Chania: Live the adventure
Chania is the capital city of West Crete and one of the oldest in the island with a rich and tremendous history. The city has preserved its traditional architecture and most of its monuments from the Venetian and Turkish period. Archaeological sites, temples, squares and beautiful buildings compose the picture. The Venetian, Turkish, traditional and modern architecture co-exist in harmony, creating an attractive scenery for the visitors. The amazing Venetian harbour with its famous Lighthouse and the old town in the centre, welcome thousands of visitors each year. The modern part of the city is developing quite fast.
The prefecture of Chania consists of 5 provinces: Kydonia which includes the city of Chania and extends to the south, all the way to the White Mountains. Its coastal part is the main touristic area of West Crete. Further to the West, the region of Kissamos includes the two peninsulas of Rodopou and Gramvoussa. East of Chania, the region of Apokoronas is one of the greenest regions in Crete with hundreds of olive trees between the sea and the northern slopes of the White Mountains. In the South, the region of Selino stretches from the south-west on Crete to just beyond Sougia on the south coast. Sfakia is by far the largest of all the regions, preserving the strongest traditions. The White Mountains (or Lefka Ori) are located in the centre part of the prefecture of Chania.
Chania Prefecture is the greenest part of Crete. The landscape showcases wonderful beaches with golden sand and crystal-clear water, beautiful, imposing mountains and many impressive deep gorges.
It was built by the Venetians for over a period of 300 years (since 1320). The Harbour has two different basins: The basin in the West that was mainly used for unloading goods, stored in warehouses and the Eastern basin which was used to build and repair ships. It was lined up by arsenals on one side and protected from storms by a long mole leading to the Lighthouse.
The Egyptian Lighthouse is considered as one of the oldest in the world. It’s a unique historical monument, located at the edge of the breakwater in the old Port of Chania. It has a height of 21m, and its light reaches a distance of 7 miles. The original Venetian lighthouse was built in the late 16th century with the mandate to protect the harbour. However, during the Turkish occupation the Lighthouse fell into disrepair and was eventually rebuilt between 1824 and 1832 in the form of a minaret. The reference to the Lighthouse as “Egyptian” is due to the fact that it was built during the Egyptian occupation of Crete, supporting the weakening Ottoman Empire against the rebellious Cretans. The base of the Lighthouse is still the original Venetian and it was renovated in 2005.
The Arsenali buildings
Were constructed between 1467 and 1599 in the eastern harbour and were used as ship repair yards. They were in total 20; Seventeen of them in a row and three more separate ones, though nine of them were demolished during the Turkish occupation. The most notable of the Arsenali buildings is The Grand Arsenal. It was built last and had thicker walls. It has been used as a Christian school and later as a hospital. It also served as the City Hall until 1941 when it was partly destroyed by bombings. Nowadays, as it has been extensively restored, it stands as a beautiful building that hosts various exhibitions and events. It also hosts the Center of Mediterranean Architecture and some of the most important international architectural and cultural events.
The Mosque of Chania
The Kucjk Hassan Mosque (or Mosque of the Janissaries) is the unique preserved Mosque of the city and the oldest Ottoman building in Crete. It was built in 1645 when the Turks captured Chania and is located in the Venetian Port. The minaret was destroyed during the bombings of World War II. The building had been functioning as a Mosque until 1923. In the past years it was renovated and today is used as a place for cultural events and exhibitions.
The Municipal Market of Chania
Commonly known as the “Agora”, city’s Municipal Market was built between 1909 and 1913 at the standards of the covered market of Marseilles. It is a large building of 4000 square meters in the “heart” of the city, an remains an active market that houses shops with locals products such as cheeses, olives, raki, as well as vegetables, fish, meat, herbs, spices and more. In the summer many shops also sell tourist souvenirs. The Municipal Market stands as an architectural jewel for Chania, as it is one of the most impressive markets in Balkans.
Archaeological Museum of Chania
The exhibits of the Museum cover the Chania’s cultural history from the Neolithic period until the Roman Empire. The findings from the excavations come from many areas of the city and they came in light during the last 50 years. The Museum is located at the place of the Venetian Monastery of Agios Fragiskos in Halidon Street in Chania.
Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Collection
Located in the internal part of north-westernside of the fortification walls, the exhibition is focused on the historical and artistic identity of the region, during the Byzantine and Post-Byzantine period.
Nautical Museum of Crete
At the entrance of “Firka”, the Nautical Museum of Crete, stands at the historical fortress since 1973. It was founded in order to promote island’s nautical traditions and history. The Museum cooperates with other Nautical Museums in the country and abroad.
