When you have only 1 week to spend in Creta then you are going to encounter a serious dilemma!
“Which part of Creta island should I visit?”
To be sincere Creta needs a full month in order to be fully discovered and a lifetime to be enjoyed. It is not uncommon to meet people who visited Creta more than once only in the last five years! Our choice was this time to visit the area of Chania and this is what it is for this article.
1. Chania, the Venetian harbor and the old town
Chania is repeatedly named as one of the most beautiful cities in Greece and is not without a reason. Being invaded during the centuries by Venetians, Ottomans, Egyptians and not only became an architectural mosaic of different cultures.
Perhaps is the only place on the earth where you can find a place of worship, today a church, that has both a bell tower and minaret!
This small port was built in order to unload goods and repair ships but today is the heart of the city’s touristic part. Ten’s of small or big taverns, restaurant, ouzeri and coffee shops can be found here!
Chania Old city
During the last century, Chania was a relatively poor area and there was no interest in reconstructing. These caused to be one of the most untouched old city centers in Greece, retain its character, and eventually in 1965 to be declared as historical monument.
Do not forget to visit the old market and buy local fresh species like thyme, oregano, and diktamo. Especially the last one you can find only on the island of Creta.
2. A gastronomic destination
Creta and Chania alongside Thessaloniki are maybe the top gastronomic destinations in Greece. You can choose from fancy restaurants with modern Cretan cuisine to small traditional ouzeri for mezedes (small portions). It will be difficult to get disappointed with either the service or the food in any case.
We tried and we suggest the places that we liked the most! Be aware that we visited as normal customers and we did not have any complimentary meals. An exception are the deserts which actually you will get as well in almost every restaurant in Greece 😁! All our comments are objective.
#fish #vegeterian #meat
Our first dinner in Chania was in Kalderimi. A lovely dinner where we ordered seafood linguine, and octopus salad accompanied by very nice local wine. The pricing is good (20€ per person) and the waiters are really pleasant. We highly recommended it!
#veganoptions #vegeterian #meat
Your trip will not be complete if you do not enjoy at least one dinner as a local in a traditional ouzeri and Ydragogeio is such a place. Here the portions are small but cheap (15€ total per person), as the Spanish tapas, and this is an excellent opportunity to order and try more dishes.
Do not miss the dolmadakia from zucchini fritters which were absolutely fantastic, the slow roast rib of beef, the eggplant dip, and the mushrooms. Of course, accompanied by dakos or a village (Greek) salad!
#meat #fish #seafood
The Ta Chalkina restaurant is the place where hospitality meets professionalism! The personnel takes care of you personally from the first moment with complimentary starters with a service that you will remember!
We did the mistake to order a variety of starters believing that they will be just small portions. Well, they were amazingly huge and tasty (20€ total per person)!
Our favorite plate was the traditional Cretan plate of snails in flour with garlic, vinegar, and fresh rosemary. Even if you never tasted it in your life like @kate please give a chance to the dish. You will come back especially for this and for the kalitsounia!
#vegeterianfriendly #fish #meat
Tamam is a restaurant that really amazed us. Here we found the original Cretan cuisine with a modern touch. We felt in love with the stuffed Calamari with spicy cheese and with the stuffed sardines. Unfortunately, we discovered the restaurant just the night before leaving and we didn’t have the chance to dine one more time!
Even if Tamam is a pretty big restaurant with tables both inside and outside it would be for the best to make a reservation prior to your visit (official website).
3. Daily cruise to Gramvousa and Balos
Both Gramvousa and Balos lagoon are included in the European initiative NATURA 2000 and they are two of the top Creta highlights.
We suggest getting the full-day trip booked from GetYourGuide as we did. The specific excursion has the option of driving you from your hotel (or the closest point accessible) by a vehicle in case you do not have a car to drive until Kissamos. You will be able to skip the lines as well, something worthy as the queues can get pretty big.
Gramvousa island is famous for its castle at an altitude of 137 meters. The castle was built by the Venetians in 1579 and due to its strategic position played a significant role in the history of the wider area.
