Updated June 22nd, 2022 by Travel the Greek Way
The city of Chania is according to its many admirers, the most beautiful town in Greece! It has very loyal friends that come back year after year, enjoying Chania’s totally unique ambiance or exploring a landmark they missed on their last trip.
Chania town lies on the westernmost side of Crete Island and is one out of the four capital towns of Crete.
The whole island of Crete is stunningly beautiful and diverse and fills you up with long-lasting memories of happiness and excitement. However, Chania town is probably the prettiest place in Crete and if you only have a few days to spare in Crete, then choose Chania for your stay, you will not regret it!
To help you get the best of your visit to Chania, each section of the post is dedicated to a different area with suggested activities and places to go.
Day 1. Arriving in Chania Crete
Chania international airport is 15 km/9.3 mi from Chania town on the east side. There are all kinds of transportation means to get you into the Chania, taxis, rentals, and the cheapest option (2,5 euro per ride, 30′ airport-Chania) is to take the public bus and pre-purchase your ticket. Visit the bus website here.
If you have arrived by ferry, the main port is 6 km far from the city. You can take the bus, taxis are about 15 euro to get you to Chania center or you could have arranged for a rental.
After you have settled down in your hotel, and have changed into your vacation clothes you can now start exploring the gorgeous Chania town.
Chania is divided into two distinct areas, the old town and the modern and larger one. Chania was actually built on top of the Minoan civilization which flourished from c. 3000 BC to c. 1450 BC. Old Town Chania today is a breathtaking blend of Byzantine, Venetian, and Classical Greek cultural elements.
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Chania Quick Reference:
- Where to stay in Chania: La Maison Ottomane (Doubles from €174 Β&Β), Vranas Ambiance Hotel (Doubles from €61, Self-catering)
- Heading to Chania from Athens? Book your ferry tickets with FerryScanner or FerryHopper, with no-hidden-fees
- Essential Things to Pack for Greece: A gorgeous Summer Dress, and a very useful Pacsafe Metrosafe Anti Theft Shoulder Bag
- COVID INFO FOR GREECE: Ministry of Tourism Official Website
Chania Old Venetian Harbor
Your first exploration should be the picture-perfect old Venetian harbor. In the summer it is full of visitors, buzzing with life as you walk its promenade lined with fish taverns and cafes.
Best landmarks to visit in Chania Old Port:
- The Firka Venetian Fortress was constructed by the Venetians in 1610, to prevent any enemy danger (pirates or Ottomans) to the port. At the entrance of the Fortress is housed the Maritime Museum of Crete, the maritime Cretan History from the Bronze age to today. It is closed on Sundays, open 8.30 am-3.40 pm
- Byzantine and Postbyzantine Collection of Chania, Museum (open 8.30 am – 3.30 pm, closed on Tuesdays)
- The Mosque Kioutsouk Hassan or Giali Tzamisi was constructed in the 17th c by the Ottomans. It is currently used for events and exhibitions
- During the Venetian occupation (1204 – 1669) were built 17 Neoria, the Venetian Shipyards buildings, where the ships would be repaired. Today, just 7 continuous domes survive and the Center of Mediterranean Architecture has its offices there (Grand Arsenal, the last of the 17 Neoria to the west)
- The Egyptian Lighthouse is one of the oldest stone lighthouses in the world. It was first constructed by the Venetians at the end of the 16th c but was reconstructed by the Egyptians during the period 1830-40
- The Sabbionara Rampart or as widely known by its Turkish name “Koum Kapi”, is the remains of a gate constructed in the Venetian old-town walls next to the sea.
- The Archaeological Museum where is housed in the old Venetian monastery of Saint Frances Assiz
Where to Stay near the Chania Old Port
- Casa Delfino Hotel & Spa (Doubles from €153 Β&Β): Set in a fantastic location, a luxury hotel, with rooms decorated that remind you of Crete’s history, fine textiles, and class.
- Santrivani Rooms (Doubles from €76 Self-catering). Centrally located in Chania, close to the sea and all the sites.
Exploring Fascinating Old Chania Town
Walking the narrow alleys of the old Chania town is one of the best things to do in Crete. Old Chania town has 4 distinct neighborhoods that are perfect to explore:
Kastelli is located on a small hill, with very narrow, twisty alleys.
Once it was the Ancient Kydonia, the Proto-Minoan settlement of Kasteli, with still today some remaining ruins that can be seen on Kanevaro st. Centuries later it became a Byzantine castle and the remains of that period can be seen at Karaoli Dimitriou st. Then, the Venetians built new walls around it and Kastelli became a fortress, traces of which you see all around you.
