Want to head to Greece but don’t know the best time to go? While there’s no bad time to visit this gorgeous country, the summer months bring huge crowds and sweltering heat, which can take away from your visit. It’s much better to visit during shoulder season – that is, between peak and off-peak seasons.
Generally, there are far fewer tourists, the weather is milder (great for hiking and outdoor pursuits) and you can still swim in the blue waters of the Aegean – though it might be a little colder! Even better, traveling in shoulder season is generally cheaper for travel and accommodation than it would be in the peak season! Now, it’s just working out where to go.
In this post, we’ll take a look at six of the best Greek islands to visit in May. Though many Greek islands operate seasonally, most are fully open by this point and are gearing up for the summer rush!
Which Greek Islands to Visit in May?
Rising out of the Aegean Sea, the whitewashed houses and blue-domed churches of Santorini are one of the most evocative images of Greece. Four villages on this island in the Cyclades are built into the broken caldera of a volcano which is still active to this day! It’s one of the most popular destinations in Greece, but when is the best time to visit?
Though Santorini is open all year round, visiting in winter isn’t ideal as a lot of restaurants and accommodation aren’t fully operational. Likewise, coming here in the height of summer, you’ll find the narrow winding streets to be thronged with tourists, and you won’t get a sunset photo without someone getting in the way!
Visiting Santorini in May means you won’t have to queue to sample the unique and fresh island cuisine, and you will have plenty of space to spread out on the island’s volcanic-sand beaches.
Along with Santorini, Mykonos is another of the most popular Cycladic islands. It boasts a rugged and rocky coastline punctuated by sandy beaches, as well as picturesque and colorful fishing villages where you can find wonderful tavernas serving fresh and delicious seafood.
If you want the image of Mykonos from the Fleet Foxes song, rather than the beach parties and lively parties that happen most nights during the summer, then you’re in luck. Mykonos is up there with the best Greek islands to visit in May.
Though the nightlife is active, it’s not as hedonistic and wild as the summer months, meaning that the island is quiet and charming. The average temperature is usually around 23 degrees, and there are eleven hours of sunshine a day. Plenty of time to swim, and the water should be warm enough to take a refreshing dip!
Crete gets more than 300 days of sunshine throughout the year, and it’s open to tourism throughout the year. You can even visit in winter should you wish to, although it’s definitely not recommended to swim in the sea then! By May, the waters of Balos Beach (and others around the island) are warm enough thanks to Crete’s location near north Africa.
One of the top activities to do on the island is hiking – Samara Gorge is the longest gorge in Europe, and hiking through the national park that surrounds it is a wonderful way to spend your time on the island. Although there are shaded points in the gorge, it gets very hot and uncomfortable during the summer months, but that’s not something you’ll have to worry about if visiting in May.
Rhodes is another of the Greek islands that are open to tourism all year round. Though some of the resort towns, such as Pefkos and Phaliraki, will be quiet, the historic capital of the Dodecanese Islands has more to offer than just sun, sea, and sand.
The UNESCO World Heritage-listed island capital Rhodes Town is a charming place to visit, and it boasts medieval and Byzantine architecture. There are also scores of restaurants, bars, and nightlife that you can make the most of during your trip.
Prefer to stay away from the main town? Head to Lindos. This charming, whitewashed town on the side of a hill is guarded over by its Acropolis. The Acropolis overlooks the heart-shaped St Paul’s Bay, a favorite romantic spot of couples visiting the island. By May, the water is certainly warm enough to swim there.
With an average of 291 hours of sun in May, this is a great time to visit Hydra. One of the Saronic Islands, further north than the Cyclades and Crete but with a water temperature of 18 degrees, you could still go for a swim here.
The car-free island is just an hour and a half from Athens, so it makes an ideal day trip for those visiting the Greek capital outside of Greece’s traditional high season.
Those looking for a longer stay are often inspired by Hydra’s beauty, and it has previously been a popular spot for famous artists including Leonard Cohen and David Shrigley.
Last of all is the most northern of the islands on this list. But don’t be put off, Corfu is still up there with the best Greek islands in May. In fact, it welcomes tourists throughout the year – many of which come to visit Corfu’s pretty main town.
Even if the water is too cold for swimming on this Ionian paradise, you can wander through the ancient Roman village Kassiopi, admire the Venetian fortresses in Corfu Old Town or go for a drive through the island’s mountainous interior.
Between September and June, Corfu does get moderate rainfall, and of all the islands on this list, Corfu has the highest chance of rainfall. How else would it be so verdant?