Geographically Greece is a unique country consisting of around 6,000 islands in the Aegean Sea and the Ionian Sea. Out of these only 227 islands are inhabited. Greece has the world’s eleventh longest coastline (13,676 km). The country is mostly mountainous and located at the melting pot of Europe, Asia and Africa.
These geographical features influence the varied climate of Greece. Greece primarily has a strong Mediterranean climate along with humid subtropical and semi-arid climates in the northeast. Another major influence is made by the Pindus mountain range which creates a rain shadow region towards the eastern part of the country. The western coastal side of Greece receives more rainfall than the rest of the country with the influence of southwest moisturised sea air. Greece sees cold damp winters and hot and dry summers.
We will delve into three cities of Greece to look at their weather pattern… Thessaloniki is the second-largest city that is located in the north of the country, the largest and the capital city Athens located centrally, and Heraklion, capital of Crete located in the south and near the Mediterranean Sea.
Thessaloniki is located in a transitional climate region which makes it experience a varied climate. Athens sees hot and dry summers with moderate winters. Heraklion’s winters are warmer than the other two cities whereas summers are relatively cooler due to the strong Mediterranean climatic effect. The seasonal temperature pattern is given below.
Winter (December to February): Thessaloniki sees cool to moderate winter with minimum temperature dipping down to 1 degree in January and the maximum temperature of winter climbing up to 11 degrees Celsius in February. The temperature difference between maximum and minimum varies between 7 to 9 degrees C.
Spring (March to May): Temperatures at the start of the spring remains comfortable and moderate. But during May temperatures are warm with maximum temperature reaching 24.9 degrees C. Maximum day temperature in March is 14.7 degrees and minimum night temperature is 4.9 degrees.
Summer (June to August): Summer is really hot in Thessaloniki. The maximum temperature often touches the 33 degrees mark during July and August while the minimum temperature hovers between 19 to 21 degrees. The maximum average temperature in July is 32.5 degrees.
Autumn (September to November): Earlier part of autumn is hot although from October it gets comfortable. The maximum average day temperature of autumn is experienced in September (27 degrees) and the minimum night temperature is in November (7.5 degrees).
Winter (December to February): Athens is much warmer than Thessaloniki during winters with maximum temperature ranging between 13 and 14 degrees while the minimum temperature hovers around 7 to 8 degrees. The coolest month is January with a maximum temperature of 13.3 degrees and a minimum of 7 degrees C.
Spring (March to May): Athens sees warm springs with a maximum temperature touching 26 degrees in May. March is a comfortable month with a maximum day temperature of 16.9 degrees and a minimum of 9 degrees during the night.
Summer (June to August): Athens experiences the hottest summers in Greece with maximum temperatures hovering around 34 degrees. The hottest month is August with an average maximum day temperature of 34 degrees and minimum night temperature of 24 degrees.
Autumn (September to November): Autumn temperatures can be classified as hot to warm. September sees the maximum day temperature of 29.2 degrees while November experiences a maximum of 18.8 degrees.
Winter (December to February): As mentioned earlier Heraklion sees warmer winters due to strong Mediterranean influence. Maximum day temperature during winter ranges between 15 to 17 degrees whereas night temperatures hover between 9 to 11 degrees C. December is the warmest month in winter with a maximum day temperature of 17 degrees and minimum night temperature of 10.9 degrees.
Spring (March to May): Spring sees moderate temperatures with maximum temperatures ranging between 16.8 to 23.5 degrees. Minimum temperature during spring ranges between 10 to 15 degrees mark. May is the warmest month in spring and March is the coolest.
Summer (June to August): Summers are relatively comfortable in Heraklion than the other two cities. The maximum temperature hovers between 27.3 to 28.4 degrees and the average minimum night temperature is around 20 degrees. July is the hottest month with a maximum day temperature of 28.6 and minimum night temperatures of 21.7 degrees.
Autumn (September to November): Heraklion sees warmer autumn than spring with maximum autumn temperature ranging from 26 to 20 degrees. Like maximum temperature, the minimum night temperatures also sees a steady drop from September to November.
(See the weather charts)
As discussed earlier, the western part of Greece receives more rain (almost double) than the eastern part. The northwestern island Corfu annually receives 1,097 mm rainfall whereas Thessaloniki sees only 440 mm rain, Athens receives 415 mm rain and Heraklion experiences around 500 mm rainfall.
Corfu receives maximum rain from October to February. In these six months, Corfu receives more than 75% of its annual rainfall with the monthly highest in November (187.4 mm). It rains scarcely in summer at Corfu with July receiving the minimum amount of rainfall (9.2 mm).
Thessaloniki, Athens and Heraklion receive minimum rain in summer. During late autumn and winter Heraklion receives moderate rainfall while the other two cities see mild rainfall.
Three sides of the mainland of Greece are surrounded by seas and there are thousands of islands. Naturally, sea-based travel destinations are plenty in Greece. Heraklion sees a couple of degrees warmer water temperature during winter than Athens and Thessaloniki while the sea temperature is slightly cooler in Heraklion during summer than in the other two cities.
