The glorious city of Chania is located rather in the west of the island of Crete and unites all the best features every visitor is looking for: There is the everchanging history that’s reflected in magnificent structures from different epochs and cultures and showcased in grand museums. There is the joy of life that you feel even in the smallest alley, that you taste in Crete’s delicious cuisine and enjoy with every sip of Retsina’n’Raki. However, one of the best features of Chania are the beautiful beaches which are just a short walk away from the city center.
Hence, if you are looking for the perfect base to explore’n’enjoy the island of Crete, look no further, you’ve found it in Chania.
- History in a Nutshell
- A Stroll Through Chania
- The Finest Beaches Within Walking Distance From Town
- Practical Information
- Pinnable Pictures
I’ve been always intrigued by the incredible influence and power that the tiny city of Venice used to have for eleven centuries until the end of the 18th century. The so-called Serenissima Repubblica di San Marco, hence, the Most Serene Republic of Saint Mark dominated the land and the sea from northern Italy all the way to Crete and at times even to Crimea and Cyprus. Therefore, until this date, you can trace Venitian architecture and culture in places like Piran and Koper in Slovenia, Porec and Korcula in Croatia, Nicosia in Cyprus, as well as Corfu Town and the Chora of Naxos in Greece – and these are just the most famous ones.
Oh, and before I forget: There is also Chania, which is probably the most exquisite example of Venetian hegemony.
The powerful Venetians obtained the island of Crete in the aftermath of the Byzantine Empire. They transformed La Canea, as they called today’s Chania, into one of their empire’s most powerful trading posts. Consequently, many of the city’s most iconic landmarks stem from that time.
The historic old town of Chania is glorious – no wonder that in addition to rich agriculture, tourism has developed into the second most significant economic factor.
It’s In The Mix
If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know that I’m not the leisurely cocktail-sipping-next-to-the-pool type of a traveller. Albeit, I’m always happy to squeeze in a lazy day or two on a beach. However, I mainly get my travel kicks out of meeting the people and getting to know the country, its traditions, and quirks. Chania’s historic center bursts of amazing old structures, albeit, there are also some less historic yet equally charming neighborhoods where you hardly ever run into a tourist. There are marvelous beaches that can be reached even by walking and if you want to venture further away, just hop on one of the many public buses, and off you go.
Chania has a great mix of options.
Chania caters perfectly to my needs.
History in a Nutshell
How can I possibly trace Chania’s rich history in a couple of sentences? Well, if you are a history buff or a teacher, you’ll probably raise your eyebrows and you’ll end up a bit disappointed with all the details that will be missing. But my intention is to quickly explain the incredible cultural mix in Chania so that you can appreciate its uniqueness even more.
The first traces of settlement from the old town district of Kastelli go back to the Neolithic period 3400 to 3000 BC. This makes Chania one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in Europe. In the Minoan period from 1600 to 1100 BC, the so-called city of Kudonija was a thriving settlement. The fact that in contrast to Heraklion, no Minoan palace was found in Chania is possibly due to the fact that the settlement was never abandoned. This way, the following generations constructed their buildings with building materials that they obtained from older structures in the city.
Following the Byzantine and Arab periods in the 9th century came the hegemony of the Republic of Venice. Members of the Venetian nobility commissioned gorgeous mansions in town.
Under Ottoman Rule
Despite all efforts, Crete could not be protected against the Ottoman conquest. In 1645, 400 vessels brought 60,000 Ottoman soldiers ashore. After an almost two-month siege, La Canea fell as one of the first cities in Crete at the hands of the Turkish conquerors. The Venetians were granted free withdrawal as the Turks began building a mosque at the port.
The city, now called Hanya in Turkish, changed drastically under Ottoman rule. Churches were converted into mosques, hammams, and fountains constructed, and Turks settled in the Kastelli and Splantzia districts.
In the 19th century, numerous uprisings by the Greek population against Ottoman supremacy were bloodily suppressed. In 1898, the intervention of France, Russia, and Great Britain brought Crete almost complete autonomy. The island finally became part of the Greek state through the Treaty of London in 1913. Around 50,000 Turks had to leave, and many Greeks from Asia Minor settled on Crete.
During WWII, the German Wehrmacht conquered the strategically important island of Crete in 1941. They occupied it until the end of the war in 1945. Sadly, this era was immediately followed by the Greek civil war which then ended in 1949. Nevertheless, the civil war afflicted Crete to a much lesser extent than mainland Greece.