Evraiki (former Jewish Quarter) area in Chania is another popular and busy area, picturesque with tiny cobblestone alleys. The Evraiki area is included between the streets Chalidon, Zampeliou, Skoufon, and Portou. You will find here the working Etz Hayyim Synagogue which is the only Synagogue in the whole of Crete.
The Cretan Jewish Community was violently captured by the Nazis, 350 people got on board a ship that was bombarded and left no survivors in 1944. Today, just 20 Jewish live in Chania.
If you are interested in Athens Jewish Monuments I have a dedicated post which you can find HERE
Topanas district is behind the Firkas Venetian Walls and during the Ottoman years used to be the Christian aristocrats’ quarter.
Splantzia square is the old Ottoman district, once totally inaccessible to Christians.
On the Square, you will see the historic centuries-old plane tree (used by the Turks for exemplary executions) and the church of Agios Nikolaos, the only one with a bell tower and a dinar!
Where Best to Stay in Chania Crete
- Epavli Boutique Hotel (doubles from €93 B&B). Featuring an outdoor swimming pool and a garden, Epavli Boutique Hotel is only 650 m from Koum Kapi Beach. Fantastic Breakfast!
Modern Chania Town
Don’t skip the modern part of Chania, thinking that all the fun and sightseeing is in the Old part of the town. Chania is an endless source of things to do and see!
What to see:
- The historical district of Chalepa with the mansions of the 19th and 20th centuries
- Municipal Market of Chania
- The palace of Prince George
- The house of Eleftherios Venizelos – one of the most important politics of all times in Greece – that today hosts the National Research Foundation “Eleftherios K. Venizelos”
- The French School (1860)
- The Russian church of Agia Magdalini and the church of Evangelistria
- Eleftherias Square with the statue of Eleftherios Venizelos in the center
Taste the delicious Greek pastry sweet called Bougatsa filled with cream and cinnamon – in a very traditional environment. Look out for Bougatsa Chania shop at Apokoronou 37 st. a few minutes’ walk from Old Port.
For your first day, you can swim in the Blue Flag awarded beach of Chrysi Akti (Golden Sand) beach, only 3 km west of Chania. The waters are excellent, with a well-organized beach with sunbeds, umbrellas, changing rooms, showers, and a lifeguard. Take a taxi or take a public bus to get very easily there.
Day 2. Go to the Spectacular Beach of Balos
The exotic Balos Beach is at the northwesternmost point of Crete and 52km/32 mi from Chania. Balos beach has soft white sand, shallow turquoise, and emerald-green waters. All the words of this world will not prepare you for the breathtaking view when you get there.
Right across the Balos beach, you will see Gramvousa islet where you can wade through the knee-high sea and visit the 16th-century Venetian fort. The whole area is a Natura 2000 protection network so please respect the beautiful area and leave it as you found it.
Sometimes goats from the surrounding mountains visit the beach. I think the tourists probably spoil them with all kinds of goodies!
How to get to Balos Beach
- By car: Drive up to Kaliviani village and follow the dirt road that starts from the village. About 8 km later you reach the parking lot for the beach. There is a 1 euro toll to access the beach. It involves some easy downhill hiking to get to the beach from the parking lot. At the Balos beach, there is a canteen (which sells coffee, sodas, sandwiches, snacks), sunbeds, and umbrellas. The thing is that in summer it is super popular so you either come very early to get a nice spot or later in the afternoon
- By car to Kissamos and from there, catch a small boat that makes scheduled itineraries to the Balos beach.
Where Best to Stay in Balos
For your lunch, you can return to the beautiful and traditional Kaliviani village in one of its seaside taverns.
- Kaliviani Traditional Hotel. Located close to Balos, surrounded by a quiet and very traditional small village in the most enchanting scenery. Fine room decoration and hospitable hosts. Check availability and prices on Booking.com HERE
Day 3: Hike Samaria Gorge
If you love hiking, then crossing the 15 km Samaria Gorge is a real gem of hiking. It makes a challenging hike of 5-7 hours, most of it is downhill and I would suggest you go with a local group.
The starting point of the Samaria hiking is at the village of Omalos 42 km south of Chania and ends in the scenic seaside village of Agia Roumeli. As this is a one-way hike, you need to consider how you will be transported back to your starting point before doing this hike.
For your return trip, one idea is to get the ferry to stunning Sfakia and stay there for the night. A very nice fish village that reminds me of Cyclades is Loutro and as it is not touristically advanced it is perfect for a quiet vacation. The beach has big white pebbles and there are two more nice beaches nearby, Glyka Nera & Marmara.
Where Best to stay in Loutro Sfakia:
Loutro Holidays: Perfectly clean rooms with large balconies and the most amazing sea view in Sfakia, a real taste of original and authentic Greece. Check for availability and prices on Booking.com HERE
Day 4: Go to Astonishing Elafonissi Island
Elafonissi island is located 76km/47mi southwest of Chania and 5km south of Chrysoskalitisa Monastery on the southwesternmost tip of Crete.
