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Chania - 2023 Guide

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Chania, Crete

Chania in Crete, located on the westernmost side, is a great vacation destination. The region boasts a captivating medieval town, outstanding beaches considered the best in Greece, fascinating castles, and a one-of-a-kind natural landscape. There are plenty of incredible places to explore in this region!

To get to Chania, you have two options: take a plane from Athens or overseas, or take a ferry from Athens. While a few areas have become tourist hotspots, many beaches and villages still maintain their original charm.

The northern side has upscale tourist resorts and well-organized beaches, making it more developed. This is also where you’ll find the most popular beach villages.

In contrast, the southern side is more traditional, with small coastal villages and unorganized beaches, making it more secluded.


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There are many stunning beaches along the coastline, ranging from organized resorts to hidden coves, but the most impressive ones are Balos, Elafonissi, and Falassarna.

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Seitan Limani in Chania

The region of Chania has a long history and rich culture that is evident in its traditional architecture. Taking a walk in the Old Town will transport you back in time with its intense Venetian and Turkish style. The Venetian port of Chania Town is the most characteristic spot in western Crete. Take a drive around the area. You will come across many interesting sights, such as medieval castles, forests, gorges, and small local museums that depict history. You can also try chatting with the locals at traditional restaurants.

Don’t miss the opportunity to take part in the famous Cretan tradition and enjoy the warm hospitality. One of the best places to do so is in the village square, where locals often sit and enjoy a coffee under the shade of a huge tree. It’s a great alternative to just relaxing on a beach resort.

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View of Chania

This guide provides essential information for planning your vacation in Chania. Additionally, visitors can take day trips to Rethymnon and Heraklion, both located in Crete. Furthermore, tourists can reach the Cycladic islands of Mykonos and Santorini from the port of Heraklion. The city of Chania offers a combination of activities for holidays, such as relaxing on stunning beaches, exploring historical sites, and experiencing authentic local life.

Little Bit of History

Chania was built on the location of the ancient city of Kidonia, which was considered one of the major cities of Crete in Homer’s time. The remaining architectural structures that can still be seen today are mainly large buildings from the Mycenaean period. Kidonia thrived after the Mycenaean era and continued to do so until the Roman era. It was during this time that August Caesar declared Kidonia to be an independent town. The region has many ancient towns and temples, including the temple of Asklepios in Lissos. In 823 AC, the Saracens took control of the city, and in 828 AC, they destroyed it along with other Cretan cities. The Byzantines reconstructed the entire city in 961 AC using materials that were left over from the ruins. They also built a fortress called Kasteli around the hill to protect the city. However, the town began to decline afterward, and only parts of the fortress walls remain today.

The Venetians took control of Chania in 1204 AD and rebuilt the city, fortifying it around Kasteli fortress. They also constructed a Catholic cathedral inside the castle and many beautiful mansions. However, the Genoese attacked and defeated the Venetian fleet, causing them to stay in Chania for a few more years before burning the entire town and leaving. After the Venetians returned, they constructed a stronger wall around Chania and rebuilt the entire city. As a result, Chania prospered with the creation of many sophisticated buildings and houses in the Venetian style in the years that followed.

During this time in history, Chania experienced a period of prosperity. Trade and culture flourished, leading to the construction of elegant mansions. The city’s connection with Europe, especially Venice, resulted in the development of arts and literature. Notably, the famous painter Domenicos Theotokopoulos, or El Greco, was born during this period. The town was surrendered to the Turks in 1645 after a two-month siege. This resulted in the conversion of all Catholic churches in the city to mosques. The island of Crete witnessed several battles and revolutionary acts against the Turkish fleet. In 1897, the island was declared autonomous and became the capital of the Cretan state.

Eleftherios Venizelos, who was the governor of Crete and later became the prime minister of Greece, made many efforts to reunite Crete with the rest of Greece. Finally, in 1913, Crete was reunited with Greece.


Chania, located in Crete, is the second largest town on the island after Heraklion. The region covers an area of 2376 square kilometers and is bordered by the Rethymno prefecture to the east. It is also surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, the Cretan Sea, and the Libyan Sea.

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Falasarna Beach

Chania, located on the island of Crete, has stunning mountains and lush greenery that define its geography. The local residents’ way of life is influenced by the dramatic landscape. Much of Chania remains unspoiled with breathtaking areas, such as the Apokoronas plain and the mountainous Sfakia, offering unmatched natural beauty. In the region of Chania, there is a must-see destination called the Samaria Gorge natural park, which boasts many dramatic gorges and mountains, making it one of the most impressive areas in Crete.

In winter, the White Mountains (also called “Lefka Ori’ or Omalos’) experience snowfall, creating stunning views. The tallest peak in Chania is Pachnes, standing at a height of 2,345 meters above sea level. Lake Kournas, which is the only natural lake on the island of Crete, is located near Rethymno, about 50 km from Chania. Throughout the regional area, a diverse range of plants and colorful flowers blossom during May.


