Greece has a predominantly Mediterranean type of climate (Köppen climate classification Csa, Csb) with warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Several microclimates, including oceanic (Köppen Cfb) in the coastal regions and alpine in the high mountains (Köppen ET), exist in the country. The southern islands experience a milder climate than the northern interior lands. Greece lies in southern Europe, at the southern end of the Balkan Peninsula. Turkey lies to the east, along with the Aegean and Cretan Seas. The Mediterranean Sea is in the south, the Ionian Sea in the west, and Albania, North Macedonia, and Bulgaria share the northern borders of Greece. The Pindus mountain range and the proximity to large bodies of water, including the Mediterranean Sea, chiefly influence the climate.
Greece has a mainly mountainous topography, with 80% hilly terrain on the mainland. The Pindus mountain range stretches from northwest to southeast and is an extension of the Dinaric Alps. Canyons and karsts dissect the steep mountain peaks. The Rhodope range in the far northeast is a region of thick, ancient forests. Plains with arable land mostly lie in the central region. Greece has an extensive coastline of 8498 miles and consists of more than 225 small islands. Aliakmonas, Achelous, Maritsa, and Haliacmon are among the major rivers that drain into the adjacent seas. Many Greek rivers are often shallow and challenging for navigation. Wetlands form a major part of the ecosystems near the rivers and estuaries. Crete is the largest island, followed by Euboea, Lesbos, and Rhodes. Volcanic islands are home to thermal springs. The highest point on the mainland measures 2918 meters above sea level, on Mount Olympus.
Summers are hot in the interior regions of Greece, such as Thessaly and Macedonia, but mild in the mountains. The Mediterranean coast is hot and sunny during the summer, but sea breezes moderate the temperatures. An annoying north wind occasionally blows in the Aegean Sea in the warmest months, which is dangerous for seafaring. Winters are mild and rainy along the coast, the southern islands, and the western portion of the Pindus range. The northern regions are colder than the south, with plenty of snowfall in the cold season. Cold air masses from Siberia penetrate even the central regions of Greece. The average low temperatures drop below -2.8°C (27°F) in January in Florina in the extreme north. The southern islands receive significant rainfall during winter nights and morning and are prone to high wind speeds. Snowfall on the islands occurs only on the northernmost ones, such as Thasos and Samothrace. Spring is a pleasant period, with relatively less rainfall. The skies are clear, and there is abundant sunshine everywhere. Autumn arrives late in Greece and is mild in the second half of the season. Rainfall increases by October and peaks in December in most regions.
The annual precipitation in Greece varies from 457.2mm (18") in the east to over 914.4mm (36") in the west and south. A significant portion of the rainfall occurs in the winter. The eastern side of the Pindus range falls in the rain shadow region and is drier than the western part. The annual sunshine ranges from 2300 hours in the north, to 2500 hours in the central region, and 2800 hours in the southern islands. The average humidity ranges from 62% to 74% annually and is at the highest during the summer. The longest days are in June and the shortest in December. The average sea temperatures are warm between 21.1°C (70°F) to 25°C (77°F) in the summer. The Mediterranean Sea is warmer than the Ionian and Aegean Seas.
The highest temperature on record for Greece is 48°C (118.4°F), set in Athens, on July 10, 1977. The lowest temperature on record is -27.8°C (-18°F), set in Ptolemaida, on January 27, 1963.
The best time to visit Greece
The best times to visit Greece are during spring and autumn. The temperatures are pleasant, and the conditions are suitable for a range of outdoor activities. Historic cities and archaeological sites draw a high degree of interest from a large number of visitors. The long daylight hours are helpful to cover multiple destinations within a short number of days. Beach holidays are best during the hot summer from June to mid-September, with moderate breezes, and mild ocean temperatures. The skies are usually clear, and showers are light, few, and far between. Travel bags are light, as heavy clothing and raingear are discretionary at best. April and September provide excellent weather for hiking the mountains.
