If you have been to Crete for walking holidays then it was most probably during the spring or autumn months! Although most tourists come to Crete during the summer, it's only a small percentage that is interested in walking. Then it’s just too hot for most of them!
What about the winter? Often people ask this question. Can you do walks and hikes in Crete in the winter and where and what? Are hotels and restaurants open and how do I get there? Well, actually winter is a wonderful period for walking! A winter holiday on Crete can be a great way to discover its hidden gems. The weather is usually mild, there are no crowds and the prices are convenient. In this article we give you some ideas, facts and tips about walking tours on Crete during the winter months!
Skyline of Vamos and the White Mountains (2017)
How to reach Crete in winter?
Between Athens and Crete there are daily flights to Chania and Heraklion by Aegean Airlines and Skyexpress. From some countries there are even direct flights during the winter months. This often changes but is really worthwhile to check! Usually during these months you can find good prices.
Also travelling by ferry is easy and there are daily connections between Piraeus and both Chania and Heraklion. Daily services are performed by ANEK Lines and Minoan Lines.
Depending where you stay on Crete it can be very convenient to rent a car. Because it is low season you get often good deals, so it is worth it to check it out!
Where to stay on Crete during the winter months?
Inside one of the guesthouses in Vamos
So, if walking is you main priority during your winter holiday break on Crete, it is good to think well where to stay! Basically most places along beach resorts are empty and often look a bit depressing in winter. There are nice places and villages more land inwards that offer comfortable accommodations which are also suitable for winter. A good example is in Vamos Village in the Apokoronas region or Alonia Guest House in Agios Ioannis.
Another good option is to stay in one of the cities of Crete like Chania, Rethymno or Heraklion. Here you find also in winter plenty of options. On a bad day you can visit a museum and there are many choices to go for food and drinks.
The winter months in Crete (November and December)
November is often a perfect walking month! The main season is over, it gets quiet and the weather may be still very nice. Yes, you can have bad luck and sometimes big thunderstorms hit the island in this month. Especially along the south coast you still meet some walkers in places like Paleochora, Chora Sfakion or Mirtos, at the east. The famous stretch along the E4 is then almost for you alone. As an extra bonus the sea is still nice with comfortable temperatures for a dive! Also in the beginning of November you can see at many places of the process Raki distilling!
Old Raki distilling
Also the olive harvest has started and everywhere you see people working in the olive groves, pickups driving fully loaded with bags with olives. November is sometimes also called the second spring! Because of the first rains in October, the fields are freshly green and you see some flowers popping up again! Often at the end of November / beginning December appears the first snow on the mountains!
December has notably colder and wetter days with more rain. The mountains are usually covered with snow and on clear days this is a fantastic sight! This is still an interesting period for walking but often the high mountains are difficult (snow) and many of the gorges are not passable because of too much water. This depends a bit from year to year. The olive harvest is still in full progress, so you will meet many people working in the fields. But on nice sunny days it can be warm and it is a funny experience to walk in your T-shirt and see the Christmas trees and decoration in the villages and houses.
A few tips for walking during these months:
- In November go for a walk on the E4-trail along the south coast. It's quiet, beautiful and a special experience! Beforehand check the accommodations, ferry schedules (www.anendyk.gr) and of course the weather. The Samaria Gorge is closed!
- With good weather you can still go high up in the mountains. Notice that the days are shorter and it can be very cold! Mountains like Gigilos, Pachnes and Ida are often possible to climb. Once there is lots of snow, it becomes another sport!
- In the lower areas enjoy the fresh green fields. Basically all walks are possible there. Get sure though that there is not too much water in the gorges, after a big rain! There are plenty of walking guidebooks available to organize yourselves a nice individual walking holiday. A big round walk on the peninsula Rodopou (described in many guidebooks) is a fantastic winter walk. During the "normal" season it gets often way too hot here!
Tips for guided Tours!
Also in winter there are some local companies that you can contact for guided tours. They live on the island and know the area very well! Some companies you can approach are:
You can also ask the local mountaineering clubs in Chania, Heraklion and Rethymno.