Museum of Eleftherios Venizelos
The fatherly house of Eleftherios Venizelos, one of the most important politicians in the Greek history is located in Halepa of Chania. He lived in that house for more than thirty years, (1880-1910) and later for short periods. Today it constitutes a Museum. You may also visit the house where Eleftherios Venizelos was born in Mournies that has also been transformed into Museum showcasing some of the most significant personal objects of the politician.
Municipal Art Gallery of Chania
It hosts significant works of painting, engraving and sculpture, dated by the 18th century until today, that were created by Greek and local artists. Part of the collection of works, exposed in the Municipal Art Gallery, was donated by Lykourgos Manousakis at late ‘50s.
Folklore Museum of Chania – Cretan House
At the centre of the Old city, next to the Catholic church, you can visit the Folklore Museum. It houses beautiful traditional exhibits that offer the visitor a concrete idea of the way that residents used to live during the 18th and 19th century in Crete.
Museum of the Greek National Football Team
It’s a unique museum in the whole country and one of the few that exist worldwide in this category. Through hundreds of the teams’ objects, throughout the years, visitors come across the history of the Greek National Football Team.
Municipal Garden (Kipos of Chania)
The Chania Municipal Garden was created in 1870 by the end of the Turkish occupation, as a free space for relaxation. The enormous Ficus tree in the Garden has survived from the original period and has reached an impressive size. Right across, you can see an enclosure with a few Cretan wild goats. Inside, the Kipos café is one of the oldest cafés in the city.
The White Mountains (Lefka Ori)
The imposing Mountain is the main feature of Chania region as it covers a large part of the centre of West Crete. Its name is attributed to the snow that covers the Mountains until the spring time. The Mountain is made of limestone and during the summer, the sun that is reflected on the summits makes them appear white as well. The highest summit is Pachnes (2.453m), while more than 30 summits are higher than 2000m. There are numerous caves, precipices, sinkholes and canyons. Besides the famous Samaria gorge, in the White Mountains National Reserve, you will see Aradena, Tripiti, Klados, Agia Irini, Imbros and Kallikratis, Vrissi, Therisso, Cyclamen, Boriano, Dittany, Kidoni and some more gorges. The most well-known plateaus include Omalos, Anopolis, Askyfou, Tavri and Niato. Lefka Ori have two caves, the Gourgouthakas and the Cave of the Lion that are the deeper in Greece (depth greater than 1km). It should be noticed that hiking in the White Mountains requires fitness, experience and a good sense of orientation.
The Gorge of Samaria
It is the biggest, most imposing and beautiful gorge not only in Chania prefecture, but also in Europe. This is the reason why more than 300.000 visitors from all over the world, cross it each year, from the beginning of May until the end of October. The biotope is unique with rare geo-morphological formations. You will have the opportunity to see a great number of well-known flora species as well as a rich fauna. Most popular is the world-famous Cretan Chamois (wild goat), a dashing animal that lives freely in the gorge of Samaria. The length of the passage to the limits of the park is 12,8km and the distance to the coast of Agia Roumeli is another 3,2km. Regularly, you will need about 5 hours to cross the gorge, but it is preferable not to walk less than 6 hours in order to enjoy its beauties. There are a lot of spots where you can walk over the river of the gorge on small wooden bridges. Keep in mind that the gorge has a lot of narrow passes. When you reach the idyllic beach of Agia Roumeli, you may rest and enjoy swimming in the clean waters of the Libyan Sea.
The Gorge of Therisso (Eleutherios Venizelos)
It is the only gorge that visitors can enjoy its beauty by car or other transport, and also the nearest to the city of Chania. In a route of 6km length, there are imposing rocky slopes and wonderful flora species, forming an amazing landscape. The beauty of Therisso village, built at the foothills of the White Mountains at an altitude of 580m is remarkable. The village hosts two museums: Historical and Folklore Museum of Therisos.
One of the most significant city-states in the island, located above Souda Bay, around 15km away from Chania city. Its history begins in the Minoan Period (3500- 1070 BC), however, the most visible archaeological traces come from the Geometric Period (1000-685 BC), the Hellenistic Period (323-67 BC) and the Roman Empire (67 BC-324 AD). Some of the most important findings that visitors admire, include the Fortification, the aqueducts, the public baths and the graves. The most impressive of the preserved ancient buildings are the groups of Roman reservoirs. The view of Souda Bay is astonishing.