In 1971, Chania lost its status as the capital of Crete to the much larger city of Heraklion. Yet, a number of neoclassical villas in the Chalepa district are glorious remainders of Chania’s political significance.
A Stroll Through Chania
It was so easy to take advantage of Chania’s ideal location and the choice of different activities. Although there are wonderful beaches on both sides of town and great hiking options in the hinterland, no stay would be complete without a cultural walk through the old town. However, you should be aware that this is an exclusively touristy thing. While you might run into some locals on the eastern outskirts of the historic center, the Greeks that you’ll encounter around the Venetian Harbor and the adjacent areas such as the Topanas neighborhood are there to run their businesses. This area is a tourist attraction, not a residential part of town.
This being said, the architecture in the historic old town is absolutely exquisite – you only have to look beyond all those souvenir shops and restaurants on the ground floor. Also, I’d recommend visiting the very center in the early morning before the day trippers come flooding in. The harbor stays really cramped even in the evening since the promenade around the basin is lined with restaurants.
The Venetian Harbor is the heart and most famous part of the old city center. It was constructed in the 14th century but it never reached great importance due to the shallow water and insufficient protection against the northern winds. Just like in Venice, there are no fences so that when the sea is just a little bit rougher, you have to be very careful not to get your feet wet – or to get splashed from head to toe.
On the western side of the harbor basin is the old Venetian neighborhood which borders the remnants of the ancient fortification. It merges into the former Jewish part of town between Portou and Kondiláki. Narrow alleys, small specialty shops, and cozy taverns: The area around Kondiláki is one of the most picturesque and intriguing parts of town.
Obviously, further east, there is also a former Muslim part of town, but we get to there towards the end of the walk.
There are two excellent spots to get a grand panoramic view of the harbor basin and the palaces around it. The first one is on the northwest side of the harbor where the Venetians built a fortification to protect the harbor.
The Venetian as well as the Ottoman rulers used the Firkas Fortress as a prison and so did the German occupiers in WWII. In 1913, Eleftherios Venizelos and King Constantine hoisted the Greek flag on the fort to celebrate the unification of Crete with Greece.
Today, the main building of the fortress houses the major part of the Maritime Museum of Crete while the exhibits on traditional shipbuilding is at the Arsenale.
Walking On Walls
Even if you don’t want to visit the museum, you can enter the Firka Fortress for free and enjoy some of the best views of Chania and its surroundings.
The museum is open from Monday to Saturday between 9 a. m. and 3.30 p. m. The fortress, however, can be accessed every day from 9 a. m. till 2 p. m. during the winter months from November to March and from 9 a. m. till 7 p. m. from April to October.
The other great spot to get some great views is actually Chania’s iconic lighthouse. As you look out on the water, it seems like you can almost touch it. And indeed, it’s only about 150 meters from the harbor’s western part.
But to actually get there, you have to circumnavigate the entire harbor and walk all the way to the Chania Venetian Harbor Guardhouse. From there, you can walk on a narrow breakwater all the way to the tip where the lighthouse is standing.
This whole walk is more than two kilometers and takes at least half an hour. However, it’s absolutely worth the little exercise.
Walk This Way
Let’s begin the walk on the western part of the harbor in the old Venetian neighborhood of Topane. Beautiful town palaces are lining narrow alleys filled with small jewelers, artisans, and other souvenir shops as well as cafés and restaurants.
Not far from the Genovese tower is the former Gothic church of San Salvatore which today houses a collection of archaeological finds from the early Christian years up to the Ottoman rule.
This small charming museum is open from Wednesday to Monday between 8.30 a. m. and 3.30 p. m.
As you walk around the corner into the harbor area, you’ll first pass the Firka Fortress and the Maritime Museum that I’ve already introduced above. From here you can stroll alongside the basin in a wide bow past tons of souvenir stores and restaurants. Although this is a prime location, the food here is not overwhelming. All restaurants offer basically the same standard foods that you get served at every Greek restaurant anywhere in the world. Also, they are quite pricey considering the mediocre choice and quality.
To enjoy authentic Cretan cuisine, you probably have to leave the Venetian harbor and venture out into the newer less picturesque parts of Chania – that’s where the locals go.
As you slowly get to the eastern part of the harbor basin, you pass the old Venetian fountain which is not very impressive and deems a bit neglected. I personally would not put my hands into this water.
