Each year Crete is visited by 2.5 million tourists. Of those,
2.4 million come in July and August. Hence, it is not hard to
imagine the crush at the beach, the squeeze at the restaurants,
the rush for a hotel bed. During the rest of the year, the island
is practically empty, although summer lingers on long after
August and begins long before June. Just think that Crete lies
at a latitude of 35.007 degrees, namely a lot more south than
Tunisia or Algeria, and that tropical fruits like bananas and
avocados thrive here! Why, then, does everybody come in those
two months? Simply because it is then most working people take
their holidays. If you belong to that category, you have no
choice but to rub elbows with the crowds. Things, of course,
are not desperately hopeless, as you will always find quiet,
out of the way corners, but you shall have to look hard. Should
you have, however, the luxury of choosing your holiday month,
you are in lucky bliss. What will have been inferno for others,
will look paradise to you, solely because you chose to come
outside the peak season.
The worst time!
None, unless you like crowds.
Firstly, it’s horribly hot. To survive you will certainly
need a wide-brimmed hat that covers your neck too, quality sunglasses,
sun lotion of high protection factor (15-20 SPF) and plenty
of water. In the afternoon you should not expose yourselves
to the sun and you should stay under shade, although even there
the mercury may exceed 40OC. Riding a motorcycle becomes excruciating,
your head simmering in the helmet and your body steaming in
the leathers (the more so if they are black coloured).
Secondly, you will have trouble with accommodation. Hotels are
full and so are the good rooms to let, not to mention the good
spots in the camp sites. You will have to settle for rooms without
view, remote hotels of lesser standards, or a small stretch
of ground next to the campsite toilets.
Thirdly, you will have trouble with food. Waiters and cooks
are humans too, and when they have to serve armies of hungry
customers from morning to evening, it is expected that quality
is sacrificed to quantity and speed.
Fourthly, prices are high. Greece is generally cheaper compared
to other European Union countries, but the law of supply and
demand works here as well. Indeed when demand exceeds supply,
as is the case in summertime Crete, you will pay the highest
prices without getting the best quality, either in food, accommodation
Lastly, transportation is hellish. Ports and airports are turned
into a reign of chaos, where crowds of people, lack of organisation,
strikes, delays and bad service will rack your nerves. On the
roads, tens of thousands of hurried, incompetent or drunken
car drivers and rented moped riders are a permanent menace.
SEPTEMBER, OCTOBER, NOVEMBER
After the tempest, the calm!
Firstly, the heat wave is over. Summer lingers on normally until
the end of October, while the first rains will not appear before
early November. The sea is not only pleasantly warm but calmer
as well. The beaches that look like tins of sardines in August,
now have much less people, if they are not totally deserted.
Secondly, you will enjoy a pleasant stay. Even the most centrally
located hotels have vacant rooms, room owners will approach
you with offers for rooms in the best quarters, campsites regain
their relaxed and peaceful atmosphere.
Thirdly, you will enjoy good food. You may not find the variety
of peak season, but the food will certainly be better cooked,
portions will be bigger, service will be friendlier and prompter.
Fourthly, you will move with ease. Boats and planes depart on
time and are not overloaded. Roads are not congested and you
can enjoy the scenery as you don’t have to drive defensively.
Archaeological sites and museums are not jammed and, all in
all, you will not feel choked.
Lastly, everything is discounted. Hotels and rooms to let are
at least 30% cheaper than the official summer rates, food is
not as expensive, and even bars offer drinks at reduced prices.
Firstly, the general slackness. Many hotels, restaurants and
tourist-oriented businesses close down so that their employees
can rest. Many of those remaining open show the obvious signs
of the invasion which occurred the previous months: battered
rooms, slackening service, abandonment. The waves or the local
cleaning crews have not yet removed the litter left behind by
many unprincipled users of the beach.
Secondly, the first signs of inclement weather. The first days
in November can also be the first days of winter. But if you
are suitably prepared, not only will you be unaffected, you
will enjoy it as well. You must carry rain-proof overalls, warm
clothing, long gloves, lofty sleeping bags and waterproof tent.
Thirdly, days are conspicuously shorter. It gets dark early,
so you must wake up very early to seize the day...
DECEMBER, JANUARY, FEBRUARY
Crete’s most enchanting face.
