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Chania - My Eternal Paradise

Updated: Apr 30, 2023

Crete, and specifically Chania is where I have painted my paradise. The island is blessed in every way possible; The scenery, the agriculture, the people, the intellect. Other than amazing products, Crete has also “produced” some of the most intellectual Greeks in history, with one of my favourite quotes being:


“You have the brushes, you have the colours, paint paradise and step inside.” – Nikos Kazantzakis


Venetian Harbour by @Kimon Kaketsis

Chania is a destination you can visit multiple times and still feel the urge to return. It is one of the few islands that is so inclusive and is able to accommodate every type of traveller. Whether you like clubbing or want to relax, want peace and quiet or a crowd, are on a budget or fancy a luxury holiday, are with friends, solo or with children, are looking for some sun, a city-break or adventure, prefer organised or unorganised beaches, like sandy beaches or pebbles, Chania has it all!

I have spent multiple summers here, have visited in the spring, summer, fall and winter and have experienced so many different holiday types. Yet l still feel I have so much more I want to do, see, eat (!) and discover. I have recommended Chania to so many people and they have always come back with positive feedback (especially about the food!).


In this post I will share with you my key recommendations and some tips and tricks for visiting Chania. And, to make things easy for you, I have also created a mobile friendly ebook you can purchase from the website, which includes a 7 day proposed itinerary for you to follow and experience the best the region has to offer. It comes with an interactive google map, with all recommendations pinned by category and itinerary day.





Trip Duration

I could spend multiple lifetimes in Chania and Crete in general, but many of us have lives and jobs that we need to return to! So a number of days that I would be recommend to experience this part of the island would be 7 days.


During the summer, peak season is mid July to mid August, so if you would like to avoid the big crowds, enjoy slightly cooler weather but still enjoy a summer break, I recommend visiting Chania in September to mid-October. This period will also reduce the budget significantly.



Reaching Chania

Crete has three airports, two of which also offer international flights; One in Heraklion (Nikos Kazantzakis Airport) and one in Chania (Daskalogiannis Airport). Both airports make the island quite easily accessible from many countries, especially during the summer months.


When visiting Chania, the easiest way is to take a direct flight there. Alternatively, you can take an internal flight from Athens or Thessaloniki if you would like to stop in one of these two cities too. I usually do this during months that direct flights are limited or when I want to combine Chania with one of the major cities. For example, once I planned a trip to Athens and Chania. So, I flew from London to Athens, Athens to Chania and then from Chania back to London.


Book flights through Skyscanner here.


When to go

Chania is probably one of the few islands in Greece that you can visit all year round. The only thing to bear in mind is that you might not be able to fly there directly. Additionally note that the hot weather can sometimes last until mid November, so you might even be lucky to be able to swim. But even if you do not get beach weather it can still be a great destination to visit.


My recommendation would be to visit Chania anytime from May to September - avoiding mid July to mid August if you want to avoid the peak of tourism. My favourite time to visit Chania is in September, when the busy period is starting to calm down but the weather is still great to enjoy some beach time. It is also slightly cooler than August, so makes it more pleasant.



Getting around

One of my key recommendations to get around Chania (especially in the summer) is to rent a car. Crete is the largest of all Greek islands, so in order to experience the treasures it has to offer and to be more independent, a car is recommended. However, I also recommend the driver is a good one as the rules of the road on this island can sometimes be for the fierce. I always say that if can drive in Greece and Italy, you can drive anywhere in the world (well that was until I visited India!)


Crete has its own drive etiquette, especially when moving between the big cities. The lack of modern highways does not help the situation but does add to the uniqueness of the island. So an alert driver that will not panic easily is probably a good shout! I always chose a pick up/drop off at the airport to make things easier.



Accommodation

For your first trip to Chania, and probably most subsequent ones too (as believe me you will go back), I propose to stay in the old town. WHY? Well…

  • Food/Drink: The majority of the places you will want to go to at night for dinner or drinks are located in the old town. So staying nearby makes these places more easily accessible without worrying about finding a parking spot.

  • Parking: Parking can be a bit of a mission in the old town, especially after 7pm during the summer. I noticed that returning from my daily excursions by 6pm made things and I would find parking close to the accommodation by returning at this time and would use the car again the next day.

  • Co-Travelling: If there are more than two of you travelling together, being on foot at night can make things so much easier. This will give you a sense of independence to come and go as you please without all parties having to leave at the same time.

