One of Crete’s most popular and romantic destinations, Chania is truly a lovely town. The large and yacht-filled marina is lined with Venetian boat houses, some now serving as exhibition spaces and cafes. The central port is marked by an extraordinary mosque, and protected by a jetty crowned with an Egyptian lighthouse. The old town of Chania is particularly enchanting, with winding alleys adorned with jasmine and bougainvillea, and squares shaded with plane trees. There are beautiful churches, boutique hotels in extraordinary buildings, and elegant restaurants set in picturesquely crumbling ruins beneath the starry skies overhead. The central covered market is not only a fine place for souvenirs, but also the heart of the city, where locals shop daily for fresh fish, artisanal cheeses, and seasonal produce. Make time to visit Halepa to the east, the neighborhood of elegant villas, and then walk down to the old tanneries, now the site of Chania’s loveliest fish tavernas, directly on the romantically lit docks.
The Chania region is home to some of the most famous beaches in Greece, and therefore the world. Here are some to visit:
Beach, lagoon, and sandy island, Elafonissi is a protected preserve, part of the Natura 200 network and a habitat for flora and fauna. The white dunes of the island are covered with rare wildflowers, and the lagoon is edged with pink sands – truly a paradise worth the drive to Crete’s southwestern shores.
Getting to Balos is half the experience. Off the very tip of Crete’s westernmost peninsula jutting out into the sea is an island and a lagoon of jeweltoned water. Now you can reach this fabulous spot by boat from neighboring Kissamos. But consider coming the old-fashioned way, by jeep along a rough road to the peninsula’s tip, then hiking about two kilometers down a gentle slope. You’ll be in the company of the goats as you enjoy the spectacular view.
A “new” beach, this strange and beautiful spot was not too long ago known only to local fishermen. From above, this secret cove looks like a lightning bolt, with the crisp blue sea zig-zagging through the white rocky cliffs. The hike down is steep and challenging.
Gorges of Chania
Right outside of Chania is a beautiful gorge – Therisos – that leads to a historic village of the same name. From Therissos, home of the mother of Eleftherios Venizelos the great statesman, began the Therissos revolt, a crucial step towards Cretan independence and Crete’s ultimate union with Greece. You will find a museum of National resistance in Therisos as well as a Historical and Folklore museum. But honestly, as worthy a destination as this is from the historical perspective, many locals come here primarily for the gorgeous drive then an excellent meal – the charming rustic restaurants of Therisos are famous for the excellence of their grilled meats.
The Samaria Gorge
This is one of the most famous hikes in the world, a wonderful life experience. The 17 kilometers are indeed a challenge – even if they are all downhill. Buses bring you to Xyloskalo, and from here you will descend 1200 meters in elevation to Agia Roumeli. Here you can refresh yourself in the crisp waters of the Libyan Sea before returning by boat to Sfakia, via lovely Loutro. From Sfakia, a charming port, buses will bring you back to Chania.