The Most Extraordinary Things to Do in Crete in Winter!

White mountains in Winter in Crete

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Winter in Crete? Of Course! Crete is believed to be a summer destination. A land of paradisiac beaches, permanent sunshine, and endless summer nights. Let me dispel this myth: in this article, I will show you that there’s more to Crete than just a sunbed by the sea, summer cocktails, and beach adventures. Discover with me how many amazing things you can do during winter in Crete.

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Things to Do in Winter in Crete 

Winter in Crete, Greece

Be sure to book accommodation and tours in Crete ahead of time to ensure availability!

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Full-day Samaria Gorge trek (#1 tour in Crete!)
Boat cruise to Balos Lagoon & Gramvousa (another top-selling tour!)
Boat Trip to Spinalonga with swim stop (most popular in Agios!)
Ticket to Knossos Archaeological Site (top tour in Heraklion)
Day trip to Elafonisi (a must in Chania!)

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SanSal Boutique Hotel (in Chania old town and with a pool!)
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Winter in Crete starts very rapidly. One day you are still in shorts and T-shirts, and the very next day you are already wearing a winter coat. But don’t forget that to the Greek understanding, winter is when the temperature is lower than +20°C. Yes, no kidding!

That’s why, from the first rainy day at the end of Summer (usually in mid-October or even November), or sometimes as soon as the thermometer shows +18°C, people start wishing each other Καλό χειμώνα! (Kalo xim’ona) – which means Have a good winter!

This is also the time when most of the tourist establishments, like hotels, restaurants, beach bars, and souvenir shops, start closing, at least until spring.

Read about unique festive traditions and things to do during Christmas in Crete

Port of Heraklion, Crete, in winter
Heraklion in winter, Crete.

Therefore, in some Cretan cities, you can even get a feeling of gloomy desolation. Worry not! Just head to the main streets, and you will see that they’re full of life.

Another interesting fact is that during the winter months, the island starts to… blossom! What about fresh green grass in December?

Or trees full of lemons, oranges, and pomegranates? This is the magic of the first heavy rains on the island, mostly on the northwestern coast, the area that gets more rain.

Weather Forecast for Winter in Crete

Winter in Crete Richtis Gorde

And what would you say about fragrant flowers and lush trees surrounded by butterflies and bees in January or February? All this is happening in Crete!

Winter in Crete is also a time of storms and rain, but even though some storms can be really heavy, they don’t last long, and most of the time you can enjoy some sun for a few hours after.

The temperature usually doesn’t go lower than +10. But here is a thing: don’t trust the thermometer. Because of the high humidity, it often feels much colder during winter in Crete. So, be sure to have warm clothes in your luggage.  

Keep in mind that in the mountains the temperature is lower than by the sea. Plus, while along the coast it might be raining, up in the mountains it will be snowing (usually from January).

Yes, we do have snow in Crete and sometimes really a lot of snow! 

As you see, Crete in winter is an island of contrast. One day you have a crazy storm with thunder and lightning, and the very next day it’s so warm and sunny that you can drink your coffee at the seaside, or even have a swim.

Drive just for an hour up to the mountains and you’ll be playing with snowballs.  

Now that we finish with this little weather overview, let’s move on to the tasty part, what you can do in winter in Crete!

Top Things to Do in Crete in Winter

These are some of the best things to do in Crete in Winter, in no particular order…

Visit Archeological Sites and Museums 

Crete in winter
Knossos Palace under winter skies, Heraklion.

Probably the biggest advantage of the winter months in Crete is that the island is not overcrowded. You can visit archeological sites and museums without lines and crowds of tourists. Booking a tour of Knossos like this one during this period is an excellent idea.

Plus, the prices for the admission tickets are lower, and you can get some pleasant compliments, like a free tour around the place (in case you are alone in some small museum), or a free souvenir (like a set of postcards).  

And a cherry on the cake! Every first Sunday from November 1st till March 31st most of the archeological sites and museums in Crete offer a free entrance (and this happens also all over Greece)! 

Discover the Main Cities of Crete 

Port of Rethymnon in Winter, Crete
The port of Rethymnon, Crete.

Winter is a perfect time for long walks around the cities. When you are not melting from the heat and the streets are empty from the crowds, you can truly enjoy the place! So, check out one of these Cretan towns:

Heraklion in Winter

Christmas market in Heraklion, Crete
Have fun at the local Christmas Market.

As the capital city of Crete, even during winter, Heraklion is busy. Of course, most of the tourist shops are closed, but this is what makes Crete in winter so differently interesting.

Besides, the area around the Morosini Fountain is as lively as it can be during any season.

And if you follow the main shopping street of 25th August, you will have a great choice of local coffee shops to enjoy your hot drink in the open, comfortably sitting next to the cozy heaters.

Stroll down to the port, admiring the architecture and the historical landmarks. Pay a visit to the numerous museums or have a relaxing walk along the seaside.