If you have more tips and ideas, please let us know or put them in the comments!
The winter months in Crete (January and February)
Kallergi refuge in winter
January and February are the months with the most rain and, in the mountains, lots of snow! Although Crete is located very south it can be real winter here! The mountains are full with snow and even on the lower parts frost during the night is normal. In the mountains this is a period for snowshoe walking or cross-country skiing. In the lower parts is still beautiful to walk! The views on the white snow-covered mountains are amazing and in February you see the blossom of fruit and almonds trees! Also the first orchids can be seen!
Usually in January the weather can be unexpectedly warm and quiet, a phenomenon called Alkyonides Days". These days take place from December 15 to February 15 each year, and most often between January 16-31. During this time, the days are typically sunny, with clear skies and no wind, with high temperatures not typical for the season. Temperatures that climb up to over 20 degrees Celsius.
Blossom of the Almond Tree
February is still a real winter month but the days get longer and on beautiful days you feel the sun having more "power"! The nature is really changing, with different trees getting their blossom and the first orchids appearing, like the Giant Orchid (Himantoglossum robertianum). Walking during this period can be great with the contrast of white covered mountains, fresh green fields, blossoms and blue sky!
The winter months in Crete (March)
Ok, this is not a really a winter month but still, it is a month before the "normal" walking season starts. There are still a few walkers and other tourists on the island. Everyone is preparing though, which gives a nice and energetic atmosphere. March is a month with cold days. It can be rainy but when it is sunny already the first sun cream is needed! The mountains are still covered with snow but in the lower parts nature explodes! Flowers are popping out everywhere many orchids start to appear. It is a beautiful walking month on Crete!
There are so many walking possibilities in this period! Many gorges still have too much water and high in the mountains there is a lot of snow. Some tips to walk during this period:
- The area around Spili, a beautiful green area particularly known for the big variety of orchids, irises and the rare wild tulips! Around 30 different orchids can be found in this area! A good spot is the Gious Kambos plateau (above Spili).
- Coastal stretches along the far East Coast. Not too hot, quiet and beautiful. Stretches like Kato Zakros to Xerokambos or Vai to Palekastro. These walks are described in many walking guidebooks!
- The Apokoronas area, around Vamos, Georgioupolis and Kalives. Green, many flowers and the always spectacular views towards the White Mountains!
Leuk geschreven Berend.! Informatief en compleet.
Kalimera, who plays with the thought of visiting Crete times in winter, should consider a few things.
I have spent the last few years and again one or two months in winter on the island. January in Frangokastello and November and March in Paleochóra. Currently I am on the island for 2 months. Only in Kalýves and now in Paleochóra.
Of course you can book a flight and accommodation with a booking platform, for a winter stay on Crete, there are some points to consider:
1. There are no (or barely) direct flights in winter to Crete. You have to fly over Athens. The flights are relatively expensive and the flights do not go every day.
2. The tourist resorts / resorts like Loutró, Agía Rouméli, Soúgia, Kalamáki, Balí etc. have completely closed in winter.
Places like Plakias, Almyrida and Georgioúpolis ... are closed at 95%.
In addition to the cities, places like Paleochóra, Agía Galini, Kalýves ... who are inhabited throughout the year are offered for a winter stay.
3. Most accommodations have closed in winter. The landlords are in Chania, Heraklion or Athens.
The best is when you are in Crete to look at already accommodation for the winter and make yourself smart.
4. The big sticking point in winter is and that should also be mentioned, the heating room in the accommodation.
The accommodations are the same as in summer, no insulation and super rarely a heating or oven / fireplace, apart from the AC, but they do not dow. From the temperatures it is often warmer outdoors than in the rooms.
Even if the sun is often shining during the day, it is mostly cold in the accommodation. As soon as the sun is gone, it cools off clearly. In the evening and at night it is also very cold here. Currently 5-8c. From 17.12. Until 23.12. has e.g. Regretted throughout, very uncomfortable weather. So from November to March, early April you need a heating room.