Elafonissi is actually a peninsula, that often breaks into two parts giving the impression of being a separate island. The sand takes on pink hues in certain light as it is made up of tiny pieces of shells.
Elafonissi beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and a Natura 2000 protected area rich in flora and fauna such as sea daffodils and the endangered loggerhead sea turtle.
It is strictly forbidden to remove any plants, animals, shells, and sand from the area. If you do so, you contribute to the natural disaster of this magnificent place.
Map with Balos and Elafonissi Beaches
Where to Stay in Elafonissi:
- Cretan fleur apartments. A nicely decorated ultra-clean private property with large balconies and sea views. Hospitable and kind hosts. Check out availability and Prices on Booking.com HERE
Day 5: Visit the Authentic Apokoronos villages
Just 20 minutes far from Chania town (25 km) lie some of the most beautiful villages in Crete, the Apokoronas villages. There has been a very mild touristic development, so those villages are really old and authentic. Some of the villages are:
- Armeni, Agios Pavlos, Gavalohori, Kefalos, Vamos, Xirosterni where you can have your meals and taste authentic Cretan cuisines such as tsigariasto, boureki, kalitsounia, pilafi and dakos
- Go to a very picturesque Vryses village, built on the feet of White Mt. Two rivers cross the village making beautiful pools, small waterfalls, and streams.
Day 6: The Monasteries of Akrotiri Peninsula
Akrotiri is located east and around 15 km far from Chania. In the area of Akrotiri you can find some of the oldest, richest, and most imposing monasteries in Chania:
- The fascinating Monastery of Gouvernetou, founded in 1537, is dedicated to the Lady of Angels, with impressive columns on the facade. Open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday 9am – 12am & 5.00-7.00pm, weekends 9-11am & 5-8pm. You must wear modest clothes, no shorts or uncovered shoulders, they are very strict about attire.
- From there, take the trail to Arkoudospilia (Bear Cave), down 140 steps to Panagia Arkoudiotissa, an abandoned 16th monastery, built into a cliff
- Agia Triada Tsagarolon, founded in 1612, is one of the most fascinating monasteries in Crete that is being managed directly by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Find here one of the best organic produced virgin olive oil in the world as well as honey, wine, vineyard, and soap.
After seeing the monasteries, head for Stavros Bay for a swim at the sandy beach where Anthony Quinn danced in the 1964 film Zorba the Greek.
Check out the Little Bay Rooms at Stavros, neat large rooms, less than a minute far from a tiny sandy beach on Booking.com HERE
Day 7: Souda Bay, Fortresses, and Ancient Aptera
Above the Souda Bay, and around 15 km/9.3 mi from Chania lie the ruins of Ancient Aptera one of the most important city-states of Crete during the Minoan period. Take water with you, and wear good shoes, a hat, and sunscreen as this is a large site.
Today, you can see public baths, graves, Roman reservoirs, many wells, tanks, and a theater, which is not completely revealed yet. The wall that was protecting Aptera has survived a length of about 4 km/2.5mi.
Right across you will see a small island which is all covered by a Venetian castle built in 1573 and nearby the Itzedin castle built in 1872 by the Ottomans. They are both very impressive medieval landmarks that you should not miss if you are in the area.
Chania Beaches with SeaTrac For the Mobility Impaired
There are over 130 beaches in Greece that have installed the Seatrac system so that people with mobility issues can have independent access to the sea. In Chania, 3-5 km far from the town, there are 3 beaches that you can choose from if you are in a wheelchair:
- Chania Agios Onoufrios Beach
- Chania Agioi Apostoloi Beach
- Chania Nea Chora Beach next to Jewish Quarters in the town
Where to stay in the area (hotels that have also the infrastructure for disabled people):
- Κatakis Villas in Agios Onoufrios. Both Villas, Christina & Maria, have the infrastructure (access, bathroom) to accommodate disabled/ wheelchair people. The villas offer as well a nice garden with a swimming pool, private and super clean modern rooms with hospitable hosts. Check out availability and prices on Booking.com HERE
- Domes Noruz Chania in Agioi Apostoloi. An exceptional hotel for people over 16 years old, right on the Agioi Apostoloi beach. Finely decorated rooms, excellent service, and local cuisine. Check out availability and prices on Booking.com HERE
- Balance Hotel: The hotel has 2 rooms that are designed to accommodate people with special needs. Brand new, clean-cut modern hotel, with warm details, a lovely jacuzzi and located within walking distance of the city center. The breakfast will blow your minds! Check out availability and prices on Booking.com HERE
A Message from Evgenia
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