The Prefecture of Chania is on the western end of Crete and is 2,376 square kilometers. The coastline of Chania is over 250 kilometers long. Chania has a population of 150,000 and is divided into five provinces: Apokoronas, Kissamos, Kidonia, Selino and Sfakia. The capital of the prefecture of Chania is the city of Chania which is situated in the northeast section of the prefecture and is its administrative, financial and commercial center. The city has two entrances: the airport at Akrotiri and the port of Souda (the largest port in the Mediterranean).
Chania is an ideal tourism destination highlighting not only the usual duo of "sun and sea" but also the natural environment, the culture, the area's history and the advantages of the Cretan diet and the agricultural products as well as the locals' high quality of life.
The largest part of the prefecture is mountainous with the Lefka Ori mountain range being the largest in the area. Lefka Ori means White Mountains and was named so because they have snow almost year round. Because of the frequency of rainfall in the area Chania is considered the greenest area in Crete, it is truly a land blessed by nature. In addition to the rivers and streams there are lakes and lagoons, majestic bays and cliffs, pebble and breathtaking sandy beaches. There are also plenty of gorges both in the north and the south. The most famous gorge is the Samaria gorge, which is also the largest gorge in Europe.
The Municipality of Chania has a population of 53,373 and covers an area of 356 square kilometers. It is located on the eastern side of the Chania coast on the neck of the cape. The city of Chania is built on the ruins of ancient Kidonia and has lived through many raids, conquerors and civilizations that have all left their mark on the city - something that is evident by the many monuments of the city. Chania is considered the most picturesque city in Crete and one of the most beautiful cities in Greece. The city of Chania also has a vibrant cultural life. A plethora of cultural events take place in Chania every year such as exhibitions, festivals, theatrical plays, musical concerts, visual arts etc.
The attractions, the majestic nature, the golden beaches with crystal waters, the development of tourism infrastructures with respect to nature and tradition, as well as the warm hospitality of the locals are the reasons that this area is one of the main destinations for Greeks (for excursions, vacations and business trips) and international visitors alike.
The climate in Chania is temperate Mediterranean. Of course, due to the mountain ranges in Crete, there are significant differences in the climates from area to area. In autumn and winter there are strong northern and northwestern winds. The winter starts in December with mild rainfalls that last till March. During the winter we also have snowfall in the areas of higher altitude (over 1000 meters). The snow covers a large portion of the mountainous area of the Lefka Ori mountain range and usually does not melt till April.
Chania has the most water in Crete (65%) which is why there is such rich vegetation and so many fruit trees (citrus trees, olive trees, vines, etc.). Spring is not too long. It lasts from April to the middle of May and is usually dry with little precipitation. Summers are especially warm and dry. They begin around the middle of May and last till the end of September. The warmest summer month is July and sometimes August.
Fall begins at the end of September and is relatively warm and wet with precipitation during the months of October and November.
What is considered the gift of God to this land, not only to Chania but to the entire island is the sunshine. The sun shines more in Crete than in any other place in Europe. In the southern coast of Crete the sun shines approximately 320 days a year!
Towns and Villages
Akrotiri is a circular shaped cape to the east of Chania. The area has an old and rich history, many monuments and even more beautiful natural attractions. There are many nice beaches most of which are protected from the strong Etesian winds and are very close to the city of Chania (10-15 kilometers). The airport is also located in this area situated on a large plateau. There are many attractions in the area. Travelers can visit some of the many traditional villages one of which is the village Stavros where the famous movie "Zorba the Greek" was filmed, based the…Read More
The city of Chania is situated almost in the middle of the prefecture on the northern coast and is the capital of the prefecture of Chania and according to the locals is the cultural capital of Crete. The city has approximately 54,000 residents and many university students. Chania is a vibrant city, a commercial and financial center of the Prefecture. It offers all kinds of facilities and amenities to visitors. Banks, travel agencies, car rental agencies, hospital and many other services are available in Chania. The old town of Chania, which is situated next to the modern city, is a…Read More
Souda is the port of Chania. If you choose to travel to Chania by boat you will arrive at the port of Souda. Souda is 7 kilometers from Chania and is a beautiful town with 6,385 residents. It is built on the Southern side of the Souda bay and is considered one of the largest and safest natural harbors in the Mediterranean because it is protected from the winds. Due to this geographical particularity it was always a point of strategic importance for all foreign conquerors and the Greek army and its allies. The military area is designated with signs…Read More
The picturesque coastal village of Kalives is located 19 kilometers east of Chania and has 1289 residents. It is a beautiful village with stone houses intertwined with the more modern buildings creating two separate neighborhoods with a characteristic island feel. The river Xides runs through the village and it too adds to the special feel of the village. In the village square you can see the traditional watermill that was built in the beginning of the 20th century and is one of the oldest in the area. If you wish to explore the area surrounding Kalives you can visit the…Read More
Almirida is located 22 kilometers east of Chania in a small gulf at the entrance of Souda bay. It is a small village with only 133 residents. In addition to the quaint beach and the pretty harbor, the early Christian 6th century Basilica with its beautiful mosaics is worth visiting as well. Four kilometers to the east is the village Kokkino Chorio (red village) a small hinterland village where one can see the "Galleries" that are very interesting fortification structures built by the Germans during the occupation (1941-1945) to protect the port of Souda. There is also a small glass…Read More
Visitors can enjoy traditional Cretan festivities and share all types of events with the locals, from modest religious ceremonies and traditional festivals to grand celebrations of national holidays like the 28th of October and the 25th of March. The anniversary of the Battle of Crete with the participation of war veterans from Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand in May is also event worth seeing.
Cretans always find occasions to celebrate: The production of Tsikoudia (or Raki) – called Rakokazano, wine making, the gathering of olives or oranges are all perfect opportunities for a traditional celebration in many villages. The chestnut harvest in the villages Elos and Prasses in October and the harvesting of cherries in Karanos in June are celebrated with grand festivities.
Engagement ceremonies, weddings and baptisms are often open to everyone. These celebrations have an abundance of food and drinks are always accompanied by live Cretan music, dancing and a hospitable demeanor.
Your entertainment options, however, are not limited to traditional festivities. During the day you can combine your swim with fun at any of the hundreds of beach bars that are mainly located in the Chania Bay, Agia Marina, Platanias, Gerani, Maleme, Tavronitis, Kissamos, Paleochora and Georgioupoli.
Nightlife begins at the quaint Venetian harbor of Chania that houses many hotels, coffee shops and bars. This area is preferred by older crowds and those seeking something more romantic.
The younger crowds who are seeking something more intense gather in cosmopolitan Platanias that is full of bars and night clubs. Many beach parties are also organized during the summer months in the area.
Chania is place where you will always find something fun to do. Here celebrations, dancing and fun last for as long as you wish...
The Cretan diet is a very well known dietary model. The Cretan diet was researched immediately after the Second World War when the longevity of Cretans was first observed because Cretans had the lowest mortality rate due to cardiovascular disease. Recent studies verified these facts.
The climate in the area helps the growth of olive trees, vines and fruit trees. Wild and cultivated greens always held a special place in Cretan cuisine as did a few glasses of wine. Legumes, vegetables, grains, fish, free range meat, dairy products, honey and beverages made of mountainous herbs are the basis of this diet.
To this day, especially in the villages, Cretans have small or large vegetable patch (called Bostani) that cover their family's needs and many have rabbits as well. Almost every family has its own olive grove and probably some orange trees as well. It must however be mentioned that the geomorphology of the island and the population's agricultural synthesis, up to some decades ago, forced locals to difficult manual labor. In antithesis with urban cultures where a more immobile lifestyle is the norm, the Cretan are always in motion.
Cretan cuisine used olive oil as it only fatty source. Recent studies show that today Cretans consume an average of 25 liters of olive oil per person per year, a number that far exceeds the consumption of olive oil anywhere in the world.
Important steps have been taken in the area of organic farming. Many larger and smaller producers are realizing the importance of this upgrade in quality and are mainly producing certified organic olive oil. Similarly the cultivation of organic citrus fruit, vines and vegetables is beginning to thrive.
The cooking process has always been an equally important part of the Cretan diet. The ritual sometimes begins early in the morning so that lunch is ready on time because the Cretan homemakers do believe that food should not be hurried.
The dishes of Cretan gastronomy are countless: Snails boiled or fried with vinegar and rosemary, Squid with fennel and olives, Stamnagathi (greens) with lamb, pilaf and a traditional Easter meat pie, avronies (greens) with eggs, chestnut stew that is equally good as rabbit stew, pies with greens, cheeses like Myzithra and Malaka in the oven or fried, fried or grilled mushrooms, pork tenderloin smokes with sage (apaki) and all kinds of fish and seafood.
Cheese products have a very special place at the table. Thousands of free range sheep and goats produce milk of the highest quality that producers use to produce excellent cheeses like graviera, anthotyro, myzithra, staka, tyromalama and yogurt that is often served with thyme honey. Naturally, bread is a big part of the Cretan diet. Traditionally it was made at home. Rusks made from wheat, barley, a mixture of both or multigrain (called Eptazimo) is also very important on the Cretan table.
