It’s easy to fall in love with Chania. This Cretan harbour town in Greece has a lot going on for you: small local shops, waterside restaurants, and lots of little alleys to get lost in. The best part is the historic old town as most of the sights are located there. Apart from Chania Town, there are some amazing things to do in the region as well. Not convinced? Here are the best things to do in Chania Crete:
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- Things to Do in Chania Crete
- Things to Do Around Chania
- 9. The Samaria Gorge
- 10. Lake Kourna
- 11. Balos Gramvousa Cruise
- 12. The beautiful village of Loutro
- 13. Jeep Safari to the White Mountains
- 14. A Boat Trip
- 15. Visit a Winery
- 16. Visit a Traditional Olive Mill
- 17. Cooking Lesson and Lunch at a Traditional Farm
- 18. Ancient Aptera and Koules Fortress
- 19. Venetian Castle of Frangkokastello
- 20. Elafonisi Beach
- Where to Eat in Chania, Crete
- Where to Stay in Chania, Crete
- How to get to Chania
- How to Get From and to the Airport in Chania Crete
Things to Do in Chania Crete
1. Walk to the Venetian Lighthouse
The harbour of Chania was built by the Venetians in the 14th century. A lot has changed since then, but the Venetian lighthouse is still standing proudly. It’s one of the oldest lighthouses in the world and was renovated in 2006, but it isn’t operational anymore. Visitors aren’t allowed in, but you can get to it by walking along the pier of the old harbour.
Tip: for beautiful photos, it’s best to walk to the other end of the harbour, from where you have a great view of the lighthouse.
2. Visit the Maritime Museum of Crete
The Nautical Museum of Crete exhibits just about anything related to life at sea from the bronze age until the present. The collection includes ship models, nautical instruments and photographs, among other things. It’s housed in the Firkas Fortress, on the opposite end of the harbour from the Venetian lighthouse.
3. Learn to Cook Real Cretan Food
Cretan food is delicious and there’s no better way to enjoy it than by learning about its history while preparing it yourself in the kitchen of one of Chania’s locals. You can book this experience alone or with friends with tour companies like Viator. The Chania local will meet you somewhere and after that follows a night full of chatting and delicious food.
4. Go Shopping at the Market Hall
Speaking of food, if you’d like to try out some more typical Cretan food, head to the market hall. Here you’ll find olives, meat, and typical Cretan pastries like kalitsounia, a salty or sweet cheese pie. Be sure to stop at Cretan Nature, where they sell delicious mountain tea.
Check out: Souvenirs to buy from Greece.
5. Visit the Greek Orthodox Cathedral
The Greek Orthodox Cathedral at Plateia Mitropoleos was built on the same spot where a Venetian church used to be. When the Ottoman Turks invaded Chania, they’d turned that churched into a soap factory. Nothing was saved, except for one statue of the Virgin Mary.
It may have been karma or not, but the factory went out of business. When it did, the owner decided to give the building back to the city of Chania and a new church was built, holding the Mary statue from the original church. The Cathedral is also known as the Panagia Trimartiri because it has three aisles, one dedicated to the Virgin Mary, one to Saint Nicholas and one to the Three Cappadocian Fathers.
6. Visit the Area of Tabakaria
Another interesting thing to do in Chania Crete is to visit the area of Tabakaria which is a short 15-minute walk from the Venetian harbour. There you will see the old leather processing houses called tanneries that were in operation until the early 19th century. Some are well preserved and some are really old. The tanneries started to appear in the area during the period of the Egyptians in Crete in around 1830.
7. Walk Along the Venetian Harbour
The Venetian harbour was built by the Venetians between 1320 and 1356. It doesn’t serve as a port for the large ships anymore now, you will find only fishing boats, yachts and sailing boats. There are many restaurants and cafes around the harbour where you can sit and enjoy the breathtaking sunset.
Other interesting things to do and see in Chania are the Archaeological Museum that houses findings from the Neolithic Age to the Roman period, the Grand Arsenal that was built during the 1600’s and it’s being used now as a space for events, the Venetian Dockyards built in the 16th century used by the Venetian to repair their fleet.
8. Bohemian Sunset Tour
If you want to do something a little different for sunset rather than sit at the same beaches or bars as other tourists, join this exclusive Bohemian Sunset Tour with Urban Adventures. With a local guide on hand, you’ll be taken to a secret spot to watch the sun go down before scoping out the boho-chic centers of Chania in Crete. This will allow you to see an alternative side of the city, stepping into shops and restaurants you may have simply passed by had you walked around on your own.
Your evening will begin with a beautiful sunset – perfect for filling your Instagram with epic pictures and making your family and friends jealous back home! This will be a blissful way to start the night. From here travel around the city, exploring artisanal workshops, cool cafés, and photogenic streets all while listening to local tales about the area from your English-speaking guide.
