Why you need to visit Chania this summer

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Yasemen Kaner-White

Yasemen Kaner-White

Chania is an attractive, coastal city located in northwest Crete* with a particularly pretty historic harbour. A beautiful blend of ancient and contemporary, it is known for its eclectic Venetian, Egyptian and Turkish influenced architecture.

The historic harbour of Chania, Crete © Thomas Landgren - Flickr Creative Commons
The historic harbour of Chania, Crete © Thomas Landgren - Flickr Creative Commons

Beaches are bountiful, as are the enticing waterfront restaurants. No matter your interests, you'll be spoilt for choice with activities and sightseeing opportunities in and around Chania*.

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Wander the Topanas & Jewish quarters

The Topanas area and Jewish Quarter are pleasant places to stroll with a number of boutique shops lining the narrow winding alleys. If you like Turkish food, head to Tamam restaurant, which is found within the old Venetian public baths built in the 1400s.

Within walking distance is the Archaeological Museum of Chania displaying artefacts from the Neolithic to Roman periods, the fascinating Folklore Museum documenting local life in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Then there is the Municipal Gallery of Arts housed in a fine example of Neoclassical architecture.

Hike the Samaria Gorge

A must for nature lovers, White Mountains' National Park with the famous Samaria Gorge at is its core, is the only national park in Crete. It encircles some 450 species of plants and animals, 70 of them endemic to the island.

If you don't mind walking downhill and have sturdy legs then descend into the gorge on a six-to-eight-hour trek knowing there is the promise of swimming and a typical taverna lunch or a picnic under a tree, waiting for you.

Descending the Samaria Gorge in Crete © Prosign - Adobe Stock Image
Descending the Samaria Gorge in Crete © Prosign - Adobe Stock Image

Along the way, you will pass churches, Venetian castles, ruins of prehistoric settlements and remains of the old village of Samaria. The Cretan goats will keep you company and it's a joy to slurp the mountain water running from the gorge's springs to quench your thirst.

As one of the longest gorges in Europe (16km long), it is renowned as one of the most impressive gorges in Greece and certainly one for the bucket list.

Relax by the beach

A brief 10-minute walk from the harbour takes you to Nea Chora, meaning New Town, which is the main beach of Chania. Expect plenty of sunbeds and umbrellas, cafés, traditional tavernas and sumptuous sand beckoning your bare feet.

As it's the main beach, it can get a little busy so if you're after quiet time your best bet would be nearby Kladisos Beach, boasting sand and shingle; it's a peaceful spot to sit and take it all in.

Iconic Elafonisi Beach on the southwest coast of Crete © Lucian Bolca - Adobe Stock Image
Iconic Elafonisi Beach on the southwest coast of Crete © Lucian Bolca - Adobe Stock Image

Elafonisi Beach is gorgeous, the pink coral exuding a warm pink hue in the water; it is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete. Previously deserted it is now incredibly popular, so grab your spot quickly! If you hire a car, you'll find plenty of other secluded beach spots.

Sample tasty Cretan treats

Cretan cuisine is proudly based on minimal, local ingredients that come together to produce exquisite, memorable meals.

Dishes to delve into include pastitcio; hollow pasta noodles with a layer of minced lamb and tomato sauce, topped with a thick layer of bechamel; tirokafteri, a spicy feta cheese dip perfect with toasted pitta bread.

Freshly grilled squid is a local delicacy © Vikakurylo81 - Adobe Stock Image
Freshly grilled squid is a local delicacy © Vikakurylo81 - Adobe Stock Image

Then there's dakos, dried barley bread husks topped with fresh tomatoes, creamy mizithra cheese and drizzled with olive oil and oregano, kalitsounia, Cretan pastry pies filled with cheese, spinach or even sweet with cheese and topped with honey. Of course, Crete's famous seafood is not to be missed, either.

People-watch at the covered market

In the centre of the city you'll find the bustling cross-shaped Agora Covered Market that first opened in 1913. You'll see what locals buy, including fresh produce such as Cretan cheese graviera, olive oil, olives, wine and sweet treats, the most famous of which is flavoured with star anise and delicious local wild thyme honey.

It's a great place to pick up some mementoes such as spices, herbs, the potent local brandy tipple tsikouda or gifts such as objet d'art carved from indigenous olive wood. There are a few restaurants in the market that serve tasty Cretan dishes too.

Explore the Akrotiri Peninsula

At the east end of Chania is Akrotiri, where you'll find historic monasteries including the impressive 17th-century Agia Triada, which was a prominent religious school until around 50 years ago.

Agia Triada Monastery on the Akrotiri Peninsula © Liubomir G - Wikimedia Commons
Agia Triada Monastery on the Akrotiri Peninsula © Liubomir G - Wikimedia Commons

Nearby, Moni Gouverneto (Our Lady of the Angels), which was built in 1537, boasts a beautiful, sculpted Venetian façade.

You might want to seek out Bear Cave. This large rock chamber, formerly dedicated to the goddess Artemis, encloses a massive stalagmite in the middle resembling the shape of a bear.

Take your swimming costume, as there are plenty of places you can dive into crystal clear waters along the peninsula.

Water sports galore

Most diving centres are on the northern coast of Chania. There is snorkelling, windsurfing and kitesurfing aplenty.

If you love the sea but after something less strenuous then consider going on a boat tour or renting a boat from one of the many sailing boat companies in the area.

For avid scuba divers, there is much to see: reefs, underwater caves, ship and plane wrecks offering a feast for the eyes and the Elephant Cave where you'll be surrounded by imposing stalactites and stalagmites.

Immerse yourself in festivals

From June to August, there are multiple events in the municipality of Chania, from theatre performances, musical concerts, art and photo exhibitions, cultural lectures, sports competitions and more.

The first week of August sees The Agricultural festival, which revolves around an exhibition in the old port in Chania Town.

Meanwhile, The Sardines Festival, which takes place the first week of September, is a quirky celebration of all things sardines, with delicious things to eat and demonstrations. If you're there when it is taking place, it is a must-see.

If you happen to be in Chania for some winter sun and are a fan of local beverage raki, then be sure to go to the Raki Festival. It occurs each November during the month of raki production and you'll learn about how it's distilled with a backdrop of Cretan music, tasty bites and, of course, plenty of raki.

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Yasemen Kaner-White

Yasemen Kaner-White
Posted on Monday 28th February 2022 in: Beach Europe Excursions Summer

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