I will preface this article with two things: 1. I am sitting on my patio looking down the perfect quintessential European street and 1.5 bottles of wine deep as I write this. 2. Before coming to Chania I was lukewarm on how I felt about Greece. Athen was well… not ideal and even Crete wasn’t as picturesque as I had thought yet… Thankfully, Chania changed my thoughts on Greece a decent amount due to the culture and beauty. It is actually known as the “Venice of the East” and it shows. Before you even think about paying for a guide, read this post below and save your money :).
As mentioned, overall I am unsure about Greece, while it has some great sites, I would rank it maybe in the bottom 20% of places of I have visited. It honestly was my ignorance as much as anything but I guess I pictured white sand beaches, old historical buildings and mini Acropolis type structures everywhere.
With that said, while Athens and some of Crete was underwhelming, the Chania area was everything you could ask for in a European city. Chania (pronounced “hania” if you don’t want to sound like a stupid idiot) is damn near perfect. All I want in a European city is to feel like I am strolling through history; some unique sites, the hustle & bustle feel of another country; good food/smells at every corner and ideally it is located on the water… okay that is a lot… however, if I am flying around the world I really want to see and do thing I can’t at home. Chania is also amazing as it is a gateway to some amazing beaches and mountains.
Chania itself is so unique. It is ancient feeling and mysterious with settlers dating in 12th Century BC (which means “Before Christ” for the millenials). The city has been destroyed more times than a standard town and multiple walls and fortressed have been built by different ruling parties over the centuries. While it has been destroyed and bombed countless times it is still considered one of the prettiest places in the Mediterranean Region.
I have seen people ask if Chania is worth visiting and the answer is yes 100x over. The town is stunning with brick streets; narrow walkways that have those cute shutters and patios as well as the ivy hanging down from them; music playing in the streets, a gorgeous harbour; and bustling town filled with shops and vendors. All of that doesn’t even include the fact that many homes are built into the old fortress walls, which is stunning and incredible in its own right. Then there is the lighthouse, which is one of the oldest in the world, and it along with the sea wall is one of the prettier things you will ever see.
I love to walk and Chania is a great walking town. There is so much to see along your stroll with perfect weather kissing your face, the sea air replenishing your heart and history grabbing your soul (note to sober self: write that down and use it again). I have said all of this about the city and have yet to tell you what a perfect day around Chania looks like!
With that said… what are two perfect days when visiting Chania?
Wake but don’t get ready for the day just yet… head directly to Oi Kpenes Tns Pweavns (Roxani Crepes On Foot), which is a crepe shop at the end away from the water of that main strip that goes from the harbor into town right across from 1866 Square. Every time I walked by this place day and night it was busy with locals.
For 4.40€ I got a giant crepe that was stuffed with banana & nutella, a sexy looking iced mocha-latte drink and a water he gives you for free. It is cash only… the best places always are, they’re not paying credit card fees for you to eat their food. The best part about this place was when I noticed my crepe getting close to burning… you know when you’re too nice to tell a cook that it’s burning or not made well so you just sit there and get sad. My guy was busy making my beautiful coffee drink and let the crepe get a little too dark. He didn’t even ask or look at me, he just threw it out and made a new one… place is a must-do!
Eat a little food and walk off the meal with a quick stroll to see things nearby such as the Municipal Market (known as the Agora) or there is this amazing lookout on a hill about 3 minute walk from the SW tip of the old harbor or just a few minutes SW from the Trimartiri church. It is by the West Venetian Walks or Kores Boutique Houses. You will find it easy enough and there is a stop sign for vehicles as you got to walk up the 1 minute long walkway. From there you get an absolutely stunning view of the old town and harbor.
With some breakfast in you feel free to get cleaned up for the day if you wish and start a personal walking tour of beautiful Chania. Be sure to get your car rental setup for the following day, they can pick you up from your hotel. See the bottom of this article for a great rental company and hotel to stay at! Yes, renting a car for Day 2s trip is a must-do!
Per my 15 Bucket List Chania Things To Do, you have to walk out along the seawall and to the lighthouse. From the harbor walk along the water east (to the right if looking at the water) to the start of the seawall you will go by countless restaurants to pick from for lunch or dinner.
