Chaniá lies on the western side of the island it is a district with a fertile vegetation idyllic bays and beaches, high mountains, and charming villages ,Georgioupoli, Kastelli, Paeochora, Chora Sfakion. The beautiful and well known beach of Elafonssi with the island, which is also called Greece’s Maldives because of the crystal clear blue waters and its beautiful surroundings. Here lies the well known monastery Chrissokalitisa it is reputed to have a golden step on the stairway and those whom are pure of heart and free from sin can see the golden step.
The most popular city in Crete for travelers, and understandably so, is the western city of Chania (Haniá). The city combines antique Venetian charm with a bustling waterfront lined with cafes and restaurants.
From anywhere on the waterfront, diners and coffee-drinkers can admire the lighthouse in the port, and little fishing boats bobbing on the water.
There are several fascinating museums right on the waterfront; there is plenty of shopping to be found in the little streets, where you can practice your bargaining skills; and there are beaches within striking distance of the city. But the prefecture of Chania is far more than just the city itself. Head all the way to the west to the stunningly beautiful beach of Gramvoussa, or down the west coast for more beautiful and deserted coastlines. For nature lovers, a long (but downhill!) trek through the Samaria Gorge or one of the other gorges in Chania is a must. But the true surprise of Chania: the traditional villages of the Hora Sfakion, Paleohora, and the Frangokastello castle on the south (Libyan Sea) coast. Any visit to the prefecture of Chania should include visits outside the city itself.
Chania is the next largest city in Crete and the capital for the district of Chania and has a population of about 60.000. The old town and the venetian harbour is one of Greeks most well preserved. It was in this area the film Zorba the Greek was filmed starring Anthony Quinn. The city has a good selection of shops with many good buys ex, leather, gold, silver and antiques.
Lefka Ori (the White Mountain) 2453 metres high, the mountain rises a few kilometres from the north coast and stretches over to the south side of the island. Her lies the famous Samaria ravine which is Europe’s longest ravine. Towards the peninsula Akortiri lies the well known Souda bay, Greece’s largest natural harbour. Here is the main base for the Greek navy on the island. Also there is a ferry connection to the mainland (Athens). West of Chania is Kissamos bay which was a important harbour in the pre-roman times. The area is also well known for its good wines.
Lying between the sea and the high mountains, Chania is the next largest city on Crete and one of it is most appealing. With its fine buildings and harbour lit up at night it creates an atmosphere that attracts locals as well tourists to the cafes and tavernas.
Chania has been under the control of various armies, from the Romans, Byzantines to the Turks. The fort and defences witness to a turbulent history. Chania today is an excellent starting point to visit the surrounding area. The harbour which is really two harbours, in the inner harbour you will find the remains of the Venetian shipyards (Arseneli). If you walk around the harbour and along the sea wall, you will come to the Venetian lighthouse, which is the emblem for the city.
The restored Venetian Fort Firkas houses the Naval Museum , during the summer months; the Fort is also the setting for traditional music and concerts. In the old harbour is the Mosque of the Janissaries, the oldest building from the Ottoman Empire in Crete . The town with its old Ventian quarter is charming with numerous shops to please the most ardent of shoppers. The covered market, modelled on the market in Marseilles , France , offers a wide range of Cretan produce. Many of the old Turkish and Ventian buildings have been restored many of them now restaurants.
Walking around the narrow streets and lanes of the city gives you an insight into the development of the city. People from the Neolithic Age were the first to settle in the area, followed by the Minoans in about 2200BC. They built a settlement known then as Kydonia, which grew into an influential port. Little is known of this period of the city’s history, due to the remains of the ancient city are know buried the modern city of Chania . Like the most of Crete, Chania has experienced invasions and wars throughout the centuries. The city developed under Roman rule to become city of importance.
The Venetians built massive fortifications around the city in the 14 th and 16 th centuries, to protect themselves from pirates and later the Turks. The Turks took control over the city in 1645, and they stayed on Crete until 1898 when the governments of Russia , France and Britain took over control of Crete . Chania was the named as the capital of the island until 1971 when Iraklio took over as the capital of Crete . Throughout all these troubles and changes, Chania has developed into a charming city that entices visitors to return repeatedly.
In the old harbour you will find the Mosque of the Janissaries, this is the oldest building from the Ottoman Empire on Crete. A tour through the old town is a delight, gift shops stand next to old Venetian Palaces which have been converted into hotels.
The covered market sells local produced vegetables and fruit and souvenirs, next to the market is Skydlof a busy shopping area where you can buy leather ware.
Places of Interest in the City
Archaeological Museum : is in the Church of St. Francisco built by the Venetians in the 16 th century. The building has undergone many changes and uses in its time, the Turks converted into a mosque. In 1913, the building became a cinema and later an ammunition store during the Second World War. Inside the museum artefacts from around the region are on display, these include artefacts from the Neolithic Age, to ceramics and sarcophagi from the late Minoan period. Mosaics, glass vases and ceramics form the Roman period, in addition, an imposing Roman statue of the goddess Diana. Other artefacts on display are jewellery, idols, vases and tablets with Linear A writing upon them. In the courtyard is a striking Venetian Fountain made from marble decorated with the heads of lions.