Just a stone’s throw away is one of Chania’s most significant landmarks, namely the former Küçük Hasan Pasha Mosque that today serves as an exhibition space.
On the Waterfront
As you turn right, you walk alongside the jetties with fisher boats and small sailing yachts bobbing in the waters. One of the most outstanding structures on the waterfront is certainly the so-called Megalo Arsenali, hence, the Great Shipyard. It is the last of the once 17 shipyards of the Venetian port. Over the centuries, the construction from the 16th century hosted various important public services such as a school, a hospital, and even the city hall.
Today, it houses the Center of Mediterranean Architecture and is open for visits on weekdays from 8 a. m. to 3 p. m.
Right next to it are the Arsenale halls. These lead-roofed barrel vaults were built in 1497. Only seven of the buildings on the southern quay have survived, and they are in a rather poor condition.
Walking past the former Venetian Guardhouse which now houses trendy gastronomy, make a U-turn and you’ll reach the causeway to the lighthouse.
Walking Between Waters
The Venetians built the first lighthouse for the safety of ships around 1600. In 1825, it was destroyed in a battle. Eventually, today’s lighthouse was finished in an Arabic architectural style in 1830.
There are very uneven spots on the causeway. You also have to go up and down a few steps a couple of times. In general, it is better to walk the lower path facing the harbor basin instead of balancing on top of the wall. In general, the walk is not easy for people with walking disabilities. Also, you have to be particularly cautious if the sea is rough.
Although the lighthouse cannot be climbed, you’ll have a fantastic view of the sea as well as of the city. Once you’re done awing, you have to walk back the same way.
East of the small bay which is the old Venetian harbor the coasts open into a long-stretched cove where you can stroll on a promenade alongside the lovely Koum Kapi beach towards the posh Chalepa neighborhood.
The promenade begins at the Sabbionara Bastion. You can clearly see that this round fortification is another Venetian structure by the plaques depicting the Venetian lions of Saint Mark.
As I said, a walk along the promenade is lovely, however, this part of the coast also can get splashed when the sea is rough. You’ll be shocked that even the beach can be completely flooded by the powerful waves of the Aegean Sea.
The seaside walk ends at the neoclassical Villa Koundouros. This is the western border of the elegant neighborhood of Chalepa.
At the turn of the 20th century, Chalepa became the noble and diplomatic hub of Crete. Not only Prime Ministers of Greece such as Eleftherios Venizelos and Konstantinos Mitsotakis built their homes in Chalepa. Countless members of the upper class as well as many diplomates enjoyed the beauty and comfort of some true architectural masterpieces. To this date, the mansions surrounded by lush gardens exude charm and extravagance. Due to the high maintenance costs, however, many are now housing precious boutique hotels.
Go Back In Time
Although Chalepa is such a beautiful and serene place to be, not many tourists – and certainly none of the day visitors – used to go there. However, this might change now since Chania’s archaeological museum which used to be housed in the former Catholic monastery church of San Francesco right in the heart of the historic center moved into a new building in Chalepa.
The new museum opened only in April 2022. The permanent collection is organized in three halls on the ground floor. Also, there is an additional exhibition space on the upper floor. There you also find a terrace café from where you can enjoy a grand view of the surroundings.
Obviously, Chania’s archaeological museum cannot compete with those in Heraklion let alone Athens. However, if you need a cultural break from hours on the beach, it’s a good place to visit.
The museum is open during the Winter season between November and March from Wednesday to Monday from 9 a. m. until 4 p. m. Then, there is a general entrance fee of only 3 €uros for everyone. From April to October, however, they are open from Wednesday to Monday between 8 a. m. and 8 p. m. and charge 6 €uros.
Just a stone’s throw from the museum is the Orthodox Church of Saint Mary Magdalene. This house of worship is considered a truly hidden gem. It was built according to the Russian Orthodox church architecture which makes it really unique in this part of the world. The main facade which is facing the entrance to the churchyard has seven decorative arches. A large one above the main entrance is flanked by three smaller ones on each side. They all have distinctive brick linings. Instead of a big dome, there is a richly decorated roof construction with a small tall dome, characteristic of the traditional Russian church architecture.
But why on earth is there a Russian church in Chania? Well, in 1898, Prince George of Greece became High Commissioner of Crete and moved to Chalepa. His sister Maria was married to the Grand Duke George of Russia and on the occasion of their visit, the church was built right across Prince George’s residence.