Another bustling place to come around is Plateia Eleftherias (Freedom Square). It’s not far from the Heraklion Archeological Museum and it can be a nice spot for a coffee break. 

Want to explore more in winter? Discover the beautiful monasteries on the island.

Rethymnon in Winter

Fortezza, Rethymnon, Crete.
The Fortezza, Rethymnon.

As you arrive in Rethymnon city, check out its center with great lively coffee shops, a lovely park, and of course, the streets of the Old Town.

Even though in the Old Town most of the restaurants and souvenir shops are closed, you can still find some friendly open-door places here and there, plus many bars and pubs.

Don’t forget that Rethymnon is an important university center, so it is open and alive also in winter!

The main shopping street, Arkadiou, is fully operational, here you can indulge in some fabulous shopping for winter collections.

The coffee shops on Eleftherios Venizelos Street are also delighted to welcome you with food and selected drinks. Visit the museums and don’t forget to climb up the Fortezza.

Walk along the empty beachside promenade. Enjoy a cup of hot cocoa in Nuvel, one of the few open coffee shops in the Venetian Harbor, admiring the view over Rethymnon city and the Psiloritis covered in snow. 

Check out the best things you can do in Rethymnon at night.

Chania in Winter

Snow in the White Mountains, Crete island in winter
Little snow in the White Mountains. Chania in winter, Crete.
Chania in winter.

Chania is wonderful any time of the year, but it can be spectacular in winter! Just walk through the colorful rain-washed streets of the Old Town, visit the numerous art galleries or museums, and you will experience something truly magical.

Follow the smell of fresh pastry and discover local small bakeries that can please you with some hot traditional pies.

Don’t miss the opportunity to wander through the Agora – the fantastic covered market, where you can try local specialties, like homemade olive oil or fresh fruits and vegetables.

Arsenals, in Christmas, Chania

The market is open all year round and sells only fresh and seasonal local products. There are also many coffee shops and taverns in winter. And they’re always ready to welcome you with their best food and drinks!

Locals know: The Municipal Market of Chania will be closed for renovations until December 2023 (or a bit more…).

To end your Chania experience with charm, enjoy a walk along the majestic Venetian Harbor, with no doubt a must-see, even on a stormy day.

Planning a stay in Chania? These are some of the best places to stay in town.

Agios Nikolaos (Lasithi Region) in Winter

Greece - Crete - Lasithi, Lasithi Plateau in Winter
Lasithi Plateau, Crete during winter

If you seek solitude, then Agios Nikolaos is a perfect destination for you. During winter, it’s so silent and empty that you will have the privilege to uncover the beauty of the small town in private.

Tour around the charming Voulismeni Lake and continue along the seaside. Go uphill and search for Migomis Piano Restaurant, one of the only spots open in winter.

It’s a popular spot all year round, but in winter only the café part is available. With an incredible view over the lake, the place is unquestionably worth a visit. 

Is Agios Nikolaos on your itinerary? These are some of the best home rentals in the area.

Beach Time in Crete in Winter

Balos Beach, Crete, winter landscape
Balos Beach, Crete.

Try a peaceful walk along the Cretan beaches and have completely redefined the expression beach time!

When there are not so many people on the beaches, they seem endless, and wherever you go, it’s just you and the sea! Don’t hesitate to visit a beach during stormy weather as you will be thrilled by the power of the sea. 

If there are any sunny days in a row, you should try the sea temperature. And you can be pleasantly surprised! Actually, throughout November, people are still swimming.

From December to March, the sea temperature ranges between +15 and +17°C. But even during these months, some people keep suntanning and swimming. 

Does it Snow in Crete?

Crete in Winter: White Mountains, Chania
The White Mountains can get white!

As I’ve mentioned before, during winter, the mountains are covered in snow, as well as many mountain villages. But sometimes it snows even by the sea in Crete. Can you imagine, beach, sea, and palms covered with snow?  

In case you are not lucky to witness such a phenomenon, don’t be upset. If the snow is not coming to you, then you can go to the snow! 

For this, you need to rent a car, preferably a nice SUV or a Jeep, because your port of call lies up to the mountains.  

Which car rental service is the best to choose?

If you want to rent a car for your trip and look for the best service, then I am here to help you! Consider choosing Discover Cars, an international car rental booking service present all over the world. This way, you will find the best car for your trip wherever you are!

There are few locations, more or less accessible, that can be reached within a 1-3 hour drive, depending on where you’re staying. You can choose villages such as Zoniana or Anogia in the Rethymnon region.

These villages are on the slopes of the Psiloritis mountain, the highest summit of Crete.

Omalos Plateau in Winter, Crete island.
Omalos Plateau.

Honestly speaking, these two villages are worth a visit any time of the year. But in winter they’re something special!

All those narrow streets are covered with snow, and the smoke from the numerous chimneys rises in the crystal-clear sky. Unforgettable picture!  