The museum is located in the katholikon of the Venetian monastery of St. Francis.
Holidays: 15 August, 28 October: 08.30-15.00
The Naval Museum : is in the Firkas Fortress, on display are model ships and other items relating to the maritime history of the region.
The Historical Museum and Archives: Have displays on the islands turbulent past, exhibits show the struggle of the Cretans against the Turkish occupation. Other exhibits recount the German occupation of the island during the Second World War.
The Folklore Museum : has on exhibit objects of local crafts that consist of implements and weavings with traditional designs.
The Church of Agios Nikolaos : Originally, a Dominican monastery converted to a Mosque under the orders of Sultan Ibrahim. In 1918, the mosque became a Greek Orthodox Church, with the unusual feature; the church has both a bell tower and a minaret.
Municipal Park and Zoo: constructed in 1870 by a Turkish Pasha, in the park are an outdoor cinema and a small zoo where you can see the Cretan wild goat the “Kri-Kri”.
Place of Interest
The longest gorge in Europe the Samari Gorge is a spectacular sight, it starts in on the Omalos Plateau in the Lefka Ori mountain and winds its way down 18 km, to the Libyan Sea. Created a national park in 1962, it is a one of the last reserves for the Cretan wild goat (kri-kri).
Organised tours are available and are the best way to see the Gorge, good walking shoes are required for this tour.
This tour is not recommended for small children or those who are not in reasonable shape; because once you start on the tour down the George there is no short cut out of it. The trip takes five to seven hours, starting at the top you descend into the gorge by a winding path with wooden handrails, the so called wooden stairs; the views are fantastic as the mountains tower above as you descend 1000m towards the bottom of the gorge.
After 4 km you will reach the tiny chapel of Agios Nikolaos, here if you are lucky you might see young wild goats grazing. Further along the trail you will reach the deserted village of Samaria, the inhabitants had to leave the area when the gorge became a national park
The tour continues towards the Iron Gates, at only 3m wide between the towering rocks it is the narrowest part of the gorge. Afew more kilometres you will reach the village of Agia Roumeli on the coast of the Libyan Sea, where you can rest your feet and quench your thirst.
Imbros Gorge: as beautiful as the Samaria Gorge but not as busy, starting at the village of Imbros the gorge descends 300m through trees and shrubs, it is only 8km long and 2m at its narrowest point it ends at the village of Komitades, where you can walk 5km to Hora Sfakion.
This small islet has a tragic past; in 1824 about 800 women and children sought refuge on the islet, the Turks who at the time were trying to subdue any signs of rebellion against their rule, found the way to the islet and duly slaughtered all the refugees. Today it is a more peaceful place, a couple of tavernas on the beach.
Falassarna was a powerful city in Hellenic times, well fortified and a good harbour, today the sea levels have receded so the remains are 300m above the shoreline. A quiet resort with good beaches nearby especially the “Pahia Ammos” which translates to thick sand. With small hotels and tavernas it is a ideal spot to relax.
Moni Hrysoskalitissas: on a remote area near to the southwest of the island lies this white washed cloister, once the home of about 200 nuns, now there is only one monk remaining. Built in the 13th century with the church built in the 19 th century, the foundations are on the site of a Minoan temple. The name Moni Hrysoskalitissas means the “monastery with the golden stairway” as there is a stairway with 90 steps going down to the sea, and according to legend, one of the steps is made of gold. The only way you can see this golden step is if you are pure of heart and free from sin.
Lake Kournas : Crete ’s only lake is 4km inland from the village Georgioupolis; here you hire canoes and pedal boats. The lake is a good place to swim and to relax, a number of eating-places around the lake. Take walk up to the village of Kournas where there is a taverna, and a shop that sells nice ceramics.
Aptera: the ruins of this ancient city lie on a plateau over looking Souda Bay . Built in the 7 th century BC the city became an influential power in western Crete , destroyed by an earthquake in the 7 th century AD. The Byzantines rebuilt the city in the 10 th century, the restored monastery in the centre dates from the 12 th century AD. Ongoing archaeological are still revealing more of this city, many of the buildings are undergoing restoration to give the visitor an insight into the life of the ancient city.
Where & what to eat
Where to Eat: Cretan food like all Greek food is healthy and wholesome, made from local produce; Cretans are one of the healthiest in the world as regards to their diet. Vegetables and fish dishes are the most popular meals for the average Cretan. Dining out in some of the restaurants in the major tourists resorts can be a challenge to ones gastric juices, but mainly the food is well cooked and presented. A rule of thumb is, go where the locals eat, if you see a Cretan family dining out you can be sure that the restaurant is of a good standard. The shores around Greece supply a plentiful and wide range of fish and shell foods. Enjoy a meal of freshly cooked seafood with a bottle of Greek wine, in one of the local restaurants that surround the harbours. Followed by a stroll along the sea front with a loved one, it will be a perfect evening.
Restaurants: the traditional Greek restaurant “estiatόrion” is one of the most enjoyable places to eat, serving good local food and wines, often in pleasant surroundings.