Chalepa’s Most Famous Son
Again just a few steps away is the Eleftherios Venizelos House standing on the northern part of the Elenas Venizelou Square. This historic building was the residence of the Greek politician Eleftherios Venizelos. Actually, it is his paternal house where he lived from 1880 to 1910 and occasionally also from 1927 to 1935.
Today, it is an interesting house museum that informs you about Eleftherios Venizelos and gives you an idea of how the upper class lived at the turn of the century. For a small entrance fee of 4 €uros, you can visit Venizelos’ house from October to May from Monday to Saturday between 11 a. m. and 5.30 p. m. During the summer months from June to September, it is open weekdays from 11 a. m. to 8 p. m. and Saturdays to 6 p. m.
To get back to the city center, you can just hop on bus #11 which will take you from Chalepa to the old market of Chania. Unfortunately, the market is temporarily closed for renovation – as of May 2023. Yet, it’s still a good spot to get to some of the landmarks I haven’t covered on the first stroll through the historic old town above.
In comparison to the excavations from the Minoan times, the historic old town is actually a baby.
The Minoans, named after King Minoa of Crete, were the first advanced civilization that flourished in Europe. The Minoans prospered in trade and urban development and founded towns in many strategic spots on the island. The most famous Minoan sites are found around Heraklion and Lassithi. Yet, remnants of Minoan towns have also been excavated in the prefecture and even in the very heart of the city of Chania. You can visit the ruins for free at any time.
Not far from the Minoan excavations are the remnants of the Byzantine Walls. It is believed that the wall was built in the 7th century AD on the foundations of a former Hellenistic fort. A moat containing seawater protected the walls. This way, the fortification was like an island for several centuries.
When the Venetians built their walls in the 16th century, the city expanded. The Byzantine fortification lost its importance. Today, only a small part of the wall remains.
Southeast of the excavation of Kastelli and the Byzantine walls is the former Turkish neighborhood of Chania. Its center is Splantzia Square, one of the most historic places in the town. Here, you see many buildings that were originally constructed by the Venetians and later transformed in Ottoman fashion. Today, their architecture combines both styles. This makes Splantzia a perfect example of Chania’s multicultural history.
Sadly, Splantzia also stands for the very dark past: In 1821, the Greek revolution for independence began in mainland Greece. To prevent the Greek population from joining in, the Turks hung an Orthodox bishop from a high plane tree that is still standing in the square. Also, they executed some of the most prominent Greeks of Chania. Today, you’ll find a commemorative plaque in the square. Also, it was officially renamed in Square 1821.
Later, at the beginning of the 20th century, Splantzia received a large number of Greek refugees who fled their homes in Asia Minor from persecution by the Turkish army. This area was probably the poorest neighborhood in Chania.
Although Splantzia is by far not as famous as the Venetian port, the neighborhood has been re-gaining more magnificence over the past few years. Many historic mansions have been renovated. Also, several cafes, bars, and restaurants have opened around the square
Towers Of Power
A prominent reminder of Chania’s everchanging past is the church of Agios Nikolaos. The Venetians built it around 1320 as a monastery for Dominican monks. During their rule, the Ottomans converted it into the city’s main mosque. On the southern side of the temple, they constructed a 40-meter-high minaret. It used to be the tallest one in the entire city. Since part of it was destroyed, today it reaches only a height of about 34 meters.
In 1918, the house of worship was converted into an orthodox church in honor of Saint Nikolas. It is the only temple in Greece that has a bell tower as well as a minaret.
On the northeast side of Splantzia square stands the Venetian St. Rocco church. St. Rocco was the patron of the plague. It was built in 1630 and is very characteristic of that era.
The Ottomans used it as a military prison. The Cretans eventually used it as a gendarmerie station until 1925.
Today, it occasionally serves as a unique venue for exhibitions.
Splanzia’s Sifaka street in the western part of the neighborhood is also called Ta Macheradika, which translates to the knife makers. And indeed, there is a large number of small shops selling traditional knives of Crete. What’s so special about these knives are engravings of typical Cretan poems.
You see that although not popular with most tourists, Splantzia is one of the most fascinating and authentic neighborhoods in Chania.
