Published in Travel Guides
Why visit Chania?
Mainly because of the Old Town of Chania with its well preserved mansions, the atmosphere of its narrow, winding streets, the picturesque port and the restaurants. Also because of the famous Samaria gorge and the exotic beaches of Falasarna and Elafonissos.
Chania was built on the site of the ancient city of Kydonia, which took its name from Kydon, son of Hermes and Akakallis, the daughter of King Minos. There is evidence of life in the region from as far back as the Neolithic era, and it is known that the city was inhabited during all the periods of Minoan civilization. Up to the 1st c. BC, when it was destroyed and deserted, the city was of great historical importance.
Its traces appear once again in the early 9th c., during Arab rule, when mention is made of the city of Rabd-el-Job, city of cheese, which the Cretans were exporting even then.
In 1205, the Venetians built a city on this site, called Canea, the core of which was composed of the mansions of the first colonists and which developed into western Crete’s most important commercial centre. The walls were built in 1252, followed by Kastelli in the 16th c., which was the headquarters of the Venetian guard.
During the last century of Venetian rule, the city flourished economically and intellectually. In 1645, after a two-month siege, it surrendered to the Turks. It became the island’s capital city in 1850 and the residence of the general military commander. The Ottomans burnt and looted it, culminating in the three-day massacre in January 1897. The Greek flag was raised once and for all at Firkas port on December 1, 1913, when Crete was united with the rest of Greece.
The greater area of Chania has to a great extent preserved its authenticity, with a wealth of natural beauty. It is located next to the equally interesting Rethymno. If you dream of reasonably-priced holidays with satisfactory facilities, in any season of the year, you will be thrilled by this excursion, which is one of the island’s most interesting. However, you should be aware that all the charm of Chania is concentrated in the Old Town (Palia Poli). The new one has been spoilt by excessive use of cement, as is the case in most other Greek cities.
Located in a bay between the Akrotiri and Onyha peninsulas, with 50,000 inhabitants and is Crete’s most beautiful city. Comprising new and old towns, it attracts tourists from all over the world.
An extensive self-contained area, with outstanding Venetian build-ings, which also incorporate ele-ments of sub-se-quent Turkish inter-ventions. The labyrinthine streets, the arches, the arcades, the houses and the pa-laces will take you on a journey through time.
21 Halidon St., tel. 0030 2821090334
Housed in the Venetian church of San Francesco, which is one of the most impressive buildings in the old town. In the east wing, you will see vases, figurines, jewellery and seals, which were funeral gifts found in necro-polies, from post-Neolithic to post-Minoan times. Of special interest is the collection of Linear A and B tablets. In the museum’s west wing, on display are funeral gifts from the Geometric period, a section of frieze from the Archaic period, as well as finds from the zenith of Hellenistic times, interesting sculptures from the Asklepeion at Lissos and Roman artifacts.
The Turkish quarter north-east of the city, with the church of Agios Nikolaos, which was turned into a mosque by the Sultan Ibrahim, during the Turkish occupation.
The western quarter, with the finest Venetian mansions. Christian merchants lived here during Turkish rule, and the major world powers established their consulates in this district. Head north, as far as the harbour entrance, to the Firkas fort, which was built in 1629 and used as a prison for Cretan insurgents.
The medieval wall is open on the side facing the sea and many of its sections have been used for exterior walls of contemporary houses. Now partly ruined, it encircles the old town with the Kastelli as its centre.
At the harbour of the old town. Venetian 14th-16th c. constructions for shipbuilding or repair of Venetian galleys. Nine of the original 25 have survived.
The public market, built on the Marseilles model.
Located at the port entrance, it was originally built by the Arabs and restored by the Egyptians in the 19th c.
On the eastern side of the port. The Venetian com-man-der’s palace and the Pasha’s lodgings.
Today’s Eleftherios Venizelos Square, formed during Venetian times, was a meeting-place for intellectuals in the early 20th c.
In 1870, Reouf Pasha created the gardens, designed on European models.
In the eastern part of Chania and along Eleftherios Venizelos Square, known for its famous neo-classical mansions, hotels and magnificent villas.
Tel. 0030 2821045570
If you’re in good physical shape, don’t miss the opportunity to walk through the gorge. It will be an unforgettable experience. However, arm yourself with suitable shoes, thick socks and a canteen. The gorge is 18 km long and ranges in width from 3 to 300 m. Its entrance is at Omalo. Since 1962, it has been declared a national park, and can only be visited between May and October when the river is low. It is one of the most beautiful gorges in Europe. A magnificent natural setting, varying from lush greenery to sheer, imposing rock walls. The walk through takes about 5-7 hrs. The descent into the gorge is by a narrow path called Xyloskala (Wooden Staircase), 1,200 m high. Further down, the narrowest point of the gorge is at the “Tris Portes”. You’ll emerge at the Agia Roumeli beach, where there are several tavernas. Water can be found at four points during the walk, and in mid-route you’ll come across the abandoned village of Samaria, with a police station, a pharmacy, telephone, helidrome and mules for transport to the exit if necessary. If you see the Cretan wild goats, you’ll be very lucky (usually everyone has seen them except you!). Lighting fires, staying overnight, smoking, taking plants and hunting are prohibited. From Agia Roumeli, at the exit of the gorge, you can go by boat to Hora Sfakion, Sougia or Palaiohora.
