Updated: Aug 3
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 so popular among the cities of Crete.
With a population of approximately 160.000 people, it is almost half from Heraklion’s population, the modern capital of Crete. Yet Chania prefecture is only a bit smaller than Heraklion ( 2.376 sq.km. vs 2.641 sq.km ), which means that in Heraklion, the population density is 121people/sq.km. , while in Chania it is 67 people/sq.km.
Fewer people means fewer buildings, more open spaces & areas covered in nature.
The variety of landscapes in Chania prefecture is rich. Namely: a fertile mountain plateau, a massive mountain range with an altitude over 2.000 meters, many NATURA 2000 areas of great importance, one of the longest gorges in all Europe ( Samaria ), tenths of different styles of beaches, underwater caves, the only freshwater lake in Crete and a palette of biodiversity that hosts some unique species of flora & fauna found nowhere else.
Let's have a closer look & go a little deeper...
1. Mountains, Gorges & Hiking paths
- The White Mountains of Chania are a mountain range visible from almost everywhere in the prefecture. They cover more than half the area of Chania. The highest peak is at 2.453meters, the second tallest in Crete, surpassed only 3 meters in height by Psiloritis Mountain in Rethymno. There are many mountain villages to explore, that look like time has stopped, and of course the mountain range itself.
- There are dozens of Gorges in Chania, making the destination an absolute must for all hiking lovers. The most famous among all is the Samaria gorge. With 13kms length from entrance to exit, it seems to be the longest in Europe. Samaria Gorge has been a National Park since 1962. Thousands of people hike the gorge every year including many repeaters as well. The gorge opens its gates to visitors at the beginning of May, every year, according to the weather conditions.
Other gorges like Imbros, Ag.Irini, Aradena, Diktamos etc. just create an amazing network that you simply cannot miss.
- E4 Hike path:
With its 10.450 kms length (11.773 kms. including detours & alternatives), it is the longest European trail.
On Crete Island, it begins from 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 Water Sea & the Amazing Beaches
We count more than 100 known beaches along the Chania shoreline from North ( borders with Rethymno ) to the West coast, down to the South coast. Of course the amazing island of Gavdos is include. The prefecture hosts some of the most beautiful, sensitive, famous & undiscovered beaches of the whole island.
Many of them, thankfully, are already under the NATURA 2000 seal protection but it is not clear yet, if this is enough, as the over tourism phenomenon is more than visible.
With crystal clear waters, not extremely deep and with still enough sea life (among them sea-turtles & seals), they attract thousands of people every year who love swimming, beach life, free camping, water activities, diving, etc.
The South coast line with the Libyan Sea & the North coast line with the Cretan Sea, has shores covered with the endemic Cretan Juniper, archaeological sites by the sea,
and hidden fiords accessible only by boat. These are some only from the gems that you'll need time to properly discover. We won't make any recommendation by name here though.
No matter if you travel alone or 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 eating is based on the traditional cuisines of Greece, Italy and other countries bordering 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 ( no longer the case nowadays, however ).
Chania and Crete in general have a big production of virgin olive oil. It is still a common activity to do the olive picking by whole families, like the old days. Thankfully, the old methods of growing trees & producing olive oil are becoming more & more popular again.
4. Beer, Wine & Tsikoudia (Raki)
The production of alcoholic beverages in Chania is expanding along with their quality.
- The biggest step forward made from the Craft Beer community. In the Chania region, we count today 1 Brewery & 4 Microbreweries that produce some impressive beer styles. You may find all the detailed information about the Chania Craft Beer explosion in our West Crete Craft Beer guide 2022.
Being travellers & beer lovers ourselves, we created in 2021 the first ever:
Craft Beer Walking Tours & Tasting Sessions, in Greece, which are taking place in Chania & Rethymnon.
Craft beer is getting bigger & bigger in Chania. We now have more collaborations between brewers, more bottle shops involved with craft beer & more restaurants ( like Tamam or Platanos in Chania ) which have a selection of craft beers in their menu.
Our target is to create a modern & lively network for all of us, who love the Craft Beer of Greece & bring it to the world stage.
- Wine production in Chania is a big thing. There are 6 wineries today ( apologies if I forget someone ): Karavitakis, Anoskeli, Ktima Loupaki , Dourakis , Pneumatikakis & Manousakis. There must positively be hundreds of smaller scale wineries or home winemakers. All together, they make Chania a destination for wine lovers.
- Tsikoudia is the spirit of Crete. Also known as Raki, it is a must-have in every home with lovers & haters, each according to their own drinking experience! The whole process of the production is like a mystagogy. It takes place during September or October and you might be lucky to be invited in a kazani ( the name of the process & the boiler used ) and experience it yourself. Homemade meze (tapas), good wine, singing & dancing is always part of the experience!
5. Micro-Climates 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 blow 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, African sand and Mediterranean Junipers on 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 100 ms. of altitude climbed, the temperature drops by 0.6 to 1°C.
6. Cretan Hospitality: Part of the DNA
This is something that can be found not only in Chania but on Crete as a whole.
You can still say “Γεια - Hallo!” or “Καλημέρα - Good morning” to locals ( mostly in the villages ) or share a big smile with them & they'll reciprocate 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 drinking also, is true magic. This habit is still alive in the small villages and in bigger cities also.
Even though people, in general, are changing a lot year after year, especially the years that we live now, Cretan hospitality has proven to have deep roots.
A visit in Crete will help you understand better the meaning of hospitality, even today.
In other words, if you're still wondering “Why Chania?”...
- Irresistible natural beauty, 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.
- Last but not least: the iconic Venetian Harbour of Chania, is the icing on the cake.
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 have the chance to live a quality life and rescue the landscape for the future generations.
We are promoting a non-touristy way of travel, away from an obsolete model of Tour Operators & tourists in huge hotel resorts; one with eco-responsibility while creating experiences that stay with us.
So what are you waiting for? Come on down, Chania is a great place to be!
Ya mas! Cheers!