The weather in Greece in May can be a bit variable as the air temperatures start to warm up but water temperatures are still cool, so working out which are the best Greek Islands in May can be a challenge.
There are some great places to visit particularly in the southern Aegean & Dodecanese islands and Crete which have plenty to see and do, not just beaches and water-related activities. The prices are ‘shoulder’ and the crowds don’t really start to ramp up until June.
It is still Spring and there are many parts of Greece, especially on the Mainland in Central and Northern Greece and Crete where the spring flowers can be quite spectacular.
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The average maximum temperature in May is around 20°C/ 71 F. There will usually be cool breezes at night but exploring during the day can be quite pleasant without the searing temperatures or the crowds of Summer.
The 8 warmest greek islands to visit in may are:
1. Crete – history, mythology, mountains, hiking, food and wine, wildflowers, waterfalls, (its got something for everyone!)
2. Rhodes – history, archaeology, day trips to Turkey, 4WD safaris
3. Karpathos – charming villages, mythology, hiking, caves
4. Santorini – archeology, wine and cooking, theatre and shows, sailing
5. Syros – history and culture, theatre, nightlife & casino, government
6. Hydra – art, history, hiking, tranquility, music, day trips to the Mainland
7. Aegina – pistachios, archaeology, hiking, wildflowers, day trips to other Saronic Islands and the Peloponnese
8. Kos – history, medicine, food, castles, day trips to Kalimnos or Leros
Greek Islands to avoid in may
Like many islands around the world, the Greek Islands are mostly seasonal and are one of the most popular summer destinations on the planet.
In Summer, islands that are heavily beach-focused such as Mykonos, Naxos, Milos, Elafonisos, and Koufonisia are at their prime with beach clubs, bars, and water sports in full swing but outside June to October they can be quiet with many activities, shops and attractions not fully operational.
In Mykonos, most beach bars and clubs open after Easter but the International DJs and world-renowned Beach parties don’t start happening until June.
Whilst water temperature is a very subject thing and has a lot to do with where you are from and what you are used to, many people find that May is not really beach weather and avoid islands that are heavily geared to the beach and the sea.
Crete is the southernmost island in Greece and enjoys average May daytime temperatures of 23 degrees/74 Fahrenheit making it one of the warmest greek islands to visit in May.
The water is usually warm enough for swimming and the weather is usually calm, with occasional showers.
Crete is also at the tail end of any Meltemi winds that may start to blow at this time of year so transport and activities are rarely disrupted.
Being shoulder season there are lots of great accommodation specials and crowds are relatively low at the many popular sites and activities too. Boat trips to Balos Beach and Spingalonga will have started running and visiting Knossos Palace is pleasant even on sunny days.
Crete is also one of the most popular hiking destinations in Greece so Spring weather makes this quite bearable.
How to get to Crete
There is also a small domestic airport at Lassithi which is close to popular Sitia.
Many people also arrive by Ferry. The main terminal is in Heraklion but there is also a port in Chania and both have regular connections with Athens. In Summer there are also ferries from the Capital to Sitia and Rethymnon.
Where to stay in Crete
If you are short on time then Chania or Rethymnon are the best places to stay. Heraklion too but the others are much prettier.
If you have longer it’s a good idea to split your stay between say Chania for the East and somewhere like Agios Nikolaos or Elounda for the West.
If you have even more time and/or really want to get away from it all then head to the south where some places are still only accessible by boat.
In Chania, Monastery Estate Venetian Harbour is stunning and right near the old town and the beautiful Venetian Harbour. Amazing views and hot tubs too!
In Rethymnon, it’s hard to beat Dyo Suites which has suites with amazing sea views and indoor jacuzzis, and Vista Del Porto Luxury Suites are very similar. Rimondi Boutique Hotel is part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World Group and is right in the heart of the Old Town near Pepi Boutique Hotel which is Adults Only and also incredible.
For families and groups:
Kores Boutique Houses in Chania have big 3-bedroom villas that can sleep up to 6 people or you could rent adjoining two-bedroom apartments at Centro Storico or Spring Apartments. Hotels like Epavli Boutique and SanSal are very experienced in looking after large groups and have fantastic swimming pools too.
Elois Suites in Rethymnon Old Town have 2 bedrooms apartments that sleep 4 or Made of Blue Luxury Suites have 3 bedrooms Villas. Calmare is a new and very chic property on the beachfront near the OId Town and has family rooms.
