What’s the weather in Greece in May like for travel?

What’s the weather in Greece in May like for travel?

Even though the average daytime temperature in Greece in May is 24C or 75F, the weather in Greece in May is dramatically different across Greece’s chilly northern mountains or the Greek islands which can be windy or sheltered depending upon your choice of holiday destination. Here’s a detailed guide to the average minimum and maximum temperatures, wind, rainfall, and sea temperature in the different parts of Greece as well as advice on the best places to go and things to do in Greece in May.

Practical Information about the Weather in Greece in May

Good weather, beautiful beaches, bright days, and sunshine are what we want our holidays to be filled with. If you are looking for a trip to explore the rich history of Greece, you’ll find the temperature much more pleasant than the June to August weather.

Photo taken from inside the naxos-Ocean-club-bar, Naxos Island, Greece
Naxos Ocean Club Bar, Naxos Island, Greece

If you’re hoping for partying at beach bars and swimming, this can really only happen at the end of the month and in the southern and easternmost islands.

You can see from the two charts below (one is in Celsius and the other in Fahrenheit), that there is a significant difference in the weather and the average high and low temperatures between the north and the rest of the country in May.

The average high temperature for Greece is 24 degrees Celsius but the average sea temperature remains a cool 19 degrees Celsius.

The average snowfall per year in Greece is 4.9 days at present and there have been some beautiful snowfalls on the Acropolis of Athens and Ancient Delphi in the past few years.

Photo of a rare Athens snowfall in February 2021
Snowfall in Athens in February 2021

Although the average high temperature and average low temperature may not be significantly different in much of the central and southern parts of Greece, you’ll notice that the average wind speed is different depending upon the presence or absence of the Meltemi wind.

Table 1: May average weather conditions (Fahrenheit) in May

AreaMin Temp (F)Max Temp (F)Avg Sea Temp (F) MinAvg Sea Temp (F) MaxAvg Min Rainfall (mm)Avg Max Rainfall (mm)Avg Min Wind Speed (mph)Avg Max Wind Speed (mph)Avg Min Humidity (%)Avg Max Humidity (%)
Ionian Islands617566686236125979
Table 1: May average temperature (Fahrenheit), sea temperature, wind speed and humidity in the main regions of Greece

Table 2: Average weather (Celcius) in May in the 7 main regions of Greece

AreaMin Temp (C)Max Temp (C)Avg Sea Temp (C) MinAvg Sea Temp (C) MaxAvg Min Rainfall (mm)Avg Max Rainfall (mm)Avg Min Wind Speed (km/h)Avg Max Wind Speed (km/h)Avg Min Humidity (%)Avg Max Humidity (%)
Ionian Islands1624192062310195979
Table 2: May average temperature (Celsius), sea temperature, wind speed and humidity in the main regions of Greece

Crowds and Costs in Greece in May

May is the fifth largest month for travelers to Greece. 2.15 million international tourists visited Greece in May 2022.

Photo of the Odeon of Herodes Atticus on the slopes of the Acropolis of Athens in May
Odeon of Herodes Atticus on the slopes of the Acropolis of Athens in May

The most crowds and the highest costs are from June to September inclusive, with the highest month for tourist arrivals being July, with 4 million tourists.

As you can see, there’s almost half the number of tourists in Greece in May than in the most crowded month of July.

May is also considered a shoulder season for travel so airfares and ferry prices are lower than a month later. So May is a great month to visit Greece, especially its biggest tourist destinations.

source: tradingeconomics.com

Best places to go in Greece in May according to the weather

If you’re looking for hot weather and to swim, head as far south and southeast in Greece as you can go – Crete and the Dodecanese islands are your best bet.

Photo of Balos Beach and headland, near Chania in Crete, Greece
Balos Beach, near Chania in Crete, Greece

The absolute best places to go are where you aren’t exposed to the Meltemi winds. Even if it’s getting to 24 degrees Celsius during the day, if there’s a fierce Meltemi blowing, you’re going to need a light jacket during the day and on the water.

My partner bought a cotton hoodie on the islands during a bad year for the Meltemi winds which was useful at night and when sailing.

The Ionian Islands which include glorious Corfu (Kerkyra) and Paxos, have some of the calmest and most pleasant Greek island conditions but unfortunately have more chance of precipitation in May.

