Greece has such an image of hot sunny days and calm blue seas that it is often difficult for foreigners to imagine what Greece and her islands are like in the winter, and that it isn’t a land of eternal sunshine. Winters can be unpredictable and may pass quickly with mild weather, but more frequently they can experience sea storms, dramatic lightening storms with rain which is torrential and endless, and high winds. One thing is certain and that is the Greek winters are getting longer and we can no longer predict that they will start in January or end in March.
There can be radiantly beautiful days amidst a Greek winter. These are halcyon days when the temperatures soar and it feels as if summer has returned, and the sunshine can last from 10am until 4pm. One thing is certain: on the dot of 4pm the temperatures plummet. On days such as these it is invariably far warmer outdoors than in and we are touched with perfect weather.
As the islands are amidst the ocean the winter days will hold a damp coldness, not a fresh one. Snow is rarely seen apart from in the mountainous regions of Crete, but on the mainland there is snow in the mountains and people often don’t realise that Greece has winter ski resorts. Here in the Southern Pelponnese we had snow six years ago for the first time in thirty five years, but it was a brief flurry, whilst in Athens there was so much it closed the airport.
Transportation to the islands cannot be guaranteed in winter as the seas can become very rough with boats lost annually. The sea can rise and does plenty of damage, but is a wonder to watch when it is at its fiercest, with crashing grey waves or foam which is so white it resembles snow. The sea spray can carry for quite a distance as it crashes against the coastline, and beaches disappear.
High winds are a feature of Greek island winters, sending electrical lines crashing down. The lightening storms are frequent, firing the night time sky with bold red and pink lights. Candles are kept in readiness to deal with the inevitable power failure which comes from a combination of high winds and storms. Although the temperatures rarely go down to zero the wind factor can make it feel much colder.
Rain can only be described as coming down by the bucketful, often for hours and hours on end. It feeds the olive groves which need it to bring the olives to fruition before they are harvested for oil. Roads can become flooded, and red dirt tracks which are a frequent sight are turned into sticky red mud. Potholes and puddles turn into lakes on badly finished roads. Islands can feel isolated and cut off by the weather.
It is always said that anyone contemplating moving to Greece should experience a Greek winter before making a decision. If they vist expecting permanent sunshine they are likely to be disappointed, as the reality is more likely to be wet cold days. However they still feel milder to those from outside the country who don’t tend to need quite as many warm layers as the Greeks who will be clad in winter garments from the end of October onwards.