Virgin Mary Metropolitan Church
But it’s been a long day so let’s wrap it up and go back to where we started from, namely the historic center. There, I’d like to point out one last historic building and that’s the Presentation of the Virgin Mary Holy Metropolitan Church. Located in Athinagora Square, it is Chania’s Greek Orthodox cathedral.
Allegedly, there was a small church in the place from the early 11th century. The Venetians demolished the small church to build a warehouse in that spot. Turkish merchant Mustafa Pasha Giritli converted the warehouse into a soap factory after the Ottoman conquest. As he took office as Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire, he donated the building to the Christian community of Chania in 1850.
The church, consecrated in 1861, was severely damaged during the 1897 Greco-Turkish War. Russian Tsar Nicholas II facilitated the reconstruction financially and also donated the cathedral’s bell.
The cathedral houses icons by well-known Cretan painters of the 19th century such as Antonios Revelakis, Antonios Vivilakis, and Ioannis Stais.
The Finest Beaches Within Walking Distance From Town
Yes, it’s hot and to get to the farthest of the beaches that I’m listing below, you actually have to walk for about one hour. Would I recommend that? Of course not! That I still made it on foot is due to the fact that I proceeded in sections. I started my walk at the beach Nea Chora Beach. From there, I continued to Kladissos Beach where I took a break. From there, I strolled to the beautiful Golden Beach – actually my favorite – to spend a couple of hours lazing in the sun and swimming in the crystal clear Agaen sea.
In the afternoon, I continued further west and ended my walk relaxing on my beach towel on Agii Apostoli Beach.
From there, I went back downtown by bus.
Nea Chora Beach
This beach is quite close to Chania’s Venetian harbor. It’s an organized sandy beach with not too shallow water, hence, good for swimming. Beach umbrellas and sun loungers are available for a reasonable fee but you are welcome to just spread your towel wherever there is a free space. The beach runs alongside the road which is lined with restaurants and small shops.
It’s an okay beach which can get pretty busy mainly on weekends. Then it’s mostly sunbed next to sunbed with a only few free patches where you can sprawl out on your towel.
All in all, this is certainly not the beach to go to if you’re looking for some peace and solitude. Therefore, I continued right away.
As you continue walking westwards, the beach gets less crowded and more natural – albeit not always in a good way. Below the Klinakis Beach Hotel, you’ll get to a part that is not really walkable. The best way to continue is to climb the stairs to the hotel where you might need a refreshing drink. Then, as you cross the parking lot and walk down a short street, you’ll get to Kladissos Beach.
This beach is located on a spacious sandy bay alongside crystal-clear turquoise water. Although there might be pebbles, you don’t need swimming shoes.
Mind you, Kladissos is the beach with the least facilities. Although there is a small makeshift kiosk, it is not always open. Therefore, bring your own refreshments, and most importantly, enough water. Also, if you want to rent a beach bed, you’ll find a couple of those only on the westernmost side of the beach.
Note: There is another far more famous Kladissos beach in the Heraklion area. This is not the one!
The so-called Golden Beach consists of two sandy beaches separated by some rocks. You first get to the a bit less alluring Aptera Beach which is in front of the eponymous hotel. West of Aptera Beach is the main part of Golden Beach.
Although this beach is very well organized with various businesses renting out sunbeds and umbrellas and offering bathrooms and showers, it is far less crowded than for instance the Nea Chora Beach. I believe it’s because there are many hotels in the area and their guests rather enjoy their private facilities and amenities.
At the end of the day, I don’t care why this beach is not crowded. All I can say is that it was my favorite go-to beach during my stay in Chania.
My Tip: There is a large beach clubs where you can rent sunbeds and umbrellas and order drinks and snacks. That’s fine if you want to splurge a bit.
If you can do without the posh club feeling, I recommend staying on the easternmost end of Golden Beach, right next to the big rocks. There is a small makeshift kiosk. The owner rents his chairs and parasols out for as little as 5 €uros. Believe it or not, since I was by myself, he charged 2.50!
The picturesque Yannis Beach is located in a cove between Golden Beach and Agii Apostoli. Since it’s such a small bay between two long, popular beaches, it has kind of a cozy, almost private feel to it.
It is a fine sandy beach, surrounded by pine trees and huge rocks.