In addition to the stunning landscapes and intriguing archaeological attractions, Rhodes also enjoys a lively cultural scene with lots of great cafes and restaurants, as well as plenty of nightlife. With a longer tourist season than most islands and a popular cruise ship destination, Rhodes is enjoyed by visitors year-round.
Located in the Dodecanese Islands, Rhodes is the third largest island in Greece and has something for everyone and all budgets.
Its history is particularly fascinating having been occupied over the centuries by the Byzantines, Ottomans, Romans and the Knights Hospitaller.
Perhaps most famously, it is believed to have been the site of the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Today you can also visit the impressive Acropolis of Lindos, dating back to 300 BC, which towers over the charming town of Lindos and the beautiful beaches of St.Pauls Bay next door.
There is also the Palace of the Grand Master in Rhodes Old Town built in part by the Byzantine Empire in the 7th Century and then by the Knights Hospitaller, a Medieval Catholic Order, in around 1309. If you are a history lover or keen to explore ancient sites about Greek mythology then Rhodes is a perfect choice.
There are also a lot of great beaches and because of the warmer weather, the beach bars have a long season which runs from April until November each year.
How to get to Rhodes
Rhodes has a small international airport that has flights from some European destinations like England year-round and numerous flights from all over Europe and further afield in Summer. The are daily flights to Athens and regular flights to Thessaloniki in summer too.
There is a large ferry port with connections to the other Dodecanese islands and on to the Cyclades, Northern Aegean Islands and Crete as well as Athens. There are also regular connections to Turkey.
Where to stay in Rhodes
If visiting between outside summer then the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Rhodes Old Town is a great choice so you can enjoy the history and learn about the rich background of the island. Here we love In Camera Art Boutique Hotel and Bibliotheque, which has 3-bedroom apartments, perfect for families and groups.
If you’re still keen to make the most of the first warm days of the year by the beach then Bellevue on the Beach Suites are fantastic or further out at Faliraki is Ammades All Suites Adults Only resort with an amazing beachfront swimming pool. All-inclusive fans love Atlantica Imperial Resort.
If you’re looking for both history and beach then Lindos ticks both boxes and is considered one of the most beautiful spots on the island. F Charm Adults Only Hotel is superb or Villa Aphrodite is a stunning 3 bedroom Villa in heart of the old town with a big terrace and sea views.
Located between Crete and Rhodes is Karpathos, an island that actually has the highest temperatures of all the Greek Islands. It is the second largest of the Dodecanese Islands and has a population of around 7000 people.
With daytime averages usually around 26 degrees/80 Fahrenheit and little rain, this island is off the beaten path and is a very authentic island experience. There are beautiful beaches, charming villages and great hiking paths as well as hidden coves and caves, and the neighbouring islet of Saria, which is a popular playground in Summer.
Due to its relatively remote location Karpathos has retained some of its unique customs and traditions which are evident in the costumes, recipes and even the dialect. It also has a rich and often bloody history like many of the islands in the area and in Greek Mythology it was believed to be the birthplace of the Titans.
This is an island that is not only one of the best and warmest Greek Islands to visit in May but is relatively untouched by mass tourism and is perfect for rest and tranquility.
How to get to Karpathos
There is a small airport on Karpathos so it’s possible to fly from Athens, or fly to Rhodes and take a ferry from there.
Where to stay in Karpathos
Couples and Solo: Bella Vista Suites in Karpathos Town have big 1 bedroom apartments with amazing sea views.
Groups and Families: Hotel Finiki View in Foinikion is a very affordable small hotel with a big pool for the kids. If you would prefer a self-contained house then check out Villa Anastasia in Voladha which can sleep up to 7 people and has a pool and sweeping views across the island. Ardani Paradise Villa in Amoopi is also excellent with 2 bedrooms that sleep 4 in 3 beds and a jacuzzi with stunning sea views. Perfect for cool October nights!
Santorini is a bucket list destination for most people and for good reason.
Despite the cruise ships and the crowds, it remains one of those places that not only meets your expectations but probably exceeds them. The views truly are the stuff of legends and it is little wonder it is so popular with honeymooners.
There are a surprising amount of things to do on Santorini with beaches, wineries, hot springs, great shopping, hiking and some of the world’s most iconic and photographed sunsets.
The beaches on Santorini are volcanic and not the best in Greece. But with so many other things to see and do it attracts people with a wide variety of interests and for that reason, many areas operate year-round.