The worst time to visit Greece
The worst time to visit Greece, if there is any, is during the winter season from December to February. Night temperatures in the continental north and central regions occasionally drop below the freezing mark. A substantial amount of snowfall occurs in the high mountains, while frost is regular even in the plains. Winter is the wettest season, with plenty of rain along the coast and the mountain ranges. The short days pose restrictions on the number of hours available for outdoor explorations. Cloudy skies and increased humidity is a dampener on field trips that depend upon sunny skies for unobstructed photography.
Greece is prone to natural weather hazards such as forest fires, floods, droughts, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes. Thunderstorms are frequent in May and June, and lightning strikes ignite forest fires in the hot summer season in the hilly areas. Droughts are a feature of the long and dry summer season in the interior. The entire region is prone to seismic disturbances due to the hilly nature of the landscape. The mountainous terrain is prone to earthquakes of moderate intensity. Large earthquakes increase the probability of tsunami waves in the coastal regions. Greece is home to many volcanoes such as Santorini, Nisyros, Methana, Kos, and Milos. Although many of the volcanoes are dormant, there is a risk element associated with them.
Weather in January
January is as cold as it gets in Greece, with the onslaught of cold winds from northern Europe and Russia. Athens, the capital, in central Greece, is mildly cold in the zone of 7.2°C (45°F) to 13.3°C (55.9°F). Thessaloniki, in the plains and valleys of the north, is cold in the average range of 1.1°C (34°F) to 7.2°C (45°F). Frost and snow tend to settle in the valleys for long durations. Florina, on the Macedonian border, receives heavy snowfall in January. More snow means ski resorts are in business and often land more visitors than other famous tourist sites. Sea temperatures below 16.1°C (61°F) are mostly cold for swimming in the Aegean and Ionian seas. The rain is to the tune of 76.2mm (3") to 127mm (5") everywhere except in the north and central regions. Pyrgela and Velo in the Peloponnese receive relatively less rainfall, but the best place for a winter visit is, Athens. The capital city has mild weather, less rain, adequate sunshine, and a great nightlife to enjoy January in Greece.
Weather in February
February is cold in the winter of Greece, with the average temperatures in the 4.4°C (39.9°F) to 15.6°C (60.1°F) range everywhere except the north. The northern region sees cold days with occasional freezing nights below 0°C (32°F). Snowfall is heavy in the high mountains, while many regions receive frost and light snow. The average precipitation is in the range of 50.8mm (2") to 127mm (5"), and makes it necessary to carry a rain jacket or an umbrella. The daily sunshine lasts for 4 to 5 hours, but wear a jacket as the wind often blows at high speeds. Stay on islands that have ferry connections open in the winter. Restaurants, shops, bars, and clubs are open, and people prefer to sit outside to eat and drink on warm and sunny days. Greek islands look beautiful in the winter when there are fewer crowds than the summer. Frequent visitors prefer the solace of winter to stay on the mainland. Expect rain, wind, and cold, with a bit of sunshine in February in Greece.
Weather in March
March begins the warm spring season in Greece as the cold yields to the beautiful sunshine. The average daily high temperatures in much of the country are between 11.7°C (53.1°F) to 16.7°C (62.1°F), and the nights are mostly above freezing. Early spring occasionally sees a cold wave from the north that rarely lasts more than 3 to 4 days. March precipitation ranges between 50.8mm (2") to 76.2mm (3"), and the days are bright with 5 to 6 hours of daily sunshine. The conditions are warm, and the landscape is beautiful in a coat of green and brown. The bare lands of winter sprout wildflowers from their bosom in the spring season. Waters of the rivers flow rhythmically under the stone bridges. Resorts, spas, and luxury hotels open after the lull of winter. The legendary sites, lovely beaches, waterfronts, and museums are the fiefs of the sparse crowds of early spring. March is the right time for budget travelers to explore the beauty of Greece.