Thessaloniki sees the coolest sea in the month of March (14.1 degrees) while Athens experiences the coolest sea in February (16.1 degrees) and Heraklion witnesses 17.5 degrees in February and March.
The sea in Thessaloniki is warmest in the month of July and August with water temperature hovering around 28 degrees. Athens experiences the warmest sea temperature in August (28.2 degrees) while Heraklion sees the warmest water temperature in August too (27.4 degrees). Late spring and early autumn see comfortable sea temperatures along the shores of all these three cities. (See Chart).
Overall Greece is a moderately dry country with higher humidity during the months with mild to moderate rains in the east and moderate to heavy rains in the west. Corfu’s yearly average humidity is around 70%, however, from September to February Corfu sees average humidity of 75%.
Thessaloniki sees 67% yearly humidity on average with the highest during winters and lowest during summers. Athens and Heraklion are much drier than the other two cities. Yearly average humidity in Athens is 62% and in Heraklion is around 63%, however, humidity rises to highest in winters and falls to lowest in summers.
The highest humid month in Corfu is November (78%), in Thessaloniki is December (78%), in Athens is November as well as December (72%), and in Heraklion are December and January (67%). The minimum humid month in Corfu is July (60%), in Thessaloniki is July (53%), in Athens is August (48%) and in Heraklion is June & July (58%).
Greece is much sunnier than most of the European countries. Tourists from all over the world come to Greece in summer to enjoy a sunbath. Thessaloniki sees a yearly 2,426 hours of sun with a monthly average of 202 sunshine hours and a daily average of roughly 7 hours. The month that experiences the sunniest hours is July… it sees the sun for 338 hours with a daily average of around 11 hours.
Athens experiences yearly 2,848 hours of sunshine with a monthly average of 237 hours and a daily average of around 8 hours. The highest sunshine month of Athens is July with 384 sunny hours and a daily average of over 12 hours.
Annual sunshine hours of Heraklion (Crete) are 2,770 whereas the monthly average is 231 hours and daily of 7.5 hours. The highest sunshine month is July with 372 sunny hours with a daily average of 12 hours.
Corfu (North West Greece) sees 2,546 hours of sunshine yearly with a monthly average of 212 hours and a daily average of almost 7 hours. The maximum sunshine month of Corfu is July with 365 sunny hours and a daily average of nearly 12 hours.
Winter sees minimum sun due to frost and clouds.
(See weather chart).
Thessaloniki sees a lesser wind speed than the other two. On average, it faces a wind speed of 10 KPH. The months with the highest wind speed are February and December (12 KPH). The lowest wind speed is in August (8 KPH).
Wind speed in Athens is moderate to high with an average of 16 KPH. The highest wind speed can be seen in the winter months (18 KPH) and the lowest wind speed in May (13 KPH).
Heraklion faces gusts of wind almost throughout the year with a yearly average of 20 KPH. Wind speed becomes highest in the month of July at 25 KPH and the least in May at 16 KPH.
Travellers often ask whether any snowfall takes place in Greece at all. Since Greece is mostly known as a summer destination, hence this confusion. Many parts of this country are elevated due to its mountainous geography. The highest peak of Greece is Mount Olympus with an altitude of 9,570 ft and the top of it remains snow-covered for 7 to 8 months.
It is a fact that in comparison to other European countries Greece receives much lesser snowfall but elevated places in the mainland receive mild to moderate snow during winters. Few of the elevated areas even receive heavy snow in winter. According to weather data Athens receives snow every 5 to 6 years. Greece in fact has few skiing resorts too.
Thessaloniki Weather Chart
Athens Weather Chart
Heraklion Weather Chart
Best Time to Visit Greece
Greece is a popular summer destination although it sees hot summers, however, late spring and early autumn are also great for travelling to Greece. The mainland valleys of Greece offer a colourful panorama of blooming flowers during spring. It’s a good idea to travel to Greece during spring when you can also avoid the tourist rush of summers.
Greece has a tourism season normally for 5 months from May to September; note that in off-seasons other than in major cities you might not get adequate facilities at the other tourist destinations. Do not forget to pack some sunscreen lotion while visiting Greece. Also, make a note that shops mostly remain closed between 2 to 5 pm as citizens of this country enjoy their siesta.
Climate highlights of Thessaloniki
- Late spring and early autumn are the best time with pleasant average temperatures and very light rainfall, although hot summers are preferred by many tourists
- July is the warmest month
- January is the coolest month
- August sees minimum rain
- July and August experience the warmest sea temperatures
Climate highlights of Athens
- Late spring to early autumn is the best time, although hot summer is when the real tourist rush takes place
- summer receives minimum rainfall
- July is the hottest month
- August is the driest month
- July and August see the warmest sea temperatures
Climate highlights of Heraklion
- Late spring to early autumn is the best time. Although it’s moderately warm during summers, tourists love to come in summers
- summer receives minimum rainfall
- August experiences the warmest water temperatures
- August is also the driest and hottest month