As you get closer to the seawall you’ll come across the Venetian Neoria and Dockyards, which are a sight to behold in their own right. As you walk into the old shipyard and arsenal area you’ll see some more great restaurants and cafes to pick from when you come back from your lighthouse walk.
Take your time on the seawall and don’t stop taking pictures as there is so much to see as you stroll out to the lighthouse. If you can, try to come back to the lighthouse for sunset as it is legitimately the prettiest sunset I have ever seen. If you have 30-60 minutes before dinner definitely swing back out.
After walking the seawall grab a bite to eat in Old Chania or in the dockyards along the water. There are also a ton of quick places to eat with amazing pizza or chicken pitas etc. Instead of walking back along the water definitely go through Old Town and marvel at the city. Whether it is the fortress walls, cafes, shops or old cobble streets, it is a walk through time and absolutely incredible. There are two separate fortresses in Chania that were built by two different ruling parties so be sure to read up a little on the incredible history or visit one of the many museums.
With time before dinner you can visit the Agora if you haven’t yet, which is a quaint perfect local market that you have to stop by. If you already visited the Agora then time to be even more if a tourist and go shopping. Along your route of course try to find some of the amazing places of worship such as the Mosque of the Janissaries or the Trimartiri Cathedral Church. There are a plethora of religious venues to see and I list more in my 15 bucket list things to do in Chania article.
Dinner on the harbor during sunset is the easiest decision you will have to make. I tried most of the restaurants and they are all pretty similar so don’t worry about being too choosy. Try to eat on the east side (right side) of the harbor for the better sunset view. As mentioned it is the best sunset I have ever witnessed in my entire life.
The rest of the night should be filled with wine, maybe some window shopping and gelato. If you have a patio you can always grab a cheap bottle of Greek wine and enjoy a glass or three before bed. There are plenty of bars and clubs to take in as well in Chania, however you might want to get some sleep for the next day vs. be up til 5/6am in the club, save that for a different city as there is so much to see here!
If you only have 2 full days in Chania then take the morning to quickly walk around the city to see things you might have missed on day 1 or some quick shopping. If I were you I would go eat that crepe place again too but that’s just me…
Once you do a quick 30-60 min trip around Chania it is time to get your rental car. Talk to my guy at Ifigenia hotel to book, which will be ready in 20-30 minutes. During this time you can go get ready for the trip if you didn’t listen to my initial advice… You don’t have to use my Ifigenia guy as there are multiple places on the main Chalidon walking path that all offer cars for 35€ for the day… however, like I mention below they went above and beyond for me. 35€ included everything as well like insurance etc.
Time to drive and you have a few options. Balos beach is everyone’s favorite but requires a 4×4 vehicle and takes some getting to. You can definitely go there if you can make it as well as go to one of other beaches I recommend. However, if you can’t make it to Balos Beach do not fret as I have something equal or better for you!
Hopefully you downloaded Google Offline Maps already, type in Elafonisi Beach and let’s go! Elafonisi Beach is only 1.5 hours from Chania, however per my notes below, the drive is epic. Elafonisi Beach is also known as the “Pink Beach,” however don’t be expecting some amazing utopia as it is far from some mythical pink sand beach. It is still a great beach with some amazing water but quell your expectations as the “Pink Beach” is more “Pink Hue To Some Of The Sand” Beach.
The beach itself is still excellent with a ton of water sports and some beautiful water as you can see below. The bay side of the little peninsula’s water is picture perfect and it is extremely shallow for what seems like over the size of multiple football fields. There are some little restaurants and bar there as well.
While the beach is great, the drive to the beach through the mountains is really next level. Do not rush this drive to get to the beach as the mountains, views and towns are just as good if not better. I pulled over at multiple towns, points of interests, vistas, sheep roadblocks and spots to take that perfect picture. Truly the mountain towns were out of a story book and my pictures do not do them justice at all!
So repeat after me… take your time, stop, relax and DO NO STRESS OR RUSH your drive. The roads are narrow and along the cliff so make this drive enjoyable and not about getting to your next destination. Stop for a snack or coffee with a view, take pictures of sheep and get out of the car when you see other cars stopped taking pictures… the beach isn’t going anywhere. The drive is 1.5 hours but I took 2-2.5 to get there… hakuna matata.