Firstly, you will see the Cretan’s Crete. Without its
distorting touristy “make-up”, Crete is a divine
place. The rains and the wind clean the atmosphere, revealing
unique natural beauty and highlighting the savage charm of gorges
and steep mountain faces. Wild herbs emit their fragrant essence,
colours become singularly deep. A sense of adventure comes alive,
one without extremes or insurmountable obstacles. Winter sunshine,
not rare at all, creates scenes from a fairly tale where everything
appears so beautiful, cheerful and healthy. The natives welcome
you as a traveller who seeks the real Crete, and offer you unforgettable
hospitality and the treasures of their hearts, their land and
their tradition. During these months there are no tourists in
Crete, only its true lovers.
Secondly, everything is at half price and even less. The best
rooms in the best hotels are at your disposal at incredible
prices! Whereas in summer you needed very much luck (and money)
to stay, now you are the honoured guest and you can see all
the rooms before you choose, at rates that will thrill you.
Thirdly, the whole Crete is yours! In museums and archaeological
sites you will be alone with the guard, who very probably will
accompany you around as a personal guide and then will invite
you to his tiny booth for a glass of raki with honey and a chat!
You can pitch your tent anywhere, without bothering anyone or
being bothered by anyone. Beaches are totally deserted, spotless
and, on the south coast, water temperature is almost bearable
for a swim.
MARCH, APRIL, MAY, JUNE
Firstly, you may hit very bad weather. When it rains in Crete
it pours, and it is very dangerous and unpleasant to be outdoors.
Lightning strikes, rocks fall on the roads from cliff sides,
torrents dig out ruts that make dirt roads impassable. Mountain
passes are covered in snow and clouds block out the view. Usually,
bad weather does not last for long but you cannot make a contract
with the elements. It may be raining for two weeks non-stop;
exactly the two weeks you chose to come! If you plan to visit
Crete this period, it is advisable to have plenty of time available,
as well as plenty of warm clothes and plenty of books to keep
you busy in the hours (or days) you may be confined to a room.
Secondly, the island’s tourist infrastructure is at a
standstill. Most hotels, bars, car and motorcycle rentals, travel
agencies, restaurants are closed. Everything designed to accommodate
and transport tourists simply does not function. Of course,
this is not a drawback for you, given that one of the reasons
you are travelling this part of the year in Crete, is precisely
to avoid the artificial face of the island. However, reaching
a village and finding no place to eat or buy provisions, not
a single inhabitant to ask for directions, no telephone and
no service station for tens of kilometres, may cause you problems.
Winter wandering may be much more exciting than summer tourism,
but it is always an adventure more or less.
Welcome to Paradise!
Firstly, the weather is fine. The last of winter weather is
over by the first days of March and then a glorious sun illuminates
and warms the mountain slopes, the beaches, the hamlets and
the cities. Temperatures are high enough for you to drive without
shivering, and yet low enough for you to stay dry under the
leather overall. From late April on you can swim comfortably
in an invigoratingly cool sea, and sunbathe without being scorched
(but always use the proper sunscreens). The atmosphere is incredibly
clear and the view from mountain tops and mountain routes is
Secondly, everything is in bloom. Plateaux are turned into multi-coloured
lakes of wild flowers. Gardens, road hedges, rock cracks are
flooded with yellow daisies, scarlet poppies, white lilies and
more than 300 other species of wild flowers, some of which are
indigenous. The sea teams with life. Endless schools of fish
frolic among the rocks and the eelgrass. Nature is a festival
of colours and flavours.
Thirdly, all is ready to welcome you. Preparations for the new
tourist season have been completed by mid April. Houses are
freshly white-washed, rooms are painstakingly cleaned, shops
have stocked their shelves anew, restaurants have put tables
out in the sun. Early in April, the graders of each prefecture
level the dirt roads that suffered in winter, and repair crews
patch up the tarmac of the provincial and national road network.
Fourthly, everything is cheaper than in summer. Just like after
the peak season, business is slow these months and prices are
accordingly low. The natives’ mood nevertheless is high
and so is their pleasure to serve the first customers of the
season. So, they will treat you with the best rooms, hefty portions
of food, special prices and a smile.
|Source of the
information on this page : “Unexplored Crete”,
Road Editions. For more guidebooks and maps of
Greece, click here.