Winter in Crete - 5 Things To Do


Alternative Tourism, Fun, and Experiences Beyond Limits

 There are many reasons to visit Crete in winter. The island is covered with a green tapestry, the landscapes have freshness and color, while the mild temperatures allow a lot of outdoor activities. Rates for accommodation and various services are very advantageous, allowing visitors to enjoy a memorable holiday without much financial effort. Besides, tourism is low, so it is easier to enter museums, exhibitions, and galleries without endless queues or hours of waiting under the scorching sun of Cretan summer.

 January and February are the rainy months, when heavy rainfall of 1-2 hours can turn the streets into rivers, after which the gray clouds disappear, leaving room for many sunny days. Maximum temperatures range from 16-23°C during the day. The night can be cooler due to humidity, and temperatures sometimes drop to 10°C. The severe cold can be found only in the high mountain areas and on the snowy peaks of the Psiloritis and Lefka Ori.

 The locals, returned to their homes from the tourist areas, work in repairing buildings, agriculture, and near the house, enjoying rest during the winter holidays. When it comes to discovering true Cretan friendship and hospitality, there is no better season than winter!

 Here's what we suggest you experience if you'd like to come to Crete in the winter:


Enjoy Winter Holidays & Cultural Events

 Cheerful and sociable, Cretans spend the winter holidays in the company of their families, relatives, and friends, visit each other, go for a walk or meet at the cafe almost daily, and enthusiastically participate in community life. Animated by the spirit of Christmas and the festive night between the years, December brings a rich calendar of social and cultural-artistic events, in almost every city.

 In the fairy-like ambiance of the center of Heraklion, the Christmas Market organized in Plateia Eleftheria is a major attraction, both for locals and tourists. In addition to the impressive, beautifully decorated Christmas tree and Santa's house, full of surprises, visitors will find kiosks with traditional decorations and delicacies, children's playgrounds and entertainment, as well as a varied program of live music and dance. Also in Eleftheria Square, on the last night of the year, the locals gather to cheerfully celebrate New Years' eve.

 In Rethymnon, Mikrasiaton Square is transformed into the Christmas Toy City, offering exhibitions, creative workshops, and countless other leisure activities for all ages. In Chania, on December 26, the charity event called Santa Run is organized, in which thousands of people, dressed as Santa Claus, run on the streets of the city. Becoming popular globally, the event reached its ninth edition in Crete, the funds raised through the symbolic participation fee being donated to institutions and associations for the children in need.

 The winter holidays last until January 6, when the Greeks and Cretans celebrate the Epiphany, the ceremony of blessing and sanctification of the waters, which is held at the seaside. 

Discover the Realm of Snow in Crete

 You may be surprised that, although it is recognized worldwide for its summer holidays on its beautiful beaches, Crete is 80% covered in mountainous terrain. From mid-December to early May, although average daytime temperatures range from 10° C to 14° C and the island is covered in vegetation, you can admire the snowy and bright peaks of the Psiloritis Mountains and Lefka Oris, exceeding 2,000 m.

 Crete does not have actual ski resorts (unfortunately!), but this does not discourage snow sports enthusiasts who, especially in recent years have discovered the pleasure of alpine skiing and 2-3-day ski tours, with rest periods and overnight stays in specially arranged mountain refuges. Moreover, even since 2014, the Pierra Creta alpine ski race takes place on Psiloritis at the beginning of March, bringing together hundreds of athletes from over ten countries.

 Located 38 km south of Chania, at an altitude ranging from 1,040 to 1,250 m, and surrounded by the high peaks of Lefka Oris, the Omalos plateau receives large amounts of snow in winter. The starting point for the beautiful snowy trails combined with the slopes, the village of Omalos is the favorite escape place of many Greeks and Cretans, the hotels and guesthouses in the area being fully booked on most weekends.

 The localities of Zoniana, Anogia, and Livadia in the Rethymnon Region, located on the northern slope of Mount Psiloritis, host tourists who love skiing, snowboarding, snowkiting, and snow hiking, also attracted by the rural lifestyle and winter traditions of Cretan households. Located 1 km away from the village of Anogia, on the road to Nida at an altitude of 910 m, Delina Mountain Resort offers elegantly decorated apartments with a fireplace, jacuzzi, and veranda, overlooking the snow-capped peaks of Psiloritis Mountain. (www.delina.gr)

 If you want a slope just for you or you like the activities in nature, take your mountain clothes, ski equipment, and winter boots, and let's explore the snowy peaks of Crete! You will find many mountain sports and adventure clubs that can guide you in this experience! 

 For more information about the Pierra Creta ski mountaineering event visit the website: www.pierracreta.gr 

Venture on a Canyoneering Trip

 If you are in good physical condition, you like a bit of adrenaline and you want to explore some of the hidden treasures of Crete, inaccessible to the average tourist, then you can choose canyoning, a sport activity that has won more and more fans in Europe and in the world.

 Crete is home to about 400 canyons, formed by river basins and spring floods, by deep erosion of karstic and calcareous soil. Starting with November, when the precipitations become abundant and continuing until April when the mountain snows melt, the rivers increase their flows, giving life to many torrents and waterfalls. The weather, mild even in the cold season, allows lovers of extreme sports to venture into numerous gorges, properly arranged, which remain open all year round.

