? How punctual are the buses? Another question is how easy is it to get around Chania? We would like to hike the gorge and see some beaches along with exploring the city, culture and food. Would we need to book tours for the day beach trips? We are thinking of visiting Elafonisi, or Bali or Balos, which one would you recommend?
Thanks in advance!
Simple answer to your first question is yes. There are not 29 obligatory stops along the way. That early morning (express) bus essentially makes a beeline for Rethymnon with maybe 2-3 optional stops along the way i.e. if people want to get on or off and continues at a fair pace – with more optional stops – onto Heraklion. Just be sure you get the first bus (which should be an express) out of Chania to get to the Heraklion port in time for the Santorini ferries. The KTEL intercity buses are pretty punctual.
Getting around Chania: simple answer on foot, though you can take a shared bicycle if you are game. As much as I like cycling I would suggest that you need to be a confident cyclist to get around Chania and even then we are talking about the New Town. The Old Town is really only a feet only experience unless you follow the main streets.
The Samaria Gorge is a day-long expedition and starts early. You can do it yourself by using local transport or taking a more expensive tour – though you still have to walk the gorge yourself and unassisted. Well-recommended. Read some useful advice here.
From Chania the most popular beach excursion is to Elafonisi – by bus or car – while the Balos beach trip is best done as a cruise expedition. Bali is a bit too far from Chania for an easy day out and is best covered from Rethymno or Heraklion. A great place though and it has four distinct beaches.
Thank you so much for all your advice. Everything you could possibly want to know, so detailed. Brilliant website.
Thanks Mary. That’s nice to hear.