The prefecture of Chania covers the west part of the island and the imposing White Mountains cover its largest part. This majestic mountain range soars upward, lush and green, only a few kilometers from the north coast of the island to reach a height of 2,543 m., and then to descend, barren and sheer, to the Libyan Sea, through the bowels of the earth that the Samaria Gorge passes through. Northeast is Souda Bay, the largest natural harbor in Greece, the bay of Chania, and further west the bay of Kissamos, both with huge sandy beaches.
Prefecture Of Chania
Its capital is the town of Chania, the second in size town of the island, the so-called “town of flowers”. The town has one of the most beautiful and graphics ports, (old town), with a big Venetian lighthouse. The lighthouse enhances the beauty of the port even more. The prefecture of Chania has many natural sights, beautiful beaches with crystal clear waters and historical and archeological sites. Caverns and gorgeous gorges exist in various regions. The most important is the famous Samaria Gorge, which is visited by thousands of people from all over the world every year. The gorge of Theriso is well known for its historical importance in addition to its natural beauty. The only lake in Crete can be found here. It is named Kournas Lake. In the prefecture of Chania, apart from the archeological and folkloric museums, you can see many monasteries, which age back to the 16th century or even before then. There are also Orthodox and Catholic churches. Festivities are performed each year in these churches whenever the Saint of each church is celebrated. Anyone can attend these festivities, taste the traditional foods made by the local people on the occasion, and also try the famous Cretan wine, tsikoudia or raki. We should also mention the artistic, folkloric and social activities, which take place in different parts of the prefecture and reflect the features of the Cretan people. Throughout the prefecture, one can enjoy the beautiful coastline or mountainous villages. The green of nature prevails enhanced by lots of natural springs and rivers. These trips can be made with the short or long-distance buses of K.T.E.L. (The central bus station) which provide access to almost all the regions of the prefecture. Connection with the other prefectures is achieved through the coastal highway or through smaller regional roads.
Great personalities of politics, literature, and art were born in Chania. Leading figure is that of Eleftherios Venizelos, who was one of the greatest if not the greatest political figures of modern Greece. He served as Prime Minister of Greece and he had a very important role in the evolution of our country. Eleftherios Venizelos lies forever in the family tomb, located in the area of Profiti Ilia This area is in one of the most beautiful regions of the prefecture. The visitor can enjoy the view of the town from here while visiting the tomb. The airport of Chania is located in the region of Akrotiri in Sternes. It is 14 km away from the center of the town. Connection through the air with Athens and other regions of Greece is regular.
Many charter flights come from abroad. A beautiful natural harbor is located in the city of Souda at a distance of 8 km from the center of the town of Chania. Modern ferries provide a daily connection with Piraeus and other islands. Connection with the south of Peloponissos in the Greek mainland is also through the port of Kissamos. In certain places, there are smaller ships that carry people on short expeditions from one coastline area to the other. Chania is built on the site of the ancient city of Kydonia. This site was inhabited since Neolithic times and through all phases of the Minoan Period. Kydonia was destroyed in 828 AD by the Saracen pirates. During the Byzantine period, Chania ceased to be an important city. The city flourished as an economical and intellectual center.
In 1645 the Turks occupied Chania after a two-month siege. With the liberation of Crete from the Turks, in 1897, Chania became the capital of the autonomous Cretan State. Chania was the birthplace of one of the greatest statesman of the new Hellenic Republic, Eleftherios Venizelos.
Things to do in Chania
The sights of Chania are concentrated mainly in the Old Town which is centered around the pretty Venetian Harbour. The old Venetian lighthouse lies at its entrance, opposite the historic Firka Fortress and the Naval Museum. Other sights are the Venetian neighborhood of Topanas, the large walls of the Venetian fortress, built in 1540, Kastelli, the neighborhood of Splantia with the churches of Ayios Rokkos, Ayios Nikolaos and Ayioi Anargyroi. The Archaeological Museum is housed in the Basilica of St. Francis, a Venetian church from the 14th century. Further south is the Cathedral. At the boundary with the New Town is the Public Market with its own characteristic color and in the New Town itself the beautiful Public Gardens. Nearby are the Historical Archives of Crete which are the second largest in Greece in size and volume of documents. East of Chania is the aristocratic suburb of Chalepa and the home of Eleftherios Venizelos. Chania is connected by plane to Athens and by ship (from Souda) to Piraeus.
Wars and occupations were not able to prevent the intellectual and artistic flowering of the island. For example:
- The appearance of the great Cretan painter Domenicos Theotokopoulos known as El Greco
- Then when the works of Georgios Chortatzis and Vitcenzios Kornaros were played in the theaters.
