This is the westernmost of the four prefectures of Crete, and arguably the greenest. The chief city is Chania, a sheltered and pleasant port on the north shore, featuring an attractive Old Town waterfront that’s eternally popular with native and visitor alike.
From Souda Bay in the east, the terminus of the ferries, to the shingle beach of Maleme in the west, Chania is a self-sustaining region that has proved to be a magnet for Northern Europeans seeking holiday and retirement homes. Vamos and Apokorona are two districts that have seen a boom in the holiday homes market in recent years. Chania is served by a small but smart international airport on a peninsula 14 kilometres out of town. The peninsula itself is dotted with pretty villas that stand out against the deep blue backdrop of the Sea of Crete. The prefecture of Chania has a number of excellent beaches, from Georgioupolis in the east to Frangokastello in the west, in the shadow of the ruins of a Venetian castle. The beaches vary in texture and suitability. Those with shallow water and that are good for children, for example, include Almirida, Marathi, Chrysi Akti, Hora Sfakion on the south coast, and Frangokastello. For bolder adult swimmers there are the Kyani Akti, Stavros (where the beach scenes from the 1964 movie “Zorba The Greek” were filmed), Kolymbari, Falassarna (very clean water), Anidri, Marmari and Loutro. After swimming at Falassarna, history buffs can examine the remains of massive archaic walls and a throne carved out of rock. There are more archaeological relics at Kissamos at the extreme west end of Crete, where a museum houses findings from the Neolithic to the early Christian eras. In Chaina itself, at the west end of the Old Town waterfront, stands the town’s War Museum, with relics of Greece’s 19th century independence wars and the momentous 1941 Battle of Crete, when German paratroopers descended on the district in the face of fanatic Allied resistance.
The beach has nice sand and is 9 km long. Many hotels have been built on it but the eastern end is still pretty quiet. Be careful when you swim, the currents can be strong. If you get carried away, don’t panic, the current moves mostly parallel to the beach and not out to sea. Watch children closely, drowning accidents happen every year.
A small sandy beach, fairly shallow water so nice for kids. It doesn’t get that crowded but can feel crowded because the beach is quite narrow.
Nice sandy beach, can be crowded. The sand is a bit coarse, a good thing when there is wind as it doesn’t fly so easily.
A quiet beach west of Kalives. The water is a little colder because of a river flowing into the sea.
A tiny beach on the peninsula of Akrotiri (near Marathi). The beach is nothing to write home about but the water, for some unknown reason, is crystal clear.
On Akrotiri, discovered a few years ago by the inhabitants of Chania it now gets very crowded at weekends. The sandy beach is nice, the water quite warm and very shallow. Brilliant for children.
Stavros is a characterless village at the North of Akrotiri. The sandy cove had its moment of fame when the beach scenes of Alexis Zorbas were filmed here. Very lovely and fairly crowded at weekends.
Also on Akrotiri. Nice sand, can be crowded in summer and at weekends. Shallow water so ideal for children.
There is a town beach in Chania, obviously fairly crowded. Keep walking for about 15 minutes and you get to Hrissi Akti
Nice sandy beach, can get crowded. Shallow so the water is warm and it is safe for children.
Just a little way along, it consists of three small beaches. It can get crowded, shallow water (the third one is very shallow). The water is not always that clean.
Stalos, Agia Marina, Platanias and all the way to Maleme
From then on, it becomes an interminable sandy beach pretty much all the way to Maleme. Crowded, lined by hotels and apartments. Not to my taste but many visitors obviously like it, otherwise they wouldn’t all crowd here. A word of warning: beware of currents, especially in Agia Marina. The small island of Agios Theodoron seems to strengthen them. Every year a few people drown (not rarely, going for a swim drunk: don’t!)
Long pebble beach.
Beaches are scarce on this rocky, deserted peninsula but there are some secluded spots.
Long bay, a pebble beach.
The beach is quiet long, is now well-known, but does not get really crowded. Don’t bother going to Falasarna if there is a strong west wind, it gets unpleasant. A 1999 European Union water survey found it to be the second cleanest water in Greece!
Tigani to Balos (Gramvoussa)
At the tip of the peninsula of Gramvoussa. Now you can drive almost all the way on an unsurfaced road, then follow a good path down to this incredible spot. A lagoon with “South Seas” colours and very shallow waters. Sounds like paradise and it may be, if people take their rubbish back.
Before it was “discovered” about 10-15 years ago, Elafonissi was the secret paradise beach of West Crete. With a small island you can wade to, red coral sand beach and nobody far and wide. Nowadays, bus tours come from Chania and a daily boat service brings visitors from Paleochora. It is still worth a visit but don’t go when the wind is strong.
About 8 km west of Paleochora. It used to be deserted until a few years ago. It is still pretty quiet.
A small peninsula, 4km west of Paleochora, one side with a sandy beach, the other with pebbles.
Two beaches: the sandy beach is very nice and can get crowded. If you prefer pebbles or the (west) wind blows too much for your taste go to the eastern bay where a long pebble beach runs for about 3 km. Have something to lie on, the pebbles are quite large.
An hour’s walk from Paleochora, fine pebble beach. Mostly nudist. Until now the beach was very quiet, a really special place, but now that a dirt road leading to it has been built it can get a little busy. Very clear and very cold water.
Sougia has a long pebble beach. The beach is 1200 meters long so that it never feels crowded. The pebbles are fine enough not to make lying on them uncomfortable at all and it is one of the very few beaches which doesn’t have sun beds and umbrellas on it. Nudism is usual towards the eastern end of the beach. Amongst the 10 cleanest seas of Greece in 1999 (EU environmental survey).
