Greece is situated in the extreme southeast of Europe and comprises the southern part of the Balkan peninsula. It is bordered by Bulgaria and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on the north, by Albania on the northwest, and by Turkey on the northeast.
Greece is a mountainous country with a very indented coastline and it includes numerous islands in the Aegean Sea, the Ionian Islands in the west, of which Corfu is the best known, and the large island of Crete, which lies in the middle of the eastern Mediterranean.
As a result of this intermingling of mountain, island, and sea there are many local differences in the weather and climate within the country but the general features of weather throughout the year are much the same.
In the north the climate bears some resemblance to that found in Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; elsewhere the influence of the Mediterranean is dominant. Summers are warm or even hot, with almost no cloud or rain for three months. The wettest season is winter, when the weather is generally mild at sea level although occasional spells of cold weather occur.
Snow may fall almost anywhere in Greece in winter but is rare in the islands and does not lie for long at sea level. Spring and autumn are short seasons of transition from winter rain to summer heat and sun, when the weather may be very changeable from day to day. For those who dislike heat, April and May or September or October may be the most enjoyable seasons in Greece.
An outstanding feature of the Greek climate is the large amount of sunshine. This varies from four to five hours a day in midwinter to as much as twelve to fourteen hours a day in midsummer. These amounts may be rather reduced in the mountains and in the extreme north. Rain tends to be heavy when it occurs and rarely lasts for very long except in the mountains or along the wetter west coast.
Around the coasts and on the islands the summer heat is greatly tempered by strong to fresh daytime breezes. On a few occasions, however, when the air is calm, the daytime heat can be oppressive inland or in a large town such as Athens. During the three summer months a persistent northerly wind, known as the etesian, blows in the Aegean and it may on occasions reach near gale force. It is strongest by day and drops to a near calm at night.
In the mountain regions of Greece, where many areas rise above 2,400 m/7,900 ft, the weather in winter and even into spring can be severe with frequent and heavy falls of snow and prolonged frost. Here summers are very pleasant since the days are sunny and often warm. The table for Trikala illustrates conditions inland at moderate elevation and within the mountains.
Eastern Greece is the driest part of the country and the table for Athens is representative of much of eastern Greece at low levels. The table for Thessaloniki shows that in northern Greece the winters are a little colder and the summers are not quite so rainless; summer thunderstorms occur here.
Conditions in the Aegean Islands and Crete are illustrated by the table for Náxos; here the winters are the mildest in the country and the summer heat is tempered by sea breezes and the persistent etesian wind.
Visitors to Greece may find the sea rather too chilly for bathing in April or even early May, despite the high air temperature on sunny days. On the other hand in October or even November the sea still retains much of its summer warmth.
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