Greece, located in southern Europe, is known for its hot summers, with daytime temperatures often exceeding 30ºC (86°F). The climate of Greece is generally mild and warm, especially compared to other European nations. It shares a similar climate with California, USA, characterized by hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters.
Greece has a wide range of climates on the mainland and islands: from the Aegean Sea to the towering mountains, each region of the country offers something unique in terms of temperature, rainfall and climate subtypes.
The summer heat can be intense, but is often tempered by the meltemi, the cooling northern sea breezes in south Aegean Sea. These high temperatures are usually accompanied by clear, blue skies and a high sun, providing ideal conditions for sunbathing and outdoor activities.
The summer season in Greece officially begins on June 21st and ends on September 23rd, marking the period of the year when the country experiences its highest temperatures. This period is characterized by long, sunny days and short, warm nights. The summer solstice, which usually occurs on June 21, is the longest day of the year and marks the beginning of the hot summer season.
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Quick Facts for the Weather in Greece
- Greece has a mild and warm climate, characterized by hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters.
- Winter temperatures in Greece vary, with Thessaloniki in the north experiencing average January temperatures in the low 40s Fahrenheit, Athens rarely falling below the low 50s Fahrenheit, and the coastal cities in Crete typically seeing temperatures in the mid 50s Fahrenheit.
- The warm southern sirocco wind, known locally as the “notias”, can cause temperatures to rise significantly during the winter months in southern Greece. In the north, it has the opposite effect, and temperature differences of 68 F (20 °C) can occur between Crete and Thessaloniki.
- Summer in Greece is hot and dry, with average July temperatures near sea level often approaching 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and occasional heat waves causing temperatures to soar above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 °C).
- Greece’s climate is diverse, with different climate subtypes in different regions, influenced by topography, proximity to the sea, and altitude.
Winter Weather in Greece
In winter, Greece experiences low pressure systems that bring warm and humid westerly winds. Cold air currents from the east bring the cold Vorias (North) wind. Thessaloniki typically sees average January temperatures in the low 40s Fahrenheit (about 6 degrees Celsius).
Winter weather in Athens is milder and the temperature is usually not falling below the low 50s Fahrenheit (about 10 degrees Celsius). Some days with snow are not unlikely though.
The coastal cities of the island of Crete experience the mildest winter temperatures, usually in the low to mid 50s Fahrenheit (about 12 degrees Celsius). These temperatures are moderated by sea breezes in coastal areas and snowfall in the northern mountains.
Summer Weather in Greece
The summer season in Greece is hot and dry, with average July temperatures near sea level often reaching 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius). Intense heat waves can push temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), while coastal areas benefit from cooling sea breezes.
The coastal cities of Crete typically see temperatures in the low to mid 80s Fahrenheit (about 30 degrees Celsius) in July. Rain is very rare in the summer, and the Meltemi wind keeps temperatures lower in July and August.
Read more: Summer in Greece
Average Temperatures (°C) in Different Areas of Greece
Climate Subtypes in Greece
A great variety of climate subtypes, always within the Mediterranean climate frame, are encountered in several regions of Greece. The variety in Greece weather is due to the influence of the topography of Greece (great mountain chains along the central part and other mountainous bodies) on the air masses coming from the moisture sources of the central Mediterranean Sea.
Mountains in Greece cover 80% of the country, with the Pindus Mountains running through the mainland and extending to the Peloponnese and Crete. These mountains, along with the peninsulas and islands, significantly influence local weather patterns and give each area its own unique characteristics. At higher elevations in the interior of Greece, some rainfall occurs year-round, and higher mountains in Greece, even in Crete, are snowcapped for several months of the year. The mountains of Macedonia and Thrace have colder continental winters influenced by winds channeled through the river valleys from the north.
The Greek archipelago, consisting of several thousand islands, contributes to the country’s diverse climate. Each island’s climate is influenced by specific factors such as sea currents, altitude and wind.
The different subtypes of climate in Greece are:
- Alpine climate: Found in the high mountainous areas, such as the Pindus and Rhodope Mountains, this climate is characterized by cold temperatures and heavy snowfall.
- Mild Mediterranean Climate: This climate is experienced in areas where temperatures rarely reach extremes, such as Athens and Crete. Winters are mild and there is occasional snowfall.
- Hot Mediterranean Climate: Areas with hot, dry summers and colder, wet winters, such as Rhodes, experience this climate. Summer temperatures can reach 29-38°C, while winter temperatures range from 10-15°C.
- Transitional Continental-Mediterranean Climate: Found in inland regions such as Macedonia and Thessaly, this climate is characterized by more extreme temperatures compared to coastal areas.
- Semi-Arid Climate: Some areas of Greece, such as parts of Macedonia and Thessaly, have a semi-arid climate.
Extreme Weather Events in Greece
Extreme weather can occur in many places around the world, including Greece. Heat waves, floods, blizzards and high winds are all extreme weather conditions that can occur in Greece. Greece’s diverse topography and climate also mean that these extreme weather conditions can occur in different regions of the country.
Floods in Central Greece
In 2023, Greece experienced extreme weather events, including flooding caused by torrential rains. In September, storm Daniel caused widespread flooding in central Greece, resulting in at least 16 deaths and significant damage to infrastructure, farmland, and livestock. In late September, another storm named Elias hit central Greece, causing additional flooding in the city of Volos and on the island of Evia. The flooding affected homes, businesses and roads, leading to evacuations and rescue operations.
In the summer of 2023, Greece experienced its most extreme heat wave on record, with temperatures exceeding 104°F (40°C) and peaking at 111°F (44°C). The intense heat brought daily life to a halt and drove people indoors for relief. During this time, Greece faced more than 400 wildfires in just one week.
This heat wave was part of a series of extreme weather events across Europe, with similar high temperatures in France, Spain, and Italy. A “heat dome” over southern Europe was to blame, trapping hot air over the region.
The economic and environmental damage of the heat wave was profound, destroying natural landscapes and affecting livelihoods. Greek Prime Minister acknowledged the continuing threat of such extreme weather, emphasizing the link to climate change and the urgent need to reduce emissions.
95°F in November in Crete
Also in 2023, Crete recorded a November high of 95°F (35.1°C), the warmest for the month in Europe, while the other half of Greece experienced a cold snap bringing snow, storms, and even tornadoes.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best time of year to visit Greece for ideal weather?
The best time of year to visit Greece for ideal weather depends on your preferences:
- If you enjoy hot and sunny weather, the best time to visit is from June to August. Temperatures are often in the mid to high 30s Celsius (90s Fahrenheit).
- For milder temperatures, April through May and September through October are better choices. During these months, temperatures range from the mid-teens to mid-20s Celsius (60s to 70s Fahrenheit).
- For sunshine and some snow, late December through February are the best months, but temperatures can get cold.
No matter when you visit, Greece is sure to offer beautiful weather and breathtaking views.
Is sun protection necessary when visiting Greece?
Yes, sun protection is necessary when visiting Greece. During the summer season, temperatures can easily exceed 30°C (86°F). In addition, intense heat waves can cause temperatures to soar above 100°F (38°C).
To avoid sunburn and other health risks, visitors should wear protective clothing and sunscreen, especially during the peak summer months. In addition, hats, sunglasses and umbrellas are essential to reduce exposure to the sun.
It’s important to remember that sunburns can occur even on cloudy days and in shaded areas.