In October it pays to get a room with a jacuzzi rather than a pool, especially for the cool nights later in the month,
How to get to Santorini
The small international airport in Santorini has several flights to Athens a day as well as regular flights in summer from other European destinations like Rome and England. Check flight schedules HERE.
There are also many ferries each day, year-round.
Where to stay in Santorini
There are 18 towns and villages in Santorini. Most visitors stay in just 6 of them but particularly the Capital, Fira or the much-photographed Oia or Imerovigli. All of these are perched on the Caldera and look out over the volcano, with incredible sunsets.
Some people also like to stay in the beachside towns of Kamari or Perissa which are more affordable alternatives.
For couples & solo: It’s hard to beat Santorini Supreme for luxury, privacy, and increible views from the private pool. Sweet Peony is also gorgeous and quite good value compared to other villas of its standard. For something a bit different look at Pyrgos 1870 winery.
In Oia, Armeni Village is very central and accessible and they have loft-style rooms with daybeds as well. For groups wanting something really special have a look at this amazing Windmill which sleeps 6, or Porcelain Pegasus villa with its own big pool.
Also known as Siros or Syra this island is very different from the others in the group with its colorful neo-classical buildings and many impressive Government buildings, museums, theatres, and even a casino!
This is the most populated of the Cyclades islands and is the Administrative hub with all Government services including law courts, a big hospital, and the biggest city hall in Greece, it makes it a year-round destination. There is even a stunning Theatre, the Opera and a Casino!
Syros was one of the only Cycladic islands not occupied at some point by the Ottomans so its history is quite unique and fascinating. It was largely developed by the Venetians and the French, hence the beautiful architecture, and to this day its inhabitants are 50% Greek Orthodox and 50% Catholic.
While there are some good beaches on Syros if it is cool there is plenty of other things to do due to its many cultural interests. It’s a treasure chest for history buffs and is a very affordable island too with fantastic, authentic tavernas and cafes.
May Day (May 1st) is a big public holiday across all of Greece and Syros in particular really celebrates with a number of festivities and parades, mostly around the Town Square.
How to get to Syros
Syros has a domestic airport with year-round flights, especially during the tourist season. All flights are to or from Athens and take just 25 minutes.
Syros is well connected by boat, and reaching it by sea is simple. The ferry from Piraeus, the main port of Athens, takes between 2.5 and 4 hours depending on which ferry you book.
Syros can also be reached via ferry services from another Athens port, Rafina, which runs from May to October. This daily service takes 1.5 hours.
There are also a number of different boat connections to many of the other Cycladic islands, such as Crete, Thessaloniki, Skiathos, and the Dodecanese islands.
Where to stay in Syros
For couples & Solo: The new DIIO Suites have amazing views of the port and are very well priced. Also with amazing views, but this time of Verona bay lined with gorgeous colorful neo-classical buildings, it’s hard to beat Pafsilipon Suites with gorgeous rooms decked out with every conceivable amenity.
You can also find hotels such as charming Wind Tales situated high on a hilltop in medieval Ano Syros. If you are looking for a bit of a splurge the stunning Aristide Hotel is a design dream and, in our opinion, one of the most stylish hotels in the Greek Islands.
For families and groups: For something really unique, situated high on the hill in Ano Syros up behind Ermoupoli is Anemomylos Windmill which is a fair way from the center of town but with incredible, panoramic views.
Galissas is one of the most popular of Syros’ tourist resorts and has one of the best and biggest beaches and the best sunsets on the island. Here Dolphin Bay Resort is very popular with families or Caviri Apartments, which is surrounded by nature.
Further reading: A Complete Guide to Syros
Situated in the Saronic Islands, Hydra is one of the wealthiest islands in Greece and is where the original ship-owning families built neo-classical mansions on the hills. The locals fought in the Greek War of Independence, while the island’s ships and wealth supported the war.
Hydra was home to a number of famous people including one of Greece’s most important 20th-century painters -Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas Painters and poets such as Seferis and Katsimbalis. Katsimbalis was visited by Author Henry Miller, who was then visited by Australian playwright George Johnston and his wife Charmain Clift who moved to the island and were joined by famous Canadian musician Leonard Cohen, who went on to live in Hydra for 20 years.
Nowadays, Hydra remains a much-loved hotspot but is largely undeveloped. This is partly due to stringent planning regulations, which have ensured that the island’s quaint charm remains intact. As a result, Hydra oozes charm and charisma, with donkey carts and quaint, renovated houses spilling down the hills to the harbour.