Wine is always present on the Cretan table. The basic traditional variety, Romeiko, gives an alcoholic red wine with a very interesting taste. It is often enriched with other varieties like Kotsifali, Moschato, Liatico and others. The antioxidant qualities of wine are also a strong contributing factor to the longevity of the Cretans.
Let us also not forget desert as well as the welcome drink in Crete which is no other than the traditional distillation product called Tsikoudia (or Raki).
Elafonissi is one of the most famous beaches in Crete. It is the furthest beach from the city of Chania – at a distance of 76 km from Chania and 4 km from Kasteli – but it is well worth the journey to get there. It is a small island almost connected to the shore as it is only 100 meters from the coast. The approach is a short walk through the sea. One comes here to admire the magnificent sandy beaches with their sand dunes and crystal waters that are unique in all of Crete. Thousands of sea shells, pulverized over…Read More
The beaches of Paleochora (70 km from Chania) are located along a thin strip of land on two picturesque coves. The village almost dips in to the Libyan Sea and is said to be "the nymph of the Libyan Sea" and "the Land of the Sun". The beaches are great for swimming and other athletic activities. Due to its location the weather conditions are well suited for windsurfing and kite surfing. These truly superbly organized and beautiful beaches offer everything the beach visitor could desire.Read More
The beach of Seitan Ports is near the village of Hordaki, 20 kilometers from the city and 5 kilometers from the airport. Access to the beach is a difficult 15 minute descent down a rugged path. Up to this point the road is paved. To travel to the beach we head towards the village of Hordaki, turning right on to the road the goes to the airport. We continue past the village of Hordaki and turn left on the last narrow road. We follow the descending road which takes us close to the beach. The beach is small with a…Read More
Falassarna is about 75 km west of the city of Chania, on the west coast of Crete. One of the most popular destinations in Crete, Falassarna is a row of sandy beaches with deep blue waters. It has become popular due to its crystal clean waters and unaltered beauty. In spite of this, Falassarna hasn't experienced noticeable touristic development which makes for a very quiet and idyllic location. It is definitely a spot to relax in, enjoy the beautiful landscape and to savor one of the best sunsets in Crete. If you are a lover of archeological monuments you will…Read More
Crete's own Seychelles! The Lagoon of Balos is located on the Gramvousas Cape in southwestern Crete near the city of Kissamos. You can reach Balos by boat from Kissamos or by car over a dirt road followed by a short walk. The sea is warm and extremely clean and the sand has an exquisite color. Together with Elefonissi, Balos is considered the most impressive place in the Prefecture of Chania.Read More
In Chania, the large mountainous terrain meets the deep blue sea creating a land of rare beauty. The beaches with their crystal water, the rich flora and fauna, the temperate Mediterranean climate all come together to create an ideal habitat and a majestic landscape that awaiting you to conquer it.
The natural habitat of the Chania Prefecture, like the rest of the island, remains in excellent condition as the Cretans still feel very closely connected with nature and respects it thus achieving a harmonious coexistence. The sea and shores are very clean and in the hinterlands large areas of wild nature still preserve their untampered beauty.
The rich geomorphology and the temperate climate supports the growth of 2100 self seeding plants, 300 of which are endemic to Crete. Although there are no large mammals and wild carnivorous animals in Cretan fauna, Crete possesses a very colorful avifauna while its nature's mosaic is completed by endemic species.
In the wider area of the Lefka Ori mountain range lives the Cretan wild goat (Capra eagagrus creticus) an endemic mammal unique in the world. It is considered an ancestor of the modern goat. It has been confirmed that this mammal was transferred to the island during the Neolithic period (-9000 to -8000 years). After the Samaria Gorge was declared a National Park the increase of fauna populations was observed that today is about 500-1000 animals.
In the Prefecture of Chania you can encounter all eight vegetative zones: coastal, flat, sub-mountainous, mountainous, sub-alpic, alpic, wetlands and gorges-canyons, each with have their own unique flora and fauna. A large part of the wetlands are protected and have been declared national parks. In the many gorges of this prefecture the visitor can find almost every Cretan herb. The most known of these herbs is Erontas or Diktamo (Origanum dictamnus). Every spring Chania is decorated with a plethora of colors, countless blooming trees, shrubs and flowers while the alluring fragrances of the herbs fill the air.
Agia Lake is located very near to the city of Chania on 45 hectares (about 111 acres) of protected land. This area is also a wetland, home to a rare and endangered frog species. The many irrigation projects - aimed at improving water supply to the city - that have taken place over the past several years, have resulted in a drastic reduction in the size of the lake, to the extent that it has been rendered swamp land in many places.Read More
Lake Kourna is a unique natural lake created from the water that descends from the Lefka Ori mountain range and is trapped by the impermeable bedrock and the natural depression of the land. The lake is fed from the Amati Springs and drains toward the river Delfina. It is located at a distance of 2.5 km from the sea. At its largest point the lake is 1080 meters long and 880 meters wide. It covers an area of 58 hectares (about 143 acres) with its deepest point being 22.5 meters (3.5 meters below sea level). The lake area is characterized…Read More
The Omalos Plateau is at an altitude of 1.080 meters and it borders with the Provinces of Kidonia, Selino and Sfakia. From the plains of Kidonias, one of the entrances (there are three) to the plateau is in the area of Nerantzoporta, at an altitude of 1.087 meters. The second entrance is the Samaria Gorge and the third is to be found on the southwest side of the plateau, from which the road to Sougia begins. The plateau is surrounded by the several peaks of the Lefka Ori range: Bolakias (2.216m.), Gingilios in front of Xiloskalo (2.081m.), Samperos on the…Read More
The Askyfou Plateau is located 50 km from Chania, at an altitude of 730 meters. It belongs to the Province of Sfakia. The plateau is surrounded by the Lefka Ori range and is shaped like a giant trophy cup. The ancient Greek word for trophy was "skyfos" and hence the name of the plateau. It is quite possible that several thousand years ago, the Askyfou Plateau was a large lake. The plateau has historical significance. In 1821 a large battle between the Turks and the Sfakians took place here with victory going to the local defenders. Unfortunately, Askyfou was burnt…Read More
The Lefka Ori range, known to Cretans as "Madares", stretches from the southern part of the Prefecture of Chania to the Libyan Sea at Sfakia. At this point the tallest peaks are to be found: Paknes (2.450 m.), Kastro (2.218 m.) and Trocharis (2.409 m.). The word "Madares" comes from the verb "madao" (meaning to molt or shed) and the locals judge it to better describe the range which, for the most part, is barren of trees. Following scientific measurements made by the Military Geographic Service, using instruments of extreme accuracy, Lefka Ori was officially declared the tallest mountain in…Read More
The Improu Gorge is a small but lovely gorge in the area of Sfakia. It is accessible in all seasons and annually receives over 50,000 visitors. The trek to cross it begins in the mountain village of Imbros (altitude 780 meters) some 55 km from the city of Chania. The gorge has a length of 8 km and the crossing takes – depending on your pace – about two hours. It has some imposing passages which are created by the vertical rocks. Near the midpoint of the crossing these rocks block the view of the sky, much like a tunnel. The narrowest…Read More
The Agia Erini Gorge, with its many passages created by vertical rocks, is located the west side of the Lefka Ori range, in the Province of Selino. It has taken its name from the tiny village close to the entrance of the gorge. It is 46 km from the city of Chania and very close to the seaside village of Sougia. The gorge is 7,5 kilometers long and is a part of the European E4 path. The crossing takes around three hours. It is also a part of Natura 2000, an ecological network of protected areas in the territory of…Read More
The Therissos Gorge is close to the city of Chania and can be crossed by automobile. The main gorge is six kilometers in length. With its imposing vertical slopes of rock and its lush vegetation, Therissos Gorge can hold its own against the larger gorges of Chania. A visit to this gorge, even by car, or to the village of Therissos (15 km for the city of Chania) which is built on the foot of Lefka Ori at an altitude of 580 meters, will remain an unforgettable experience for every visitor.Read More
The Aradena Gorge is located in the Provence of Sfakia. To reach the gorge from the village of Sfakia, you take the asphalt road up towards the mountain village of Anopoli, built on the southern ridges of the Lefka Ori at an altitude of 600 meters. At the 3.5 kilometer mark you will arrive at the ruins of the village of Aradena (altitude 520 meters) which was built at the entrance to the gorge. This is the site of the ancient city of Aradine. A steel bridge crosses the very high cliffs, joining the two sides of the gorge. Just…Read More
The cave is located in the Drepano area of Akrotiri, Chania and was discovered by a spear fisher. The entrance to the cave is at a depth of 10 meters under the sea. At the end of the tunnel divers face a one-of-a-kind sight. The cave is very large, almost 50 meters in length and 50 meters in width, with a height of almost six meters. It is full of stalactites and stalagmites. Elephant bones and other rare findings which shed light on the prehistoric past of Crete were discovered by archeologists with the aid of the Cretan Diving Center…Read More
