Hire a Car to Discover this Ancient City
The city of Chania was slowly regaining its normal pace of development during the 1950s, trying to overcome the difficulties that the war had left as an aftermath. During the 1970s Crete became a major tourist destination for Greek and international tourists, something that gave a significant boost to the city’s economy and affected the everyday life and the overall culture of the locals. The capital of Crete was moved from Chania to Heraklion in 1971. Chania and the rest of the island of Crete, unlike the mainland of Greece, it is not suffering from the economical crisis, as the local economy is based on the horticulture products like the olive oil. Chania is the site of the Minoan settlement the Greeks called Kydonia, Greek for quince. Some notable archaeological evidence for the existence of this Minoan city below some parts of today’s Chania was found by excavations in the district of Kasteli in the Old Town. This area appears to have been inhabited since the Neolithic era.
The city reemerged after the end of the Minoan period as an important city-state in Classical Greece, one whose domain extended from Chania Bay to the feet of the White Mountains. The first major wave of settlers from mainland Greece was by the Dorian Greeks who came around 1100 BC. Kydonia was constantly at war with other Cretan city-states such as Aptera, Phalasarna and Polyrrinia and was important enough for the Kydonians to be mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey (iii.330). In 69 BC, the Roman consul Caecilius Metellus defeated the Cretans and conquered Kydonia to which he granted the privileges of an independent city-state. Kydonia reserved the right to mint its own coins until the third century AD.
Beaches of Chania
From warm sand to colorful pebbles, the prefecture has a type of beach for everyone. Small and secluded coves can be found everywhere as well as long, busy and fully equipped beaches. All beaches have crystalline waters. Some of the many beaches are: Golden beach, Agia Marina, Georgoupoli, Stalos.
Take the opportunity to rent a car and drive 10 kilometers north from Kalyviani, around 58 Kilometers from Chania, at the north side of Gramvousa Peninsula lies Balos Lagoon beach, which is one of the best beaches of the Mediterranean Sea. Balos Lagoon beach is at the entrance of the homonymous cove and it is not affected by the “meltemia” (northern summer winds), since the islet of Gramvousa at the mouth of the cove protects it very well. The beach at the lagoon is sandy with pinkish – white sand and thousands of broken and intact seashells, with shallow water, very warm especially in summer. One problem is that the beach has a smooth but muddy seabed, which may make walking on it a bit disgusting, and occasionally, due to the shallow water, it has a bad odor. Outside of the lagoon you can swim in a deep crystal clear sea and if you like snorkel you that is the ideal place. There are no other facilities apart from a small cafe for a cold frappe coffee and drinks. Some people choose the place for free camping, although there is no shade and the place is not as quiet as it used to be in the past. Access is possible by boat from Kastelli (departure at 9:30 in the morning and returning at 16:00). If you wish to drive you will definitely have to rent a 4WD car or special motorbikes, because there is approximately 10 kilometers of road which is not asphalted and is in bad condition, making it difficult for conventional vehicles. Even so you cannot avoid walking, since you have to leave your vehicle about 15 minutes before the beach and follow the path on foot.
On the other hand, if you choose not to take your car or motorbike, you should be prepared for an approximately 3 hours walking from Kalyviani. Had you chosen these longer paths to reach the beach, you will be well rewarded by the marvelous view of the lagoon from the parking place. Moni Gouvernetou, which is also located close to Chania, is one of the oldest monasteries in Crete. It was built in 1537.It flourished and had a lot of influence on the region. In 1645, it is said that 60 monks used to live there before the Turkish invasion. The Turks, however, soon began to influence the path of the monastery, which was looted and burned by the Turks, like other neighboring monasteries. Numerous sacred and priceless historical relics were lost and many monks were killed. The Turks also destroyed the archives of the monastery, which was partially restored in the recent years. During the World War II monastery moved to single outpost of the Germans to control the area where there were many battles with the resistance groups. Since 2005 the monks of the monastery Gouvernetou have begun restoration works of the temple enclosure space trying to maintain this historic monastery of Crete.
Another place that simply has to be recommended is Elafonisi. It is an island located close to the southwestern side of the mediterranean island of Crete, which partly belongs administratively in the prefecture of Chania. When the weather is fine it is possible to walk to the island through the shallow water. The island is a protected nature reserve. At the highest point on the island there is a plaque that commemorates a tragic event. On Easter Sunday of 24 April 1824 several hundred Greeks, mostly women and children, were killed on Elafonisi by Ottoman soldiers. To inhibit advancing Ottoman troops, 40 armed men had taken refuge on the island with women, children and old folk where they were waiting for a ship to take them to the Ionian Islands. The Ottoman soldiers had decided to camp on the beach opposite the island. One of their horses walked along the shallow water to the island and the people hiding on the island were discovered. According to several sources there were between 640 and 850 people in total, most of whom were killed and the remaining survivors were sold in to slavery in Egypt. Also a large wooden cross commemorates a shipwreck from 22 February 1907. It was an Austrian Lloyd passenger steamer, called the Imperatrix. Due to strong northwest winds 38 people died in a lifeboat that tried to reach the shore. They were all buried on the island. Imperatrix still lies on the seabed in front of the island’s cliffs and was the reason that a lighthouse was built on an island hilltop. The lighthouse was destroyed during the Second World War by the occupying German troops.
You do not want to leave Chania without visiting Chora Sfakion. The region of Sfakia is the highest populated area in all of Greece. Sfakia is characterized by the natural beauty of a wild mountain landscape which is perfectly combined with the sea. Sfakia includes the greatest part of White Mountains (or Lefka Ori) including Pachnes, the highest peak (2454 meters). There we meet the Samaria Gorge, one of the most popular attractions on Crete. Other canyons in Sfakia are the gorge of Imbros, Agia Eirini in Selino, Aradena, Kallikratis and Gorge Elygia.
Numerous modern bars proposing various atmospheres can be found in the capital of the prefecture of Chania and in the touristy beach resorts of the prefecture, particularly in Platanias and Paleohora.
Night clubs are also available and are playing a wide range of music and stay open until morning. Beach bars are located on some beaches.