When it comes to summer holidays, I can think nothing but Greece. I have to admit I have been to many places twice and thrice but I cannot help it, I love it! I don’t know what I miss more during winter time in the UK; the sun, the hot weather or the warm hearted people at homeland. This year, a wedding of an old friend was just an excuse to plan a trip to Crete and combine both catch-up with friends and holidays. We spent most of our time in Chania from where we were escaping to explore more of the western and southern Crete.
The old port of Chania
A day stroll and a night crawl though in Chania is enough to give you a feeling of the multi-cultural character of the town and justify in every little corner its historical background. Start your day with an omelette in a secret quiet urban garden just a few steps from the old port promenade. Stroll and get lost in the pebbled streets with all the small shops selling keepsakes and summer essentials.
Don’t rush, hidden gems can be found everywhere and there are shops not to be missed!
If the temperature gets too high, diving into the old port waters is not recommended, just grab a suvlaki and drive a few miles to the east side. Allow yourself to the most breath-taking view over the most refreshing swim of your holidays. Take that breath back (and a few more) and almost rock n’ roll yourself down to the rocky path ; this is Seitan Limania beach and is a definite ‘must’.
Once you’re out from Chania there are multiple areas to explore, Sfakia being the most prominent one. Even though the port of Sfakia itself will not astound you, it’s the beaches along the western shore that deserve a hop over to! A ferry service runs almost hourly from the port (without taking cars) taking you to Loutro and Glyka Nera beach. If you want to go further and visit Marmara beach, a remote small cove at the end of Aradena Gorge, you will need to hire a water taxi. Right above the beach there’s also a small canteen run by the crew of Chrysostomos taverna in Chania that serves local delicacies and, of course, Sfakian pie.
Loutro, located in the southern part of Crete
By this time, the sun is ready to set and the best spot to see the old town taking its warmest colours is from the top of Profitis Ilias Hill. This is where the Venizelos graves lie and the view over the old town is stunning.
Profitis Ilias Hill Nights in Crete is all about the local drink, raki. It’s pure Cretan and we loved it. It brings joy and inspiration; this is when you start composing your own ‘mantinada’ and you become a real Cretan for a day or a night. Try not to party that hard. Crete’s natural beauty is impeccable and the beauty is all over the place. Allow time to get to the beach as the pit stops for ‘rakomelo’, ‘kaltsounia’ and ‘sfakiani pitta’ are obligatory (local traders have their own stalls somewhere on the road and welcome you with a shot of rakomelo from their own production, hick). More authentic local delicacies though can be found out of the main town. Road-tripping around the municipalities of Chania and Rethymno treated us with unforgettable experience of the landscape and the tastes.
- Archaeological Museum of Chania – launched in 2021 in the area of Halepa featuring amazing artefacts of the Minoan civilisation in a very nice modern building. Also features a terrance for coffee.
- Manousakis Winery – one of the many wineries in the region with a great story to tell and very tasty wine. Just 20min away from Chania’s centre.
- Holy Trinity Tzagaroli Monastery – active Byzantine monastery built in the 17th century also housing a museum of rare religious works.
- Gouverneto Monastery – 16th-century Venetian-style monastery featuring a courtyard, gardens & paths to nearby caves, very conveniently located near Seitan Limania beaches.
- Shop – get your gifts from ‘Canea’, the shop that turned a whole old town into a brand. Great design, new age materials and graphics.
- Day trips – when you decide to visit Chania, you should automatically commit to day trips. You will find yourselves a few miles away from the most beautiful beaches in the world.
- Balos and Elafonisi are approximately an hour’s driving away from Chania, but it’s totally worth it
- Sfakia – this is the southwest region of Crete with mesmerising landscapes. Mountains, gorges, white and grey dry cliffs and Caribbean waters all in one…reach the port of Sfakia town and take a boat ride to the village called ‘Loutro’. From here, you can take more boat rides to other beaches close by, such as Glyka Nera and Marmara
- Mosaic Venetian Luxury Suites – beautiful seafront views of Chania’s old port in this immaculate restored building that mixes tradition with modern comfort very nicely. Great to sleep with the windows open and hear the sound of the sea
- Ionas Boutique Hotel – a stylish, family-run hotel in a 16th-century building that is right in the heart of the old town of Chania.