Your evening will culminate with wine-tasting and a three-course gastronomic meal, packed with Cretan specialties. This will certainly be a meal to remember! Top it all off with some local organic ice cream and perhaps a shot of raki – cheersing “yiamas” with your new-found friends!
You might also like: Cheap Greek Islands to Visit.
Things to Do Around Chania
9. The Samaria Gorge
The Samaria Gorge is situated in the Samaria National Park in the White mountains. It opens to the public in early May and closes in October. A certain degree of fitness is required in order to pass it because it is long and the terrain is tough (16km until the village of Ayia Roumeli).
It will take you between 4 to 7 hours. The gorge is home to 450 species of plant and animal, 70 of which are endemic to Crete. I was a bit reluctant at first if I could manage to hike the Samaria Gorge. At the end it wasn’t that difficult and it was one of the most rewarding experiences.
10. Lake Kourna
Lake Kourna is the only freshwater lake in Crete.The lake is fed by streams from the nearby mountains and hills. It is the ideal place for an afternoon walk. If you are traveling with children they will love it. You can stroll on the banks of the lake, eat in one of the restaurants overlooking the lake, swim or just ride a pedalo and feed the ducks. You will also find shops selling traditional pottery.
11. Balos Gramvousa Cruise
One of the most famous beaches in Crete is Balos. You can either reach the beach by 4X4 vehicle ( the road is bad) and then descent for around 15 minutes to get to the beach or by one of the cruises starting from Kissamos port. The advantage of taking a cruise ship is that it will take you to the island of Gramvousa. There you will have time to climb to the castle where you will enjoy one of the most breathtaking views. You will also be able to swim in the pristine beach of Gramvousa before heading to the exceptional Balos Beach.
12. The beautiful village of Loutro
The picturesque village of Loutro is situated south of Chania in the Libyan sea. Loutro can be reached from Chora Sfakion either on foot through the European path E4 (6 km, around 2 hours) or by boat (15 minutes). The beautiful village offers some basic accommodation along with some restaurants and cafes. You can either swim in Loutro beach or take a boat to Glyka Nera beach(Sweetwater beach) or Marmara beach. I consider Loutro to be a hidden gem that shouldn’t be missed.
13. Jeep Safari to the White Mountains
The White Mountains, or Lefka Ori, is the largest mountain range on Crete with its highest summit, Pahnes, a towering 2,453 meters high. The White Mountains are home to over 30 peaks that reach over 2,000 meters and several gorges, the Samaria Gorge being the most notable.
To really experience the beauty of the White Mountains, take a Jeep safari with Safari Adventure. The first stop on our off-road adventure was at Kafeneio, a traditional coffee shop in a small village. We enjoyed some Greek coffee, raki, and homemade cheese and herb pies.
We got back in the Jeep and continued on to the dam, saw gorgeous vineyards, and visited a shepherd’s hut. We stopped for lunch at Therssos village where we were served traditional Cretan lamb and sausages. Finally, we drove through the Therissos Gorge before arriving back in Chania.
14. A Boat Trip
If the weather cooperates while you are visiting Chania, you should definitely take a boat trip from the old port of Chania with Notos Mare. Notos Mare offers a variety of private day excursions from romantic full moon trips with dinner under the stars to family-friendly day trips.
We started our excursion from the old port from which we were able to get some amazing photos of the harbor. We then sailed alongside Thordorou, a protected island that is a sanctuary for the endangered Cretan goat, the agrimi, which is affectionately referred to as the “kri-kri.” Thordorou is completely uninhabited and is a Nature 2000 protected area. We were able to swim there before the boat took us back to Chania port at sunset.
15. Visit a Winery
Wine has a long history and tradition and Crete is proudly home to the oldest wine-producing area still in use on the European continent. Weather conditions in the northern part of the island are ideal for growing grapevines.
Wine is part of daily life as each meal is always served with a glass of wine. To really immerse yourself in Cretan wine culture, take a tour of Mavredakis Winery. On their more than 25 acres of vineyards at the hills of the White Mountains, the Mavredakis family produces native and international varieties of wine including Crete’s most well-known red grape variety, Romeiko.
We were able to walk through the vineyards and the process of making both red and white wines was explained. We visited the cellars and tasted each of the 17 different wines Mavredakis produces paired with traditional Cretan food.
You might also like: Greek Drinks you should try.
16. Visit a Traditional Olive Mill
Olive oil has been systematically cultivated in Crete for thousands of years, and the best olive oil in all of Greece can be found in the Chania region. The Chania region has anoptimal climate for growing olives and uses traditional techniques, such as cold-pressing, for the highest quality, incredibly pure, extra-virgin olive oil.