The Gourgouthakas Precipice, the largest in Greece, is located in area of "Atzines" in the Lefka Ori Range near the Melidoni Peak. It was discovered in 1990 by the French Speleological Club "Catamaran" from Montbeliard, France. This group managed to reach a depth of -452 meters in 1996, of -985m in 1997 and finally, in August of 1998 they reached the bottom – a depth of -1208m. Here they found a lovely "siphon" (small lake with water). Reward for their efforts and persistence both in and outside of the chasm was the incomparable beauty of the falls, the gorge and the…Read More
The Bear's Cave or the Panagia Arkoudospilios is located on the path leading from Gouverneto to Katholiko. A chapel inside the cave is dedicated to Saint Mary. Near the entrance of the cave is a gray stalagmite in the shape of a bear with a small pond in front of it. According to local lore, the Virgin Mary petrified the bear that was trying to drink the monks' water. Legend has it that in ancient times the cave was a temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis, who was transformed into a bear. What we know for sure is that the…Read More
The Lion's Cave (Leon) was officially discovered on Sunday, August 11th, 2008 by a team of French-Greek speleologists who were on an expedition in the Lefka Ori with the excusive purpose to continue the exploration of the Leon Precipice which had been uncovered 15 years prior. The 23-member team managed to overcome all the difficulties involved and were able to reach a depth of -1110 meters (and width of 2,850 meters) thus doubling the known size and width of the cave. This event classified it as the second deepest cave in Greece, 60th in the world and among the 84…Read More
Squares and parks
Historical Places - Neighborhoods
The old town of Chania is distinguished for its beautiful historic neighborhoods comprising mostly of residential complexes with unique architectural and cultural character. The neighborhoods of Chania preserve the memories of this historical city. A walk through the neighborhoods will please even the most discerning visitor.Read More
With the Turkish occupation of Chania (1645), many changes occurred. The Turks lived mainly in the eastern suburbs of Kasteli and Splantzia while the Christians resided in northwest part of the city. The Turks called the Christian quarters in the west "Tophane" which in Turkish means "arsenal", due to the Venetian ammunitions warehouse (which is still standing today) at the end Theotokopoulos Street. This neighborhood is still called Topanas.During the period of the Turkish Occupation many buildings were renovated following Turkish architectural standards to suit the religious practices of the new residents. The Venetian fortress, built at the entrance to…Read More
"Ovriaki", the Jewish quarter of Chania, is located in the northwest part of the city, behind the port and east of the Christian neighborhood of Topanas. The homes of eminent Jewish families were along its main street which today is Kondilaki Street. There were two Synagogues in the Jewish Quarter. One was totally demolished when Chania was bombed by Nazi aircraft during the 2nd World War, while the second was abandoned following the disbandment of the Jewish Community by the Nazis in 1944. The Nazis captured almost all of the Jews living in Chania with the purpose of sending them…Read More
Tampakaria was the area which housed the tanning factories. It was developed in the east part of Chania, far away from the city walls, around the mid 19th century. However, there are accounts that Tanneries existed in Chania since the 18th century. According to official Arabic documents, the principle facility for this industry was built in this area during the period of the Egyptian Occupation (1830-40). The choice of the area was not at all by chance: it is at the same time away from the city but accessible to it, the location has an abundance of underground brackish water…Read More
The Kasteli Hill, on the east side of the port, was an ideal setting for the establishment of a prehistoric hamlet (ancient Kidonia), as it bordered the sea and was surrounded by the rich land of the Chania plains. The findings of ceramic objects of the Neolithic Transition (3.000 - 2.900 B.C.) provide the earliest proof of human activity on the Kasteli Hill. At the site of Kidonia, the Byzantines later built a fortress, which, in several places sit on top of the ancient walls, and was made from building material of ancient Kidonia. Most of the mansions of the old…Read More
In the mid 19th century the village of Halepa started to develop. It was located east of the city and outside of the defense lines. The area holds an important place in the history of Crete. In October 1878 the "Treaty of Halepa" was signed between the Ottomans and the Cretans. This treaty granted partial autonomy to Crete. Halepa Street, the main artery outside of the wall (today called E. Venizelos Street), runs eastward from Chania. It is well kept and densely planted with blue Acacia trees provided by the Agricultural Federation of Georgioupoli. The road ended at the wealthy,…Read More
Outside of the wall, on the eastern side and close to a sandy beach, an entire Arab village was built during the final years of the Turkish Occupation. It was called "Xalikoutes" (Bedouin). The people were poor. They were dock workers and worked in the marketplace at jobs not desired by the locals. In Turkish the area was called Koum-Kapi (The Gate of Sand) inspired by the Venetian gate next to the beach. This gate still exists. Today, this area is one of the most developed in the city. It is very popular during the summer when thousands of visitors…Read More
The district of Splantzia is southeast of the Kasteli Hill. During the years of the Turkish Occupation this was the Turkish Quarter of the city. The main square of Splantzia, today called 1821 Square, was a meeting place for the Turks in the same way that Sintrivani was for the Christians. The Venetian church of Saint Nicholas, which is part of the monastery of the Dominican Monks, (part of the monastery remains to this day, north of the church) was turned in to the central mosque of the city in honour of the Sultan Sultan Imbraim. It was called "Hugar's…Read More
The Sintrivani (fountain) Square is known today as Eleftherios Venizelos Square. It is located next to the busy waterfront of the old port and from here all the active streets of the old town start (or end).Sintrivani - or Black Mountain Square as it was called during the time of the Cretan Republic - while small was a popular square, a center for meetings and discussion for the people of Chania. It was a paved square and there were coffee shops, hotels, clubs and shops selling new luxury products. It takes its name from a massive fountain, decorated with lion heads and…Read More
If we follow the beach road west from the walls of the port and passing in front of the Western Trench we will arrive at closest beach to Chania - the Papanikoli Coast. This is also the border of the area of Nea Chora, an area that has developed at a rapid pace over the past few years and is expanding in the northeast part of the city. On the left there once was a large building complex that housed the ABEA factory (soap factory). The large smoke stack remains. Right across is the National Water Sport Center of Chania. In…Read More
Throughout history, Chania was a place of strong intellectual and religious activity. Proof of this are the many places of worship, the ruins of ancient temples of ancient Minoan and Greek gods, the over 300 churches of the Byzantine and Late Byzantine period, the humble chapels that are spread around the rural area of the prefecture and the plethora of monasteries with their invaluable treasures and relics ready to welcome the visitor that wishes to experience spirituality. One really feels connected to God in the stunning natural landscape that the monasteries are built in. For anyone seeking to experience religious…Read More
The Monastery of Timios Prodromos is on the Acrotiri Peninsula, east of Chania, towards the airport. Akrotiri has an important role both in Crete's history and its monastery tradition.Visitors come up to a tall wall that surrounds the monastery. Inside monastery it is not long before one feels the reconciliation of nature and human abnegation. The absolute tranquility and silence of the monastery help soothe the tension of everyday life. The church and the lower buildings with the cells bring to light the simplicity of the structure. The nuns that have retreated from the outside world live in their own…Read More
The Holy Patriarchic and Stavropegic Monastery of Chrissopigi is located 3 kilometers from the city of Chania on the road to Souda. The monastery is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is celebrated on Easter Friday. Thousands of pilgrims gather at the monastery to pay homage to the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary. It was founded at the end of the sixteenth century and was a male monastery until very recently. Through the centuries the monastery has thrived and declined. It has been invaded many times and suffered great damages by the Turkish and German invaders. In 1976 the…Read More
The stavropegic Monastery of Odigitria, also known as Moni Gonias due to its location on the western tip of the bay (gonia = corner), is an ancient monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was founded in the 9th century when it was build in honor of Saint George at the location Menies (Rodopo peninsula) over the ancient temple of Diktina of Artemis Vritomartis. In the early 17th century the monastery moved to its current location for safety reasons and was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was destroyed many times by the Turks, the last one during the revolution in…Read More
The Chrissoskalitissa Monastery is on the road to Elafonissi, 76 kilometers southwest of Chania. There is also a small village there with few residents. It is an all white monastery built on the top of a cliff. Don't miss the Chrissoskalitissa Monastery – its founding date is not known. An old legend of the Monastery says that one of the 90 steps that are etched it the rocks and lead to the monastery is made out of Gold. This is where the name of the monastery comes from (Chrisso=Gold, Skali=Step). Of course, according to same legend, only those without sins can see it.…Read More
Out and About in the City of Chania
The heart of the city beats in the old town with its beautiful Venetian port. It is truly worthwhile to devote an entire day to explore Chania . Wander through the labyrinth of picturesque alleys and take in the magic that the city of Chania has to offer. It is one of the prettiest – if not the prettiest – cities of Greece.
