PLACES TO VISIT
This wonder of the nature is located in the southwest corner of Chania. It is something between an island and a peninsula, because in order to reach it you have to walk in the water. It is a place of distinctive natural beauty and a Natura protected area. Elafonissi is well known as a special and exotic place due to the small islets, with the very fine white sand that becomes pink in several areas and the lagoon with turquoise shallow waters. The famous pink sand comes from the dust of shattered seashells. As you approach, the road is downhill and the area becomes visible from a distance, like an oasis in a desert. You will see blue and turquoise sea colors, white, pink sand, and scattered cedars.
The famous lagoon of Balos is located about 56 km northwest of Chania and 17 km northwest of Kissamos. It is a shallow sandy beach formed between Gramvousa peninsula and the smaller cape of Tigani, under the imposing mountain of Geroskinou. Balos is definitely the most photographed beach of Crete, a very favorite theme of all tourist guides in Greece. It is famous for its turquoise waters, wild natural beauty and exquisite exotic scenery. Balos has white sand and exotic white, deep blue-green and turquoise waters. The sea is very shallow and warm, ideal destination for young children as well. In many areas, the sand has a lovely pink color, coming from the shattered seashells. Beyond the rocks, the waters are deeper and cooler, ideal for diving. Like the surrounding area, Balos is part of the Natura protection program, with rare species of flora and fauna.
On the northwest side of the Venetian harbor of Chania, the Venetians built the Revellino del Porto, a fortification project to protect the harbor. Its construction began approximately in the middle of the 16th century and completed just a few years before the city has fallen under the Turkish occupation in 1645. In case of siege, a thick chain was closing the port from Firka to the base of the lighthouse on the other end of the port’s entrance. The Venetians called the fortress Revellino while the Turks used it mainly as barracks, which in Turkish called firka. Inside the site was formed with appropriate buildings in barracks and warehouses of war material. It was also the seat of the military commander of the city. In the middle of the courtyard, there is a large vaulted pool that gathered the rainwater of the roofs. The northern side of Revellino occupies the complex of six consecutive dome in which there were the large casemates, one in each dome, specially designed so that the gunfire covers the entrance to the harbor.
Faros – Lighthouse
For over 5 centuries, the lighthouse of the old harbor of Chania stands proudly overseeing the area. The lighthouse has become a recognition landmark of Chania all over the world. Its history is connected with the history of the harbor. In 1212 AD the Venetians conquered all of Crete and they decided to build a new city on ancient Kydonia (present-day Chania). The port is not all natural. Its construction begun between 1320 and 1356 BC and the work continued for the next 200 years. That is the reason why the lighthouse was constructed in a different form from today. From 1645 until 1830 Crete was under the Turkish occupation. They did not use the harbor of Chania but that of Souda. So over the years, the lighthouse started decaying because no one was looking after its maintenance. In 1830 the English gave Crete to the Egyptians. Then a lot of public works took place. The lighthouse was repaired on its original base. But the new lighthouse is different from the old one; it looks more like a minaret. It has an internal staircase leading to a balcony with a glass turret. Recent researches that have taken place in order to replace the lighthouse, have shown that the base of the lighthouse, which is Venetian, is separated from the rest of the lighthouse by a wooden grille.
The enchanting beach of Falassarna is 59 km west of Chania and 17 km west of Kissamos, in the western part of the Gramvousa Peninsula. At the northern end of the beach there are ruins of the Greco-Roman city of Falassarna. Falassarna is one of the most famous beaches of Greece, as it has been awarded in the past as the best beach of Crete and one of the 10 best beaches in Europe. It extends to a very large area and consists essentially of 5 consecutive beaches, with the two most central being the most beloved.
The sand is light, giving the water a tropical color. Indeed, if you are lucky and come a day that does not blow from the west, something a bit rare in Western Crete in the summer, you will be enchanted by the sea and its blue-green waters. The main beach of Falassarna is called Pachia Ammos and it is an exotic wide sandy beach with a length of 1 km. There are umbrellas and few refreshments that you can buy.
