Updated: May 10
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.