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.
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:
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!