Weather in April
April is a warm and moderately wet spring month in Greece. The fresh aroma of the soil and blossoming flowers spreads over the landscape. Light precipitation keeps the temperatures from rising too much and too quickly. The average temperatures range between 6.1°C (43°F) to 20.6°C (69.1°F) in Crete and the beautiful Aegean Islands. Northern Greece experiences cold nights between 4.4°C (39.9°F) to 9.4°C (48.9°F). Cruise and ferry tours between the islands receive a good response in the bright days of spring. Hire a private boat for sailing in the calm seas when the crowds are fewer than summer. Easter echoes the festive spirit of Greece, with plentiful food and wine, and marching bands amid local traditions. Santorini, Syros, Chios, Ios, Kalamata, Tripoli, and many more islands and mountain villages witness lights and fireworks in the spring festivals. Light jackets are usually enough during the day, while a sweater is cozy in the evenings. April is an excellent time to visit southern Greece.
Weather in May
May is sunny, with long daylight hours and clear skies in Greece. The daily sunshine lasts for 9 hours in Athens, and the conditions are sunnier in the southern islands. The average temperatures in the extreme north are in the warm 10°C (50°F) to 22.2°C (72°F) range, and the lack of rainfall is an open offer for tourists to visit the historic city of Thessaloniki. The long and sunny days are perfect for climbing Mount Olympus, the mountain of the Gods. A trip by rail is as beautiful by road or water, with breathtaking scenery unwinding in the mountains. Kayakers try to maintain balance in the rushing waters of the deep gorges with the help of energy-boosting adrenaline. Fishing in the shallow river waters is a game of patience. Horse riding through the narrow mountain trails in the company of a cool breeze is an unforgettable adventure. Sea temperatures below 18.9°C (66°F) keep the crowds at bay in Naxos and Heraklion in the central Aegean Sea area. Expect the crowds to swell as the weather is pristine in May in Greece.
Weather in June
June is the beginning of the hot summer season in Greece, with abundant sunshine and clear skies. The mainland, as well as the surrounding islands, experience an influx of visitors despite the rising temperatures. The average high temperatures are in the 25.6°C (78.1°F) to 30.6°C (87.1°F) range, with 10 hours of brilliant sunshine in most places. Nights are mild in the zone of 12.8°C (55°F) to 20°C (68°F). Tripoli and Pyrgela in the Peloponnese see substantial temperature differences between day and night. The sunset in Santorini is romantic, and the picturesque landscape is one of the reasons for the rising number of destination weddings on the island. Turquoise waters, picturesque coves, with surrounding green cliffs are the hallmark of a Greek vacation during the summer. The pink-colored corals on the powdery beaches of Elafonissi are eye-catchers in the peak tourist period. Few scenes are more beautiful than the blue waters of Lake Plastira, with snow-capped mountain peaks in the background. Watch out for thunderstorms during June in Greece.
Weather in July
July is the sunniest and hottest month in Greece, with a blistering 340 hours of sunshine. Humidity is more near the coast and the western portion of the Pindus range. The driest month sees average temperatures in the 15°C (59°F) to 33.9°C (93°F) range, with negligible rain and clear skies. Central Greece Lamia, Larissa, and Tanagra register average daily highs above 33.3°C (91.9°F), and many days cross 37.8°C (100°F). White and blue colored houses and shops that dot many islands such as Mykonos reflect the bright sunlight of the long days of summer. The bright sunshine is an advantage for sailing and snorkeling. However, be aware of the troublesome Meltemi wind that blows from the north in the Aegean Sea. Carry plenty of sun protection when on the beaches, open sea, or in the mountains. Carry plenty of water on hiking trips as the sunshine is torrid at times. The vibrant nightlife is a perfect antidote to days full of outdoor adventure. Head towards the mountains for a cool July vacation in Greece.
Weather in August
August is a hot summer month in Greece, with the average high temperatures between 27.8°C (82°F) to 32.2°C (90°F). Nights are relatively mild in the central and northern regions, with temperatures in the range of 14.4°C (57.9°F) to 18.3°C (64.9°F). The southern islands receive abundant sunshine, yet the seawaters are refreshing, and the beaches are overflowing with people. Trekkers take advantage of the long daylight hours to climb over the famous Mount Olympus. It is not unusual to encounter thunderstorms, even on seemingly clear days on the high mountain slopes. Canoeing and rafting on the lakes and rivers is a popular activity, but choose a water body that has fewer visitors. Sailing boats find it hard to moor near the crowded decks in the summer frenzy. Museums and archaeological sites register a record number of visitors as do the beaches. Local herb-based drinks are best to keep away from the heat than artificial cold beverages. August sees millions of visitors in Greece.