Crete has a diverse range of architectural styles due to its long sieges and four centuries of Venetian rule. The island’s strong cultural identity is reflected in the blend of Venetian and Ottoman civilizations while maintaining its local characteristics. The architectural heritage of Crete, in its simplest and most interesting form, can be found near ancient cities and great medieval monuments. The island’s architectural wealth mainly consists of remnants of urban and Venetian architecture from the last few centuries. Stone-built houses, windmills, watermills, fountains, and shacks can be found throughout Crete, especially in the mountainous regions that remain unspoiled by tourism. During the Venetian occupation, all towns on the island – regardless of size – were fortified because of their strategic location and vantage points overlooking the Aegean Sea.

Chania underwent fortification works during the 14th century that continued for 20 years. This resulted in the construction of numerous castles and forts on hills and the preservation of impressive buildings such as Baroness Von Schwartz’s Venetian residence. The Venetian influence is notable in Chania’s architecture, particularly in structures like the Venetian lighthouse at the port, the Clock Tower, and the charming two-story houses in the Old Town. There are also several Byzantine churches and mosques in the area. The Venetian port of Chania includes the Venetian arsenals on one side and the Ottoman baths on the other, both of which are historical remnants of that period. In the 15th century, noble families built fortified houses in the countryside of Crete.

The Venetians built ports and dockyards, like the Venetian arsenals in Chania, which currently serve as the location for the Arsenali Centre of Mediterranean Architecture due to the significant development of trade during that era. The biggest towns in Crete continued to grow during the post-Byzantine era as new houses were built, many of which still stand today. The religious buildings are the best-preserved structures over time, showcasing the Venetian Metropolis’s architectural style. Walking through the historical paths of Chania today is like taking a breathtaking journey back in time. The structures, both inside and outside the fortified city walls, leave visitors speechless with their incredible beauty and charm.

In Chania, visitors can find numerous hotels built in traditional architectural style. The local products of Chania are known for their health benefits and contribute to the longevity of the population. In fact, the island’s fertile land produces an abundance of fruits, vegetables, legumes, cheese, and other ingredients that are commonly used in local cuisine and desserts. As a town with a rich history and gastronomic culture, Chania holds significant importance on the island of Crete. Chania recommends checking out the culinary scene in this area of the island, which boasts an array of unique dishes made with fresh, local ingredients. You can savor traditional Cretan specialties like kaltsounia, lamb, and ntakos, all served with crisp Cretan bread, creamy mizithra cheese, and plenty of extra-virgin olive oil. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to explore the flavors of the region!

Walking through the lanes in Old Town will treat you to delightful aromas. Chania provides an opportunity to savor the delicious dishes that have been a part of Cretan customs since ancient times. Local wine options, such as tsikoudia or raki, are often paired with meals in Chania. To fully experience Chania, trying some of the region’s specialties is a must.

What to do in Chania, Crete

Explore atmospheric Chania Old Town

Step by step, you can explore the secrets of Chania. This includes visiting the picturesque lighthouse at the port, the Küçük Hasan mosque, the renovated Grand Arsenal, the Splanzia ruins, and the Kum Kapi located at Miaouli Beach.

Immerse yourself in the elegant neighborhood of Halepa, which used to house the consulates of the Great Powers, boasting neoclassical architecture. You’ll be transported to a different time as you explore the “San Joseph” school, St. Mary Magdalene Russian church, and Prince George Palace, among many other beautiful buildings.

Spend an afternoon on Kastelli Hill

The hill of Kastelli has a rich history. It was initially known as ancient Kydonia and later served as a Byzantine castle. Over time, a city was developed around the hill, and the Venetians built new walls. You can observe Byzantine influences on Karaoli Dimitriou Street and explore the excavated Proto-Minoan settlement on Kanevaro Street. To enjoy the beautiful sunset and colorful old-town charm, head towards the edge of the Kastelli citadel.

Discover Chania’s citadels of faith 

If you head east of Chania, you’ll find Akrotiri, where you can visit some old monasteries. You can take a walk to Agia Triada Tsagarolon (built in the 17th century) and Gouverneto (built in the 16th century), as well as the remains of an 11th-century Catholic monastery, believed to be the oldest in Crete. Another interesting site is Panagia Arkoudiotissa, where the altar is hidden in the dark bear-shaped stalactite cave (called Arkoudospilias). This site has a religious significance dating back to ancient times when people worshipped the goddess Artemis here.

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Panagia Gouverniotissa Church

Taste the local cuisine of Crete 

You will surely appreciate why Cretan cuisine has garnered a global reputation once you sample the delightful flavors offered at the fish tavernas, rakadika, and historic cafes. For a more modern and creative gastronomic adventure, I recommend exploring Chania’s gourmet restaurants, where esteemed chefs infuse traditional Cretan cuisine with their unique culinary flair.