The beach is quite nice, varying between fine and coarse pebbles. The part nearest to the village gets crowded during the afternoon with Samaria walkers wanting to cool off but walk 200 meters and you are almost alone. In the morning and once the last ferryboat leaves it is almost deserted.
Still idyllic and quiet because you must walk (1 hour from Agia Roumeli, 2 hours from Agios Ioannis, 3-4 hours from Loutro) or come with your boat.
A tiny beach, an hour walking from Loutro, at the entrance of the gorge of Aradena. It is called Marmara (=Marble Beach) because of the smooth white rocks next to the beach. The water is clear and cold.
Likos and Finix
Quiet beaches, be careful going in at Likos (sea urchins!). Finix beach is nice but tiny.
The pebble beach of Loutro is right in the village (topless not allowed) and very narrow. The water is really nice but the beach is too crowded.
It is still a very spectacular and quiet beach, called Glyka Nera (=Sweet Water Beach) because if you dig a hole on the beach, sweet water will seep into it from the ground. You can walk to Glyka Nera from Loutro or from Sfakia in about an hour.
About 15 minutes walk from Sfakia, a small quiet beach, clear water.
The beach is in the village, can be a little crowded. A little further east are two small beaches.
Famous for its ruined Venetian castle, Frangokastello has become very built-up. The sandy beach (below the castle) is extremely shallow and perfect if you have small children. There is a beautiful quiet sandy beach to the east.
One of the most important cities of ancient (7th c. B.C.) western Crete. Aptera was built on a site 15 km. from Chania.
This town, the port of Polyrrhenia, lay to the west of it, in the base of the extreme northwest peninsula of the district of Chania. The ruins-remains of Cyclopean walls, tombs, house foundations, sculptures carved out of the rocks, most notably a throne – are found near the village of Koutri.
In order to protect the small bay near by, from the pirates, it was decided, in 1371, to construct this fortress. It was barely used during the Venetian occupation, and on the eve of the Turkish attack, it was actually abandoned. In 1828 the Cretan rebels occupied the fortress and during the siege that followed, its towers were destroyed.
Kissamos Archaeological Museum
After 25 years, Kissamos in western Crete has finally found a place to house its archaeological treasures. The exhibits provide a view of local history through the ages, from prehistoric times to late antiquity and the Early Christian period.
The site was the religious centre of the cities in south-west Crete. It flourished during the Hellenistic and Roman periods.
Housed in the Venetian church of San Francesco. Its exhibits from western Crete and other areas date from the Neolithic to the Roman era, and include idols, statues, inscriptions, weapons, pottery, seal stones, coins, jewellery, etc.
Historical Archives of Crete
A rich collection of folklore and material related to the history of the island. The archives are among the largest in the country, second only to General Archives of the Greek State.
Naval Museum of Crete
On the mole of the Venetian harbor. Exhibits linked with the island’s history.
How to get to Chania, Crete:
By plane from Athens. By ferry from Piraeus.
Piraeus port authorities Tel: 0030 210-4226000-4, 0030 210-4511310-17
Souda Port Tel: 0030 28210 89240
Chania Port Tel: 0030 28210 98888
Chania Hospital Tel: 0030 28210 22000
Chania Police Department Tel: 0030 28210 28734
OLYMPIC AIRWAYS, 88 Tzanakaki str., tel. 80111 44444, 28210 53760/1, airport: 28210 63171/63264/66088 (www.olympicairlines.com).
AEGEAN AIRLINES, 12 El. Venizelou str., tel. 80111 20000, 28210 51100, airport: 28210 63366 (www.aegeanair.com).
ANEK LINES, Sof Venizelou sqr., tel. 28210 27500 (www.anek.gr). Souda to/from Pireas daily. Ticket office (Souda port) tel. 28210 80050/1.
HELLENIC SEAWAYS, tel. 28210 75444 (www.hsw.gr). Souda to/from Pireas daily. Ticket office (Souda port) tel. 28210 89065.
ANEN LINES, tel. 28210 20345 (www.anen.gr). Kissamos to/from Peloponissos. d. ANENDΥΚ (80 Milonogianni str., tel. 28210 95511). Sea links between the south ports of the county.
Chania, tel. 28210 98888,
Souda, tel. 28210 89240,
Kissamos, tel. 28220 22024,
Paleochora, tel. 28230 41214,
Chora Sfakion, tel. 28250 91292.
Local buses (blue):
Departures from Municipal Market sqr. and 1866 sqr. to all districts of the town and surrounding areas, Akrotiri, Souda (port), beaches, etc. Tel. 28210 93345/98115.
Long distance buses (green):
Main Bus Station (KTEL), Kydonias str. To Rethimno-Iraklio, Vrisses-Chora Sfakion, Kasteli, Εlafonissi, Kandanos-Paleochora, Sougia, Omalos-Samaria etc. Also to Thessaloniki (via the port of Pireas). Tel. 28210 93306/93052.
Car and motorbike rentals:
There are many international and domestic companies. Information at the Tourist Information Centre of the Greek National Tourism Organisation, 40 Kriari str., tel. 28210 92943/92624.
Tel. 18300, 28210 94300 (service for disabled people too).
Aeroclub of Chania:
Magical flights around the county and the Aegean islands by qualified pilots (or using your own license) in Cessna 4-seat aircraft. Tel. 28210 27272 (www.aer.gr).
Official website: www.chania.eu