The Municipal Market is located in the center of Chania at the place where used to be the main bastion of the fortifications on Venetian domination. By the middle and end of the 19th century, here was the edge of the city. A variety of different shops had been flourishing in the area, like butcher shops, fish shops, vegetable shops, haystacks, etc. As we would say in modern terms, here was the open-air folk market where the villagers brought their products to sell them.
The image they presented was not very appealing, hence the municipality of Chania decided in 1908 to spruce up the area by building a municipal market. Designed by the local engineer Drandakis, following the model of the Marseilles covered market, the construction of the cross shaped building began in 1911.
The municipal market was built where the Venetian bastion Piatta Forma was located. Of course, this was preceded by the demolition of a large part of the Venetian walls as part of the modernization and development of the city. The measures for the protection of Byzantine and Venetian fortifications were introduced much later in the 1960s.
The Municipal Market was inaugurated in 1913 by Eleftherios Venizelos. It has the shape of a cross and has four doors, one in each wing, closing to provide security to the shops housed here. It is an architectural gem for Chania and is one of the most impressive buildings in the Balkan space.
One of the most popular places that offer panoramic views of Chania is the tombs of Venizelos, a few kilometers east of the city, on the road to Akrotiri and the airport, on the hill of Prophet Elias. Here are the tombs of the charismatic Greek politician – and seven times the prime minister of Greece – Eleftherios Venizelos and his son Sophocles Venizelos, who also served as Prime Minister of Greece from 1943 to 1952. The two Venizelos tombs, located in the middle of a beautiful park with gardens, sidewalks, stairs and benches, under the shade of pine trees, while the magnificent beauty of the area is the blue sea and panoramic views of Chania and the surrounding area.
At the same point, there is the small church of Prophet Elias and the statue of Spiros Kayaledakis or Kayale who, on February 9, 1897 (Revolution of 1897), at the time of the great bombing of the rebels of the Great Powers, he made his body a flag pole to raise the Greek flag that the ship’s cannonballs had thrown to the ground.
BACK TO NATURE
Walking in the Botanical park & Gardens of Crete offers spiritual tranquility and visual pleasure in addition to knowledge on plants and their material Unique in Europe.
The newest and one of the most interesting sites of the Prefecture of Chania, lies only 18 kilometers outside the city, on the feet of the White Mountains. A walking, educational and entertainment park-unique in its kind in Crete – waiting for young and old, locals and foreigners, to get acquainted with the more than 150 species of fruit trees together with the dozens of herbs, medicinal and ornamental plants it hosts, while enjoying their walk through a lush natural environment. The secret of enjoying your visit to the maximum is to wander through the paths of the Botanical Park slowly and leisurely, making many stops for rest in the various suitable rest points available. Thus you shall have the opportunity to truly appreciate the beauty which you will encounter.
The scenery here is composed of rare samples of the local flora and fauna, as well as tropical and subtropical species from all over the world, with new samples added daily, changing the look of the Botanical Park. The lush landscape is completed by the lake in the lower part of the part, offering accommodation and protection to ducks, geese and other water birds (and rare species), even to hawks that fly in the area.
At the entrance of the harbor of Chania lies the Firka Fortress, built by the Venetians (1204-1669) to install the local guarding post.
Subsequently the Ottomans (1669-1898) used the fortress for the same purpose and settled the Division of Command. Since then, the name “Firka”, this in Ottoman Turkish means barracks, remains. Here, as of December 1, 1913, the Greek flag was raised proudly ratifying the annexation of Crete to Greece.
At the entrance of this Fortress is located the Naval Museum of Crete, which was founded to house and preserve our naval traditions and especially those from Crete, which were a source of national survival, progress and majesty of the country. It is promoted by the Navy and operates with the impeccable service of the prefecture of Chania, the municipality of Chania and the Naval Shipyard of Crete.
Stefanou Beach – Seitan limania
Stephanou beach is located next to Seitan Harbor, 22 km northeast of Chania and 2 km east of Chordaki village, on the eastern side of Akrotiri, Chania. The name Seitan Ports means Cursed Ports in Turkish and comes from the fact that the waters and streams of the area are dangerous. Next to it are three parallel narrow-bay coves, very well protected from the waves.