Begin your jaunt at the waterfront of the old port, pulsing with life and full of cafes, restaurants and historical monuments. Continue on to the mill which will lead you to the beautiful Egyptian lighthouse.
But don't just stay in the port!
Find the roads that lead to the interior of the old town of Chania and meander through the narrow alley ways. You will climb up and down stairs, pass under arches and stroll next to the Byzantine and Venetian walls that fortified the old city and pass in front of the well tended homes with courtyards decorated with colorful flowers and climbing plants.
Continuing your walk through the streets of the old town of Chania you will come across archeological excavations which have uncovered a wealth of findings and show that Chania was built on the site of an important ancient Cretan city called Kidonia. According to legend, this city was the "mother" of all Cretan cities. Today, in the old town of Chania, the influences of the time that Crete was a Venetian colony (1252-1645), are quite evident. As well, you will see the additions and changes that took place while Crete was occupied by the Ottomans (1645-1898) and those of the Egyptian occupation (1831-1841) – which coincided with the Turkish occupation.
Notice the architecture of the buildings that you will see during your traverses. This architecture reflects the cultures and religions of the different civilizations that left their mark on the city of Chania.
Many buildings were, and remain, homes while others are now shops. Many Venetian mansions have become small luxury hotels, while others have been turned into museums and galleries.
Wandering through the different neighborhoods of the city, allow yourself to travel mentally down the path of the rich history of this place : Kasteli, the hill where the history of the city of Chania began and was once the acropolis or the core of the city. Topanas, the aristocratic district. Ovriaki, the Jewish Quarter. Sintrivani, the gathering place of the Christians during the Turkish Occupation and, in later years, the principal square of Chania. Splantzia, the Turkish neighborhood when the Turks occupied Chania.
You can also visit some – or all – of the museums in the old town or some of the cultural exhibits: The Archeological Museum of Chania, on Halidon Street is housed in an old monastery of the Franciscan Monks . The Maritime Museum of Crete at the west corner of the port occupies a part of the Firkas Fortress. The Byzantine and Postbyzantine Collection of Chania, housed in the church of the monastery of San Salvatore which is located at the end of Theotokopoulou street, just behind the Firkas Fortress.
Having finished this trip through time and crammed with cultural and historical knowledge, continue the walk with a relaxing pastime ... window shopping. There are many shops in the old town selling products of the Cretan land and lovely souvenirs.
Aside from the shops that you will come across along the streets of the city, the Municipal Market - which is housed in a cross-shaped building on the boundaries of the old and the new city of Chania - is a place where you will find many shops of all types and it is most certainly worth a visit.
Additionally, one of the most popular shopping streets is Skridlof – known as the "Stivanadika". Here was the center for the manufacturing of the traditional leather boots worn by Cretan men. They are call Stivania. Today, in addition to Stivania you will find a large choice of leather goods.
Finally at the "Macheradika" on Sifakas Street you can buy traditional knives, an accessory that is a necessary part of the male Cretan traditional dress. The knives are often engraved with imaginative and often comical poetic rhymes called Cretan "Mantinades".
When you are ready for a respite from your wanderings, have a seat for coffee or food at any of the many cafes and tavernas in the old town or at the waterfront of the Venetian harbor. Enjoy the unique view of the sea and the purple color of the sunset with the Egyptian lighthouse in the background.
Due to the morphology of the land and the combination of mountain and sea, the prefecture of Chania is a paradise for those who seek andveture and alternative forms of tourism such as agrotourism, ecotourism, nature tourism, mountain tourism, religious tourism, etc.
The European trail E4 begins at the Pyrenees and crosses Greece, continues through Kissamos and ends at Zakros in eastern Crete. The trail crossed most of the mountainous area in Chania with routes that offer a unique experience to nature and hiking lovers.
More organized villages present many options for alternative forms of tourism, offering the visitor the opportunity to stay in traditional – usually restored agricultural housing - where one can get acquainted with Cretan nature, the villagers' way of life and enjoy organic local products. There are several areas with this setting such as Vammos, Milia and Spilia that attract hundreds of visitors each year.
Hiking and rock climbing are a challenge for the daring. In Chania there is a very active hiking organization. There are 4 cabins on the Lefka Ori Mountain Range: At the location Kallergi on Omalos (1680 meters) that fits 40 people, one at the location Volikas at Keramia (1430 meters) that fits 30 people, one at the location Svourichti (1970 meters) that fits 22 people and one at Tavri Askifou (1200) that fits 46 people. You can also across the Lefka Ori Mountain range with hiking skis.
If you enjoy a challenge then mountain biking or paragliding are the choices for you, while the mountainous hinterland is ideal for those that enjoy hunting. Bird watching is also a hobby you can enjoy in Chania at the wetlands of Lake Agia. In addition to swimming you can enjoy a variety of water sports at the endless beaches of the prefecture like sailing, kayak, wind surfing, water skiing, scuba diving through diving centers. Fishing and spear fishing are also very popular in Crete.
There are many organized camping centers on the coastline that stretches from Agia Marina to Kissamos. Keep in mind that free camping is forbidden in Greece.
For avid sailors, there are Marinas in Kissamos and Paleochora. Sailing boats are available for rent in Chania.
Conference tourism is also considered an alternative form of tourism and thrives in Chania. Several institutes and foundations organize seminars, local and international conferences as do the larger hotel complexes.
It is said that the best way to get to know the world is on foot. This land only adds to this belief as many roads don't reach isolated beaches, beautiful forests, the naked mountain tops and ancient cities. In the land of the gorges ancient passages lead us to the heart of virgin nature offering our senses unique experiences.
The European trail E begins at the Pyrenees and crosses Greece, continues through Kissamos crossed the entire island of Crete and ends in Cyprus. The hikers following the E4 trail walking on paths, climbing over rocks and crossing wild gorges and forgotten settlements can discover hidden corners, enjoy nature in all its grandeur and experience customs and traditions with authentic people.
The trail crosses the prefecture of Chania going through coastal paths like the western and southern coastline but also the mountainous area of Lefka Ori though routes with good signage. It is important that hikers get information about signage, duration and difficulty of a route from The Chania Hiking Association. The mountainous routes require special equipment during the winter months and also considerable experience. The weather in the winter can be quite volatile and you must first contact with the Hiking Association before approaching the cabins as they are not always open.
The coastal routes of the E4 trail on western and southern Crete are accessible all year round. You should gather all necessary information before hand as some portions of the trail are not easily recognizable.
Attention: The springs on the route don't always have water so make sure you have ample supplies.
Recommended routes of the E4 trail:
- Kasteli – Sfinari, 22,5 kilometers, 6,5 Hours Spring – Autumn
- Sfinari – Chrisoskalitissa Monastery, 32 kilometers, Spring – Autumn
- Chrysoskalitissa – Paleochora, 22 kilometers, Spring – Summer
- Paleochora – Sougia, 14,5 kilometers, Spring – Autumn
- Sougia – Agia Roumeli, 20 kilometers, April – September
- Agia Roumeli – Loutro, 13 kilometers, year round
- Loutro – Frangokastelo, 19,5 kilometers, year round
- Sougia – Koustogerako – Omalos, 24,5 kilometers, Spring – Autumn
- Sougia – Agia Erini gorge, 15 kilometers, May – September
- Omalos – Agia Roumeli, 18 kilometers, May – October
Other suggested routes:
Agia Triada – Gouverneto – Catholicon
Total hiking time: 2 hours
Difficulty level: Easy route with a visible trail
Agia Erini Gorge
Total hiking time: 3 hours
Difficulty level: Relatively easy route with 2-3 difficult spots, 8 kilometers long
Paleochora - Sougia
Total hiking time: 6 hours
Difficulty level: Easy
Samaria National Park
Total hiking time: 6 hours
Difficulty level: Easy route with a visible and marked trail. Be careful of small rock slides.
The Samaria National Park was recognized by the state in 1962 by royal decree. Since then the park has won several awards and is renowned worldwide.
National Diploma of Nature Protection, 1971
Landscape of special natural beauty, 1973
Wild life Sanctuary
Diploma of the CoE, 1979
Biosphere Reserve, 1981 MAB
Biogenetic Reserve, Coe
Area protected by the Barcelona Convention
Significant area for birds
NATURA 2004 area
There are several spring of excellent quality water and resting places. On the slopes of this national park there are many endangered plant species that are protected by Greek law.
List of recorded plants:
136 endemic of Greece
100 valuable endemic of Crete
30 endemic of the Lefka Ori mountain range
20 endangered species
Also in the Samaria habitat:
50 different species of vertebrate animals
30 endemic species
5 species of the Red Data Book
Easy routes except for the one for Potamos
"Journey of the Soul"
This phrase is probably enough to describe what one experiences, not only the first time but every time one touches the sand of Gavdos.
This island slowly reveals itself to you and it is important that you leave your senses to enjoy the salty taste, the colors of dusk and the authenticity of every image.