Some Cretefreakers rent an accommodation in Paleochóra every year in winter. Some for 5 months, others for 1-3 months. This year, it's just a handful. This is the campsite full. Heating is the big topic among the more winterer in Paleochóra. In which accommodation are you, how do you heat?
The best is of course if there is a stove / fireplace and you can heat a room beautifully. A pickup cargo full of olive wood costs 250 €.
The other possibility is to get a small radiant heater or what it is there so. They are not expensive and you get them in Paleochóra in the main street or in the synka supermarkets. Night part is that these things often consume a lot of electricity and at the long term rental of the current usually comes. The electricity price in Crete is higher than in Germany. The electricity price is currently 8ct / kWh in January 2022.
The Half-State Energy Tile Public Power Company (Dei) has increased the basic prices for consumers on 3.12.2021. Customers now need to pay eightyly percent in terms of consumption independently for the provision of electrical energy.
In the electricity price there was an increase of almost 300% compared to December 2020!
There are also a few accommodations with heating (mostly in hotels in the cities of the north coast), as oil is very expensive in Crete, the accommodation with heating is also much more expensive. Currently the price of heating oil is 1,20 / L
Anyone who plays with the idea of spending the winter in Crete should have the problem of accommodation / heating in mind.
Spend all winter or only 1-2 months on Crete is a dream, a beautiful deceleration. Almost every day blue sky ......
The long-term rent from November to March is very favorable in Crete (more than 300 € -450 € for a studio with kitchen should not pay for 1 month).
Kaló Chimónas, kv
Hello Kokkinos Vrachos! Thank you for your detailed comment and extra information!
A few things:
1. About the flights its true there are almost no direct flight. Indeed you have to go through Athens. It depends a bit from which country you fly but from The Netherlands or Germany there are daily flights to Athens. Between Athens and Crete there daily flight to Crete to Heraklion and Chania.
4. Indeed heating in the winter is important! I don't know which supplier you have for olive wood, but 1 ton (pick up full) with olive wood is between 130 - 150 euros.
Hope you enjoy Paleochora! When the weather is good I'm quite often there..working on a new walking booklet!
Kaló Chimónas! Berend
Ik hoop dat het goed met je gaat.
Wij zijn de Nederlanders uit Episkopi.
Voor jouw informatie: er gaan twee keer per week directe vluchten van Transavia van Amsterdam naar Heraklion in de winter. Op woensdag en zaterdag.
Wij zijn begin maart weer op Kreta. We willen graag orchideeën gaan zien. Welke wandeling kun je ons aanbevelen?
Klopt! Behalve januari tot begin februari niet. Ik heb er ook al een paar keer gebruik van gemaakt!
Qua orchideeën is het gebied rond Spili erg goed en staat er ook om bekend. Ook het achterland van Rethymno zoals in het gebied rond het dorpje Kares. Ook in de buurt van Agia Galini bij het dorp Melambes (Discover Agia Galini... on Foot) kun je heel veel orchideeën vinden.
Beautiful newsletter and information!
As for walking and hiking in the hills and mountainous areas in autumn and winter I would like to add another winter challenge. Over the years we have experienced that clouds hanging low or quickly rolling up from the valleys with dropping temperatures, creating fog and minimal sight can become a serious issue and depending on your whereabouts even a dangerous issue when out on a walk. We have learned through experience to better not take a risk and descend to lower areas asap and to stay below cloud level as much as possible. Maybe you could add this element to your information?
Keep up the wonderful work!
Thank you for your additional information! It is true that especially when it's very damp (after rain /also with snow) quickly clouds are formed around the mountains. Also in Spring you see often in the beginning of the afternoon clouds appearing in the mountains and beginning evening disappearing again. When you are higher up the temperature can drop quickly. So.. during these periods it is always good to be prepared and take appropriate clothing with you. When you go up in the mountains and you are not so sure about the route/weather etc, it is also good to let other people know where you are going! Well...perhaps a topic about the mountains and what and where to go etc... in another article! :)