To get there, you have to leave the beach area and walk for about ten minutes on the street. Since I had to leave the beach anyway, I decided to buy some water and possibly a snack at the supermarket. It’s treacherous how close by things look on google maps. Although there are two supermarkets in the vicinity, walking in the then noonish heat was quite strenuous, especially since there were a couple of ascents and descents along the way. As much as I love to explore local supermarkets, I highly recommend you bring your provisions for the day with you or stock up at one of the businesses next to the beach. Leave the trip to the supermarket for a cooler hour of the day.
However, in case you do want to add this challenging tour to the supermarket to your otherwise relaxing beach day, I’ll mark them for you on the map below.
Agii Apostoli Beach
With my freshly purchased provisions, I walked back towards the coast and to my final beach destination for the day.
Agii Apostoli Beach is great for swimming and even snorkeling. However, it is far more crowded than Golden Beach.
Obviously, you can also rent beach beds and parasols, and there are facilities like bathrooms and showers. Since it was already later in the day and I knew I wouldn’t stay that long, I refrained from renting a chair. Also, there are trees so I was able to lay in the shade.
This being said, I have to point out that the sand under the trees is not the finest and by no means the cleanest. Although most of the dirt consists of bark bits, little branches, pinecones, and little pebbles, it’s not nice to have all this stuff on your beach towel. Also, apart from the Neo Chora Beach, this part of the coast was the busiest one.
Once you get bored just laying around, you can walk up the promontory that divides Agii Apostoli Beach into two parts, a short one in the east and a long one in the west. On the headland are two chapels. A bit forlorn in the parking lot stands the teeny-tiny Xenios Dias Chapel and further up the hill is the Chapel of the Holy Apostles from where you have a mesmerizing view of the major part of the coast all the way back to the city of Chania.
Koum Kapi Beach
I’ve mentioned Koum Kapi Beach already above since it is in the bay that lies between the Venetian harbor and Chalepa. It is a nice sand beach adjacent to the magnificent walls of the Sabbionara Bastion.
When the sea is calm, it’s a perfect spot even for families with young children. Obviously, there are also many bars and guest houses in the area, in case you get hungry or want to enjoy a nice drink. It is a great place to unwind after a busy day in the old town.
So, yes, you can fill days and days with beauty, culture, long hours on soft sand beaches, and refreshing dips in crystal clear waters. However, there is much more to explore around Chania. You should definitely go on a day trip to the pink Balos Beach and Gramvousa Island. Also, you shouldn’t miss out on a hike through Europe’s second-longest ravine, namely the Samaria Gorge. Or maybe you’d like to explore another picturesque town and spend a day at Rethymno, only a short hour east of Chania? Crete is your oyster!
How to Get There
Chania’s international airport Ioannis Daskalogiannis – named after a Cretan resistance fighter – is located about 14 kilometers east of the city. It is served year-round by various European airlines.
If you haven’t booked a package where the travel company arranges the shuttle from the airport or jetty to your hotel, you have different options for how to get to your final destination. The most comfortable option is taking a cab, obviously. To the city center of Chania, the ride shouldn’t be more than 30 €uros. If you go to one of the beach areas on the outskirts, you’ll have to pay 40 €uros. Either way, don’t forget to clearly agree on the fare with the driver before you board his cab.
Obviously, you save lots of money by taking the public bus. For as little as 2.50 €uros the coach takes you comfortably downtown in only 30 minutes. However, the bus does not go that often and it can well be that you have to wait at the airport for an hour or even more. So if you are tired after a more or less long flight and you want to go to your accommodation asap, waiting for an hour will feel really long.
In general, it works much better when you go back to the airport since you can check the schedule beforehand and show up at the bus station 20 to 30 minutes ahead and you’re good. Obviously, this is not possible on arrival hence you might have to bite the bullet and fork out the 30 €uros. However, before doing so, you can check the bus schedule. Maybe you’re lucky and the next bus is leaving as soon as you get to the bus stop.
I’m not driving, but if you do, you can rent a car right at the airport and off you go.
Crete has no railway and public transport on the island is handled almost exclusively by buses from the company KTEL. There are bus connections to many towns and villages on the island.
In general, bus connections are very punctual. However, a minor accident or a breakdown can always occur, hence, I wouldn’t travel on a tight schedule. For instance, if your flight or ferry leaves from Heraklion, add an additional two to three hours to your itinerary. If you get there too early, who cares? In Crete, you’ll always find something to do to fill those extra hours with joy. What’s definitely not enjoyable is watching your flight taking off without you.
