Here is a list of recommended towns around Chania which worth paying a visit:
Souda Bay : Crete’s largest harbour and entry port for Chania and western Crete . There is a sizable military base here used by the Greek and NATO forces, taking photographs near the base or any military activities is strictly forbidden. The town of Souda has many of the essentials needed by the visitor banks travel agents and hire car agencies. West of Souda is the War cemetery where 1500 military personnel from Britain , Australia and New Zealand lay buried. They lost their lives during the Battle of Crete in the Second World War. This poignant cemetery with its white headstones lies on the shore and is a tragic reminder of the follies of war.
Akrotiri Peninsula : is to the east of Chania. These barren peninsulas is the site of Chania Airport and the naval base, there are a few resorts and monasteries to visit in the area and therefore makes it ideal for those seeking to escape the more lively resorts in the region. On the hill of Profiti Ilia in 1897 in defiance of the great powers ( Britain , Russia and France ), the Cretan freedom movement raised the Greek flag to symbolise their wish to be unified with Greece . Here also is the grave of Eleftherias Venizelos, a former prime minister of Greece during the early 1900s, he was born in Chania he died in exile in Paris in 1936 and now buried along side his son Sofokles who also became Prime Minister of Greece.
Stavros: A spread out resort with a cove with a small beach, dwarfed by a massive rock shelf, it was here they filmed scenes for the movie Zorba the Greek, starring Anthony Quinn. The resort is quiet and offers the tourist a laid-back holiday and a base to explore the region. Nearby monasteries you can visit are Moni Agias Triadas, built in the 17 th century this is still a active monastery, inside is church with a impressive facade and alter piece is worth visiting. The 16 th century Moni Gouvernetou is on the site of an 11 th century sanctuary that offered a safe refuge from the pirates who plundered the area at that time. Moni Ioannou Erimiti is dedicated to St. John the Hermit; he lived in what is now known as the “Holy Grotto” here on the 7 October, a feast is held here after a night’s vigil outside the grotto. A path leads down to the small harbour used by the monks; the harbour also attracted pirates who raided the monastery that led to the monastery decline. Note when visiting working monasteries dress decently.
Kalathas:Beach resort 10km north of Chania, a couple of nice beaches a quiet place to relax. A favourite of the locals, many have weekend retreats here.
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.
Georgioupolis: a small busy resort named after Prince George the High Commissioner of Crete, (1898-1906) who had a hunting lodge built here. The beaches here a nesting place for the endangered loggerhead turtles.
Plaka: A small farming village, with is winding streets, a square shaded by trees. This Greek village offers a retreat from the hurly-burly of every day life. Also scenes from Zorba the Greek where filmed here.
Kalyves: is 18kmeast of Chania, is becoming a popular resort with a long sandy beach, popular with Greeks and tourists alike.
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.
Vamos: is a picturesque village with traditional houses dating from the 12 th century. With financial backing from the EU, the villagers restored the old buildings using traditional methods and materials. There aim is to preserve the traditional way of life of a Cretan village, the shops and cafes sell local products such as honey preserves and local crafts. In July, a festival in honour of the humble snail takes place, where snails are cooked and served in a variety of ways, accompanied by wine. Early in August, the “Vamos Festival” takes place with performances of traditional music and dance. The nearby village of Gavalohori , with its folklore museum and women’s cooperative is worth the visit. The folklore museum has on display many items of traditional crafts and historical section relating to the war of Independence . The women’s cooperative sell hand made intricate lace (“kapaneli”) of excellent quality, made by the women of the village.
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.
Frangokastello: one of the best beaches in the region, the wide sandy beach sloping gently into the warm shallow waters is ideal for children. The fort behind the beach built by the Venetian was to protect the area from pirates. The fortress has also seen many battles in over the years, in the fight for Cretan independence. The fortress is after legend reputed to be haunted; ghosts appear on the anniversary of a bloody battle that occurred in May 1828 against the Turks.
Hora Sfakion: is a busy port with hikers who have been through the Samaria Gorge disembark from the boats and onto buses, otherwise it is a peaceful place. The village has experienced retribution from the Turks during the War of Independence; the village was a centre for the freedom fighters. During the Second World War, allied troops retreated from hereafter the Battle of Crete.
Moni Chrysoskalitssa: On a remote area near to the southwest of the island lies this white washed closter, once the home of about 200 nuns, now there is only one munk remaining. The name Moni Chrysoskalitssa, means the “monestry with the golden step” 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.
Loutro: to reach this small village you must come by boat or on foot, small white washed houses lay between the mountains and the sea. There are a few tavernas and a small hotel and it is possible to rent a room in the village. The rocky beach is not ideal for swimming but you can swim from the rocks, also it is possible to rent canoes and explore the bays and other beaches near by. Boats leave here for Gavdos Island and Sweet Water beach, it is an hour-long walk to the beach but it is worthwhile, a rewarding swim in the crystal waters is waiting for you. There is a small taverna on the beach for refreshments. Another good beach also a long walk to get there is Marmara Beach , but a boat from Loutro if the walk does not appeal to you. A boat can also be taken from the village to the beach at Mamara.
Agia Roumeli: is at the end of the Samaria Gorge, and offers little to the tourist except a few tavernas, where thirsty walkers can refresh themselves whilst waiting for the boat to Hora Sfakion.
Sougia: is a relaxing village at the bottom a steep winding road, it has a decent beach comprising of sand and small pebbles. It is not visited package tourists and therefore makes it an ideal place to relax. About 12km to the north of the village is Agia Irini Gorge, at only 7km long, it makes a pleasant walk, take refreshments and enjoy the scenery. The Sougia to Paleohora coastal Walk takes you to the ruins of the ancient city-state of Lissos built by the Dorians; it became a prosperous city-state until the 9 th century when the Saracens razed it to the ground. Walking further takes over the plateau to Cape Flomes and down to Anydri Beach and numerous other delightful coves where you can reward yourselves with a refreshing swim. The path eventually leads you to Paleohora with wonderful views over the sea.