What makes visitors feel the diversity of this land is not only the thousands of colors of the sea, the aromas of the herbs, the cedar trees and the salty air, it is the existence of human creation and natural habitat in unison. Dozens of chapels bear witness to this, some in lush green hillsides, others on bare rocks overlooking the blue water. Ambelos is a majestic place. Its name stems from the product that Gavdos was once famous for (Ambelos = Vine).
The old terraces are now bare, remnants of a time when people lived, worked and listened to nature. Sarakiniko offers a fantastic view of the wild blue sea and the proud tips of the Lefka Ori mountain range. Walking along the beach of Ai Giannis, probably one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, you will be mesmerized by the unique forest by the sea, the verdant sand dunes and golden sand.
The trail leads from there to the location Lavrakas, a small bay that offers a unique sense of tranquility. We continue towards Pirgos where the fishing boats rest and the sun shows its most vibrant colors, while we enjoy a swim in the Libyan sea.
The boldest hikers will continue walking to Potamos. The path presents some difficulties so it is recommended for more experience hikers. The scenery, however, compensates those that choose to walk this trail walking by a ravine with liquid argil ending at a magnificent gulf.
All these paths demand time and a zest for walking. Thankfully most of the destinations are accessible only by foot.
Make sure you have your hat, plenty of water, sunscreen and good walking shoes.
Douliana – Gavalochori
Total hiking time: 30 minutes for Gavalochori and30 minutes from Pigadia
Difficulty level: Easy
Top of Gigilos
Total hiking time: 6 – 7 hours
Difficulty level: Medium, difficulty increases after the mountain pass.
Agia Roumeli – Agios Ioannis
Total hiking time: 4-5 hours
Difficulty level: Easy, uphill trail
Total hiking time: 3 hours
Path markings: white background, green square
Difficulty level: Relatively easy with a steep downhill slope in the beginning
Attention! There is no drinkable water on this route
Sassalos – Makronas (Halase Gorge)
Total hiking time: 3-4 hours
Difficulty level: Medium, with some portions with poor visibility
Rock Climbing in the prefecture of Chania
In the past 20 years rock climbing has grown quite a bit on the island and one by one the locations are being organized. Starting in Kalathas with its low and easy rocks and continuing to the tall and solid rock of the Therissos Gorge. The first pitons began being wedged in cracks and holes resulting in the development of Chania's very own rock climbing scene in the 90's. Other than Kalathas and Therissos many other locations have been opened such as Gogilos, a new area with lower rocks, very close the city of Chania. In addition to organized fields there are other locations like Aptera, Stavros, and Aradena.
The rocks are good quality limestone for the most part and the routes have been secured with 10 centimeter plugs. In Gigilos the use of protection is necessary since only in the location Pyrgous have relays and securities.
Paragliding in the prefecture of Chania
Paragliding is a sport that wins over new fans every year. There are schools in Chania that will teach you the secrets of the sport. There are also several areas where the beginner or the experienced paraglider can practice while enjoying the Cretan nature from above. Feel free in the Cretan sky and circle the same thermals as the Cretan bearded vultures.
RECOMMENDED LOCATIONS FOR PARAGLIDING IN CHANIA:
- Nea Chora, 2 kilometers from the city of Chania
- Omalos plateu, 45 kilometers from the city of Chania. The flight from Kallergi heading northwest – west over the Samaria Gorge and Gigilos is majestic.
- Falassarna, over the ancient city heading west
- Amazing flight over the Kournas Lake heading north-northeast
- Over Vathipetro with a view of the Lefka Ori mountain range and the Agia Lake.
- Elafonissi, heading south with a view of Elafonissi and the Libyan sea.
- Paleochora, heading south over Paleochora with a view of the Libyan sea.
The wider area of Kambos in Chania is ideal for cycling trips due the relief and altitude fluxuations. Especially in Spring the smells from the blossoming orange trees and the flowers in the gardens enrich the cycling experience
Bird Watching if the Prefecture of Chania
Bird Watching is a popular hobby all over the world with millions of fans. Bird watching in Chania can lead to exiting pursuits in areas of unique beauty where the visitors can combine knowledge with fun with a magical mixture of color and sounds.
Hundreds of bird species have been recorded in the area. Many of them reproduce here and others spend the winter in Chania or periodically use Chania as part of their migration journey.
Crete is important for birds due to its diverse landscape, its climate and its strategic geographic location that facilitated the birds' migration journey.
The best season for a bird watcher to visit Chania is in Spring and early Summer. July and August are "quieter" months but there is some "traffic" during this time as well because many species pass through the area on their journey to Africa. Visitors that are interested in bird migration should visit the area of Chrysoskalitissa and Elafonissos, the western coast and the three capes of the prefecture.
The best areas for wader (shorebird) bird watching are Georgioupoli, Kournas Lake, Souda Bay (mainly at the estuary of the Moronis River), Agia Lake and the western coast of Chania until after Kasteli at the estuary of the rivers in Falassarna. There are many areas that flood and hold water until May (depending to the weather conditions) that also attract birds.
There are small wetlands at the southern part of the island in Paleochora and Frangokastelo. In mountainous areas like the cape of Spatha and Gramvoussa one can observe vultures and other predators of the island.
During the Spring and Autumn migration the migrating predators that fly through western Crete generally prefer the western part of Chania Prefecture. The best places for observation are the summit of Agios Dikeos over the village Elos and the high points at the capes of Spatha and Gramvoussa.
Generally the area offers many options and opportunities to bird watchers with the great variety of landscapes and habitats. With binoculars, a map and patience, within a week, one can make several significant observations and enjoy unique experiences.
In terms of Flora, Chania is a very interesting place since you can encounter many rare species that are endemic to Crete as well as plants with important aromatic, pharmaceutical, bee feeding and ornamental attributes. These plants are in various places of the rich habitat of the prefecture depending on the particular ecoclimatic needs of each species.
Area A': Elafonisi – Beach up to Krios Cape
The area is rich in rare endemic plants of Crete, like the beautiful lily with white and green –red flowers that bloom in spring, the Bellevalia brevipendicellata a plant that is only found in this area. Here we will also find the famous Cretan herb Diktamo (Origanum dictamnus) an endemic plant with aromatic and pharmaceutical qualities. Diktamos is widely used in Crete as an infusion for stomach and intestinal problems, Amoebae, colds and as an antiseptic. Diktamo extract is also used for the production of an alchoholic drink by the famous company Martini who remains the largest buyer of Diktamo.
You can encounter other endemic plants on hillsides like Verbascum arcturus and Petromarula pinnata, which is edible. Oregano grows in large numbers (Origanum vulgare ssp. Hirtum). The famous herb is an aromatic, medicinal and bee feeding plant that is widely used in cooking. Its essential oil is its main medicinal ingredient that is rich in "carvacrol" a higher alcohol with strong antibacterial attributes. Oregano is mainly used for flavoring. Its essential oil has antioxidant properties and is used in the food industry as a preservative.
Another plant that can be found in the area is Thyme (Coridothymus capitatus) with unique aromatic, medicinal and bee feeding properties. Thyme's essential oil is used for flavoring in the food industry. It is also mentioned in Italian, French, German and Swiss Pharmacology as an antiseptic, anticonvulsant, vermicide, and antitussive . It is also a great bee feeding plant in terms of quantity and dispersion in Crete but also in terms of the quality of the produced "thyme honey". At the streams close the monastery you can see the plants Tamarix tparviflora and Nerium oleande, known as Sfaka in Crete, these plants have very toxic leaves, branches and even flowers.
The cluster of cedar trees (Juniperus oxycedrus ssp macrocarpa και Juniperus phoenicea)that can be found in the area is definitely worth observing. The wood from all species of Juniperus is redish with and does not rot making it appropriate for the crafting of water vessels and various other objects. The distillation of the branches gives us an essential oil mainly used in veterinary medicine. The distillation of various types of Juniperus is used for the flavoring of Gin.
In the historic islet of Elafonisos you can find impressive formations of cedar trees. There are two types here: Juniperus oxycedrus ssp macrocarpa και Juniperus phoenicea that cover a sandy area creating a small rare forest. The rare plants Androcymbium rechingeri και Ipomoea stolonifera , that grow in less than 100 locations in Europe, can also be found here. Lastly don't pass up the opportunity to see the magnificent sea lilly (Pancratium maritimum)as well as the endangered succulenta ssp. succulenta, endemic of Crete and Viola scorpiuroides, that is rare not only in Crete but in all of Europe.
Area B': Elos – Topolia – Sassalos – Agios Dikeos.
You can see elm trees in Topolia, but your senses will be heightened if in spring you find yourself close to the Topolia tunnel and see the bloomed sides of the gorge and the endemic Ploumi Ebenus creti that is of unique beauty and probably the most beautiful shrub in Greece. You can also see wild sage (Salvia pomifera) with its beautiful white blossoms as well as the familiar thyme (Coridothymus capitatus) Pink rock rose (Cistus creticus), Aspalathos (Calicotome villosa), Schinos (Pistacia lentiscus) and Carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua.)
