Chania is by far one of the most beautiful destinations in Greece and given its astonishing history, spectacular old town, stunning Venetian harbour, and not to mention some of the most breathtaking beaches in Europe, it’s easy to see why it’s one of Greece’s number one holiday spots for both local and international visitors.
With so many things to see and do in Chania, we share our top ten ultimate touristy and non-touristy experiences that you’re sure to enjoy!
10 touristy things to do
Stroll around the back alleyways of the old town. Chania Old Town is a maze of colorful paved pedestrian streets filled with inviting little stores. Extra Tip: Try traditional Cretan dishes at my favorite restaurants: “Tholos”, “To Steki” and “Mesostrato.”
Visit Balos Lagoon. It may be hard to reach but it’s definitely worth the effort! There are two ways to arrive at this enchanting white sand beach, which extends to a stunning turquoise and emerald-green lagoon. One is with excursion boats that depart from Kissamos but I prefer getting there by car (a 7km rough track and then 20min hike down). Oh, and Prince Charles and Princess Diana swam here during their honeymoon in 1981! Extra Tip: After Balos drive to Kaliviani village to eat at the restaurant “Gramvousa”.
Hike at Samaria Gorge. Crete has a lot of gorges but Samaria is the star (and the longest) of them all. The entrance to the gorge is at the village of Omalós, 42 kilometers south of Chania, where you can go by bus from Paleochora. In the beginning, you will find a descending path. Look out for kri kri, wild goats unique to Crete. It takes approximately 5-6 hours to arrive at the village of Ayía Rouméli, here you will discover a black sand beach where you can swim. From here, catch the ferry to Sfakia or Paleochora.
Swim at Elafonisi beach. Emerald waters and pink sand; it’s pure magic. It does get very busy, but after 4 pm, it is blissfully quiet. Extra Tip: After Elafonisi, eat at Iliovasilema Taverna, it’s about a 7-minute drive from the beach with a spectacular view of Chrisoskalitissa Monastery.
Visit Platanias. This is a very touristy place and for a good reason. When you get here, visit the restaurant “O Mylos tou Kerata”, one of the oldest and most rewarded restaurants of Crete. It first opened its doors back in 1960 under the name “Keratas”. In the tree-filled courtyard, there is a Venetian 14th-century watermill and next to that is the Inn.
Head to Falasarna beach. A vast beach with crystal clear waters and white sand. A picture tells a thousand words and when you step your foot into these spectacular waters you can not describe the feeling!
Savor Piragmeno ice-cream. This is a heavenly mixed ice-cream that you can combine with your favorite toppings (onto the Pagoto) or even add it to some Raki (traditional Cretan spirit).
Find Seitan Limania. It’s tiny and hard to find but when you see the crystal clear water, with big rocks on the right and white sand to your left you know you have arrived in paradise. It has become more popular over the last few years and the fact that it is hard to reach makes it even more beautiful and unique. The signs will lead you to the point where you have to park and then hike down. Extra Tip: Avoid flip flops and bring water with you as there are no cafes or shops.
Visit Tabakaria. This is a district with old leather processing houses built close to each other with very narrow, steep passages and steps going down to the sea, leading you to a unique architectural complex.
Listen to live Cretan music. Check out the “Chalkina” in the Old Port and the “Adespoto” in the Maheradika area, both feature live performances almost every night.
10 non-touristy things to do
Drive to Milia Mountain Retreat. It is high above the road that leads from the north coast of Crete to the tropical beach of Elafonisi. Here you will find complete peace and little stone houses in the woods with a matching taverna serving organic foods under the candlelight.
Watch a movie at an open-air cinema. Chania has two open-air cinemas, the ‘Attikon‘ in the Halépa area usually shows blockbuster movies and ‘Kipos’ in the national garden is for the ‘arts aficionados’. You can find the program in the local newspaper, Chaniotika Nea which you can purchase at any kiosk in the town or through this website you can check the schedule online.
Enjoy the Botanic Park and Gardens. At the foot of the White Mountains, a two-kilometer path takes you through a garden planted with exotic flowers and fruit trees from all around the world, with everything clearly labeled. A free bottle of water is included with the ticket. When you finish your walk, sit at the café-restaurant serving Cretan dishes prepared from the park’s own seasonal produce. (A: Fournes, 18 km southwest of Chania, Crete/ Official site: botanical-park)
Head to Kedrodasos beach. It’s only 1 km west of Elafonisi but you have to know where it is to reach it because there are barely any signs. It is a beach filled with juniper trees, resembling cedar trees and also boasts dunes, white sand, black rocks, and emerald waters.
Make a stop at the Local Art Workshop in Topolia village. You will certainly notice this art shop on your way back from Elafonisi. An original Cretan local Manolis Tsouris owns it and creates unique handmade items from wood. And his gift wrapping, well, that’s something you will have to experience for yourself!
Visit the 3 monasteries in the Akrotiri Peninsula. Start with the charming Agia Triada, founded in the 17th century and surrounded by olive groves and orange orchards. North of Agia Triada you arrive at the 16th century Moni Gouverneto (Our Lady of the Angels) with an ice sculpted Venetian façade, inside the church. From Moni Gouverneto a path leads you down towards the ruins of Moni Katholiko. On the way, you will see the Bear Cave, a large chamber with a massive stalagmite. The abandoned monastery has a small gorge with a massive stone bridge.
Head to Sougia. This is one of the most laid-back regions of Crete. An undeveloped pebble beach and a few taverns are all you need to completely relax here. Nudism is at its best on the east side of the beach and for this reason, it’s called “Matala” by the locals, reminding us of the village of Matala in the ’60s.
Go to Sfakia and Loutro. The unconquered Sfakia is a place away from mass tourism with unspoiled nature. Make a stop at Ntourountous Bakery, you won’t regret it. Then take the ferry to Loutro. A small picturesque fishing village with a Cycladic aura, not yet spoilt by overcrowding.
Join a Panigiri.“Panigiria” or feasts are traditional celebrations that involve a lot of eating, drinking wine, live traditional music and dancing. In Chania, you will find a lot of Panigiria taking place. Just ask the locals or read the newspaper “Chaniotika Nea” and join in on local festivities!
Visit Paleochora. This is my favorite place to relax and let go. The vibe here is chilled. With 11 km of coastline bordering the Libyan Sea, it’s ideal for R&R. Extra Tip: Head to Anidri village in order to taste the local delicacies at ‘Kafeneio sto Scoleio”.
*All images by Polina Paraskevopoulou (Copyright)
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