While Hydra is calm and traditional, there are also some great clifftop beach bars that are very popular with Athenians on the weekends. Hydra has some good beaches accessible by water taxi but is also a great place for people seeking history and culture who aren’t looking for the beach at all.
Also, because the Saronic Islands tightly hug the Saronic gulf they are the most protected in Greece in terms of wind and bad weather. It is highly unlikely you will experience seasickness in this area and ferry cancellations are not common.
How to get to Hydra
There is no airport on Hydra or, in fact, any of the Saronic islands. The closest one is Athens so a trip to the Saronic Island will always involve the sea, even if you drive to one of the small mainland ports on the Argolis peninsula and catch a small ferry over.
From Pireaus Port Hellenic Seaways Flying Dolphin and Hydrofoils run daily trips to Hydra and several times a day in Summer. Tickets are usually €28 per person and the journey takes 90-120 minutes.
From Varkiza Marina in Athens, you can pre-book a sea taxi to take you to Hydra Town, Kamini, Vlychos, Plakes or Mandraki. This takes 2 hours and costs €500 one way for up to 8 passengers.
Where to stay in Hydra
Most visitors to Hydra stay in Hydra Town (also known as Idra). It’s impossible to land on the island without being struck by the beauty of Hydra Town. The town is wrapped around the island’s port, which is also one of the most beautiful sights on the island.
Groups and families: Villa ADA is a lovely 3-bedroom house at the back of Hydra Town with sea views and a big terrace. It can sleep 6 people plus a child or two and there are 3 bathrooms as well which is a bonus.
A DAY TRIP TO HYDRA
If you are short on time it is quite possible to do a day trip from Athens to the Saronic island. You can either use the ferry system as mentioned above or join a full-day cruise that visits Poros and Aegina as well and includes lunch!
There is also a VIP cruise option which includes your transfers in Athens, priority boarding and access to a VIP lounge on the boat.
Further reading: A Complete Guide to Hydra
The island of Aegina is also located in the Saronic group of islands, and is only one hour by ferry from Athens. It has good weather year-round and is relatively protected from the famous Meltemi wind that can blow hard on some parts of the Aegean.
With its mix of traditional Greek coastal towns, ancient history, beaches, nightlife and great food, Aegina is the best of the Greek islands rolled into one.
The bonus is that, unlike other islands, it’s practically on Athens’ doorstep, making it easy to reach, and it’s very affordable, too. In fact, a lot of people who live on Aegina work in Athens and commute every day. It’s not as glamorous as it’s neighbours Hydra and Spetses but it is also a lot cheaper and even more accessible.
Aegina is renowned for its Pistachio’s, and the Temple of Aphea is one of the most important in the country. It’s an authentic island that is perfect for visiting year-round and perfect for May.
How to get to Aegina
Being so close to Athens visiting is fairly straightforward.
There are four ferry companies that run between Athens’ port, Piraeus, and Aegina, all of which leave from the east side of Piraeus Port at Gate 8. Ferry companies are Anes Ferries, Blue Star Ferries, Saronic Ferries and Aegean Flying Dolphins.
Where to stay in Aegina
The main town on the island of Aegina is also called Aegina. This is the capital and principal port and therefore pretty busy with tourists, hotels, restaurants and things to do. The whole town’s a picture-perfect place, and staying here means taking long walks along the harbour, stopping off for a pick-me-up at one of the town’s many cafes, and enjoying fresh fish in a taverna.
Solo and couples: Here we recommend staying at Plaza Hotel, a great budget choice right across from the beach with amazing sunset views or the charmingAeginitikon Arhontikon Boutique Hotelwhich is in an historic building .
Families and groups: If travelling in a group Los Pistachiosis on the outskirts of town and is a truly amazing new 2 bedroom Villa with a small pool, a gym , a beautiful garden and even a fireplace and can easily sleep 6. Right in town is another fantastic place,Feidiou1, a renovated 2 bedroom apartment in a converted mansion by the Port.
Further Reading: A Complete Guide to Aegina
The island of Kos, in the Aegean Sea, is the third largest and second most populous island in the Greek Dodecanese Islands. Located just over 2 hours from Rhodes by ferry, Kos also has an International Airport so it’s easy to see why so many many people choose Kos holidays as their summer escape.
Once you arrive, you’ll be impressed by how Kos maintains its small beach town vibe without lacking in any of the comforts you want on a vacation.