Visit villages filled with local traditions 

Visiting the Apokoronas villages, located about 20 minutes outside Chania town, is highly recommended. These villages include Armeni, Vamos, Xirosterni, Kefalos, Gavalohori, and Agios Pavlos, and they are some of the most beautiful villages in Crete. While here, you can try authentic Cretan cuisine and taste local recipes such as tsigariasto, boureki, kalitsounia, pilafi, dakos, and various grilled meat dishes.

Hike the unforgettable Samaria Gorge

If you’re visiting Chania, don’t miss the chance to hike through the Samaria Gorge. It’s a 16km-long trail that’s become popular with hikers for a good reason. You should plan to spend a whole day exploring this trail. Towards the end of the gorge is Portes, a narrow passage that’s only 3m wide and over 100m tall, making it a must-see. The hike will take around five hours in total, and it finishes in Agia Roumeli, where you can take a refreshing swim. Be sure to keep an eye out for the rare Cretan goat along the way.

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Samaria Gorge in Crete

Excursions from Chania town:

A day-trip to seductive Falasarna beach

Paradise can be found just 58km away from Chania town. This stunning beach boasts 3 km of white sand, emerald water, and magical sunsets, making it one of the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean. To the north, you can also explore Ancient Falarsana. Check the trip at Falasarna from GetYourGuide.

A day-trip to picture-perfect Balos beach

You can reach Balos, one of the most picturesque beaches in Crete, by traveling 52 km from Chania or taking a caique from Kissamos. The beach features a stunning saltwater lagoon where you can unwind in the shallow blue-green water and feel the luminescent sand, which is made up of thousands of broken seashells, under your feet. The beach is also guarded by two islets, Gramvousa, and Agria Gramvousa. Check also this trip at Balos Beach.

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Balos Lagoon in Crete

Hidden gems of Chania, Crete

Hora Sfakion, Loutro, and Frangokastello

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Frangokastello in Sfakia, Crete

To reach Hora Sfakion, head south from Chania and pass through the stunning Aradaina Gorge. When you arrive, you can learn about the history and myth surrounding Frangokastello Castle, which was constructed by the Venetians in 1371. One particularly notable event was a violent battle that took place there in May 1866 between Mustafa Pasha’s soldiers and 338 Hatzimichalis Dalianis’ fighters. According to legend, the shadows that move across the plain each May and June are called Drosoulites, and they are believed to be the ghosts of the soldiers who return to reenact the conflict.

Museums of all kinds and eras 

The Centre of Mediterranean Architecture is located in the Grand Arsenal and hosts outstanding exhibitions and events. The building was built as a dry dock by the Venetians in 1600 and was reconstructed starting in 1941. Make sure to include several other museums in your itinerary, such as the Archaeological Museum, Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Collection, Nautical Museum of Crete (the second-oldest in Greece), Typography Museum in the Park of Local Industries, and Arts & Crafts Village in Souda, which has workshops for ceramics, mosaics, silversmithing, and glass-blowing.

The cobblestone alleyways of Chania’s Old Town

You can experience the local customs and folklore here. Tabakaria is known for its traditional leather production, while Skrydlof Street (also known as Leather Lane) is where you can find stivania, the classic high Cretan boots. If you’re looking to purchase authentic Cretan knives, visit Karaoli Dimitriou, but be cautious of imitations, as the genuine ones cost at least 200 euros.

How to get to Chania?

If you’re looking to visit Chania, Greece, this page will provide information on how to get there and what to do in this stunning destination. Chania is well-known for its beautiful beaches and lively atmosphere.

Make sure you research the transportation options available in the local area so that you can easily travel to your hotel and explore all the sights in Chania.

Ferries to Chania

There is a regular ferry service available year-round that connects Athens and Chania. The ferries depart from Piraeus Port in Athens and almost daily arrive at the port of Chania. During the summer season, the ferry service runs both during the day and overnight.

Unfortunately, there are no ferries available to connect the port of Chania with other islands except for Kithyra, Antikithyra, and Gythio. However, to reach these islands, you will need to travel to Kissamos port, which is approximately an hour away from Chania. Gavdos island can only be reached via the small port of Paleochora, which operates about three times a week.

Flights to Chania

Chania International Airport “Ioannis Daskalogiannis” is a busy airport in Greece, ranking sixth in terms of traffic. Throughout the year, it serves domestic flights from Athens and Thessaloniki, and during the summer, it receives seasonal flights from various European countries. The flight duration from Athens to Chania is approximately 45 minutes.

When you arrive, it is recommended to take a taxi for your transfer because the airport is located 14 km away from the Town center near Souda Bay.

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