Weather in September
September begins an extension of the long summer season in Greece but ends as the beginning of the mild autumn. The average temperatures drop to register in the range of 12.8°C (55°F) to 29.4°C (84.9°F). Northern Greece has moderate temperatures than the rest of the country. Florina, Thessaloniki, Alexandroupoli, and Kozani have day temperatures below 27.8°C (82°F), while the nights are comfortable in the 11.1°C (52°F) to 13.9°C (57°F) zone. September is dry, with hardly a few days of light rain in much of Greece. The long days of summer last much of September, after which the temperatures gradually decrease. Crete is a popular destination with sunny weather, even in October. Canyon trips to the Samaria Gorge take kayakers through lush green areas with plenty of wildlife sighting. Narrow cobblestone alleys with old houses look more beautiful as the intense sunshine levels gradually decrease in the company of moderate breezes. September is one of the best times to visit Greece in the majestic weather.
Weather in October
October is beautiful in the fall season of Greece, with lovely temperate weather amid a splash of colors. The mercury column is in the mild 11.1°C (52°F) to warm 25°C (77°F) zone, as the autumn advances over the landscape. Precipitation picks up by mid-October in most places and supplements the thrill of outdoor activities with intermittent cloudy skies and moderate showers. Partly cloudy skies prevail, but the warm sunshine lasts at least for 7 hours in October. The average sea temperatures are moderate but remain below 22.2°C (72°F) near the majority of the beaches. Lake Pamvotida shores in Ioannina city are picturesque in the background of changing colors. Mountain climbing adventures turn into epic bliss as paragliding activities take place in the beautiful autumn weather. Byzantine churches, medieval forts and citadels, stone houses, and historic buildings look more inviting as the blazing summer sunshine turns temperate in the fall season. October transitions the conditions from dry and hot to wet and cloudy in Greece.
Weather in November
November is colorful and wet in the autumn season of Greece as the country receives an average of 76.2mm (3") to 177.8mm (7") of rainfall. Western Greece is the rainiest between 127mm (5") to 203.2mm (8"), while the rain gauge registers at least 76.2mm (3") everywhere else. The average temperatures are in the mild 3.9°C (39°F) to 20°C (68°F), as the coldest cities in the north, such as Florina and Kozani, occasionally experience freezing nights. Athens is worth a visit in November, with temperatures in the mild 12.2°C (54°F) to 18.9°C (66°F) zone, moderate rainfall, and plenty of activities. The days become short everywhere, and the sunlight lasts for less than 6 hours. Views from historic monasteries perched among cliffs are spell bounding as the valleys below display an assortment of colors. The absence of Meltemi winds is an invitation for sea exploration through boats, ferries, and cruises. The high mountains see frost and significant snow deposits by the second half of November. Budget travelers find Greece on top of their holiday list in November with plenty of discounts.
Weather in December
December starts the cold and wet winter in Greece, with partly cloudy skies. The average temperatures rally between a chilly -1.7°C (28.9°F) to 7.8°C (46°F) in the northern cities of Florina and Kozani to 9.4°C (48.9°F) to 17.8°C (64°F) in the southern island of Crete. Prevailing cold winds make it necessary to wear winter jackets by evening. Sunrays pierce through the clouds for at least 4 to 5 hours during the day in most places. The precipitation is in the range of 101.6mm (4") to 177.8mm (7") in the wet regions and 50.8mm (2") to 76.2mm (3") in the relatively drier north. Scrumptious Greek sweets add to the warmth and make Christmas more enjoyable. Many tourists tend to indulge in exquisite wines. However, local drinks, like rakomelo, provide much-needed energy and warmth to withstand the cold. Santa Claus villages and theme parks provide plenty of excitement to children and parents. The sites and landmarks that are busy during the year see fewer crowds and offer plenty of time and space to winter visitors during December in Greece.