The weather on the Greek island of Crete plays by its own rules. The landmass of Crete is large enough to have its own weather zones, which change as you go north and south or east and west across the island. And since Crete is a mixture of lowland and mountainous regions, there are also weather and temperature variations based on altitude. Here's what you need to know about weather in Crete on your trip.
North Coast Weather
The weather on the north coast of Crete will be strongly affected by the meltemi winds of summer. These warm winds blow from the north and can hit most of the coastal beaches. While they are "warm" winds, they can kick up the waves and at their strongest can even blow sand around, providing sunbathers with a free exfoliation treatment which may not be wanted. Since most of Crete's organized resorts are on the North Coast, you may experience these winds, especially in July and August. The solution? Take a break for a day on the South Coast of Crete.
South Coast Weather
Weather in Crete is affected by the spinal ridge of mountain ranges which run east to west across the island. The mountain ranges of Crete affect the weather in a couple of ways. First, they create a physical barrier for the winds from the North. This means that even when the north coast is uncomfortably windy, the south coast may be calm and pleasant.
The exception to this is where gorges and valleys channel the north winds, which can create areas of intense winds at certain spots along the coast. This is especially true at Frangocastello and Plakias Bay. Even when the rest of the south coast is relatively calm, the funneling effect can create havoc for small fishing boats and other light craft.
The mountain ranges of also generate their own clouds, which can either shade the south coast from storms by keeping the rainclouds in the North, or drop rain from the smaller systems which rise up from the mountains themselves. One huge rock which can be seen on the way from Heraklion to the south coast is known as "The Mother of Storms" - storms are supposed to arise from the area around the rock.
The South Coast is sometimes subject to winds up from Africa - something that Joni Mitchell memorialized in her song "Carey", written while the singer was staying in Matala on the south coast. These hot and often sandy winds and the resulting dust storms can cloak Crete and all of Greece in an eerie dim light, sometimes affecting air travel. Like the Santa Ana winds in California, they are supposed to make both people and animals irritable while they are blowing. The fire that destroyed the Minoan palace of Knossos has been determined to have burned on a day when the winds were coming up from the south.
Generally speaking, the South Coast of Crete will tend to be a degree or two warmer, and is somewhat more likely to be sunny than the North Coast... but Crete generally has no shortage of sunshine on either coast.