I am a 18 year old from Vancouver, Canada and my friend and I have decided to spend 10-12 months in Europe after we finish school. Since we are going for such a long time we will have to travel during the winter. Since most of Northern Europe is too cold to backpack through in the winter months we have considered starting in Italy or Greece. Both countries have a milder climate. We are just wondering if anyone has any recomendations about travelling in the winter in the mediterranean. Good or bad? Warm or cold? Dry or wet? any help would be great.
Whilst Northern Europe can be relatively cold, i would say that most of the standard places backpackers go rarely, if ever, become too cold to backpack around. Also, some of the colder places - Scandinavia for example - can be as good in winter when they are covered with snow, whilst obviously you have the chance for excursions to see Northern lights or do different things (i.e skiing/dogsledding) which aren't possible in summer.
As for the Mediterranean, it can be really good in winter - whilst still generally warm enough (although can get suprisingly cold at night in places), they obviously aren't as hot (or crowded) in winter so you can do stuff and see things which would be too hot for or simply overcrowded in summer. Against that, many of the Greek islands for example, are virtually closed down so open accom/attractions/bars etc which are aimed specifically at tourists can hard to find.
If it helps, i personally prefer Spain in winter than in summer, and Greece in spring or autumn. Italy depends where you go - obviously the Northern end can be quite cold and snowy, whereas the southern parts are likely to be a fair bit warmer. Neither is likely to be particularly wet.
Whatever you do, do NOT come to the UK in Winter! Our winters can be cold but more often are wet and cloudy! The best time to visit I think is the spring, although Scotland in September can be gorgeous. Our summers are very unpredictable.
Mainland europe (southern areas) do become very hot in the summer, and also very crowded . . . so i would suggest aim for the south in winter and the north in winter, and visit the islands in spring in autumn!
PS I suspect you will receive a whole range of replies since all of us are after different things from our travels. . .might be worth looking at the Rough Guide First Time Europe