Tavernas: the traditional taverna, known by many a tourist, offers snacks to excellent meals and wines.
Cafes: cafes known as “kafeneia” are at the centre of Greek life.
Bars: vary from the cosy to the brash tourist bars on the islands. Some bars may have traditional music others are more like discos. Therefore, there is something for everybody.
Ouzeri: primarily serves ouzo together with a plate of snacks and a jug of water, relativity cheap these can be good fun if you do not overdo the drinking of the ouzo.
Fast food: All though the invasion of American style fast (junk) food is to be found in the cities and some of the touristy island, try the local fast food. Souvlaki and gyros
Vegetarian food: is not a problem as the variety of fresh vegetables offer the vegetarian a wide range of choices. Vegans may have a bit more of a problem, but as the Greeks do not often use dairy products in their cooking; it is still possible to eat well.
Picnics: buy some wine, bread, cheese and fruit and head for the hills. Probably one of the best ways to enjoy the Greek countryside is with good food and friends or a loved one.
Dishes which are unique to the island, Cretans eat more pork here than anywhere else in Greece .
Chόrta, boiled greens served with olive oil, olive oil and vinegar.
Saláta kritikί , made with watercress, feta cheese and oranges.
Saligkária, normally a mezés (starter), served with local spirit tsigouthiá.
Choirinό kritikό , pork cutlets served with aubergine and potatoes.
Arnáki psitό, grilled lamb cutlet, flavoured with olive oil, lemon, and oregano, served with red peppers.
Stifádo, squid casserole, consisting of herbs, tomatoes and olive oil (Also made with meat).
Loukoumádes, small doughnuts deep-fried served with honey and sprinkled with cinnamon.
Bougátsa, pastry of semolina custard or soft cheese dusted with cinnamon.
SЎka me tyri, Served as a mezé made with figs and mizЎthra cheese.
Serves the western area of the island, the airport lies about 15 km outside the city of Chania. The usual offices are to be found here, car hire companies etch, several flights a day to Athens. There also goes daily flight to Thessaloniki.
The airport is on the Akrotiri Peninsula 14km from the city with daily flights to and from Athens .
There are no regular bus services from the airport, buses meet up for arrivals; most people take the taxi to the city. Daily bus connection to and from Rethymno (Olympic airways coach)
The bus terminal is on Kydonias, southwest of Plateia 1866. Bus services to other towns and villages run regularly.There are no regular bus services from the airport, buses meet up for arrivals; most people take the taxi to the city. Daily bus connection to and from Rethymno (Olympic airways coach)
The trip to the centre of the city cost ca, 9 euro. The same rules apply here as in Heraklion as to the use of taxis.
For information about ferries to Chania: www.minoan.gr and www.anek.gr
Boats to Chania dock at Souda, 7km from the town. Buses travel between the port and Chania frequently
How To Get There
There is a nightly ferry to Chania leaving from the port of Peiraias. The ferry docks at Souda Bay, and passengers will need to take the local bus which meets the ferry, or a taxi cab, into the city. There are also regular flights from Eleutherios Venizelos International Airport to Chania International Airport. Charter flights fly into the Chania airport from European cities. The airport is located in Akrotiri, 14km from the center of the city. Expect to pay between 11 and 13 for a taxi from the airport to the city.
Cheap hotels in Chania – comprehensive list of recommended hotels in Chania for tourists
Tourist Information Office: is on Kriari 40, Tlf 2821 092 943. Open Mon-Fri from 7.30am to 2.30pm Mon-Fri.
Tourist Police: are on Kydonias 29, Tlf 2821 053 333. Open Mon-Fri from 7.30am to 2.30 pm.
Emergency numbers: Police 100 Tourist Police 171 Ambulance 166 Fire 199 Medical Care:
Opening Hours: Banks: 08.00 to 14.00 Monday – Friday. Shops: Mon, Wed, Sat. 09.00 – 15.00. Tue, Thu, Fri, 09.00 – 14.00 / 17.00 – 21.00. Public Offices: 08.00 – 14.00. NB. Opening times vary from towns and villages; in tourist areas, they have extended opening hours.
Credit Cards / Money: All major credit cards accepted, although in villages and the smaller islands cash (Euro) is the best alternative.
Electricity: 220 volts
Communication: Telephone: OTE (the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization) OTE offices are open from 08:00 to 14:00. Kiosks and OTE offices sell phonecards that used in public phone booths. The most popular phone cards are Chrono karta, and Web & Smile that also used to access the internet. Mobile Phones coverage is about 90%. The telephone offices are on Tzanakaki 5, Open Mon-Fri 7.30am – 10pm.
Internet: The city has several internet cafes where one can go online. Hotels of a higher standard may also internet access for residents
Postal Services: Signs denoting post offices are usually bright yellow, as are post-boxes. If you need to send a letter, there are stamp vending machines and post-boxes outside all central post offices. Opening hours 07.30 – 20.00 Mon – Fri. / 07.30 – 14.00 Sat. The main post office is next door to the telephone office on Tzanakaki 3.