Kos is where the great Greek physician Hippocrates is from, who is known as the father of medicine and the reason for the Hippocratic Oath taken by Doctors to this day. He was born on the island around 460BC and used to teach his students under a big Plane Tree in Kos Town, which you can still visit today. It is also believed to be where Saint Paul taught the word of Christ centuries later.
From May to September there are various festivals and recitations in Kos honouring Hippocrates and his oath.
On top of this, the island boasts some of the region’s most beautiful white sandy beaches alongside a myriad of archaeological sites, such as the Sanctuary of Asklepio (son of Apollo) and a castle built by the Knights of St.John, just ripe for exploration. Between the fantastic weather, laid-back feel, incredible beaches, and some of the best Greek food you could ask for, Kos is a paradise just waiting to be explored.
How to get to Kos
FLYING TO KOS
If you aren’t anywhere near the islands there’s no need to worry because Kos has an airport – the Kos Island International Airport – which receives flights from not only all over Greece but many different destinations.
Flying in from Athens takes just an hour’s flight time. The airport is buzzing in the summer when primarily British and German airlines are flying in daily to serve the holiday-goers flying in from abroad.
The airport is just a half-hour drive from Kos City, and you can easily find a taxi. Alternatively, there is a public bus running frequently, and the stop is just outside the main entrance.
FERRY TO KOS
If you are island-hopping, Kos has ferry routes running with four of the surrounding islands – Rhodes, Patmos, Leros, and Kalymnos.
Ferry rides are a little longer and even the closest island, Patmos, is a three-hour journey (a beautiful one, though).
There are ferries from Athens too, but this would really qualify as taking the scenic route since that trip will be around 11 hours. Be sure to book a cabin on the Blue Star and enjoy a mini-cruise!
The nearby Turkish town of Bodrum also has a ferry route to Kos, if you’re approaching from the east.
Where to stay in Kos
The majority of the hotels in Kos are in the island’s main city, also called Kos. The rest are largely concentrated along the northern coast. Tourism is the island’s biggest industry, alongside farming and exports of Greek goods like figs, almonds, olives, and tomatoes, so there are a surprisingly large number of hotel options in the main city.
Albergo Gelsomino Hotel is a beautifully restored building-turned-hotel sitting right at the water’s edge on the eastern shores of Kos, with the beach only steps away. A section of the beach is private for hotel guests only, complete with comfortable chairs and beach umbrellas.
Blue Lagoon City Hotel offers luxury at a low price so great for travelers on a budget. Open year-round even during the tourism off-season, the Blue Lagoon is a few minutes from the beach but compensates by having an indoor and outdoor pool, gym facility, and spa with sauna.
ELSEWHERE ON KOS
Cirillo Family Hotel is a small, family-run hotel in the former fishing village of Mastichari. It is set in a private area surrounded by gardens, just a few minutes walk from the beach. Rooms and suites are comfortable, decorated in an Aegean style, and with sea, garden, or mountain views.
Origin Hotel Apartments is located in the popular southern coastal town of Kardamena. Suites are comfortable, modern, but without the frills, offering great accommodation at a low rate. The hotel is located close to the beach and also close to the airport. There is an outdoor pool as well.
OKU Kos will make you feel like you’ve stepped into paradise. This is an adult-only hotel with a private beach and outdoor pool, as well as a well-known boutique restaurant. The overall decor is luxury with a laid-back, island feel – the ample straw parasols, stonework, palm trees, and private villas give it a Bali or Tulum vibe.
Further Reading: A Complete Guide to Kos
Events in Greece in May
May Day /Labor Day – May 1
Protomagia is one of the biggest holidays of the year and cause for much celebration across the country. This is also Labour Day so public transport does not usually run and many shops and attractions are closed. Large demonstrations are often held, particularly in Athens where they culminate in Syntagma Square.
The Day of the Holy Spirit
This runs for the 50 days after Orthodox Easter ( so a different time each year) and celebrates when the Holy Spirit asked the Apostles to spread the word of Christ. Usually, schools and universities are closed.
The Unification of the Ionian Islands – May 21 (Corfu)
Anniversary of the Battle of Crete – May 21 (Crete)
The feast days for Saint Constantine and Saint Helena – May 21 (all over)
Orthodox Pentecost – May 28/29
The Paleological Festival of Mystras – May 29 (Mystras)
Festival of Saint Theodosia – May 29 (Akrotiri, Santorini)
The Hadjipetria Festival – end of the month ( Trikala)