Further down towards the gorges bed you can see the fragrant myrtle (Myrtus communis) large clusters. Myrtle is dedicated to the Goddess Venus. The rare endemic species of Centaurea argentea, και Centaurea redempta that grow in the sides of the gorge are of great botanological interest.
Continuing on the road we pass under a cave where the quaint chapel of Saint Sophia is, at the village Katsamadato, and passing by chestnut trees (Castanea sativa), plane trees (Platanus orientalis), Tree heaths (Erica ardorea) that blossoms in Spring and Erica manipuliflora that blossoms in Autumn, Strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo), that stand on the side of the road, we reach the magical Elos that along with the neighboring villages of Vlatos, Rogdia, Limni and Strovles are an oasis of vegetation and life. The chestnut trees that produce the famous Cretan chestnuts are sure to impress you. Elos, the head of the nine villages is the heart of chestnut production in Crete. There are also many Tree heaths and strawberry trees from which the famous "koumaroraki" was made. You will also see the snowdrop bush with its beautiful white, fragrant, spring blossoms.
The beautiful and tall trees in the area (Plane, chestnut etc) are entangled by Ivy (Hedera helix) that is used as a homeopathic remedy against sinusitis, rickets and cataract. Its fruit is toxic and causes rashes. The leaves are believed to help burns to heal. Its wood is used in the construction of the Cretan lyra and its Autumn blossoms provide bees with pollen and nectar. It would be disrespectful not to mention the next species of our journey: the blessed olive tree (Olea europea) that produces many types of tasty olives and olive oil of exceptional quality that is the main source of the locals' income. In addition to the wild vegetation of the area, if you look "under" the trees and shrubs you will see rare and protected endemic species like Lathyrus neurolobus, Carex cretica και Symphyamdra cretica with is beautiful baby blue flowers that classify the area on the first level in terms of botanological interest. As we ascend towards the summit we will see the Brassica cretica ssp cretica a rare plant that grown on cliffs and chasms and has only been found in Greece and Lebanon.
Car or Motorcycly Routes
The prefecture of Chania has an abundance of routes that one can enjoy with a car or motorcycle. The fluxuations of the scenery from mountainous to semitropical is so sudden that it can stun even the most prepared traveler. Unique villages full of vegetation, practically untouched by time, coastal villages that maintain their character as quaint fishing villages. There are old churches and archeological sites everywhere. In rural Chania you can find beautiful wineries, cheese dairies, bakeries, small traditional coffee shops and tavernas under the shade of plane and mulberry trees. These are only some of the countless routes you can enjoy in Chania:
- Chania – Kournas – Asi Gonia – Kallikratis – Frangokastello.
Following the road to Rethymno we make a right after Georgioupoli for Lake Kournas. Thousands of birds find refuge at this unique natural lake, the ensuary of the waters of the Lefka Ori Mountain Range. We continue on to the quaint village of Kournas and follow the road to Kastello and Filaki, two traditional villages.
From Filaki we follow the road next to the river Mouselas towards Argyroupoli and its magnificent springs. From this point we travel through the mesmerizing Gipari Gorge that will lead us to the historical village of Asi Gonia. We continue on to Kallikratis, a village that is practically deserted but still very beautiful. From here is we can take to road that leads to Patsiano, through the Kallikratis gorge, and from there to Frangokastelo, or we can follow the road to Afendou – another deserted yet beautiful village – and Imvros. At this point we again have two options: we can head down south to Frangokastelo and Chora Sfakion or we can return from Vrisses and Askyfou to the National Road to Chania.
- Georgioupoli – Exopoli – Karidi Monastery – Vrises – Alikambos- Fones
We begin at Georgioupoli and ascend towards Exopoli, having the incredible view of the Almyros Bay to our right. We pass through the villages of Kalamitsi Amigdalou and Kalamitsi Alexandrou and from there continue towards the Monastery of Saint George in Karydi. Behind the monastery are the ruins of an old monasterial olive press. We head down towards Vrisses, a lush green village with lots of water and continue upwards towards Alikambos. Before we enter the village we will find an impressive winery on our left that, upon reservation, hosts tours and wine tastings. From Alikambos you can vcontinue on to Fone and Georgioupoli.
- Chania – Provarma – Samonas – Chiliomoudou – Kiriakosselia – Ramni – Pemonia – Fres – Nio Chorio
We follow the National Road to Rethymno and make a left towards Kalami, under the Itzedin fort and the shadow of ancient Aptera. We can admire Souda Bay and the amazing Venetian fortress. We continue towards Kalyves. Before the village to our right we follow the road towards Stilos with its cool springs and its large plane trees as well as its church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, of exquisite architecture. From Stilos we ascend to Provarma. This route passes through the villages at the foothills of Madara, villages that exude Cretan aromas and wild beauty. From Provarma, that has many Venetian buildings, the road ascends to Samonas with an exquisite view of the villages of the province of Apokoronas and the Cretan sea. The village is decorated by beautiful houses with gardens full of flowers. From here we continue on towards Chiliomoudou, where the view of the Crete's mountains from Psiloritis to the Lefka Ori Mountain Range and its blue sea make the island's vastness apparent. Heading down to Kiriakosselia we will see the church of Saint Nicholas a church with unique architecture. Our journey continues through Ramni, a village where live stock farming thrives, Pemonia, where beautiful traditional furniture is made, and end up in Fres. Don't pass up the opportunity to walk through the village's small roads as the architecture will make you will feel like you are in another era. We return to Agii Pantes, through the old national road from where the view of the mountains is spectacular before you reach Nio Chorio and Armeni. From there you go to Kalives and return to Chania.
- Chania – Voukolies – Fotakado – Palea Roumata – Ano Kefala – Voukolies – Nio Chorio – Sirila – Tavronitis
This route from the New National Road to the Old National Road towards Kasteli to the right leads to Voukolies at Tavronitis. After Voukolies we follow the road to Paleochora and turn left to Fotakado.
The unique vegetation and the unending olive groves constantly alternate in a magical natural landscape. After Fotakado we continue towards Palea Roumeli, a magnificent traditional village with beautiful neighborhoods. We continue for Ano Kefala and from this picturesque village we return to Voukolies where we make a right for Nio Chorio and from there head to Sirili through a typical Cretan landscape with olive groves and orchards. The road from here ends on the old national road in front of the historic airport of Maleme.
- Chania – Sfinari – Kambos – Amigdalokefali – Elafonisi – Elos – Topolia – Kaloudiana (with an overnight stay)
Follow the road to Kasteli and continue to Platanos in front of the Kasteli harbor. If you have enough time you can visit or admire the beautiful beach from above. Continuing on the main road and passing Platanos you will have the opportunity to see the western shored from Above. Arriving at Sfinari we can swim in the beautiful bay and enjoy fantastic fish at the tavernas of the area. We continue on the road to Amigdalokefali. If you have the appropriate vehicle for dirt roads go down the beach road from the village and reach Stomios bay or else continue on the main road for Kefali and from here make a right for Chrisoskalitissa, a unique monastery on a rock over the sea connected to legends and historical events of Crete. The famous beach of Elafonissi is 5 kilometers away. On the way back the road passed through the beautiful village Elos, the tunnel of Topolia and Voulgaro to end up in Kourfalonas on the New National Road.
The city of Chania is built on the location where ancient Kidonia used to stand. The city was built during preheistoric times by Kidonas, the son of Hermes and the nymph Akakalida, daughter of King Minos – according to ancient Cretans. According to Stravon, Minos divided Crete into three sections with centers: Kidonia, Knossos and Gortina. Ancient writers like Homer considered Kidonia the "mother" of the other Cretan cities.
There are several versions and explanations for the origin of the city's name. According to one version the name Chania is a corruption of the name Chthonia that was one of Crete's ancient names. Other historians believe that in comes from the Arabic word Chani. There is also an explanation according to which Chania got its name from "Alchania Komi" an area of ancient Kidonia.
Prehistoric and Hellenistic Period (3.000 – 69 B.C.)
Ceramic archeological finds that were found on the hill of Kasteli from the 3rd-2nd millennium B.C. prove that the city of Chania's history begins from the Neolithic period. The fact that Kasteli not only neighbors with the sea but is surrounded by the lush green valley of Chania is probably why the first prehistoric civilization has founded here.
The settlement develops rapidly and forms strong commercial bonds with Kithira around 2.200 B.C. and expands to the south with the Market of Chania. In 1450 B.C. it is destroyed by a fire but is quickly rebuilt.
During the Late Minoan III period (1400-1000 B.C.) the city thrived. Its products were found in Knossos, Eastern Crete, Thira (Santorini) and even Cyprus. The settlements cemetery stretches along the area that surrounds it. Thanks to the craft industry and commerce the city gathers great power and wealth. Proof of this is the fact that it is one of the very few Cretan cities that has their own currency. During the constant civil wars between the Cretan cities Kidonia was always victorious and reached the peak of its prosperity during the roman era.