Inside the wild landscape with its verdant rocks and wild beauty, the steep-sloping small beach of Stefanou with its deep blue waters, it’s amazement. The beach is made up of gravel and sand, which are transported from the neighboring quarries through the gorge of Diplochachalo.
You can visit the beach by a passenger car, which you park high, near the church of Saint Spyridon. From there a short but very steep path descends to the beach in about 5′-10 ‘ minutes. To get down, make sure you have athletic shoes with you and never wear slippers. Since the asphalt-paved road leading to the beach, Stephanou’s reputation has sprung up, and it’s a must visit.
The Cathedral of the Virgin Mary
The Panagia Trimartiri is considered as the protector of the city of Chania. The central aisle is dedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin Mary (Isodia tis Theotokou), which is celebrated on November 21. The northern aisle is dedicated to St. Nicholas (Agios Nikolaos) and the southern aisle to the Three Cappadocian Fathers (Tris Ierarhes). The church is built on the site of an earlier church, which had reportedly existed here since the 14th century. Later, with the conquest of the city by the Turks, in 1645, the church was turned into a soap factory as it stood, with no alterations in the layout.
From there on, its history has been intertwined with local legends. According to tradition, the soap factory failed at some point and Mustafa Pasha, who was the Prime Minister of the time, ceded the building to the Christian community of the city. Legend has it that Mustafa Pasha made this decision when his child, who had fallen into a well nearby, was saved with the help of the Virgin Mary.
The construction of the church was complete in 1860, resulting in the building that we see today: a three-aisled basilica with an elevated middle aisle and numerous architectural elements of Venetian influence, such as carved square columns, cornices, etc. Then, the icon of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary, which had been taken away by the last worker of the soap factory, was restored to the church.
The history of the Panagia Trimartiri church is tied into the history of the city itself. It was frequently used as a place of refuge and it suffered much damage during the Cretan revolt of 1897. Its renovation was undertaken by the Czar of Russia, and the bell tower was also built thanks to his donation. Trimartiri also suffered a lot of damage during the bombing of Chania in May 1941.
The gorge of Samaria is situated in the National park of Samaria, in the White Mountains in West Crete. This majestuous gorge is considered one of the great attractions of Crete and is a must visit sight. It is a long (5 to 7 hours) walk on rough terrain so you will need to have a certain degree of fitness and walking experience in order to enjoy it.
White Mountains’ National Park is the only national park in Crete. It centers around the Samariá gorge, at an altitude of 1,200m and continues down to Ayia Rouméli, on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding slopes and a number of smaller gorges branching off from it, Samaria Gorge forms the whole of the area designated as a national park, a status that offers protection to over 450 species of plant and animal, 70 of which are endemic to Crete. In the prefecture of Chania (also written “Hania”), the Samaria gorge is the longest in Europe (total length 16km), and one of the most impressive gorges in Greece. It starts from Xylóskalo, at an altitude of 1,230m. The width of the gorge is 150m at its widest point and 3m at its narrowest.
• Here is a brief hiking map:
As you walk downhill, you will come across the church of St. Nikolas, built on the ruins of an ancient temple. Half way down the gorge lies the old village of Samaria; its few houses are now used by the park wardens. Quench your thirst with mountain water running from the gorge’s springs. Keep walking. At some point you will reach Pórtes (also called “Iron Gates”), the three narrowest passages of the gorge. The steep cliffs here tower as high as 500m above sea level. This route also goes past Venetian castles and ruins of prehistoric settlements as well as remnants of many other historical periods. As you are walking, you might feel as if someone else is watching you: the presence of the wild Cretan goats, known as “kri kri”, will definitely make this route particularly exciting!
• The hike ends at Ayia Rouméli, where you can catch the ferry to Hóra Sfakion.