Obviously, there are only a few – sometimes even only one – connections to more secluded places. However, if you are halfway organized, you can still easily explore major parts of the island by bus. Nevertheless, in the off-season during the winter months, some connections to secluded places might be suspended.
I visited many places around Crete comfortably by public bus. Nevertheless, as schedules are subject to change, I’d recommend checking the bus company’s comprehensive website. Also, the people at the KTEL bus station in Chania are quite helpful. You have to get your ticket in advance before boarding the bus as you cannot buy tickets from the driver.
About six kilometers east of Chania is the ferry port of Souda from there are various daily connections to Piraeus, the port of Athens. Depending on which company and type of ferry you choose, the trip takes between 6.5 to 8.5 hours and costs around 50 €uros one way. Keep in mind that the trips are always night cruises: You leave around 9 or 10 p. m. and get to your final destination in the wee hours.
Yes, the trip is quite cheap but it can also be a real drag.
How to Get Around
Chania has a comprehensive bus system, the only problem is that you need to figure it out. Sadly, google maps is no help at all. While you can check all the timetables on the bus company’s website, you still need to figure out where the buses are going.
I can tell you already now that bus #11 will take to you Chalepa and back, bus #13 to Souda, and bus #21 to the beaches west of the city center. Depending on how far you travel, tickets cost 1.10 or 1.50 €uros if you purchase them beforehand at a kiosk. If you buy your ticket from the driver, you pay almost double, namely 2 €uros respectively 2.50 €uros for a single trip.
Although the bus system is really good, I won’t argue that the ideal means of transport for visitors might still be a rental car. It’s the only way to explore the entire island at any time comfortably at a flexible pace.
Although the conditions vary, most of the time, roads are easy to drive on. However, you should always keep an eye on potholes or herds of goats or sheep.
Where to Stay
Crete has been a popular tourist destination for decades with Chania being one of the most popular destinations. Especially in the afternoon, the streets are packed with day trippers.
Yet, since all the big hotels are on the outskirts, you’ll find halfway reasonably-priced rooms within the historic old town during shoulder season. However, during the high season in summer, booking short-term might be a problem; but that’s not a good time to visit Greece, anyway.
Since Chania was the start and the endpoint of my trip to Crete and the Cyclades, I stayed in two different places. The first one was a tiny apartment in an old house just steps from the Venetian harbor. While the location of Hera Studios* could hardly be any better, the room was really extremely small and very poorly soundproofed. However, it had a tiny kitchenette and even a small balcony with an ocean view.
Functionality Over Romanticism
The second one was a modern spacious room with a large bathroom. Also, I appreciated the sleek coffee maker so I could have coffee in bed which is how I like to start my days. Other than that, there were no appliances.
This room, too, was in a good location, albeit under totally different aspects: It was on one of the main streets right across from the KTEL bus station. While this doesn’t sound very idyllic, located two minutes from the main square, it was a really perfect spot for exploring the island. Also, the historic old town was maybe five walking minutes away – there I had idyllic to the max.
I actually preferred staying at the Dome Luxury Rooms* in the city center over the Hera Studios* in the old Venetian part of town, go figure.
However, if you don’t like either of these accommodations, you can check out the availability and prices of other great lodging options on this map*:
What to Eat
After having spent a couple of weeks in different places around Greece, I’d argue that the country in general is not a destination for self-proclaimed gourmets. There are tons of food everywhere. However, the classic cuisine is intended to fill you up and is definitely not refined. Also, Greeks prefer their food to be lukewarm, and that’s how they serve it in the taverns.
In most restaurants that cater to tourists, you’ll find all the dishes you know from your Greek restaurant back home: Gyros, Souvlaki, Bifteki, and the like. All very much on the meaty side. As a vegetarian, you’ll probably stick to Greek or Creten salad day in and day out.
This being said, I need to point out that, being based in Germany, Greek food is by no means special to me. In Germany, every forlorn hamlet has a German pub and an authentic Greek restaurant run by real Greeks. Therefore, I don’t associate all those aforementioned dishes with vacations in Greece. But if for you that’s the case, I’m happy for you and please forget all my critique and immerse yourself in heaps of grilled meat; opa!
Also, as soon as you leave the touristy epicenters on the coast, you’ll discover that Cretan cuisine goes far beyond gyros and moussaka. Cretan recipes combine Italian, Balkan, and Turkish influences. You’ll find unexpected delicacies on the island that have a long tradition.