Paleohora: is a popular destination for those seeking a relaxing break from the usual tourist destinations. A former fishing village, now a popular destination for those seeking a relaxing break from the usual tourist spots.It has a fine beach to the west of the village, which is popular wth wind surfers. It has a fine beach to the west of the village, which is popular with wind surfers. In the tavernas and cafes, you can enjoy a good meal, and watch the fishermen land their catch on the quayside. From the village you can take a local boat and explore the surrounding villages and country. The ruins of a Ventian castle stand on the hill overlooking the town, the castle has been rebuilt and destroyed by the Venetians, pirates and the Turks and finally by the Germans during WWII.
Gavdos Island : lying 65km from Crete in the Libyan Sea , Gavdos is the most southerly point of Europe . The Romans, Byzantines and the Turks have occupied the island, and in the 9 th century, it became a base for pirates who attacked merchant ships and other easy prey. If visiting the island, take plenty of bottled water as the island has a severe lack of natural water resources. The islands main port is Karabe on the east coast, the islands capital Kastri is in the centre of the island. Gavdos has some excellent beaches; Sarakinikos is the best with several tavernas where you can quench you thirst. Other beaches are at, Agios Ioannis, Potamos and Pyrgos. Local boat owners take trips around the island and to the uninhabited island of Gavdopoula . Boats to Gavdos depart from Paleohora and Hora Sfakion weather permitting.
Elafonissi: has one of the best beaches on Crete , 50m off shore is Elafonissi Islet. This 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, came to the islet and duly slaughtered all the refugees. Today it is a more peaceful place with secluded coves and nice beaches. Another highly rated beach, the beach is long and wide and there are a few semi-secluded coves that are popular with nudists. The beach is very popular with day trippers.
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.
Falasarna: was a powerful city in Hellenic times, well fortified and with good harbour, today the sea levels have receded so the remains are 300m above the shoreline. The plains around the town are ideal for the growing of produce, resulting in scores of plastic propagating tunnels spread around the area.
Ennia Horia: is the collective name for the nine villages the set in the mountainous region, driving through exceptional scenery south of Kissamos you come to the village of Voulgaro , with its two churches built in the Byzantine period. The next small village id Topolia with its whitewashed houses festooned with flowers, driving along the twisting road you pass the Koutsomatdos Ravine which over fantastic views. The cave Agia Sofia, inhabited in the Neolithic age, above the cave is a taverna which you can refresh yourselves and admire the views.
Driving along the road that affords wonderful views you come to Koutsomatados village and the village of Vlatos . Follow the signpost to the village of Milia this village, all but deserted with only two families residing here; many of the buildings were falling down. With the help of the EU, they rebuilt the village using traditional materials and refurnishing the houses with traditional Cretan furniture. Stay and dine at the exceptional restaurant, where they serve organically grown food from their own gardens.
After lunch, take the road to Paleohora going through Strovles and Drys, you will come to Elos after driving through acres of chestnut trees. Elos is the major town of the region and centre for the chestnut industry. Driving south from here you will come to the villages of Perivolia and Kefali, you have a choice here you can return to Elafonissi or take the road along the coast to the hamlet Papadiana; this road varies in standard so take care. Driving up into the mountains you come to Amygdalokefali, further along is the village of Kambos ; from here, the road leads to Sfinari. From here, you drive to Platanos and then either to Falasarna or to Kissamos. Do not try to do this in one day, take two or three days to enjoy the scenery and the hospitality of the villagers.
Kissamos: this rugged part of Chania prefecture lies to the west of the region. This area is one of the least populated areas on the island, with only a few villages and fewer resorts. The area has some good beaches but some of them are only accessible by boat, the main town of the region is Kissamos-Kastelli. From here, you can take the ferry to the Peloponnese region on the mainland of Greece , buses run to Hania every hour and to Falasarna twice a day. The ruins of the ancient city of Polyrrinia are to the south of the town. This 6 th century city founded by the Dorians was always at war with the Kydonians from Hania, it was one of the best-fortified cities in western Crete . It prospered under the Romans and Byzantines, the ruins today features an Acropolis a church on the site of a 4 th century BC temple and an aqueduct built by the Romans.
Falasarna: is a small farming community with the added attraction of sandy beaches in numerous coves. In the summer months the beaches are popular but without the influx of mass tourism.
Gramvousa Peninsula: is a remote area to the north of Falasarna, a decent beach is at Balos but it takes about three hours to walk there, refreshments are a must along with sunhats. Off the coastline are the two small islets of Agria Gramvousa and Imeri Gramvousa, the ruins of the fort on Imeri Gramvousa built by the Venetians was to protect ships from marauding pirates. The Cretan resistance fighters also used it as a base during the War of Independence. It is rumoured that there is a treasure trove forgotten by the pirates hidden in one or more of the caves on the island.
Kolymbari: on the Rodopou Peninsula is slowly becoming a popular tourist destination, further in on the peninsula the land is uninhabited but you can visit the Dyktynna Sanctuary and Moni Gonias. The sanctuary lies at the end of the peninsula, and was dedicated to Diktynna the goddess of hunting, little remains of the temple but the foundations. There is a good sandy beach were you relax after the days exploring. Moni Gonias founded in 1618 and has a fine collection of icons with the icon of Agios Nikolaos being the star attraction painted in 1637.
Next reading: Part 1 – Travel to Chania