This southern end of the Balkan Peninsula is most famed for its gleaming pebble beaches, balmy Aegean waters, idyllic islands, and Mediterranean food. Most travel brochures depict it as consistently baked in sun and bathed in warmth. That’s sort of true, but there’s another side to the home of moussaka and Zorba: The coldest places in Greece.
It’s those chillier climbs that we focus on here. We head to the heights of the Peloponnesian mountains, through the summits of northern Greece, and even across the waters of the Ionian Sea to showcase locations where you can find Greece at its coolest, and perhaps even catch some of the white stuff come the winter months.
Talking of the winter, all of the coldest places in Greece will be at their coldest between November and March. That’s the low season in the Med as a whole, so should mean smaller travel crowds and smaller prices for hotels and tours to match.
The island of Corfu is hailed as one of the prettiest in the whole Ionian Sea, the sea that makes up the eastern portion of Greece. It’s got hills clad in pine and olive forests and shores threaded by wonderful pebble coves like Paliokastrira. It’s also home to one of the most hedonistic nightlife destinations in the country: Kavos, an 18-30s resort that pumps with parties from May to September.
The coolest months here are the opposite of the party time, though. They run from November to March and can see temperatures drop to as low as zero Celsius on occasion. On top of that, Corfu has more rainfall than islands over in the Aegean thanks to a consistent stream of winter storms moving west through the Mediterranean Basin. That can help cool things even more, but also gives the isle its trademark greenery and lushness.
The reason that Corfu figures among the coldest places in Greece is really that it’s quite far north. In fact, it’s the most northerly island in the whole country, sitting closer to Italy and Albania than to Athens.
There’s no doubt that Mount Olympus is among the coldest places in Greece. This is the country’s highest peak, soaring to a whopping 2,918 meters above sea level at its highest point. That superlative altitude means that the summit is often shrouded in cold air that can be 20-30 Celsius lower than on the beaches of Limani Litochorou and Variko just below. Come the winter months, all that translates into snowfall, and there’s usually a white cap to Olympus from early-October onwards, occasionally even two full meters of it!
This giant peak isn’t just known as a chilly spot in the land of otherwise balmy holiday destinations. It’s also steeped in myth and history. The ancients believed the mountain was the home of the gods. They built temples and shrines around its base, which you can now visit.
The climb to the top of Olympus is best done after the snow has melted in spring, or before it’s even fallen in autumn. The trek isn’t considered highly technical, apart from the final ascent to the main summit at Skala, which involves a bit of scrambling.
Some might think it strange to see the southernmost island of Greece on this list of the coldest spots in the country. But, ask any locals of lovely Creta and they’ll tell you that their long, thin isle can get downright chilly in the winter months – regular daytime lows of just four or five Celsius are possible in the midwinter.
That can be mild on the coastline but downright freezing in the mountains, of which Crete has many. Yep, the whole backbone of this isle is carved out by summits, which peak out at over 2,456 meters with the top of Mount Ida. Those highland areas can be clad in snow from December through to March some years!
Of course, being closer to Africa than to Athens means that Crete can also be baking in the winter months. It’s possible to laze on the sands of the south coast well into November time. Alternatively, focus on the historical sites like Knossos palace, which stay open all winter but will have WAY smaller crowds at that time of the year.
Mention the name of Kato Nevrokopi to any Greek local and you might just induce a shiver to run down the spine. The little town in the Drama regional unit up in the far north of the country is now officially the coldest place in the country. No surprise, then, that the nickname for pint-sized Kato is the Siberia of Greece!
In truth, the temperature stats are positively Siberian. Records of -18 were set here back in 2017. The festive period in 2021 saw it get as chilly as -11. And there’s even been a mega low of -28 in the past. So, yep: The Siberia of Greece it is!
The location is what really pushes wintertime temperatures to all-time lows in these parts. First off, Kato Nevrokopi is sufficiently far away from the coastline of Greece to have a continental climate, not a Mediterranean one. That means easterly low-pressure systems can come across from the Balkans and Russia, bringing cold and snow with them. Second, the altitude – the town is nearly 600 meters above sea level, on the cusp of the Rodopi Mountain Range that runs along the border with Bulgaria.
It’s not just Kato Nevrokopi that feels the full brunt of the continental storm systems in the winter. The city of Florina also swaps out that coveted Mediterranean climate for something a touch more shiver-inducing. Set deep in the mountains of northern Greece, this one’s a part of the Western Macedonia regional unit. It’s also less than 10 miles from the international border with neighboring North Macedonia.
The unique shape and orientation of the mountains that surround Florina mean that the center is regularly buffeted by freezing fog and heavy snowfall from around November onwards. That’s garnered it a rep as one of the most snow-heavy and chilly parts of the country, something that’s backed up by a record low temp of -29 C (that’s -20 F!).
Florina is a fun place to visit even if it’s caked in the white stuff. You’ll find mystical Byzantine-style churches, a smattering of local art galleries, and good access to the lakes and walking trails of the Prespa National Park.
Legendary Mount Parnassus is a whole massif that scores its way along the sides of the Gulf of Corinth. It’s actually the centerpiece of what’s seen as the largest and most encompassing mountain region in the nation, spreading across a trio of regional municipalities, from Boeotia all the way to Phocis.
By summer, that brings hikers. By winter, it brings snow and sub-zero temperatures and skiers. In fact, large parts of Parnassus are covered in marked pistes – a whopping 36km of them no less. They’re blessed with snowfall from around the start of December and can see nighttime temperatures dip to 10 under without problem.
Mount Parnassus is also packed with POIs for the culture buffs and history lovers out there. It actually overshadows the UNESCO site of Delphi, which was one of the most important religious and political gathering points of ancient Greece. Be sure to drop in there in the winter, as the famed Temple of Apollo and the adjoining museum is likely to be way less busy at that time.
We list Mainalon here because it’s almost certainly the coldest place in the whole of the Peloponnese region. And we probably don’t need to cite any nifty weather station stats to prove that. We only need to mention that this town is a ski resort. Yep, a ski resort less than 1.5 hours’ drive from the chic resort of Nafplion on the side of the Aegean Sea. Cool, huh?
Granted, Mainalon won’t rival the ski runs of the Alps. However, it’s fairly decent, touting 5.5km of linked runs, three lifts, and a series of nursery slopes for the total beginners. It backs that up with relatively good snow reliability, too – everything happens at between 1,500m and 1,800m above sea level, so good powder is usually on the menu from around December onwards.
One word of warning: Mainalon can be tricky to reach in the winter. The drive up isn’t too long from Corinth or Athens but it’s on narrow, winding mountain roads that are prone to snowdrifts and ice. Be very, very careful if you’re planning the expedition.
The coldest places in Greece – our conclusion
Greece isn’t usually known for its chillier locations. However, this list of the coldest places in Greece runs through just a few of the spots where the winter thermometer readings are likely to be in the single digits, or even in the negatives. It’s got soaring mountain peaks that the ancients thought were inhabited by gods, highland villages closer to Bulgaria than to the Aegean, and even islands washed by the waters of the Ionian Sea.