- We are even spoken of the recent past, of that great Cretan writer Nikos Kazantzakis
The main products of the island are olive oil, wine, the famous raki (tsikoudia), grapes, citrus fruit, and cheese. Among its other products mention should be made of folk arts and handicrafts, especially the weavings, embroideries, portable icons, ceramics, silver, and golden accessories.
From Xyloskalos you descend the celebrated Samaria Gorge, the most stupendous gorge in Europe, to the Libyan Sea. The gorge has running water, ponds and plane trees. 18 km. long, it requires about 6 hours for the walk through it and finally ends at Ayia Roumeli. From there you can take a ship of the line to Chora Sfakion. From Sfakia you will return to Chania. You can make this excursion from May 1 to October 31.
Isolated on the difficult to reach the coast of the Libyan sea, it was the center for the revolts to liberate the island. The old houses with the folk architecture resemble Aegean architecture and are built amphitheatrically around the harbor. From Sfakia you can take excursions on a small boat to Loutro, Ayia Roumeli, Sougia, Palaiochora and the islet of Gavdos
A plateau at an altitude of 1.050 m., famed for the struggles for the liberation of Crete. On the way to Samaria, you can take a left turn to the Kallergis refuge in the White Mountains from where the ascent to the highest peak Mt. Pachnes (2,453 m.) is made in about 7 hours.
A large village with the Byzantine churches of Ayios Ioannis, Ayia Paraskevi, Timios Stavros. A few kilometers beyond the village the Topolia Ravine begins. The road passes through a tunnel and arrives at the cave of Ayia Sophia. The chapel of Ayia Sophia is at its entrance.
Down on the south-west extremity of Crete is a bay with enormous black rocks. On the highest one of them is perched the most beloved but also the most remote monastery.
One of the most ravishing sandy beaches on the Crete with emerald waters. It is impressive for its extent and charm. At the end of the sandy beach there is is a steep and rocky hill on the top of which is the acropolis of ancient Falasarna.
The capital of the Province of Selino. It was destroyed by the Germans because of its participation in the resistance. Many eminent Byzantine churches can be found in the surrounding villages, with walls full of paintings.
A market town with a spectacular sandy beach and warm sea. It is even suitable for swimming in winter.
At the bottom end of the harbor are some 16th-century buildings originally used as workshops for shipbuilding and repairs. In one of these old workshops a project is underway to construct a replica of an original Minoan boat, then to launch it and sail around the Greek islands and on to Attica in time for the Olympics in 2004.
On the road from Chania to the airport, you pass the deepwater port of Souda Bay. It is the largest harbor in the Mediterranean and provides anchorage and a base for the US Navy.
Souda Bay is also home to allied war cemeteries from World War II.
It is built on the site of ancient Kissamos, the port of the ancient town of Polyrrenia. Later, it was occupied by the Romans. The town then passed to the Arabs, and later the Venetians, who built a small castle (Kastelli) from which it took its new name. Kastelli is the capital of the Province of Kissamos, known for its superb wine. It has a harbor and is connected by a ferry boat to Gytheio.
This huge island is a significant part of Greece yet sometimes it seems that it’s a country of its own inside a country, that’s how big it is. Cretan people are very proud of their island and of their history. Sometimes you hear people say that they have traveled in Greece, in Spain, in Italy, and of course in Crete. Well, Crete is well worth mentioning separately in every aspect of traveling and tourism.
Nowadays it’s more like a suburb of Chania but back then it was a sleepy little village way apart from Chania. Now there are similar little villages right next to each other on the coast so that it’s difficult to say when one village changes to become another. They are like a string of pearls, all those “made for tourists” holiday villages.
However, they couldn’t be better situated. Sandy beaches stretch from Chania to Kissamos and way beyond. The beaches are mostly sand and have all the facilities and activities you can imagine. The sea here along this section of the north coast is generally calm and the beaches shelve gently to the sea. The resorts sit sheltered by the mountains making the climate usually nice but sometimes the winds can blow hard from the sea and then shelter is very minimal.
Platanias was nice for a tranquil holiday. Chania was easy to access with a local bus as was Elafonissi, one of the best beaches in Crete. We spent quite a lot of time in Chania walking around the town, especially the narrow streets of the enchanting old town and harbor. The old Market Hall or Food Market was a ‘sight for sore eyes’! It was huge and not just any market place. There were so many vendors selling all kinds of mostly local food products. For me who loves cooking it was heaven on earth. Busy Chania is also a shopper’s paradise. There are numerous boutiques and little shops where you can buy everything possible. Local products are good quality but pricey.