Roman Period (69 B.C. – 330 A.D.)
Romans understood the strategic importance of the island and the role that it could play in their plans to conquer the East and decided to occupy Crete. Kidonia was the first city that fought with the Romans. Even though they put up a strong fight the city was quickly subdued by the incomparably stronger forces of the enemy. The Roman general Quintus Caecilius Metellus Creticus as he has named after his victory conquered Kidonia in 69 B.C. and then continues to conquer the rest of Crete. The luxurious public and private buildings, the many sculptures that excavations have brought to light and the mosaic floors that can be found all around the city stand testament of the peaceful life during the years of the Roman era. The city's theatre stood until 1583 when it was demolished by the Venetians in order to use the materials to construct the city walls. Kidonia thrives even more after its occupation by the Romans.
First Byzantine Period (330-824 A.D.)
The city of Kidonia continues to thrive during the first Byzantine period up to the Arab occupation. Christianity has begun spreading in the 1st century. Art was not as developed as it was in eastern Crete as one can see from the quality of building and sculptures. The quality of the mosaics was much better where one can see the relation with monuments of central Crete. During this period Byzantium focused on the East and Crete, like all other provinces becomes obscure and dormant. In 330 A.D. Constantine the Great detaches Crete from Cyrenaica and attaches it to Illyria. Later Crete becomes an independent administrative county under the Byzantine general. Gortyna remains the administrative and military center of Crete. Crete's population, purely Greek, has completely embraced Christianity. The Arab invasions and the natural disasters have seriously damaged Crete. They contribute, among other things, to the decline of many cities and the deep socioeconomic changes. Crete still did not have a organized defense system and the byzantine fleet could not defend this very susceptible area.
Arab Occupancy (824-961 A.D.)
During the Arab occupancy and under the reign of emperor Michael Travlos following an outbreak in the Muslim population of Spain the leader of Cordoba, Abu Haps Omar, was forced to move his people and was seeking a new place to settle. They settled in Crete 824 A.D. The discovery of Arabic coins in some areas of Crete leads to the conclusion that the Arabs did not occupy the entire island. Their pirate ways only required coastal bases for their raids.
Crete is cut off from the Byzantine Empire and its occupation by the Arabs created a great upheaval with consequences to the social, financial and religious aspects of the locals' life. The Arab occupancy lasted from 824 A.D. to 961 A.D. - when Crete was reoccupied my the emperor of Byzantium Nikiforos Fokas – and was a dark period for Kidonia.
Second Byzantium Period (961 – 1204 A.D.)
After the recovery of Crete by Nikoforos Fokas and Crete's reattachment to the Byzantine Empire, a new era began that lasted 250 years. Byzantium's main concern was the restoration and stabilization of power on the island and to make strong efforts to reduce the consequences of the Arab occupation on a social, political and religious level.
In the context of this policy Byzantium settles colonists from various areas of the empire. During the Second Byzantine Period noble families were sent from Constantinople to become leaders of the local populations. Byzantines organizes the islands defense by creating strong forts on the coast and other strategic positions. In Kidonia that still held its strategically importance and fortress is built on the hill of Kasteli that at many points rests on the ancient wall and was built with construction material of ancient Kidonia.
Only a few sections of this wall in Kasteli still stand. Chania seems to have been named during this period.
Venetian Period (1204-1669)
With the 4th Crusade in 1204 and the fall of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire Crete is given to Boniface Monferrato and then sold to the Venetians. Before the sale was completed in 1266 the Genoese Earl of Malta Erico Perscatore occupies Crete and the Genoese, that were enemies with the Venetians, pillaged and burned the city.
It took 8 years for Venice to evict the Genoese from the island. From 1210 to 1252 Venice tries to establish its power in Western Crete where the local leaders restisted. In 1252 the city and the prefecture are divided into 90 "cavallerias" and are given to Venetian settlers with the explicit instructions to rebuild the city of Chania.
They repaired the wall of Kasteli and implemented city urban planning within the city limits. Venetians built the city following Venetian architectural standards. Within the repaired fortified wall a new city is built with modern street planning, beautiful public and private buildings, the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary, the Rectors palace and the residences of the higher ranking officers. The public buildings are built along the main street (presently names Kanavero Street) that runs through Kasteli from the east. The impressive doorways of the palaces and the Venetian mansions still stood until the beginning of the 20th century and gothic architecture was dominant. Around Kasteli a residential area was developed called " vourgi", which means suburbs.
Outside the walls, in the beginning of the 14th century, the monastery of Aghios Fragkiskos (St. Francesco) of the Franciscans was built, as well as the monastery of Aghios Nikolaos of the Dominican monks. Catholic elements are dominant, in contrast with the rural areas where Orthodox elements were predominant.
The city and the port of Chania become the center of a wealthy agricultural area with economic and cultural ties to Venice. Gradually the city expands outside of the old fort and so a newer and more modern fortification is deemed necessary.
This "new" city with a very good urban plan is built, churches were built or renovated, as were large public and private buildings, in line with the doctrines of the Venetian mannerism.
A new aqueduct was constructed, as well as several military buildings. The 22 dockyards were also constructed, which were used to shelter and repair the Venetian ships during the winter months. The islands of Theodorou, Souda and Gramvousa were also fortified.
However, the local population remained loyal to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek Empire resisted the Venetian settlers. From 1212 up to the end of the Venetian period, the Cretans organized 27 revolutions. The leaders of these revolutions came from noble families that had maintained their privileges from the Byzantine period and were distinguished by their material and intellectual wealth, as well as by their loyalty to the Orthodox dogma and the overthrow of the foreign occupiers.
Western influence is practically non-existent, despite the efforts for cultural submission. However the ground work for the "Cretan Renaissance" was set in areas like literature, architecture and painting.
Early Turkish Period (1645-1831)
Despite the Venetians' efforts to reinforce the defense of the island to withstand a possible Turkish attack, the occupation of Crete by the Turks finally started in 1645.
In June 1645, Gioushouf Pasha and his army disembarked in Kissamos and Kolympari and attacked the fortress of the Theodorou islet. On June 15 of the same year, the siege of the city of Chania begins and the city falls after 57 days. The entire island of Crete is occupied by the Truks in 1669, after 25 years of war.
After the occupation of the city, in an effort to gain the support of the local population, the new conquerors brought back the orthodox Bishop of Kidonia in his ancient Episcopal seat, thus restoring ecclesiastic order. In addition to converting Catholic Churches into Mosques the new conquerors also constructed new Mosques. They also founded public baths, of which three are preserved today, as well as public fountains, usually located next to the Mosques.
Other public buildings were also constructed, such as baracks, hospitals and other military buildings.
With the occupation of Chania, the sociopolitical conditions change dramatically in the city of Chania. Muslim culture becomes the new upper class in a feudal fasion. The new living conditions are created and are closely connected to the religion and social organization of the conquerors. The city of Chania becomes the headquarters of the Turkish Pasha.
Many revolutions took place during that period the most well known being the 1770 revolution led by Daskalogiannis-Vlachos from Sfakia, who was heinously executed (he was flayed alive).
The great 1821 national revolution shattered the relations between the Turkish and the Greek populations. In the city of Chania where almost all the muslim population had gathered, large massacres of Christians occur.
Egyptian Period (1831 - 1841)
After the end of the revolution of 1821, Crete was assigned to the Regent of Egypt, Mehmet Ali, until 1841. During the Egyptian occupation, the breakwaters and the famous Egyptian lighthouse were constructed in the port of Chania. The Egyptian administration published the first Cretan newspaper in Chania, "Vakai Girit" ("The Voice of Crete"), in both languages, Greek and Arabic.
Late Turkish Period (1841 - 1898)
The 2nd Turkish period begins with the reclamation of Crete by the Turks. In the mid-19th century, the city of Chania is declared the capital of the island, because of the frequent revolutions in the region of Western Crete. This fact greatly influenced the development of the city, mainly with the predominance of more tolerant policy, along with a thriving economy. New public and private buildings are constructed that follow the modern neoclassic styles and the city gradually acquires a European character and was extended outside the city walls. New churches were built, such as the Cathedral church of "Trimartyris", etc.
In 1841, the movement lead by Hairetis begins, followed by the movement lead by Mavrogenis in 1859 during which the Cretans achieve carrying guns freely, practicing their religion and establishing a Christian committee, which was responsible for the supervision of education issues, social welfare, inheritance and family rights.
A three year revolution follows from 1877 - 1878, which brings about in the famous "Halepa" Agreement. According to the Agreement, Crete is detached from the rest Ottoman Empire and continues to be governed by the General Cretan Administration and are granted several privileges among which is the foundation of educational associations and newspaper publications.
In 1889, however, Turkey started to significantly repress the rights of the Cretan people and the 1889 revolution followed as a reaction that was suppressed 8 months later. In 1896, the city of Chania witnessed a great slaughter of its people and another one followed the next year, when the Municipal Departments, including the Episcopal mansion and a school - across from the Cathedral - were burned down.