It is considered to be a miniature of the Samaria gorge, but you can go through it by car. Travel next to the small river, through thick vegetation with olive and plane trees. At many points, the rock walls rise sheer and imposing.
Tel. 0030 2821063572
From sunrise to 1 pm and from 5 pm to sunset
Construction of this impressive monastery, with the splendid tree-lined entrance, first began in 1612 and was completed in 1843, after the Turkish conquest. Its founders were probably the brothers Laurentios and Ieremias, members of the Orthodox Venetian Tsangarolo family. The magnificent facade of the By-zantine church, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, with its double Greek-Roman columns, hints at Renaissance influences. The church is partially covered with frescoes and has a tall bell-tower built in 1864.
The monastery is surrounded by an olive grove and is considered one of the most beautiful on the island.
Tel. 0030 2821063319
Crossing a small gorge, you’ll arrive at the plateau on which the monastery is situated. Probably built in the early 16th c., its chapel is dedicated to the Lady of the Angels, the Virgin Mary.
The imposing four-sided fort-like wall, with square towers at the corners, protected it from enemy invaders.
Crete’s oldest monastery, it was probably built in the 6th or 7th c. by Saint John (Ioannis) the Hermit , who led an ascetic life in the area. The church is chiselled into the rock of the cave, with only its west side built with stone. It can be reached by a narrow path, north of the Gouverneto monastery, after a 30-min walk.
Setting out from Chania, enjoy the wonderful 2 1/2-hour drive by car. Be sure to visit the Chryssoskalitissa monastery, mainly for its view. When you reach this endless sandy beach — which reminds one of a desert — don’t be disappointed if you see crowds. Wade through the shallows for another 10 min to the nearby island and choose one of the small coves you’ll find there. Those furthest away are isolated even in August at the height of the tourist season.
You’ll be impressed by this exotic sandy beach, which is also ideal for children. Go right, towards the rocks nestled in the sand, which create natural divisions for privacy. There are several tavernas above the beach. The ruins of Ancient Falasarna, which are not particularly interesting, are located nearby.
You arrive by sea, with a private or rented boat from Chania, or on a tour boat from Kastelli. A sandy beach with a Frankish fortress below taken by the Turks in 1692. Snorklers may discover old earthenware jars from shipwrecks. Be sure to take food and water with you.
Next to Gramvoussa and an exceptional beach.
A picturesque beach with pebbles and deep water. It’s possible to rent a room in the village. Discover the section of beach east of the village, after the large rock, and enjoy one of the privileges of Adam and Eve, swimming nude in the crystal-clear deep waters. Choose one of the pleasant village tavernas.
Sapphire-blue waters, golden sand and a small church beside the waves. You can come from Paleohora, Sougia and Agia Roumeli by private or hired boat.
An infinite stretch of beach, near the city of Chania, but lots of people. There are nearby tavernas.
A small beach at Akrotiri, popular and prettier than Platanias. Meals are available at the village tavernas.
By air from Athens airport El. Venizelos
By ferry from Piraeus, Piraeus Port Authority, Tel. 0030 2104226000
By ferry from Kastelli Kissamou to Gythio, Neapoli and Kythera, tel. 0030 2822022024
By intercity bus to Rethymno and Heraklio, KTEL, tel. 0030 2821093052, 0030 2821093306.
By car or taxi. On foot in the Old Town.
To the islets, by private vessel, or regular excursion boats which have daily schedules.
All year round, but avoid August crowds.
At the boot-makers in the Old Town, buy leather goods and traditional Cretan boots, the famous stivania. In Chania, you’ll discover elegant shops, with jewellery, hand-made kilims, rugs and blown-glass items.
Chania Town Hall 0030 2821092000, 0030 2821341600
Chania Airport 0030 2821083800
Chania Tourist Police 0030 2821073333
Chania Police 0030 2821028744, 0030 2821028750
Chania Tourist Office 0030 2821036155, 0030 2821036204
Chania Port Authority Chania 0030 2821028388, 0030 2821098888
Chania Port Authority Souda 0030 2821089240
Chania Hospital 0030 28210342000, 0030 2821022000
Chania Taxis 0030 2821098700, 0030 2821098770, 0030 2821094300
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