 Quite complex, more adventurous than hiking, but easier than mountain climbing, canyoning consists of hiking, climbing, and abseiling through the valleys of fast rivers and waterfalls. It is recommended for healthy people who are not afraid of heights and know how to swim. Practicing this form of adventure sport involves certain risks and therefore, it demands the assistance of a specialized guide, precise rules to follow, and appropriate equipment, with a helmet and a polypropylene suit. For the more trained ones, canyoning combines caving and mountaineering techniques with water-related activities, such as boating and rafting.

 The Cretan Canyoning Association, founded in 2007, has equipped 45 canyoning routes with safety devices and ropes. Some of the most spectacular trails, along which there are impressive waterfalls and spectacular descents are in the Ha Gorges on Mount Thripti, Agia Paraskevi Gorges, Abbas, Ethiano, Tsoutsouras, Maridaki, Kakoperato, Mesosfini in the Asterousia Mountains, Arvi Gorges from Mount Dikti, and many others that start from the central area and have an exit to the southern coast of the island. Some routes are recommended for beginners and even families with children, giving the bold people of any age an unforgettable experience. 

 You can find more information about the Cretan Cannyoning Association by visiting their website: www.canyon.gr.

Celebrate Apokries, the Carnival in Rethymno

 The carnival season in Greece, known as "Apokries", is a period that begins ten weeks before the Greek Orthodox Easter and lasts 22 days, reaching its climax on the weekend before the Kathari Deftera holiday (Clean Monday or Left of the Century, in our country ) - the first day of Lent. During fasting, which lasts 40 days, people do not eat meat or products of animal origin, hence the name Apokries, meaning "abstinence from meat" / its Latin version, better known as "Karnavali (from "carnem levare " = "without meat").

 Apokries, therefore, runs from the end of January until the beginning of March, ending with the Carnival Parade, a festival of entertainment and masquerade, which takes place on the last Sunday before entering Lent. The Patras Carnival (the regional capital of western Greece), "Patrino Karnavali" is the largest event of its kind in Greece, the second largest in Europe, and the third-largest in the world. In Crete, Carnivals are usually held in Souda, Paleochora, Kalyves, Kastelli, Malia, and in the capital Heraklion, but the most famous is the Carnival of Rethymno, a spectacular street "production" of choreography, stories, and characters, with an obvious Venetian imprint.

 In preparation for the parade, groups of friends gather to form themed crews and present the concept of the costume on the website dedicated to the event, relying on attracting as many many followers - locals, compatriots but also tourists - to win the popularity prize at stake. On the big day, the City Hall transforms the civic center and the main arteries into pedestrian areas, ensuring the smooth running of the teams accompanied by allegorical carts and creating the atmosphere with loudspeakers on the route, music, and MC, teams of animators and many other activities.

 The Rethymnon Carnival is one of the biggest and without a doubt one of the most fun holidays of the year in Crete. Take your camera or join your favorite team, arm yourself in good mood, and don't miss the big parade! 

 Find more information about The Carnival of Rethymno on the official website: www.rethymnocarnival.gr 

Spend an Unforgettable Holiday in the Countryside

 Far from the seductive coastline and the cities that absorb millions of tourists per season, in the heart of the mountains, is another side of Crete, where rural life is intertwined with sustainable tourism. Returning to nature and living simply, peasant-like is a unique experience. In winter, when the activities of most Cretans take place around the household, a holiday in Crete can be a great opportunity to get to know the people and the traditional lifestyle.

 In recent decades, agrotourism has not only saved many villages from extinction but has given new life to centuries-old homes, introducing them to the tourist circuit and giving visitors the chance to feel the authentic taste of the islanders' hospitality at their homes. Depending on the season, many agritourism pensions, family farms open to visitors, or specialized companies organize seminars on traditional cooking, baking bread and homemade sweets, picking medicinal herbs, mushrooms, snails, truffles, or making teas and cosmetics. natural.

 Invited to Cretan households, tourists learn about wine and olive oil production, brandy distillation, traditional-style beekeeping, gardening, milk collection and cheese making, livestock farming, sheep shearing, and more. Moreover, they are invited to participate in agricultural work, of which those specific to the winter season are the harvesting of olives (from mid-November to January) and citrus (from January to March).

 Adapted to the requirements of modern tourism and responding to a growing segment of alternative holiday enthusiasts, some traditional villages have become true "agro" or "eco" tourist destinations open all year round, as is the case of Vamos village, located 25 km from Chania and 35 km from Rethymno, at the foot of the Lefka Ori Mountains. Here, a handful of kind people put their shoulders to the restoration of several dozen old peasants houses, some almost three centuries old, turning them into holiday homes. The tourist office in Vamos is available all year round to interested tourists, individuals, families, or groups of friends, for booking accommodation and organizing the program of activities in and around the village. (www.vamosvillage.gr)

 Promoting the concept of "back to basics", Milia Mountain Retreat, a 17th-century mountain hamlet lost in the wild beauty of western Crete's Kissamos province and surrounded by plane trees and chestnuts, is, according to National Geographic, "a top ecolodge for family, active adventures and local culture.” The bungalow houses have central heating, plus a fireplace or a wood-burning stove for the winter, private bathrooms, balconies, verandas, or roof terraces for sunbathing. (www.milia.gr)

 If you miss a holiday in the countryside, Crete is waiting for you in winter! A stay at an agritourism farm or a guest house in a mountain village will offer you a foray into the traditional Cretan lifestyle and beautiful memories for a lifetime!


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