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The Venice of the East

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Chania: The Venice of the East

Chania is a 4,000-year-old gem town prominently located on the north coast of Western Crete. Overlooking the endless blue of the Cretan Sea and the impressive Lefka Ori (White Mountains) in the background, it is one of the most beautiful and ancient cities in Greece.

Chania stands on the ruins of Minoan Kydonia and, in its long history, it has been an important commercial and intellectual center of the Mediterranean. Every corner of the city is a testimony of its special identity, chiselled with the variegated mix of great and diverse cultures: Minoans, Cretans, Arabs, Venetians, Ottomans, Egyptians.

Cosmopolitan, romantic and sophisticated, Chania enchants the visitor with its evocative beauty. From the vibrant North to the quiet South and from the idyllic coastline to the untouched hinterland of authentic Cretan traditions, the region of Chania offers a vast mixture of landscapes, each route hiding an unexpected surprise.

Routes & Attractions

Built around its scenic Venetian port and its landmark, the Egyptian Lighthouse, the Old Town with its distinguishing Venetian aura, preserves the glamour of the past. Its picturesque neighbourhoods with their serpentine cobblestone streets, are a harmonious medley of Venetian palazzi, mosques, Turkish mansions, hammams and synagogues.

Among them, ornamented churches, charming guesthouses, small museums, traditional cafes, restaurants and all kinds of small shops form a magical scenography. Don’t forget to stop at Chania covered Agora, a temple of Cretan gastronomy with magnificent architecture dating back to 1913.

Outside the Venetian walls, the New Town (Nea Poli) stands out with its aristocratic quarter of Halepa and the neoclassical villas of the 19th-20thcentury, the listed Tabakaria (the old tanneries) and the New Archaeological Museum of Chania, a masterpiece of modernism.

The much photographed, busy waterfront, always a show-stopper, offers some of the most beautiful sights of Chania: the Venetian fortress of Firka, the Kioutsouk Hasan Mosque, the Shipyards and the Grand Arsenal.

Beaches & Activities

In Chania, you will find some of the most beautiful and picturesque beaches in the world. The western coastline resembles the Caribbean. Enjoy the overwhelming view of Balos lagoon, a reverie of blue-green waters and fine white sand in the Gramvousa Peninsula.

The famous Falasarna beauty is breathtaking. Magical Elafonisi, an extraordinary tropical symphony of white sand and crystal-clear turquoise waters, resembles the Pacific atoll. The captivating beach of Frangokastello spreads out in the shadow of the legendary Venetian castle. Stunning Kedrodasos offers another strong dose of exotism with its crystal-clear waters, white sand dunes and beautiful low cedar trees.

In the South, the famous Paleochora, the "Bride of the Libyan Sea" with the historic castle of Selino, will lead you to countless amazing beaches. The seaside Chora Sfakion is a water gate for beach-hopping by boat to the untouched beaches of the Libyan Sea (Loutro, Agia Roumeli, Sougia).

Extreme sports and off-road adventures enthusiasts can rest assured that nature will not let them down in Chania. The glorious Samaria Gorge, the longest hiking gorge in Europe, offers 16 km of magical hiking through a "unique biosphere reserve" (UNESCO) with narrow passages reaching at a height of almost 500 meters.

The lunar landscape of the Mountain Desert, in the heart of the White Mountains, is ideal for the most daring and experienced hikers. It is known as "the Cretan Antarctica". Equally demanding yet unique are the trails that lead to the proud village of Sfakia, through a barren landscape that resembles the Far West and spreads across the steep slopes between the White Mountains and the shores of the Libyan Sea.

The province of Selinos offers some less demanding hiking trails with cultural characteristics: you will come across numerous Byzantine chapels (13th -16th centuries) and have the chance to admire a vast sample of hagiographies. Finally, walk up the 90 steep steps of the legendary Monastery of Chrysoskalitissa and stand at the top of the hill to enjoy an unforgettable view of the sunset and the vastness of the Libyan Sea.

Tastes of Chania

Synonymous with the Mediterranean diet (according to UNESCO's list of intangible cultural heritage, 2012), the Cretan cuisine offers an infinite treasure trove of flavours and aromas. Try dakos (barley rusk with grated tomato, xinomyzithra cheese, olive oil, oregano or capers and olives), one of the most characteristic traditional delicacies. Raw or boiled salads with unique wild greens of the Cretan land such as stamnagathi, askolymproi, ascordoulakos (bulbs)take a prominent place on the Cretan table.

Do not forget to try some chochlious(snails)either boiled or cooked in red sauce with French-fries, skioufihtapasta (traditional handmade pasta) with red sauce, tsigaristo (goat or lamb in the pot), antikristo (goat meat or lamb stew).

The Cretan kitchen loves pies. Do try the Sfakianpies (Cretan version of cheese pie with myzithra cheese, baked in a pan without oil), Chania boureki (covered pita with zucchini, potatoes and myzithra cheese), fried or baked kaltsounia (traditional pies stuffed with myzithra cheese or wild greens).

Introduce yourself to the ritual of tsikoudia with fine appetizers such as apaki (smoked pork), raw or pickled artichoke, Cretan graviera cheese (PDO), savory olives, fennel pies, octopus with olives, omelette with artichoke. Enjoy the Cretan raki (tsikoudia) or wine from the select Cretan vineyards. If you have a sweet tooth, try some lychnarakia (sweet pies with cream cheese filling), some warm mizithra pies with honey or a yogurtpie.

Excursions near Chania

Chania is an ideal base for short excursions in the hinterland of western Crete and beyond. Enjoy a road trip to the traditional stone-built villages (Vamos, Macheri, Gavalochori) of the evergreen province of Apokoronas, scattered among picturesque plateaus with lush olive groves and vineyards, forming an enchanting landscape.

Apart from its famous beaches, the cosmopolitan Akrotiri Peninsula is also known for its impressive monastic architecture (16th - 17th century), a "gift" of the Venetians. The monasteries of Agia Triada of Tsagarolon, the Gouverneto Monastery and the Katholiko Monastery are historical jewels of the venetian area.

The beautiful lake Kournas, just 47 km far from Chania is the only natural lake in Crete. Its formation is associated with local folk legends while its blue-turquoise waters provide plenty of entertainment options for children and adults. Enjoy swimming, canoeing or pedal boating, picnics or just a romantic stroll around the lake, surrounded by high mountains and olive groves.

Don’t forget to visit Rethymno, the third largest city on the island. It is just 60 km east of Chania and the most representative example of Cretan Renaissance. A walk in the atmospheric Old Town, one of the best-preserved Venetian states in Greece, the small Venetian harbour with the 16thcentury lighthouse and the coastal road with palm trees offer some unforgettable memories.

Don’t miss...

Take the boat (from Paleochora or Chora Sfakion) to Gavdos, the southernmost point of the European continent, to enjoy a magical sunset, with the rich cedar forests of the island behind you.

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