Another great place to search for snowdrifts is the area where you access the Samaria Gorge in the region of Chania.

Of course, only the area of Xyloskalo (the entrance to the gorge) is available for access but believe me, there will be enough snow for everyone. Driving there through the Omalos Plateau can be more than stunning.

In the area, the height of the snow sometimes reaches up to 3 meters! After having fun, warm up at Xyloskalo café-restaurant with a cup of traditional Cretan mountain tea.

The restaurant offers a breathtaking view of the White Mountains and is open all year round.

Greek coffee - Crete
Nothing like a mountain stop for a cup of hot Greek coffee.

On your way back, stay for some time in the village of Omalos which is next to Samaria. This lovely village in winter looks like coming right out of a Christmas postcard – everything is caped with snow… green pine trees dressed in white make you hear Jingle Bells!

It’s That Time of the Year!

Winterin Crete - Christmas Carols

If you choose to come to Crete during Christmas days, then expect to spend one of the most amazing Christmas holidays ever! For the Greeks, Christmas is among the most important celebrations of the year.

It’s a time for family gatherings, great dinners, and total fun everywhere. All the streets are beautifully decorated and illuminated.

Groups of children go from door to door singing old Greek Christmas carols, known as kalanda, accompanied by popular musical instruments such as the triangle (which locals call trigono). The atmosphere is magical! 

Each city has to offer some amazing things for you to spend a super cheerful time.

In Heraklion, pay a visit to Plateia Eleftheria. Here you can find a Christmas market with small kiosks offering sweets, hot wine, and local delicacies. Also, there is a small tent with a live band playing in the evenings. 

In Rethymnon, Mikrasiaton Square is beautifully transformed into a Christmas city with Santa’s workshop, exhibitions, and other interesting Christmas activities to take part in. 

Santa Run in Chania

People dressed as Santa Clause, Santa Run Event in Chania, Crete, Greece
Santa Run, Chania.

If you are in Chania, don’t miss to pass by Main Market Square with its Christmas lights and wooden houses offering some Christmas specialties.

In the port, close to the Mosque of the Janissaries, you can take a picture next to the Christmas karavaki, the small traditional boat that characterizes Christmas in Greece.

Want more action? Then take part in the Chania Santa Run marathon, which is usually held on the 26th of December, when thousands of people dressed as Christmas elves or Santas take part in a huge solidarity marathon, and then wander the streets of Chania until really late at night. 

Check the nearest sweets shop or bakery for traditional Greek Christmas sweets, like Melomakarona (cookies with nuts dipped in syrup) or Kourabiedes (sugared cookies with nuts inside).

The CretAquarium in December… and More!

Things to do in Crete in Winter: Visit the CretAquarium

For a more extraordinary experience, go to CretAquarium on the 26th of December, where you can witness how Santa Claus rides his slay together with a mermaid under the water, in the most bizarre Cretan winter fashion!

Besides that, there are a lot of amusing activities for children, like theater performances or carol singing. 

One of the most unusual things you can do in Crete during Christmas is to go to The Cave of Marathokefalas, a place where Saint John the Hermit (Agios Ioannis Xenos) lived.

On Christmas Eve the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy is held, and later the representation of Jesus Christ’s birth is played with actual animals. You can’t describe with words how atmospheric and spiritual this evening can be! 

>> Purchase the tickets to Cretaquarium online.

Get in a Carnival Mood! 

Winter in Crete, Greece Carnival in Rethymnon
Get in the mood for Carnival in Rethymnon.

The Carnival of Rethymnon is one of the biggest and no doubt one of the most fun celebrations of the year!

Starting from the end of January until the first days of March, different activities, like treasure hunts, costume parties, and concerts, are held in various parts of the city.

During these months, people prepare for the Grand Parade, which is run on the last Sunday before the Great Fast.  

The Grand Carnival Parade is worth taking part in. From early in the morning, thousands of people in the most unbelievable costumes gather on the streets of Rethymnon.

The parade features groups of people that wear handmade costumes with a theme in common.

On your way, you’ll meet Vikings and fairies, pirates and cavemen, ninja turtles and supermen, and much more! Everybody dances or throws confetti, and blows all kinds of horns and whistles!

Don’t forget the rhythmic music that plays so loud that can be heard from every corner in town. This is truly an incredible experience! 

Well, did I manage to convince you that Crete in winter offers lots of fun? Then don’t hesitate next time if you see a great winter deal, grab it, and have one of the most fascinating winter holidays on Crete! 
Have you ever been to Crete in Winter?

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Winter in Crete, Greece

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About my blog:

Gabi Ancarola | The Tiny Book

Gabi Ancarola

I moved to Crete in 2016. During these years, I learned much about the island.
In Crete, I juggle being a solo mom, hosting culinary tours, and writing for several travel blogs.
I’ve written for Greek Reporter, published travel guides about Greece, and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person could ever handle.

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