If you are like me you may get bored after a couple hours at the beach, so pack up and get back to you site seeing day! The drive to Falasarna Beach is just as epic as the one you had to Elafonisi. The same idea here, take your time and stop at the sites to see as it is only 1 hour and 20 minutes from one beach to the other. I took about 2 hours to get to Falasarna as I stopped for espresso and a few views along the way.
Falasarna Beach is probably the most perfect true beach in Crete. The sand is quintessential sand and the beach stretches on forever. There is a ton of parking and even the drive down to Falasarna has some incredible views and sites to see.
The beach is huge has a ton of watersports and the best beachside bar to end your day, eat a late lunch or an early dinner. As you can tell by the picture below, spending the end of your day here is truly paradise.
As with what I mentioned before, take your time here and soak in another one of the best sunsets you’ll ever have. Enjoy your time at the beach and don’t be too worried about rushing back to Chania. The drive back is all along the coast on the flat road so no driving through the curvy mountains at night, not to worry.
Maybe you get back to Chania in time for second dinner along the harbor or just another bottle of wine or 3 to end your perfect day… I grabbed a bottle of wine, sat on my patio and am writing this article you are reading and this word right now…
When To Come and Where To Stay in Chania
I was lucky enough to come in October, which just at the end of high season. I would tell you to do all of Southern Europe just outside of the high season to be honest. It is 1/3 to 1/2 the price for hotels and so many cities are walking cities. With that said, walking in the summer heat here is miserable. If I was in Rome or Athens in the Summer I would have hated life. Thus, I would definitely come during this late Summer or early Fall time as it is still 25-30 degrees during the day and a perfect 15-20 at night. Not to mention that the prices on hotels and everything else drop along with the the temperature.
I stayed in a cute little spot called Ifigenia Suites for 35 € a night! It was a good hotel if wasn’t for it being noisy and maybe a little old, however that was part of its charm and it was only 35€ a night!. I would say it was a 4-star quaint unique feel with 2-star accomodations and pricing. I stayed in the more budget room they offer and it still had a kitchen, large bed and to be fair my room had shutters that opened up to the street, which made me feel like I was in Beauty & The Beast.
They also were very helpful and got me a car rental for the day. Not only that but when I asked about how to get to the airport early the next morning they talked to my car rental guy and he said I could just drop the car at the airport parking lot and they would pick it up. This saved me a 20€ cab, which was a nice hook-up since the car itself for the day was only 35€.
If you are wondering, I am still sitting outside of my room, drinking & writing on the street, while people pass by nonstop and do double-takes into my cute little room.
How To Get Around In Chania
Download Google Offline Maps! I know you are all scared of the bus… however, take the bus if you can. It is very cheap from the airport and will drop you off at the main station, which is an easy 10 minutes walking to the main center of town. The walk itself is great too after the first 4/10 sketchy couple of blocks but quickly you will walk into the main area with tourists and people abound. Walking in will also help you get your bearings so definitely do it!
If you want to cab from the bus station then it is about 7€. If you want to taxi from the airport it is about 20€. If you are renting a car for a day while in town, see if you can get the same deal I did on your last day and ask to drop it off in the morning at the airport.
Driving In Greece
My friend Kenny said it best, “I think this was one of the levels in Gran Turismo.” It can be scary but remember this; someone dies every minute in the USA from a car accident, you’re fine. As you may know, I love driving in other countries, it is chaos but it is chaos that makes sense to me. It is lawless but common sense lawless… I never see police, I never see accidents *knock on wood* and everyone is happier for it.
In Greece it can be heart-stopping for some as when you drive in the mountains, as it is pretty intense… like top 3 worst/best roads I have ever driven. Imagine driving up to a ski hill but no trees, just cliffs and tight roads. They have this thing where people drive on the shoulder and you can just pass them, don’t believe me? Here is a picture…
It is everywhere on the highways, like people just drive off the road the entire time so you can speed past. It can be a touch scary for new people driving in a different country for the first time but once you settle down… it is lovely, even if your heart skips a beat in the mountains a few times.