The largest natural lake with fresh water in Crete is located at Kournas, 4 km away from Georgioupoli town. The beautiful landscape “unfolds” in a valley among the hills. The lake, relatively small is about 1.087m long. Lake Kournas is home of ducks, eels, water snakes and of rare species of bicoloured terrapin with a patterned shell. Visitors have the opportunity to observe the birds of the area from the local watch tower.
Famous for its turquoise waters, its white sand and wild natural beauty, Balos is undoubtedly the mostly photographed beach in the whole island. The exotic beach is located approximately 56km northwest of Chania, between Capes Gramvousa and Tigani. Thousands of people visit the beach every year, arriving by ferries from Kissamos port. The water is vivid blue, very shallow and warm, ideal for young children. In many places the sand has a lovely pinkish color, as a result of the millions of crushed shells. The lagoon as well as the wider area, have rare species of flora and fauna and they are protected under the Natura 2000 program.
The magical island of Gramvousa is located 20km northwest of Kissamos, close to Balos beach. On the south side of Gramvousa, there are two large bays. The west bay hosts hundreds of visitors daily, arriving there with excursion boats from Kissamos. Gramvousa is famous for its historical Venetian Castle, which stands over the beach at a height of 137m and makes the place magnificent.
An exotic beach, located 59km west of Chania city, at the western base of Cape Gramvousa. It has white sand, crystal-clear waters and is included in the list with the most famous in Greece; it has been awarded as the best beach of the island and voted as one of the 10 best beaches in Europe. It consists of five consecutive beaches, with the two centrals being the most popular. The main beach, called Pachia Ammos, has a length of 1km and is organized with some umbrellas and cafes.
An oblong peninsula, which often breaks in two parts by water like a separate island. Located 76km west of Chania, Elafonissi consists of some exotic beaches with turquoise water. The sand is white or pinkish, taking its color from the thousands of crushed shells. The eastern side of the beach, in front of the lagoon is well organized with umbrellas, showers, lifeguards and cafeterias. The beaches on either side of the island are less crowded and extremely beautiful. Elafonisi is a Natura 2000 protected area.
The Cedar forest is 1km east of Elafonissi beach. It’s an amazing place, full of juniper trees and sand dunes, perfect choice for naturists. The beach has crystal-clear waters and a white sand. As there are no facilities nearby this secluded beach remains one of the latest untouched paradises in Europe.
It is located 75km south of Chania. You can access the beach only by boat, unless you prefer to take the path leading there from Chora Sfakion or from Loutro (takes 60′ with stressful hiking near the edge). Deep blue water color and nice pebbles form the scene in this beach that was ranked among the best 20 in Europe by London Times.
It is a seaside resort located 38km east of Chania and 21km west of Rethymnon. Georgioupolis beach is sandy with dunes in places and shallow waters. It is very well organized with lifeguards and is ideal for children. Umbrellas, showers, food and drinks are available on the beach. Georgioupolis beach stretches 2km to the east, starting from the river Almiros and ending in Kavros beach, which is a natural extension of the first beach.
The seaside village of Platanias is located 11km west of Chania city. The beach is long and sandy, and across you will find many hotels of all categories. The water is lovely and the beach is well-organized with beach bars, umbrellas, showers, lifeguards, water sports etc.
Located 80km southeast of Chania, Fragokastelo is situated in a small valley south of the White Mountains. The place is famous for the local Venetian castle on the beautiful beach and the legendary ghosts of Drosoulites. The main beach of Frangokastelo is magnificent, with sand and shallow turquoise waters, ideal for children. It is poorly organized and is quite busy. In a 300m walk distance east from the main beach, you will find the amazing beach of Orthi Ammos, famous for the large sand dunes.
A small seaside village, located 71 km south of Chania city. The water is calm with a deep blue-green colour and the beaches are pebbly and well-organised. You may use the place as a base in order to visit surrounding beaches, by taxi boat, canoe or on foot. Loutro is addressed to people who expect an alternative kind of vacation in Crete.
The beach is located 1.5km north of the port of Gavdos, Karavi. The name refers to the Saracen pirates who once used the island as a base of attacks. Sarakiniko, like many beaches in Gavdos numbers among the most beautiful beaches in Greece. The sand is blond with crystal clear shallow water, hidden in a wild landscape. Gavdos was once a place of exile and you can still see close to the beach the building where the exiled founder of the Greek People’s Liberation Army, Aris Velouchiotis, lived.
The small seaside town is located 24km west of Chania. The beach in Kolimbari is sandy and the water is not very deep. The sea is usually wavy, like most open beaches of northern Crete.