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Sun, Oct 02, 2022

Introduction to Crete, the Island

How Big is Crete?

British and Irish ex-patriate residents in Greece often forget just how large is Crete. In fact, the Island of Crete covers a total area of 8,336 square kilometres or 6.3% of the total territory of Greece.

Below is a photographic guide to the Megalonissos "Big Island" of Crete taken from Space during a NASA Space Shuttle Mission. The Semi Circular Island with a tiny speck in its centre is the Volcanic Island of Santorini (centre to the right in the photograph).

A view of Crete from 22,000 miles above Earth
Crete From Space: Courtesy of Nasa Web site

What is Crete's Highest Peak?

The highest peak on Crete is Mt Psiloritis (Ψηλορειτης) or Mt Pachnes, even Mt Idi - after its location in the mountain range called Oros Idi (Idi Mountains). It stands at 2456 metres or 8057 feet high in the Rethymnon prefecture (nomos). According to legend this is the birthplace of the Greek God Zeus, hence the reason the Greeks call Psiloritis the Mountain of the Gods. Actually there are five "peaks" within a few metres of each other. Psiloritis edges out Mount Pachnes at 2452 meters.

Mt Psilorotis is locally named as Timios Stavros (Holy Cross). Hence: Sainte-Croix" in French, or Heiliges Kreuz" in German.

Does it Snow in Crete?

From the picture below, you can see that there is snowfall but it varies from year to year. There are one or two cabins for skiers in the western part of Crete (yes there are several short pistes - ski runs) on the higher slopes at high altitude. Check out the culture of the people and the customs and other useful information of the Mt Psiloritis region at a dedicated website. When you come into land at either of Heraklion or Chania airports, you may see snow on the higher peaks as late as in June. 


Mount Psiloritis, also known as Mt Pachnes Birthplace of Zeus

Mount Psiloritis / Pachnes - The Highest Peak on Crete taken at the height of summer where it is 30C-ish not 40C as on the coast sometimes

How hot is Crete?

Crete is generally classified as a "Mediterranean Climate" with hot dry summers and cool wet winters. It is also a mountainous island including several high plateaus with a strip of low lying coastline that skirts most of the island. The island has several micro-climates. In Summer, the north coast receives northerly breezes, generally bringing cooler air, while the south coast is a more protected coastline from the prevailing winds. The south coast generally including the Island of Gavdos (regarded as Europe's most southerly island) and especially the plain at which Moires is at the centre, is regarded as having a North African climate - noticeably hotter and drier than the rest of Crete. The south coast resorts such as Matala and the areas around Plakias, Paleohora and all the way to Ierepetra and Vai are the hottest in summer, with soaring temperatures in the region of 40C+. Lassithi Plateau is cooler and pleasant at the height of summer, and cool enough to grow deciduous fruits such as apples and pears, and is located above the olive growing line.

What are the Beaches of Crete like?

If you like activities on the beach, Crete has 1,046 kilometres of Coast Line, much of which is suitable for swimming, sunbathing, scuba diving, sailing, and just having fun in general.

Most of Crete's Beaches are First Class.

Are there any Blue Flag Beaches in Crete?

Also the majority of the beaches on Crete have been awarded the International Blue Flag status for their high quality health standards and cleanliness. Mind you, clean beaches are always a controversial issue, here is a conversation in our forum to illustrate, from several years ago.

What are the Blue Flag Beach Rankings for Crete?

You may ask: "What is a Blue Flag Beach Award?" The answers can be found in our dedicated blue flag beach page along with the ranked beaches named in 2011 for those Class 1 beaches spread out over the island of Crete in all four of its prefectures, namely: Chania, Rethymnon, Herakion and Lassithi. Crete has the most beaches in Greece. Lasithi has the most awarded beaches in Crete.

What are the Annual Hours of Sunshine in Crete?

Crete is famous for its sunshine and blue sky, but the annual amount of sunshine per year varies from the North side to the South Side of this 260+ kilometres long island. The average in the North can be anything up to 2,700 hours while the Southern Coast can bask in the sun for up to 3,000 hours per annum.

What is Winter like in Crete?

Contrary to popular belief (particularly among tourists) Crete does not have wall to wall sunshine 365 days a year, Crete does have four distinct seasons. As for a winter, granted it's not as long as the Winters in the UK, nor anywhere near as harsh but it's Winter alright. In summer (May to September) temperatures are a daily average of 29°C and in winter they can have an average of 14°C mid afternoon. Yes, there is a need for central heating or open fire places for wood and charcoal. Traditional heating is by the 'somber' - a wood burner made of iron for upright tight spaces or as in the old kitchen range style familiar to earlier generations in Northern Europe, especially the UK.  

Does it Rain in Crete?

The average rainfall is around 9.27cm most of this seems to fall between December and April. Both Spring and Autumn are brief. Curiously the seasons are shifting. Novembers can be dry with clear days making them feel warm for the time of the year. March and April can be unpredictable. During that period, Crete can sometimes feel like it is experiencing four seasons in a day. In the mountains rain can be in heavy short bursts or can be continuous over periods up to 10 days.  June to September can generally expect no rain, except for islolated thunderstorms. The winters of 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 maybe in a new trend of much more overall rainfall over many more days. 

Crete Winter. Street Scen., Stalis, Copyright BritsinCrete
Stalida (Stalis) Northeast Coast Resort - Typical Winter rains in Crete - rarely in Summer!!!

How many people live in Crete? and What is Crete's Resident Population?

The Population of Crete is around 650,000+ at last count (2018) This figure relates to permanent residents, and equates to around 5% of the total population of Greece. The figure in Summer is considerably higher with foreign workers arriving for the Holiday Season along with about one million tourists. (But not in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic).

How Many Brits and Irish Visit Crete?

Crete is a very popular travel and holiday destination. Of the two million visitors, half of them are from the British Isles. Most years Crete welcomes nearly 25% of all international arrivals into Greece. More detailed and useful statistics and general reading on Crete can be found at Wikipedia.

Weather in Crete

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