- J & G Suites – housed in an old Venetian house, this small boutique hotel is another stylish option to consider.
- The Tanneries Hotel & Spa – new, upscale boutique hotel in the picturesque neighbourhood of Tampakaria, featuring a nice spa and a seafront restaurant.
Seafront room at Mosaic Venetian Harbour Luxury Suites
- Seitan Limania beach – remote sandy beach in a cove surrounded by rock formations very close to the airport. Must visit even if only for a click!
- Loutraki beach – small sandy beach with some umbrellas but also nice rocks to dive in from. Great when the wind blows from the north.
- Balos beach – turquoise waters, white sand and a unique formation of beaches at the westernmost part of Crete. Accessed by boat from Kissamos port or by car (30min from Kissamos port) and a good 20min trek down to the beach.
- Elafonisi beach – shallow waters and a series of long beaches that get very busy with tourists. If you do have extra time, it’s a nice spectacle though.
- Marmara beach – secluded small beach, only accessed by boat from Loutro (either via public transport or via water taxi) or via the Aradena Gorge.
The famous beach of Balos, set in the westernmost end of the Chania region
Rock formations in Elafonisi beach
- Chrisostomos – the best Cretan cuisine in Chania.
- Tamam – traditional Cretan cuisine in this storied building.
- Thalassino Ageri – seaside seafood dining in this old taverna famous for their sunset vibes in the area of Tabakaria next to the old leather tanneries!
- Ntounias – the best gastronomic experience in Chania, in this tiny establishment nestled in the forrest of Drakona village just 35min away from Chania’s centre. Apart from the infamous tsigariasto lamb, they also serve their own certified veal!
- Nektarios Tsitsiridis – a real experience of everyday life in the mountains in this small taverna run by Nektarios, serving the real omakase of whatever is available each day. You’d be lucky to try his fried potatoes dish, topped with some okra in tomato sauce – divine!
- Boheme – just a few steps from the waterfront, in a quiet garden, ideal for breakfast under the trees or early evening cocktails
- Oasis – for the real greek souvlaki. It opens early in the morning and stays open till stock lasts..(usually shuts before lunchtime, so be quick!)
- Koukouvaya – desserts at the sunset by the Venizelos graves. Amazing views over the town and the old port
- To Koutourouki – taste the real raki with all the local dishes, accompanied by live traditional music in a picturesque cosy alley
- Gramvoussa – on your way back from Balos, stopover at Kalyviani. Friendliest and tastiest setting ever!
- Taverna Dialeskari – nice canteen famous for their wild boar dish, a few steps up from Marmara beach
The delicious slow-cooked food at Ntounias in Drakona.
The infamous bougatsa with myzithra cheese at Bougatsa Chania. A must try!
- Bougatsa Chania – the most delicious local delicacy you will taste in Chania! A semi-savoury bougatsa phyllo pastry pie that is served with extra sugar and cinnamon for those who want to mix it up. A must try!
- Red Jane Bakery – a third-wave bakery and specialty coffee place that more resembles Berlin or New York, housed in a very old, beautiful traditional building. Features high end sourdough bread and sandwiches to nibble!
- Kross Coffee Roasters – the best specialty coffee in Chania, housed in a beautiful neoclassical building on Nearchou street. Also features other locations like a cute small one in Halepa and in Splantzia square.
- Pallas – one of the oldest seafront bars in Chania. Great for a first drink to kick off the night. They also offer nibbles from the restaurant
- Sinagogi – in the ruins of an old Jewish synagogue, a great cocktail bar with nice music to start your night
- Monastiri tou Karolou – set in the courtyard of an old monastery, this night bar is great for long nights. Very atmospheric setting with olive trees and white finishing bar
- Eat and drink local – Raki, rakomelo, sfakiani pitta, kaltsounia, myzithra cheese. Try everything. Don’t be scared with calories and saturated fats. Cretan diet is the definition of the Mediterranean diet; long live the Crete!
 “Mantinada is the cry of a masculine but sensitive heart: the Cretan heart” said Nikos Kazantzakis explaining the meaning of mantinada for the Cretans.
Shopping at Canea
The traditional taverna of Nektarios in Askyfou.