On a daily basis, we also visited Elafonissi. If you catch a bus in Platanias or beyond it, prepare yourself because most likely you will have to stand all the way to the beach. Busses are many but they are all crowded. Elafonissi is very popular because it’s close and it’s something different from an ordinary beach. Elafonissi is also accessed by boat from Paleohora. There were only a few facilities back in 95 and 97, but being such a popular place, the number of restaurants and cafés must by now have increased. Next summer as I visit Chania again, I’m more than interested in seeing how it has changed during these years.
Since 1962, the Archaeological Museum has been housed in the Catholic Monastery of the Franciscan monks on Halithon Street. Findings from different parts of the county of Hania are exhibited in the museum rooms depicting the history of the area from Neolithic to Roman times. The exhibition is divided into two sections. The first (eastern section) contains exhibits from Prehistoric times (3rd and 2nd millennium BC), while the second (western section) contains exhibits of what is called Historical Times (1st millennium BC). The display of the Prehistoric collection comprises carved vessels, clay plates in Linear A and B scripts, clay discs, a beautiful collection of gold necklaces, seal stones, and stone beads. There are also clay urns and large store jars in several corners of the prehistoric section.
The exhibition of the Historic Times comprises a rich collection of clay vases, several sculpts and tube stone inscriptions from various parts of the county. In addition, the visitor can see mosaic floors of the Roman period (2nd and 3rd centuries AD) depicting scenes from the Dionysian period and episodes from the myth of Poseidon and the nymph Amimoni.
Address: Chalidon 21, Tel. 0030 28210 91875
Open: 08:30 – 15:00 except Mondays
The Historical Archive of Crete was established in 1920 based in Chania and constitutes a Public Inter-Prefectorate Service, a decentralized department of the General Record Office of the State, which comes directly under the Ministry of Education. It is housed in a public neoclassical, protected building at 20 I. Sfakianaki St. and it also includes a second, ancillary building with file record rooms.
The Historical Archive has attained such a high level that it is considered to be the largest of the regional Historical Archive in the country, in terms of content, volume, and material importance. The aim and mission of the Historical Archive of Crete is the collection, classification, recording, preservation, and promotion of all kinds of archives and relics relating to Cretan History.
Today, approximately 700,000 historical documents are preserved in the Historical Archive: Large historical collections, such as the official correspondence of the Cretan Revolutions of 1821-1830, 1866-1869, 1877-1878, 1895-1898 and 1905. Moreover, it includes many private collections with archive material belonging to Rebels and other prominent figures, the archives of Cretan fighters, the archives of the Turkish Administration in Crete, the Central Translation Office of Crete, the Cretan Government and German Occupation, as well as Administrative, Judicial, Church archives, etc., a large photographic collection with approximately 3,000 photographs, a complete record of the Cretan Press from 1831, a specialised Library containing about 10,000 titles, as well as a large museum collection of valuable historical and folklore relics.
Eleftherios’ father, Kyriakos Venizelos, bought the site of the Venizelos family house in 1876. The style is that of a villa and was finished in 1880. It has two floors and is surrounded by a garden planted with trees and vines. Later, it was renovated by Eleftherios Venizelos, who transferred the reception rooms to the ground floor and the bedrooms to the first floor. Today it houses the “Eleftherios Venizelos Institution”.
The south complex was completed in 1599, with the construction of 17 Neoria. In 1607, the construction of five more Neoria began on the eastern basin of the harbor. These are known as the Moro Neoria and only two were ever completed. Today only 7 survive out of the 17. The ceilings are arched, and they are connected with arched openings of the same thickness as the walls.
The original fortifications of the city of Hania surrounding the Hill of Kasteli were founded on the ruins of an older fortification built in Hellenistic times. The largest part of the Byzantine wall was constructed with building materials taken from ancient Kythonia. Its outline is irregular and consists of linear sections interrupted by small rectangular or multi-angular towers. At certain points, the wall simply complements the existing natural rock on the south and part of the east and west sides, it completely meets the city’s need for protection. In the wall are four gates none of which has its original form today. The two main gates were the west, opening to Sindrivani Square and the east, on the crossroads of Kanevaro and Daskalogianni Streets. There were two smaller gates, one on the south side (Katre and Karaoli-Dimitriou streets) and the other on the north side, near the Turkish Prison, leading to Aferdoulief street (Today the Turkish Prison houses the Rector’s Office and the Administration Offices of the Technical University of Crete).
Camping Sites in Chania
Taverns with traditional music can be found outside Chania. In Chania, there are also many restaurants, taverns, bars, and discos.