• Ayia Rouméli
Ayia Rouméli is a small coastal village that you reach after walking through the Samaria Gorge. From here a frequent boat service will take you directly to Loutró and Hóra Sfakion. The ancient Greek site of Tára, is on the left (east) hill as you exit the gorge. Many of the finds from Tára are housed in the Archaeological Museum of Chania. Tára flourished during Greek, Roman and Byzantine times. In Ayia Roumeli you can also visit the Byzantine churches of Panayia, Ayia Triada, and Ayios Pavlos, a Turkish castle and an exceptionally beautiful beach.
Nearby beaches: To the east of Ayia Rouméli discover the beaches of Mármara (at the exit of the Arádaina gorge), the wild beaches of Lýkos and Finikas, and the charming village of Loutró.
You can make a short or even a longer stop here on your way back to the point where your hiking adventure in the Samaria gorge began. The village can be reached by boat from Hóra Sfakion and Ayia Rouméli or on foot from Anopolis, Hóra Sfakion, and Ayia Rouméli. (Hiking tip: The footpaths appear deceptively short, especially in the heat of the summer. In addition, they may also be dangerous for inexperienced hikers. If you are not a hiking expert, take the boat from Hóra Sfakion; the trip lasts about 20 minutes.)
Theriso Village, with its astonishing mountain scenery and gorge, is located at an altitude of 580 meters, at the foothills of the massive Lefka Ori or White Mountain range in the west of Crete. The beautiful gorge with its impressive scenery can be seen from the road as it runs along the bed of the gorge for 6 km, accompanying the tree-lined river and surrounded by the greenery of chestnuts and oaks. Of course the gorge also makes a wonderful walk in the clean mountain air, and is popular with rock climbers and hikers.
Climbers take the opportunity to start from the village to climb the high peak Pachnes, and experienced many sheer and breath-taking cliff climbs all around. Those less active will enjoy a visit to the gorge, the forest and the nearby Sarakina Cave, 2 km north of the village, with historical finds from the Neolithic, Minoan and Geometric ages evidenced from archaeological explorations.
This gorge and village make a wonderful day trip from Chania; visitors can enjoy the many traditional taverns in the small village serving both the famous Cretan lamb and meat dishes as well as plenty of local fresh vegetables.
Lake Kournas is actually the only large natural lake in Crete and is located in an enchanting landscape, surrounded by high mountains and olive groves. It is located near the village Kournas, 2.5km southeast of the beach of Georgioupolis, 43km east of Chania and 20km west of Rethymnon. Lake Kournas and its surroundings constitute a very important ecosystem for Greece.
Its’ name is believed to originate from the Arabian word Kurana for the “lake” and “bath”. In ancient texts, is referred to as Korissia, while it is believed to have existed near the sanctuary of Athena Korissia.
The lake has been created by the accumulation of groundwater coming from the White Mountains. The water gushes from a spring called Amati or Mati (meaning “eye”), which is over the lake surface in the summer months, while it is hidden below the surface during winter. There is a second spring, which is always underneath the surface.
Kournas Lake and its surroundings constitute a very important ecosystem for Greece. Kournas is one of the very few areas of Crete where plenty of fresh water is stored throughout the year. For this reason, it is protected under the Natura 2000 program. The lake is surrounded by lush vegetation composing of rare aquatic plants and trees. The dark color of the water is caused by the seaweed. Many species of birds find shelter here, like moorhens, ducks, herons and cormorants. The lake has always been known for its eels. This wetland also hosts water snakes and terrapins. Especially for the terrapins, a rare type of terrapin lives here (Malaclemys terrapin) with spots on its shell.
Lake Kournas is a favorite destination for visitors of Crete and locals. It is an ideal place for relaxation and a walk. In summer, a stroll around the turquoise lake lasts less than an hour (3.5 km). On one side of the lake there are cafes and restaurants overlooking the lake. Adjacent to the cafes, small beaches with white sand are formed during the summer, as the water surface reached lower levels. Visitors can swim at these beaches and rent umbrellas. Moreover, visitors could either pedal or kayak in the lake. This is an ideal choice for the afternoon, when the color of the water is beautiful and the lake is very calm.