Because olive oil is such a prominent feature in the Cretan lifestyle, you should visit a traditional olive mill. I paid a visit to Melissakis Family Olive Mill in Tsivaras, Apokoronas in the eastern part of Chania. They’ve been producing olive oil since the 1890s.
We first saw how olive oil was produced using the traditional methods, then we were shown the more modern equipment that they use to extract the oil today. I learned about the difference between virgin and extra-virgin olive oil and to top it off, tasted some delicious olive oils that were produced there.
17. Cooking Lesson and Lunch at a Traditional Farm
While in Chania I also had the opportunity to visit a working olive farm for a Greek cooking workshop. The Olive Farm is located just 30 minutes outside of the city of Chania, at the edge of the tiny village of Litsarda in the foothills of the White Mountains.
There are a number of activities to do at the farm to include cooking workshops, yoga classes, olive harvest workshops, wine seminars, olive oil soap workshops, and neuroscience for kids. We chose to try the cooking workshop and greatly enjoyed the experience. We started by exploring the vegetable and herb gardens and picked out ingredients for our cooking lesson.
There were rabbits and chickens running around the farm, too! The natural feel of the outdoor kitchen made the experience even more unique as we made our own cheese, tzatziki, salad, and pork. We then enjoyed our meals together in the outdoor dining room with wine and raki.
18. Ancient Aptera and Koules Fortress
To immerse yourself in Crete’s history, a visit to Ancient Aptera and Koules Fortress are a must. During the Minoan period, Aptera was one of the island’s most important city-states. With ruins belonging to the Geometric, Hellenistic, and Roman periods, Ancient Aptera is a treasure chest of archaeological findings.
Ruins of Roman bathhouses, Roman cisterns, and a recently excavated theater can be found at the site. Near the ruins of Ancient Aptera, you will find the Koules Fortress. The fort was constructed as part of a serious of towers by the Turks after the Cretan Revolution of 1866.
19. Venetian Castle of Frangkokastello
Located on one of Crete’s most famous beaches, 80 kilometers southeast of Chania, is the Venetian Castle of Frangkokastello. Originally built in the late 14th century by the Venetians, the Frangkokastello was the sight of the 1828 Battle of Frangkokastello, an infamous battle during the Greek War for Independence, where Turkish forces massacred over 350 Cretan and Epirote soldiers.
If you happen to visit the eerie fortress around the anniversary of the battle in mid-May, you might see what the locals refer to as the “Drosoulites” or “dew men,” unexplained, shadowy figures that appear on the beach early in the morning. Scientists have explained it as a meteorological phenomenon, but have yet to agree upon which one.
20. Elafonisi Beach
To experience one of Chania’s most magical beaches, head 75 kilometers southwest of Chania to the uninhabited island of Elafonisi. This island-beach is accessible by foot due to the shallow waters between it and mainland Crete. In 2014, Elafonisi Beach was named by TripAdvisor as one of the world’s top 25 beaches and with its remarkably soft, pink sands and warm, turquoise blue waters of the surrounding lagoon, it’s no surprise that this beach has become so popular in the last few years.
Where to Eat in Chania, Crete
Located in the old harbour of Chania, Salis Restaurant serves Cretan flavors with a modern twist. It has a seasonal menu and all the products are from local producers.
Located at the seafront of the old harbour of Chania, Apostolis is a family run restaurant serving fresh fish and seafood.
This traditional restaurant located in the alleyways of Chania’s old town near the market is housed in building dating back from 1618. It serves traditional Cretan dishes made from local products.
Located in the scenic Tabakaria neighborhood, on the waterfront, Thalassino Ageri serves Mediterranean cuisine, fresh fish and seafood.
Other things you can do while visiting Chania region is swim in one of the most beautiful beaches, hike the gorge of Samaria, or go to Therissos gorge and eat at the homonym village one of the most delicious lamb chops you have ever eaten at Antartis tavern.
Where to Stay in Chania, Crete
Recommended accommodation in the centre of Chania:
Splanzia Boutique Hotel
Located in the alleyways of the Old Town and just 15 minutes on foot from the beach, the Splanzia Boutique Hotel offers contemporary rooms in a Venetian building. Rooms are equipped with Internet, air-conditioning and satellite TV.
Scala de Faro
A 5 star boutique property situated in the old town close to the Archaeological museum and 18 minutes on foot from the beach. The hotel is built in a historical building of the 15th century but was recently renovated and offers luxurious rooms equipped with Internet, Smart TV, air conditioning, coffee facilities, slippers, bathrobes and toiletries. The highlight of the hotel is the breathtaking view of the lighthouse and harbor from the Sea View rooms.