Big Meals At Small Prices
To try authentic local cuisine, I highly recommend leaving the historic old town behind and crossing Square 1866 to the corner of Kon/nou Sfakianaki. There you’ll find a small unimpressive eatery called Patsas Agnos Marmaritsakis Stamaths. Don’t wait to be seated but make your way to the counter. There you’ll see all there is for the day on display. Pick whatever tickles your fancy – you won’t be disappointed. Also, you will hardly pay more than around 8 €uros for your meal. Add some open wine which will set you back around three €uros and you’ll be good for the rest of the day. Howsoever, if you are coming for dinner, keep in mind that they are closing at 8 p. m. Also, if a dish is sold out, it’s sold out. Therefore, I rather recommend this wonderful place for a generous lunch.
If you are as much into carbohydrates as I am, the snack bar Funky’s – located on the opposite side of Square 1866 just off the historic center – will be your favorite place. I mostly went there for breakfast in the morning since they have a wide range of hearty pastries topped or filled with veggies, cheeses, ham, and meat. They also make excellent coffee and even give you a small bottle of water with it. For some reason there are almost exclusively locals eating here, hence, the prices are absolutely reasonable.
And now comes the clue: Funky’s doesn’t close! This wonderful snack bar is awaiting night owls, early birds, and all the other creatures 24/7.
Yes, you can get to most of the major day trip destinations like Elafonissi, Samaria Gorge, and the ferry port for Gramvousa Island by public buses. Howsoever, since it’s not always that easy to organize your day trip in a foreign country in a language that you cannot even read properly, I highly recommend going on these trips organized. You’ll see that at the end of the day, the price difference is not that big and it’s a good feeling to know that there is someone there for you in case you need assistance. Also, exploring Crete from the water is a very special experience that you can book only organized.
Here you can check out some of the best tours to join during your trip to Crete*:
Cash And Cards
Since 2001, 20 European countries are paying with €uros, and Greece is, obviously, one of them. The exchange rate is 1 US$ = 0,92 EUR (May 2023), but you can check the conversion on this page.
Especially due to the Covid pandemic, even small businesses prefer that you pay by credit card, and preferably contactless.
However, I was also asked if I could pay cash – even for hotel rooms. Obviously, this makes business for locals more profitable, if you know what I mean. In return, they made me a slightly better price.
The Greek language had an immense impact on the development of Europe. Both the Latin and the Cyrillic alphabets were developed on the basis of the Greek alphabet. Also, the New Testament was written in classic Greek and is still read in the original version during Greek church services. Only the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453 marks the end of the Medieval Greek period.
This is when the era of today’s version of the Greek began.
To this date, scientific terms stem directly from classic Greek – and Latin, obviously.
Although Greek is such a significant language, not many foreigners speak it. But basically, all Greeks working in tourism and gastronomy speak quite decent English. However, it’s always nice to be able to say at least some pleasantries in the local language so you might want to pick up some words for instance on Lingohut. This online program offers an amazing choice of more than 45 languages!
By the way, in general, menus, timetables, street signs, and other important information are written in both Greek and Latin letters. Nevertheless, to make things easier for you, below is a list of Greek letters and their respective translation.
|Upper Case Letter||Lower Case Letter||Greek Name||English Name|
Connection And Communication
Since June 2017, no roaming charges apply within the EU with a European mobile phone contract. This applies to all 27 countries of the European Union as well as Great Britain, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. It pertains to all contracts.
When roaming is unavailable, you can connect to the internet at basically every museum, eatery, and hotel.
You can get a SIM card if you insist on being online 24/7. The most popular ones are from COSMOTE, Vodafone, and WIND. You can get them for 5 €uros in their respective stores.
In Greece, they use plug types C and F. Their voltage is 230 V, and the frequency is 50 Hz. Whereby, as nowadays all these chargers have integrated adapters, in general, the voltage and frequency don’t really matter.
By the way, you’ll find comprehensive travel info in my post World’s Most Complete Travel Information – an indispensable globetrotter-classic.
Chania was my base during my stay in the West of the island of Crete. To read about all the amazing places I visited during my week on Crete, go to this post and take your pick!
On this map, you can see where all the wonderful places I’m introducing in this post are located. This way, you can plan your itinerary accordingly.
Clicking on the slider symbol at the top left or the full-screen icon at the top right will display the whole map including the legend.
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