Chania, West Crete
There are four different regions in Crete, each of them with its own fantastic landscapes and many corners waiting to be explored. Chania is the second city after Heraklion, often listed as one of the most beautiful cities in Greece. The region has stunning beaches, high mountains, and a picturesque old town.
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Chania is the westernmost region of Crete and arguably one of the most interesting places to visit on the island.
The landscape of Chania is dominated by the majestic peaks of the White Mountains, or Lefka Ori, covered in snow during the winter.
On the other hand, the extensive coast of Chania harbors some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, including Elafonisi, Balos, and Falasarna.
The region is home to unique mountain villages, guardians of legends and stories deeply related to the battles for freedom that took place on Crete for centuries.
From a geographic viewpoint, the region hosts one of the largest gorges in Europe as well as the continent’s southernmost island, Gavdos.
The chief town of the region is the gorgeous city of Chania with a nostalgic Venetian atmosphere, a logical consequence of more than 400 years of Venetian occupation.
When to visit Chania
Summers on the island tend to be dry and extremely hot, and still, the peak season is July and August. These are the best months for a vacation, ideal to meet people, discover the city nightlife, and to enjoy Chania’s pristine beaches.
For a more relaxing time, with outdoor adventures, Spring remains an ideal time to travel to Chania. The weather is mild with just a few occasional showers, while the mountain landscape is at its best. May and June are great to enjoy trekking, hiking, or pleasant walks in the nature.
Fall is a wonderful period to discover Chania. The weather remains incredibly warm and the most obvious advantage is that crowds have already left. As a plus, prices tend to be more convenient. The roads and the beaches are emptier while the sea is still very warm.
Finally, Chania’s short Winters are a great occasion to explore the most authentic side of the region. The weather is colder and sometimes rainy, but this doesn’t stop locals from attending village festivals, going skiing, and celebrating Christmas or Epiphany with traditional rituals, delicious food, family, and friends.
How to get to Chania
The local international airport (CHQ) is on the Akrotiri Peninsula, about 15 km from the center of town.
There are daily international flights as well as charter flights from most European cities during June, July and August.
Frequencies are reduced during the shoulder season (from April-May and September-October) while it’s necessary to land in Athens first to connect with a national flight during winter (Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air).
Both Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air have daily connections to Chania from the airports of Athens and Thessaloniki, in mainland Greece.
Flights from the U.S., Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East better reach Chania via the capital of Greece, Athens.
Once at the airport, it’s possible to get to the center of town with a public bus, hiring a taxi, or renting a car in one of the several rental offices located in the arrivals lounge or just outside the airport.
Chania’s main port is Souda, less than 7 km from the center. There are night ferries departing from Piraeus, all year round. These ferries depart at night and arrive in Chania very early in the morning. During the high season, there are also daytime services.
The companies reaching the port of Chania are ANEK Lines and Minoan Lines. Once at the port, you can reach the center of town with the local bus or with a taxi.
Chania’s Bus Station is quite close to old town, just blocks away from 1866 Square.
Buses arrive from Heraklion, as well as from the city of Rethymnon. To travel from Agios Nikolaos to Chania, it’s necessary to change bus in Heraklion, sometimes it might even be necessary to change buses in Rethymnon.
From the station there are buses connecting different villages and beaches within the region. Check schedules at KTEL website.
How to move around in Chania
The most comfortable way to visit the island remains car rental since it’s impossible to visit off-the-beaten-track without your own vehicle. You can also hire a taxi or private transfer, but prices are more reasonable when you drive your own car.
Most of the Old Town is pedestrian and therefore not accessible by car. There are two free parking lots on the opposite extremes of the old town, one of them close to the Firkas Fortress (west of the old town), and the other one close to Porta Sabbionara (east of the old town).
There are private parking lots around the old town as well. When parking on the nearby streets, always check for a parking meter.
Taxis are a convenient way to travel when you cover short distances. There’s an extra fair for night trips and for a piece of baggage. Always check the price in advance and ask for the meter to be running.
Local buses are blue and usually depart from 1866 Square or right on the Agora Square. They are comfortable and convenient to reach different neighborhoods around the old town (Chalepa, Akrotiri, Nea Chora, etc.), nearby beaches (Agia Marina, Platanias, Stavros).
Tickets can be purchased from the automatic vending machines located in the main stations, or directly on the bus paying a small extra amount.
Luggage storage is available at the Bust Station. The service is €2 for 8 hours, or €3 for 24 hours.