The Western part of Crete Island is a unique place, with hundreds of thousands of fans ready to visit the place again & again
or even start a new life here, if given the chance.
What really attracts all these people to Chania?
Why is Chania truly worth visiting?
I have been living in & exploring Chania since 2005 and throughout this time, it has become crystal clear to me why this place is most popular among the other cities of Crete.
With a population of approximately 160.000 people, Chania is almost half of Heraklion’s population, the modern capital of the island. Yet the Chania prefecture is only a bit smaller geographically than Heraklion ( 2.376 sq.km. vs 2.641 sq.km ), meaning that in Heraklion, the population density is 121people/sq.km. , while in Chania it is 67 people/sq.km.
Fewer people means fewer buildings and more open space natural areas.
The variety of landscapes in the Chania prefecture is impressively rich. Namely: a fertile mountain plateau, a massive mountain range with over 30 peaks over 2.000 meters altitude, NATURA 2000 protected areas of great importance, one of the longest gorges in Europe ( Samaria ), dozens of different styles of beaches, underwater caves, the only freshwater lake of Crete and a palette of biodiversity that hosts some unique species of flora & fauna, found nowhere else in Crete.
Let's have a closer look & go a little deeper into OUR Chania...
1. Mountains, Gorges & Hiking paths
- The White Mountains of Chania are a mountain range visible from almost everywhere in the prefecture. It covers more than half the surface area of Chania. Its highest peak is at 2.453 meters, the second tallest in Crete, surpassed only by 3 meters in height by Psiloritis Mountain in Rethymno. There are many mountain villages to explore in Chania, where time seems to have stopped, and of course the impressive mountain range itself.
- There are tenths of Gorges in Chania of varying difficulty levels and lengths, making the destination an absolute must for all hiking lovers. The most famous among all is the Samaria Gorge. With 13kms in length from entrance to exit, it is one of the longest in all Europe. Samaria Gorge has been a National Park since 1962. Thousands of people hike the gorge every year including many repeaters. The gorge opens its gates to visitors at the beginning of May, every year, according to the weather conditions and closes them at the end of October before the rainy season begins.
Other gorges like Imbros, Ag.Irini, Aradena, Diktamos etc. create an amazing network that you simply cannot miss discovering.
- E4 Hike path:
With its 10.450kms in length (11.773kms including detours & alternatives routes), this is the longest European trail.
On Crete Island, it starts in Kastelli-Kissamos (North-West Chania),
follows the west coast and heads to the south coast of Chania. Then, it crosses the island of Crete, all the way to the East. Many parts of the trail, especially in south Chania, are very demanding and require a lot of experience and/or a local guide.
2. The Blue Sea Water & Amazing Beaches
We count more than 100 known beaches along the Chania coast line, from the North coast (borders with Rethymno) to the West coast & all the way down to the South coast.
The amazingly beautiful island of Gavdos is also included, as part of Chania's prefecture.
In Chania, there are some of the most beautiful, sensitive, famous and undiscovered beaches of the whole island. Many of them, thankfully, are already under the NATURA 2000 seal of protection - but it is not clear yet, if this is enough, as the over tourism phenomenon is more than visible and has it's harmful effects.
Read about the problems that over tourism has create to some of our beaches here:
With crystal clear waters, no extreme depths and with enough sea life still (among them sea-turtles, seals, etc.), they attract thousands of people every year who love swimming, beach life, free camping, water activities, snorkeling, diving, etc.
The South coast line attached with the Libyan Sea & the North coast line attached with the Cretan Sea have shores covered with the endemic Cretan Juniper, archaeological sites by the sea and hidden fiords accessible only by boat. These are only a few of the hidden gems that you'll need to discover, as plenty of time is needed for a proper discovery. We won't make any recommendation by name here though.
No matter if you travel alone, with friends, your family and kids, you like nudism or free camping under the night stars, the variety of Chania beaches will cover your needs.
3. The Mediterranean Diet and Cuisine
The Mediterranean Diet, the world’s healthiest according to scientists, is a nutritious eating plan. This way of feeding ourselves is based on the traditional cuisines and recipes of the past Greece, Italy and other countries, bordering with the Mediterranean Sea.
Its biggest distinctions among others are the ingredients & the cooking methods used.
Plant-based foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices, are the foundations of the diet. Olive oil is the diet's King and the main source of added fat.
Fish, seafood, dairy and poultry are included in moderation.
Red meat and sweets are eaten only occasionally in social or religious celebrations (this is no longer the case nowadays, however).
Chania and Crete in general have a big production of virgin olive oil. Olive picking by whole families it is still a common activity to do, like the old days. Thankfully, the old methods of growing trees & producing olive oil are becoming more & more popular again.
