Crete is Greece’s largest island, and sure enough, it has endless attractions on offer. I recently visited Chania, the island’s second largest city on the north-west coast. From the Venetian Harbour, to the Old Port, the narrow shopping streets and endless waterfront restaurants, Chania quickly become one of my favourite places in Europe. The old town is a romantic place to stroll around, with medieval architecture, elegant mansions and some of the quaintest streets you’ll find in the Mediterranean. Within the greater Chania region you’ll also find many of the stunning beaches Crete is famous.
While you could easily spend a week exploring this beautiful region, here I summarise the three must-do things any traveller to this area should not miss.
1. EXPLORE THE CHARMING STREETS OF THE OLD TOWN
One of the most wonderful things about Chania is that it’s a town you don’t have to have an itinerary for – its greatness lies in strolling around and enjoying all of its sights, sounds and flavours. Wander and get lost, while making sure to:
- Stroll around the Venetian Harbour and Old Port – make sure to catch a sunset from the lighthouse.
- Wander the quiet, back streets of the Old Town – Chania arguably has some of the prettiest streets in the Mediterranean. Make sure not to miss Top Chaná, the area where the Christian aristocrats were settled during the Ottoman era. Here you will find Aggelou and Theotokopoulou Streets, two of the most photographed streets in Chania.
- Enjoy the Cretan nightlife – covering all kind of tastes, the town of Chania offers you anything you can think of from seaside cafes that give you the chance to relax and unwind, to bars and clubs playing all types of music from jazz and pop, to live Greek music.
- Try local Cretan cuisine – I recommend eating at Tamam and Salis for the best, authentic Cretan food in town. Make sure to try a Cretan salad and ale! It’s customary at most restaurants to serve you complimentary Raki (a strong Cretan liquor) and something sweet at the end of your meal. Yum! Also, enjoy a fresh Greek yoghurt for breakfast at Alcanea Café & Wine Bar while appreciating a stunning view of the Old Port.
- Cool down with home-made gelato: cool off from the Greek summer heat with an ice cream from Delizia – a gelateria with authentic Italian recipes made fresh on the premises. I recommend the pistachio flavour!
2. SWIM IN THE CRYSTAL CLEAR WATERS OF SEITAN LIMANIA
Just 30 minutes from Chania lies paradise. Surprisingly easily to access by bus or car, Seitan Limania (also known as Stefanou Beach) is one of the most impressive coves you’ll ever lay eyes on. Access to the beach is not that easy, as there is a narrow steep path leading down to it, so make sure to wear proper shoes (no flip flops!). You might even meet some friendly local mountain goats on your way down.
The beach itself has azure, crystal clear water and fine pebbles rather than sand. Bring a snorkel to explore the waters or jump off the higher cliffs into the deep blue. Also, make sure to pack plenty of water and snacks as there are no facilities available.
3. SPEND A DAY EXPLORING THE GRAMVOUSA CAPE
Start your day early and catch the 8:30AM bus from Chania Bus Station to the Port of Kissamos. From here, you’ll be able to catch a ferry departing at 10:40AM that takes you to both Imeri Gramvousa and Balos Lagoon.
After an hour of cruising the dramatic Cretan coast line, you’ll arrive at Imeri Gramvousa – a small, uninhabited island off the coast of north-western Crete. The island hosts the remains of a Venetian fort and other buildings left behind by Cretan insurgents, who were compelled to live as pirates during the Greek War of Independence. You’ll have 1.5 hours to explore the island, which is just enough time to hike up to Gramvoussa Fort for the stunning views and a quick swim before you set off on the ferry again.
Fifteen minutes later, you will arrive at Balos Lagoon. Balos is famous for its turquoise waters, wild natural beauty and exotic scenery. Here you will have 2.5 hours to relax in a sunbed, swim in the warm shallow waters, or go on a hike for more stunning views. Balos is without doubt the most photographed beach in Crete – it is no wonder that Prince Charles and Princess Diana visited Balos with their private yacht many years ago!
The ferry will return you to the Port of Kissamos by 6:00PM, where a public bus will be waiting to take you back to Chania.
- Look out for cheap, direct flights from London to Chania with Norwegian Airlines. If you book early enough, you can get these for as little as £126 return. Getting to/from Chania airport is easy – comfortable, air-conditioned coaches run from 5AM up until late in the evening and will only set you back a few Euros.
- Don’t just look at hotel accommodation when choosing where to stay – there are plenty of fantastic, authentic AirBNB apartments and studios to stay in around Chania Old Town.
- Summer in Greece can get hot, hot, hot! Try refuelling and cooling down the way the locals do with a Freddo Espresso (iced coffee) and a pastry.
What is your favourite place in Greece? We’d love to hear your stories and tips in the comment section below! Read Next > Hidden Gems Of Greece: Hydra and Poros Island
By We Are Travel Girls Contributor Emilia Drozda
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