The Great Powers that were always interested in Crete due to its strategic geographical position, decided the international occupation of the island, while Greece sent an army of 1500 men under the command of Colonel Timoleon Vassos.
Cretan Republic (1898 - 1913)
On December 9th, 1898, Prince George of Greece arrived in Souda and became the governor and the ambassador of the newly born Cretan State. After the foundation of the "Cretan Republic", the city of Chania reaches the peak of its flourishment as the capital of Crete. Chania became a great administrative, intellectual, commercial and industrial center. The new Cretan Republic had its own flag and currency -the Cretan drachma-, the Bank of Crete was founded, as well as the Constitution of the Cretan State, the Cretan police, the official newspaper of the Cretan Republic and the elections for the selection of state representatives. A council was formed made up of five divisions like today's ministries of Finance, Internal Affairs, Public Education and Religion, Security and Justice (with Eleftherios Venizelos as the council – minister).
In the beginning of the 20th century, the city of Chania has a population of about 21,000 residents, according to the 1900 census. The city has narrow streets, small squares and Venetian, Turkish and Greek inspired buildings It becomes a multicultural city with many foreign influences due to its past conquerors and the presence of the troops of the Great Powers.
New districts developed outside the city walls that defined the boundaries of a tight knit medieval city. Beautiful neoclassic buildings begin rising constructed by skilled engineers and contractors and the trenches around the walls being used to cultivate fruit and vegetables to cover the city's needs.
During the years of the Cretan Republic many reconstruction works took place like street widening, sewage works and the famous Municipal Market was built. The cultural and intellectual level of its resident was increased significantly, as new schools were founded and the percentage of illiteracy decreases. The phonograph and the cinema were introduced in the city of Chania during the same period, and many newspapers and magazines are published with valuable material. In 1901, the city of Chania pioneers in the women's movement, as the minister Georgios Daskalogiannis from Sfakia submits a proposal for the emancipation of women.
The commissioner's with the councilman of Justice Eleftherios Venizelos brings about the dismissal of the later and lead to the Therissos Movement in 1905 and the withdrawal of George in 1906. Alexandros Zaimis becomes the new commissioner.
On the 25th of September 1908 the members of the Cretan government are sworn in by the Bishop of Kidonia and Apokoronas in the name of the King of Greece. The Cretan parliament in Chania validates the Unions votes and issued its own vote that abrogated the Commission. The Cretan constitution was replaced by the Greek constitution. The Greek government told the commissioner Alexandros Zaimis that was not on the island and the time not to return to Crete and a new bipartisan government is formed by Eleftherios Venizelos, M. Petichakis, Emm. Logarides, Ch. Pologeorges and President Ant. Michelidakes. The Greek government however in order to avoid reactions from Turkey and international complications did not proceed with an official acknowledgement of the Union.
After the successful ending of the Balkan wars the Cretan issue was resolved. The union with Greece was already underway when on the 14th of February 1913 the flags of Turkey and the Great Powers were removed from the fortress of Souda. With article 4 of the Treaty of London (30/05/1913) the Sultan resigned his rights over Crete and signed them over to the Great Powers and with a special treaty between Greece and Turkey he also resigned of any sovereignty rights on the island.
On December 1st 1913 at the fort of "Firka" the Greek flag was raised in the presence of the King of Greece Constantine and the Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos. In an atmosphere of indescribable joy and enthusiasm the union of Greece and Crete had finally been made official.
Chania continued to be the capital of Crete and administrative center for the next decades. Many reconstruction works were realized for the "modernization" of the old city, slowly altering its traditional character.
The 1938 movement against the dictatorship of Metaxas was strong in Chania, the city where democracy and freedom was always a vision. The role of Chania in the Battle of Crete was also significant. This is where the Stoukas invasion started and the city was constantly bombarded and the first troops with parachutes land here and meet strong resistance from the Cretans. The resistance lasted well beyond the 10 days of the battle. After the first days of Crete's occupation the first resistance groups began forming in the area of Chania.
In 1964, the old city of Chania was declared a historical monument by the Greek state and great efforts started for the preservation and projection of its historical monuments.
Cultural Journey in the City of Chania
When visiting Chania for the first time one is astonished by the number of buildings and monuments that history and its rich culture have left their markings on. The old town, on and around the hill of Kasteli built on the ruins of Minoan Kidonia, is surrounded by a partially Byzantine, partially Venetian wall. The Minoan civilization left behind grand tombs, interesting ceramics and objects of various periods. The cohabitation during the Venetian and Turkish occupation of people of different ethnicities, culture and religion (Orthodox and Catholic Christians, Jews and Muslims) etched strong markings and attributed to many interesting creations.…Read More
March: Carnivals in Chania, Souda, Paleochora, Kalives and Vatolakos. May: During the second half of May is the anniversary of the Battle of Crete is celebrated. The celebration includes memorials for the fallen and several cultural events. Korissia – Canoe and Kayak races at the Kournas Lake Early Summer: "Venizelia" International track and field event at the National Stadium of Chania. May – September: Athletic events in the municipality of Nea Kidonia that include Beach Volley, Beach Soccer and Beach Handball. July, August, Setember: Cultural Summer of the Municipality of Chania. The events include musical and theatrical performances at the theater of…Read More
Holy Week: Throughout the prefecture the Passions of Christ and Easter are celebrated with reverence and on Easter Sunday there is dancing and lamb cooked on a spit and wine is offered. April 23 or Easter Monday: Festival of Saint George in Vrisses, Nea Roumata, Kalogeros Strouvlon, Psathagianno, Kambanos and Asi Gonia. In Asi Gonia the shepherds bring their herds to be sanctified and offer milk and meat with pilaf to the attendees. June 8th: Celebration of Saint Theodore on Thodorou island August 6th: Celebration of the Transfiguration of Christ our Savior in Kalives, Xirosterni, Kefala, Voukolies, Maleme, Kakopetro, Plemeniana.…Read More
The museum is housed in the Venetian monastery of Saint Francis. It began operating as an archeological museum in 1963. The complex is located on Chalidon street. The exhibits offer glimpse of the cultural history of Chania from the Neolithic era up to the years of the Roman Empire. The exhibition is separated into two main parts: The eastern part where you can see finding of the Late Neolithic and Bronze periods (Minoan Times). In the western wing you can see exhibits from antiquity and the Iron Age (Historic Times. During the summer months the Museum is open from 9…Read More
The Nautical Museum of Crete is at the entrance of the historical Firka Fortress. It was founded in 1973 in order to promote the nautical traditions and history of the island and to cultivate the love for the sea as a source of life and national grandeur. It is the 2nd Nautical Museum in Greece in terms of age and size. The permanent exhibition includes 2.500 items, such as relics, objects found on the seabed, paintings, maps, photographs, models of ships, nautical equipment etc. The exhibits are organized in units, in chronological order from the Copper Age until today. There…Read More
Cretan products are famous word wide for their quality. In the categories that follow you can find information about the products that are produced and flourish in Crete as well as their nutritional value.
Olives and Olive Oil
Olive oil is the greatest secret of the Cretan Diet and Cretan longevity. Extra Virgin Olive Oil and olives of exquisite quality is produced in Cretan and is internationally recognized.
Cheese is consumed at all hours of the day in Crete as a side dish or as a main delicacy, as an appetizer or even as desert. It is never absent from the Cretan table and its quality can compete with top international cheeses. Cheeses of Crete: Anthotyros, Galomyzithra, Graviera, Piktogalo Chanion, Malaka, Mizithra, Staka and Tirozouli.
Crete has one of the largest in size and in production vineyards in Greece. The fertile land and systematic cultivation of the area for several centuries gives us exquisite varieties of grape from which noble wines are made that accompany and highlight the flavors of any meal. Local and imported varieties from the island of Crete are distinguished by their aroma and flavors. Some local varieties are: Vilana, Kotsifali, Mantilari, Liatiko, Romeico, Moschato Spinas, Dafni, Plyto and Vidiano.
Cretans consume more lamb and goat and less veal and pork. The low consumption of red meat seems to be a contributing factor to quality of the Cretan diet and health.
Vegetables, legumes, fruit and grains
Grain and its byproducts, legumes, fruits and vegetables are the base of the Cretan diet. Grains are mostly unprocessed and whole wheat from barley and wheat.
To this day Cretans consume large quantities of legumes, vegetables and fruit which is why the Cretan diet is considered one of the best dietary practices. Cretans also consume fry fruits, mainly dried figs and raisins.
Crete is full of plants like thyme, sage, oregano, pine trees, acacia trees, strawberry trees, eucalyptus and of course many cultivated citrus trees. The processing of honey in Crete is done with the absence of high temperatures that destroy the nutrients. According to official records there are 2206 bee keepers in Crete with 142,856 counted hives. Crete is the 4th largest honey producer in Greece.
Bread and Rusks
A product recognized by the European Union, Cretan rusks continue to gain consumers due to their high quality, the purity of their ingredients and their high dietary value.