A journey through the senses
Chania is enthralling from the very first moment you set foot in the city. The scent of grilled fish, the sounds of clinking glasses full of raki, a local tipple, the flavor of their very own version of a cheese pie, the view to the lighthouse in the old harbor and the locals who will take you by the hand and whisk you off into their dance are but a few of the magic moments you will live once you are on the island.
And yet, a lot of the charm of Chania can also be found beyond the city limits. It is there in the exotic beaches of Balos and Falasarna as well as those of Agia Marina and Platanias; in the turquoise waters of Loutro; in enthralling Elafonisi and the famous, verdant Samaria Gorge. It cries out from the peaks of the Lefka Ori, the White Mountains, the monastery of Panagia Odigitria as well as the Art & Crafts village in Souda.
Scratching your head about how to cram all this into one weekend?
Some words of advice if you find yourself in Chania with a couple of days to spare…
Start your day with a dive into the waters of one of the best beaches in Greece. About 50 km from Chania by car, Balos is well hidden at the northwest end of Crete, a wonderful surprise poised to sweep you off your feet. The feeling you will experience as soon as you see this particular beach from up high can only be described in one word: WOW!
Let your toes sink in the fine, white and pink sand, lay back in the emerald waters, let go and enjoy the peace and gentle sound of the sea.
The Botanical Park of Crete
Before lunch, head with your friends to the Botanical Park of Crete to sample the tea and learn more about the unbelievable number of endemic herbs in Crete. Take a walk in the verdant Park and when you’ve worked up an appetite, take lunch in the restaurant of the Park.
Prepare to try tasty dishes of authentic Cretan cuisine. Tsigariasto, apaki, dakos, rooster with spaghetti, boureki, kalitsounia and choice meat are all served with herbs grown in the Park.
“Verekynthos” Arts & Crafts village
About 5 km outside Chania, between Souda and Tsikalaria, lies the Art & Crafts village of Crete, Verekynthos. It is well worth visiting and after you have browsed around the workshops of the painters, sculptors, lyre manufacturers and the rest of the artists, try a lesson in ceramics.
The experience is extremely edifying and when you leave you can take your masterpiece home with you as a souvenir.
Sfakia, Loutro and Marmara
Make sure you devote the remaining days to the Chora of Sfakia. Have a coffee in Thea in order to enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the harbor and then prepare yourself for a boat ride. Let the breeze take you away and feel the saltiness of the sea embrace you. Close your eyes and open them again upon reaching Loutro.
It is imperative that you take the first dive of the day here and after you’ve had a refreshing drink in one of the pretty cafes of the harbor, get back on the boat and take the plunge once more at Marmara. This particular beach is at the mouth of the gorge of Aradaina and, as there are no roads, access is only on foot (through the gorge) or by boat.
Late afternoon is the best time to be back in Chora Sfakion, tucking into fresh fish accompanied by the sounds of the lyre. The locals are always willing to talk about rizitika songs, regale you with traditional limericks and, of course, chat about the rich Cretan musical tradition. A truly unique experience.
The old town of Chania
Wandering around the old town is ideally reserved for the slot before nightfall to show it off to the full. If you like exploring, this is a heaven-sent opportunity. The Venetian lighthouse, the districts of Halepa and Topana, Koum Kapi, Tampakaria with the old tanneries, Skridlof and Karaoli Dimitriou Streets, as well as Megalo Arsenali are spots you should definitely not miss out on! Every building, every alleyway has a story to tell. And after dark have dinner at the harbor and end your evening pleasantly in any one of vibrant bars.
Before you know it the weekend will have passed ( with so much fun, time goes’ supersonic’ here) and you have to leave but the tastes, fragrances, sounds and images Chania has given you will escort you on the way back, reminding you that you have a future date to keep with this wonderful city and its equally fabulous surrounds.
See you soon Chania.