Located in a quiet part of the old town and just 9 minutes from the beach, Pension Eva is a housed in a 17th-century Venetian building. It offers elegant rooms with Internet, Tv and air conditioning among other amenities. The highlight of this hotel is the roof terrace with the stunning views of the Old Town.
Recommended accommodation in Stalos:
The three-star family owned Top Hotel Stalos in Crete is a simple yet comfortable property with gorgeous sea views and a great location. Situated in the small village of Stalos, you’ll get a sense of local life while still being within easy reaching distance of Chania (just 6km away).
With just 30 rooms the hotel has a family, boutique feel and offers everything you need for a relaxing stay. The hotel boasts a large swimming pool as well as a restaurant on site that offers seasonal dishes throughout the day.
You can dine on the terrace, taking in the spectacular panoramic views, eat a snack by the pool, or even enjoy breakfast in bed! While the decor of the rooms is fairly comfortable, there is so much to do in the surrounding area and the pool is so alluring that you’ll hardly spend any time in your room anyway!
Recommended accommodation in Stavros:
The stylish Mr and Mrs White hotel in Crete is one of the most luxurious accommodation choices on the island and is a must for anyone seeking a chic, romantic getaway. The resort and spa boasts a range of sleek room options with everything from Superior Garden View Rooms to a spectacular Honeymoon Suite with a private pool!
Not only are the rooms immaculate but the communal areas are pristine too. The spa features a sauna, steam room, hydro-massage bath, and massage treatment rooms and there is an outdoor pool which is the perfect place to while away an afternoon.
When you fancy a drink or a bite to eat, head over to the Onyx Lounge Bar, the Eros Pool Bar, or Myrto, the main restaurant, for delicious dishes and refreshing drinks. Thanks to the hotel’s location on the northwest of the island, perched out on the end of the land, Mr. and Mrs. White is the perfect place to watch the sun go down with a cocktail in hand!
Recommended accommodation in Agia Marina:
Santa Marina Beach Resort
The Santa Marina Beach Resort hotel, located in the coastal village of Agia Marina, just 8 km away from Chania Town. Hotel facilities include spacious rooms with air-conditioning, direct access to the beach, swimming pools, a children’s playground, bars, and restaurants.
You might also want to check my guide on where to stay in Crete.
How to get to Chania
By air: There is an international airport in Chania with scheduled flights all year around. I flew from Athens to Chania with Aegean Airlines. During the high season (April to October) there are charter flights to Chania from many European airports.
You can take the ferry from Athens port (Piraeus). The ferry will leave you at Souda port which is just outside the town of Chania. From there you can take the bus or a taxi and discover the scenic town of Chania.
How to Get From and to the Airport in Chania Crete
When arriving into the Greek island of Crete, you’ll want to check which airport you are arriving into and where you want to go. If you wish to travel from the airport in Chania to the city centre, you can either take a bus or a taxi. Your choice of transport will depend on the number of travellers in your group, the amount of luggage you have, your budget and time frame. The bus is the cheapest option but it takes a lot more time than travelling by taxi.
If you are in no rush, the bus is a cheap option that will take you into the centre of Chania in around 90 minutes – but please note there can be a waiting time of up to two hours if you have just missed one. However, it is a great way to watch the world go by and get to know the island of Crete.
The bus runs from 6:00 to 22:45 during the week, so if you arrive later than 22.45 you will need to take a taxi. The bus journey only costs 2.50 EUR (1.90 for students/1.25 for those holding a disability card) and tickets can be purchased from the driver using cash.
You’ll find the bus stop right outside the terminal – it’s not difficult to locate.
Time: 90 minutes
Cost: 2.50 EUR
Taking a taxi from Chania airport into the city centre is a much more convenient option as there are taxis available day and night and the journey takes just 25 minutes in regular traffic. There is a flat fare of 30 EUR, as long as you are travelling into the central zone of Chania city centre.
Private Airport Transfer with Welcome Pick-Ups
Alternatively, you could book a cheaper taxi through Welcome Pick-Ups and feel relaxed knowing you will have someone waiting for you at the airport for just 24 EUR. This includes up to four travellers and four pieces of luggage and the price stays the same whether you arrive during the day or at night.
The best way to explore Crete is by car. We rented our car through the Rental Centre Crete. Our car was delivered at Chania port and we dropped it off at Heraklion airport at the end of our trip.
Have you been to Chania Crete? Do you have any other suggestions on this to do in Chania, Crete?
Sofie quit her job to forge her own career path writing and traveling. On her blog Wonderful Wanderings, she takes her readers with her on her trips around Belgium and beyond. She focuses both on the must-sees that characterise a destination and on daily life in the places she visits. You can connect with her on Facebook or Instagram.
This great story is written by Sofie and myself and is part of the series Tales from Greece, where travelers share their experiences from their holidays to Greece.