Don't miss the chance to join one of the Food Tours, taking place in Chania.
Bonnie and Clyde Urban Tours, will present & open sales very soon, in the middle of May 2023, an [out of the box] Food & Culture Tour, that will be a lifetime experience (stay tuned)!
4. Beer, Wine, Tsikoudia (Raki)
The production of alcoholic beverages in Chania is a segment which is expanding all the time, along with their quality.
- One of the biggest steps forward made is from the local Craft Beer society. In Chania region, we count today 1 Brewery & 4 Microbreweries that produce some impressive beer styles. You may find, detailed information about the Chania Craft Beer explosion in our West Crete Craft Beer guide.
Being travellers & beer lovers ourselves, we created in 2021 the first ever in Greece:
Craft Beer Walking Tours, which are taking place in Chania & Rethymno.
Craft beer is getting bigger & bigger in Chania. There are now collaborations between brewers, more bottle shops involved with craft beer & restaurants (like Tamam in Chania center with a big selection of craft beers on their menu, created by us at Bonnie and Clyde Urban Tours).
Our vision is to create a modern & lively network for all of us, who love the Craft Beers of Greece & bring them to the world stage!
- The wine production in Chania is a big chapter. There are at least 7 wineries to visit
(apologies if I forget someone): Karavitakis, Anoskeli, Ktima Loupaki , Dourakis , Pneumatikakis, Paterakis & Manousakis. There must positively be tenths of smaller scale wineries and countless home winemakers all around the prefecture. All together, they make Chania a top destination for wine lovers.
- Tsikoudia is the spirit of Crete. Also known as Raki (the name gave by the Turks during the occupation times), it is a must-have in every home, with big lovers & haters, each according to their own drinking experience! The whole process of the production is like a mystagogy. It takes place during late September or October and you might be lucky to be invited in a kazani (the name of the process & the boiler that it is used) and experience it by yourself. Homemade meze (tapas), good wine, singing & dancing is always part of the experience!
5. Micro-Climates that Create Natural Beauties
The position of the island between Europe, Africa and Middle East, the island's orientation, its oblong shape, the high mountains, the fact that it is surrounded by the sea, exposed to strong winds blowing all year round from every direction, have all created through centuries a unique, complex and overall amazing system of microclimates.
In a very short distance, the scenery can change completely.
This phenomenon is more obvious on the Western & Eastern edges of the island, where the winds are stronger.
In Chania, we may find thick snow and ice on the White Mountains range, sensitive eco-systems with sea lagoons and shallow waters on the North and South coasts, desert sand and Mediterranean Junipers by the beach, rich flora next to rocky desert-like areas, small river-gorges everywhere and the only freshwater lake of Crete; Lake Kournas.
The biggest temperature differences are observed when ascending the mountainsides, heading away from the sea. For every 100ms of altitude climbed, the temperature drops by 0.6 to 1°C.
6. Cretan Hospitality: Part of locals DNA (at least for elders)
This is something that can be found not only in Chania but on Crete as a whole.
You can still say “Γεια - Yeia - Hello!” or “Καλημέρα - Kalimera - Good morning” to locals (mostly in the villages) or share a big smile with them & they'll respond wholeheartedly.
Not to mention the epic arguments in coffee shops and taverns when the bill comes,
as everyone wants to pay for everybody else.
To be offered beer, coffee or tsikoudia just because you entered the coffee shop while the locals are there and also drinking, is true magic. This habit is still alive in the small villages and in bigger cities also (but in a smaller scale).
Even though people, in general, are changing a lot, year after year, especially the years we live in now, Cretan hospitality has proven to have very deep roots.
A visit in Crete will help you understand better the meaning of hospitality, even to this day.
In other words, if you're still wondering “Why Chania?”...
- Irresistible natural beauties, gorges & hiking paths.
- Variation of micro-climates all around the island.
- Super healthy tasty cuisine and extra virgin olive oil.
- Local production of craft beer, wine & tsikoudia.
- Beautiful beaches that cover the whole palette of desires.
- Local hospitality.
- Last but not least: the iconic Venetian Harbour of Chania, is just the icing on the cake.
We are promoting a non-touristy way of travel - away from an out of date, model of massive Tour Operators & over tourism in huge all-inclusive hotel resorts - one with eco-responsibility at the core, while creating experiences that stay with us.
We, at Bonnie and Clyde Urban Tours, believe that by respecting the Earth and the Sea which surround us and acting with sustainable criteria, we’ll give ourselves the chance to live a quality life and rescue our planet landscape for the future generations.
So what are you waiting for? Come on down, Chania is a great place to be!
Ya maste! Cheers!