  • Drinks: Driving is a NO NO after alcohol consumption. Being on foot and a few steps from your accommodation can allow you (obviously if legal for you to drink) to enjoy your drink without worrying about driving somewhere after.

In Chania, and in Crete in general, food and drink are a significant part of the culture; It is actually considered offensive if you are offered something to eat/drink and you do not honour the favour. For example, the Cretans have the “custom” to treat you to some local spirit (usually Raki or Tsikoudia) and this could happen literally anytime and anywhere. Therefore, if you drink, you might end up drinking slightly more than you would expect here.


My most random encounter with the “custom” of being offered Raki was at 11am in a jewellery shop, while trying to buy a bracelet.


Here is my tip on this custom, but if you ever say that I shared this tip I will deny it!


If you are offered something to drink that you do not want, DO NOT SAY NO, just PRETEND that you are drinking it. The locals take great offence otherwise.



Which hotel to choose? My favourite hotel in the old town is Splanzia Hotel, a small boutique family run hotel. Nikos and Yiannis, the two brothers that run the business are remarkable. By the time you leave, they will probably be added to your list of friends. They are kind, helpful and very discrete.

The hotel is a Venetian building in the heart of the old town, near the Spanzia square, and offers 8 spacious rooms, a roof terrace and a private courtyard which serves breakfast during the summer months. Do not miss breakfast. It is custom made and full of local homemade delights.

Make sure to visit the roof terrace one afternoon. It is so peaceful and is perfect for a short relax or to read a book. Recommended read: The Island – Victoria Hislop.



To book Splanzia Hotel, click here. Contact the hotel directly for a better quote.



Coffee with a View

One “ritual” I always do upon arrival in Chania is to go for coffee at Koukouvagia café to set the scene and get deeply into the holiday mood. I try to catch a flight landing at a reasonable time so that I can enjoy a nice coffee here (a cold one! –refer to my post The Greek Coffee Culture Guide before checking in to my chosen hotel. The cafe is very close to the airport and on the way from the airport to the old town.


The views from the café are just breath-taking, as it overlooks the entire town of Chania. You will definitely want to come back as this place is an old time classic and a gem; You will want to try their delicious cakes and also want to experience the sunset. I cannot recommend this place enough and believe me when I say that it is for all hours and all seasons. I have been in the summer, in the winter, for breakfast, for coffee, for dessert in the afternoon and for platters with local spirits at sunset.


The café is right next to the grave of Eleftherios Venizelos, a notable person for the city of Chania. I also recommend a visit to the graves; it is so peaceful and again the views are exceptional, but if you are tired from the trip, you can visit them the next time you visit Koukouvagia, as believe me there will be a next time.


After you have enjoyed your coffee (and the view ) and are ready leave for the hotel, try to take the route that will pass by Eleftherios Venizelos House (now a museum). The route down is quite beautiful during the day and worth absorbing.



The Old Town Food Guide

Honestly when it comes to food in Chania you cannot easily go wrong. The food is just so yummy here and is always so fresh! Crete in general is a blessed land and produces a lot of high quality ingredients, making their cuisine particularly delicious.


It is highly advisable to go on a diet before visiting Chania, to

allow the possibility for some (guaranteed) holiday weight.



If you are vegetarian there are endless things to eat in the Cretan cuisine. This holds true also if you are vegan, but please make sure to talk to the waiter just to make sure there are no surprises with any dairy. Adding the MGI vegan guide for you to save on your phone and keep as a cheat sheet.


The vegan guide
.pdf
Download PDF • 126KB

Below are my top 3 places to eat in the old town of Chania. There are so so many great places to eat in Chania, so no offence to any restaurant that didn't make my list.


Thalassino Ageri: A traditional fish restaurant located in the area of Tabakaria since 1985. The simplicity and authenticity of the setting, the view, the great food and service make this place a must visit in Chania. This restaurant requires a reservation. It is a pescatarians paradise and is very popular with the locals but also visitors; you will understand why when you visit. Maybe ask the hotel to reserve a table for you.


Chrysostomos: This is a great place for a traditional Cretan dinner. The owner uses materials mainly taken from Sfakia, one of the most authentic regions of Chania and serves original dishes from the region using a wood oven to prepare them. The menu includes many meat dishes and you will find dishes with Staka, a Cretan roux dish made from goat milk fat. Chrysostomos has a dish with Staka and eggs which is worth trying if there are no special dietary requirements with dairy.