May is generally considered a transitional month in Greece, with winds becoming less strong than in the winter and early spring, but not as calm as in the summer.

But the island chains of the Aegean Sea, the Cyclades, and the Dodecanese islands can still experience strong winds, in May, especially in the first half of the month.

The average wind speed in the Cyclades in May is 10-20 knots (11-23 mph or 18-37 km/h).

The Meltemi wind, although not as intense as in the summer months, still affects these islands during May, especially in the northern and eastern Aegean Sea.

Best things to do in Greece in May

Water sports are possible in southern Greece in May. The water temperature is warm enough, for example, to swim from the boat to the thermal springs of the volcano in Santorini, or to wear a wetsuit and snorkel or scuba dive off Amoudi Bay.

Early May at Amoudi Bay below Oia, Santorini, Greece

And of course, heated pools and Jacuzzis are always swimmable!

The last week of May is your best chance to swim most enjoyably. It’s also a great month for road-tripping around the southern islands, especially Crete, and hiking before it’s too hot over the summer season.

Photo from behind of three cars on the main road on the island of Crete in May with snow on the mountains, Greece
Traffic on the main road on the island of Crete in May with snow on the mountains, Greece

The average rainfall in Greece in May varies wildly with the eastern and southern parts of Greece receiving the lowest average rainfall, while the Greek mainland and the Ionian Islands off the northwest coast of Greece have the most days of rain in May.

Rainy days are of course perfect for museums and other indoor activities but clear blue skies with little rain and cloud cover is to be sought out on the Dodecanese islands and Crete in May.

Related: Is Santorini Water safe to drink? 2023 Santorini drinking water guide

What’s On in May: Events and Festivals

By late May, Greece is gearing up for summer and whilst it’s not a big month for festivals, there are a number of street food festivals, concerts, music, gardens, and arts festivals traditionally held in May.

Athens Street Food Festival, Gazi, Athens, Greece

Interestingly, sometimes the festivals move between May and September, so check the latest schedule for the following festivals or events held in May in Greece.

Table 4: Events and Festivals in Greece in May

GreeceProtomagia (May Day)May 1Public Holiday and International Labor Day, known for labor strikes, don’t plan on traveling anywhere today. Families picnic outside today.
AthensAthens Epidaurus FestivalMay-SeptemberArts festival with theater, music, and dance performances at ancient theaters and modern venues in Athens and Epidaurus.
Athens Gardens FestivalUsually late MayUrban garden festival with exhibitions, workshops, and tours of public and private gardens throughout the city.
Athens Street Food FestivalLate May (sometimes changes month)Celebration of street food culture with food trucks, chefs, and live music performances at Technopolis in Gazi.
Athens International Tattoo ConventionMid-MayOne of the best in Europe with global artists
CreteBattle of Crete AnniversaryMay 20Commemoration of the Battle of Crete, with parades, wreath-laying ceremonies, and other events honoring the resistance and fallen soldiers.
Feast of Saints Constantine and HelenaMay 21The biggest celebration of these saint’s feast days is at Arkadi Monastery, but there will also be celebrations in all the larger monasteries and churches on the island.
ThessalonikiStreet Mode FestivalLate MayUrban culture festival with street art, music, dance, and sports activities, in various locations in the city center.
PeloponneseAgion Pateron Pilrimage27 MayIn Lefkada, a pilgrimage from the village of Nikiana, up the hill behind the village to its little convent to honor the saints, followed by a party late at night that features traditional clarinet music and dancing and feasting.

Mid-MayThe biggest mass triathlon in Greece is held on the island of Spetses (off the coast of the Peloponnese)
Table 4: Events and Festivals in Greece in May

Final Thoughts

The weather in May in Greece is not warm enough to comfortably swim in the sea (the average water temperature is only 19 degrees Celsius), unless you are far to the south or east, like the island of Kos.

But it is warm enough to spend time in the water for all kinds of water sports activities.

Photo of beach umbrellas, sun loungers and tourists on a Beach on Kos Island in Greece in early May
Beach on Kos Island in Greece in early May

Greece wakes up in the second half of May when there are annual festivals, and the major summer events are just around the corner.

With fewer crowds, cheaper prices, and a temperate climate, May is a great month to visit Greece and to be outdoors or road-tripping around the country. The average maximum temperature you’re likely to have is 24 degrees Celsius (74 degrees Fahrenheit).