How to stay cool in the Greek summer heat

bright sun in a fully blue sky

Telling a Dutch colleague, friend, or family member that I will spend my summer in Greece, often results in the same reaction. That is too hot! Good luck! My body is not made for those temperatures! Prejudices. Because although the Greek summer heat is quite high, it rarely feels like it is too hot to handle.

The climate in Greece

Greece, with the north as an exception, has a Mediterranean climate. The winters are mild, and the summers are hot and dry. In July and August, temperatures usually reach between 30 and 35 degrees (86 – 95 F) but may go even higher. But don’t let these numbers scare you.

In the summer months, the Meltemi winds blow over the Aegean sea. This is the sea to the east of Athens, most Greek islands are Aegean islands. These Meltemi winds increase in strength throughout the afternoons and offer a welcome relief during the sweltering part of the day. 

Adjust your daily schedule

It is not true that the Greeks’ bodies are much better at handling heat compared to non-Mediterranean ones. However, every Greek does learn how to live with the high temperatures in summer, and we should learn from them.

A real Greek will never go sunbathing in the middle of the day. Nor will he go strolling around the city or even work. It is common for the Greeks, with Athens and Thessaloniki as exceptions, to stop work around 2 pm, and (if they) restart, only do this after 5 pm. They take their siesta, and you should do the same.

Plan your activities during the mornings or late in the afternoons. On middays you should find shade, a refreshing breeze, or an airconditioned room. Just relax. Take your siesta and obtain some energy to explore again at night, with a more comfortable temperature.

While on a road trip in Greece, the afternoons are usually also the time I use to move around when I have a longer distance of driving planned. In the comfort of the air conditioning in the car, without having to drive the winding mountain roads in the dark, it is the perfect way to use the hottest part of the day.

Stay close to the sea.

Like I said before, around the Aegean sea is always a cooling breeze. If you are struggling with higher temperatures, don’t go to Athens in summer or avoid the mainland entirely. Temperatures during the Greek summer feel much more pleasant along the coastline and on the islands.

When I stay at my parents-in-law during the summer, I have 3 accommodations to choose from. The townhouse, the house in the field, and the beach house. They are on a straight line from the mountains towards the beach. If the temperature reaches 37 in the town, the field will be around 35 degrees. At the beach house, the temperature will drop even lower, to about 32 degrees.

Although this is just a 20-minute drive, the temperature drops 5 degrees towards the sea! These five degrees are usually enough to take you from feeling unpleasantly hot to nicely warm. And if not, there is always the opportunity for a refreshing swim.

Allow your body to adjust

Coming from the Netherlands, I am much too familiar with how overwhelming the Greek summer heat can be. I will leave home with only 15 degrees on a rainy day, and get out of a plane into a temperature that exceeds the double. However, this feeling of immense heat is only temporary.

When you come from a colder country, don’t plan too much for the first one or three days of your stay in Greece. Stay close to an AC, swimming pool, or the beautiful sea. Don’t overeat and drink plenty of water. Your body will adjust rapidly, but allow it some time to do so.

Don’t spend too much time directly in the sun.

Many tourists make this mistake. Immediately after they reach Greece, they lay down on the beach to start working on their tanning. However, their white skin quickly turns red and even purple. And at night, they suffer from sunstroke.

Don’t do this!

No real Greek will willingly lie in the sun in summer. He knows it is too strong. Take an umbrella to the beach or go to organized beaches that offer them. Stay in the shade when you have the option, and even here, use sunblock and drink plenty of water.

When going hiking or sightseeing, it might be a good idea to wear a hat. Protect yourself from overheating as much as possible, and always use sunblock. If you’re worried about your tanning, even under an umbrella the UV radiation is strong enough to provide you your nice sun-kissed tint.

Talk to your doctor if you worry about your health

If you read this because you have doubts about visiting Greece in the summer due to a medical condition or medication, talk to your doctor about it. Especially when you live in a colder climate, it is a good idea to ask for medical advice. Safety first!

How to stay cool in the Greek summer heat?

  • drink a lot of water
  • always use sunblock, especially when it is windy, you don’t feel the sunburn, but it will definitely be there
  • try to avoid the direct sun
  • plan your activities in the morning and the late afternoon
  • take it easy during the hottest hours of the day
  • stay close to the coastline or on the islands
  • relax when you feel too hot, don’t overdo it
  • take it slow, siga siga

Frequently asked questions

What is the temperature in Greece in summer?

The average temperature in a Greek summer is between 30 to 35 degrees Celsius, or 86 and 95 Fahrenheit. It is possible to have days on which the temperature is even higher, reaching 40 degrees Celcius or 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Can I visit Athens in summer?

I would not do this and plan a trip to Athens during any other season. However, if you are from a warmer country yourself, it might be ok for you to explore this city in the Greek summer heat.

What can you do in Greece in summer?

Enjoy the sea! Beach holidays and island hopping are the most popular ways of spending a summer in Greece. The mornings are perfect for sightseeing though. During the afternoons you can relax on a beach and swim in the beautiful sea. Watersports are a great option as well.

Can I drink tap water in Greece?

Mostly the answer is yes. However, in smaller villages and on the islands, it is always good to check with the owner of your accommodation. Greek tap water does have a strong taste of chlorine though, and since water bottles are pretty cheap, they are the best and safest option everywhere.

Where can I buy water in Greece?

Supermarkets, gas stations, and kiosks all sell bottles of water at a good price. The cheapest are the big bottles at the supermarkets. But it is illegal in Greece to not offer affordable water. Half a liter in the most fancy place, should not cost more than 50 cents.

Does it get cold in Greece?

Yes. You can even go skiing or snowboarding in the north of Greece during winter. However, in the south, on Crete for example, winters are mild and temperatures, on average, stay above 12 degrees Celsius, or 53 degrees Fahrenheit. The more north you go in Greece, the colder the winters get.

What is the best time to travel to Greece?

May, June, and September are the best months to explore Greece. The temperatures are not too high, but it rarely rains. Perfect for visiting archeological sites and villages but also hiking and swimming are possible these months. During July and August, Greece is overcrowded with tourists and temperatures are really high. From October till April, you can still have amazing days in Greece, but not for a beach holiday. These months are good for exploring the culture and hiking. January and February are great for skiing, or snowboarding.

Where can I buy sunblock in Greece?

Every Greek supermarket and pharmacy will have sunblock. The bigger kiosks and souvenir shops will often sell it as well. 

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