Tamam: This restaurant is a has a casual feel to it and is located in a building the Venetians used to operate as a public bath. The location is in a very picturesque part of the old town and I personally enjoy sitting outside too on the alley way to the main entrance. The menu is inspired by traditional Greek food with a twist from 'politiki kouzina' (Greeks of Asia Minor). They have a wonderful wine list, but also host some great art and performances.



The Old Town Bar Guide

Like the restaurants in the old town of Chania, there are also so many wonderful places to enjoy a drink too. I am only going to feature two old time classic bars. Once again, no offence to any bar that didn't make my list.


Sinagogi: This bar is near the Synagogue (hence the name). It has a large open-air section, so don’t be put off by the fact it is in the old town. It can stay open until quite late, but is also appropriate for an early drink.


Monastery: This cocktail bar is also know as Kibar - The Monastery of Karolos and is a funky place to go for drinks and offers an open-air section. The building is a Venetian monastery of the sixteenth century restored by the world renowned sculptor Carol, offering groovy sounds and refreshing cocktails.



The Beaches

The beaches in the area of Chania are very diverse and can change a lot from the north to the south and from the east to the west of the island. It offers lagoons with shallow waters but also pebbled beaches with crystal clear waters. Below are my top 5 beaches for a first time visitor.


Marathi: This beach is relatively close to the old town and is protected from the winds, so is usually very calm and still. There are fish taverns right above it that you can go and nibble if you get hungry. This beach is organised and child friendly, so can get very crowded especially on the weekends. Therefore, if you don’t enjoy big crowds (like me) try to avoid this beach on the weekend or during August.


Elafonissi by @Kimon Kaketsis

Elafonisi: This beach is actually a small island located close the southwestern corner of Crete, and on many days the shallow waters allow you to walk to it from the mainland side. It takes approximately 1.5 hours to get here. It is one of the best beaches Chania has to offer with fine white sands, shallow turquoise waters, sand dunes and coves. It is also probably the most photographed beach of the island. One amazing fact about this beach is that where the water meets the white sand, there is a strip of pink sand created by crushed seashells. However, many instagram photos edit and exaggerate the pink colour of the sand!


Balos: There are two ways to reach this beach, but I can only talk to the one, as this is the only way I have done it and that is on FOOT (about 2km)! I have done the Balos walk 3 times and I must admit it is hardcore on the way up, but the view is fantastic on the way down. The waters are shallow and warm with white sands and turquoise waters. In places you can see the pink sands like Elafonissi. If you chose to trek to get to this beach note that the route from a point onwards is off road, so it is best to go with a 4WD and not a saloon car to make the journey easier. Also some car rentals do not allow you to take there car here. An alternative in that case is to take a boat from the port of Kissamos.


Both Elafonissi and Balos are Natura 2000-protected, so note that it is forbidden to litter, take any sand with you or cut any of the flowers.



Kedrodasos: Close to Elafonissi is another, less know to the broad public but also very beautiful beach called Kedrodasos beach, which means Cedar forest beach. This beach is covered in Cedar trees, is protected from the winds and is one of the most popular among those that appreciate naturist beaches. If you are a paddle boarder, this beach is a great one to have your paddle board. I have an inflatable SUP that is easy to transport and inflate/deflate.


Falassarna: This beach is on the west coast of Chania and is also quite popular as it has beautiful clear turquoise waters and golden sand. This beach is wonderful to watch the sunset from in case you choose to stay all day. I dont reccomend this beach on a windy day. It has deep waters and can get big waves when windy, so if you are not a good swimmer it can be quite challenging.



MGI Bucket List

Seitan Limania by @Kimon Kaketsis

I have so many things on my bucket list when it comes to Chania; the botanical gardens, the wineries, Seitan Limania beach, all the beaches in the region of Sfakia, restaurants in the old town and the villages nearby, cooking classes and so much more.


I will close this post though with a great picture from my dear friend and partnered photographer based in Santorini Kimon Kaketsis who specialises in wedding photography. However, here I feature his picture of Seitan Limania in Chania that I plan to visit in one of my future trips. What I know about this beach though and will share for now is that the road on the way down is quite difficult and slightly scary, so please be cautious and careful if you visit.




My Greek Island is environmentally friendly and we truly hope you are too. We therefore kindly remind you to be respectful to the destination you visit and encourage you to reduce any plastic waste during your trip.








And once again, don't forget to to check out my detailed itinerary Chania - The deep mystery of Crete.






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