The panoramic view, the magnificent nature, and the legend regarding a hidden treasure from the pirates will motivate you to take the 20 minutes hike to the castle. It is essential to bring a pair of comfortable shoes. The biggest reward on the way back will be swimming in the turquoise waters!
There are about 400 plant species in Gramvousa while three of them (a variety of daisies, a wild onion, and silene) cannot be found elsewhere in the world. Gramvousa host 98 bird species while is a bird’s path during the migration period to and from the Mediterranean.
For this reason, the preservation of Gramvousa’s natural environment is imposed through a strict national and European institutional protection system.
Balos lagoon is one of the most known beaches worldwide and one of the highlights in Creta. It is located between Gramvousa peninsula and Cape Tigani. There are many excursions organized from every corner of the island towards Balos. There are two ways to visit Balos. Either by car/bus or with the daily cruise that we had.
Balos lagoon is a heaven on earth. Words cannot describe what you are about to see especially from the viewpoint coming by walk. The feeling of swimming in the lukewarm turquoise blue waters and relaxing on the pink sandy beach is just amazing!
4. Hiking in Samaria gorge
Samaria is the most famous gorge in Europe and it is part of the E4 European walking route. For many is the main reason for visiting Creta in general.
During the high season may be even 3.000 visitors per day. A strong piece of advice would be to have with you a bottle of water, some snacks, and tracking shoes. Moreover if you really want to visit the Samaria Gorge do not plan your trip during the high-temperature era. The hot climate can be a factor to close the Gorge and your excursion will not take place. Something that happened to us and we were not able to visit it.
5. Seitan Limania
You can approach Seitan Limania beach either by boat from Chania or by car and do a little bit of hiking. Its name means “Devil’s ports” in Turkish, probably because of the difficulty to be accessed by boats in the past.
Seitan Limania is one of the locals’ favorite destinations and until recently was a “secret beach”. Τhe beach had just a handful of tourists when an influencer-model Emily Ratajkowski referred to the beach as “The Most Beautiful Place on Earth” on her Instagram and Facebook accounts and became viral. Since then hundreds of tourists, such as us, are visiting Seitan Limania every day.
We enjoyed the clean waters, the people who were continuously diving from the cliffs, and the lovely goats that are climbing down to the beach, probably in order to get some fresh fruits from the bathers. Do not forget to get some trainer shoes with you as the access to the beach can be slippery at some points and some fruits.
There are seventeen beaches worldwide with pink sand. Three of them are in Creta and Elafonisi is one of them! Balos and Falasarna are the other two. It is one of the most popular beaches on the island as it is easily accessible by car and it is very similar to Balos.
There are thousands of people coming every day and even if it is a big maybe it is annoying for some. Our advice is to walk a little bit further from the road, cross the lagoon and you will find a quiet spot to enjoy your day.
In just 10 minutes with the car (5.5 km) from Elafonisi, you will find a small secret beach. It is mostly a rocky crater but after counter fronting thousands of visitors in Elafonisi it will be your sanctuary 😁 ! This small pool is almost isolated from the open sea so it is always calm and quiet.
Tip: Visit Chrysoskalitissa for local small taverns
Falasarna is also one of the three beaches on the island with pink sand. The difference here is that it is fully organized. It will be easier to find a sunbed if you wish to. You can have coffee, cocktails, beers, snacks, and salads but it comes with the cost that it will be difficult to find a quiet spot. Loud music for some is a good thing for some others not!
9. Vai beach
This unique beach is located on the exact opposite side of the island but we cannot not to mention since we visited it. It is a 4 and half hours trip from Chania to Vai and we definitely do not recommend doing it in a single day. On the other hand, if your flight happens to land in Heracleion instead of Chania, then visiting the biggest palm tree beach in Europe is a must!
Vai was a hippy and backpacker destination in the previous decades and today the entire area is officially included in the Natura 2000. Unfortunately, the main forest is fenced and the entrance is not allowed but still, is a very beautiful spot to take some beautiful photos!
It is an organized beach but we recommend not to get a sunbed as laying under the palm trees is really unique. If you follow the steps south of the beach you will be able to get its panoramic view. Moreover, on this side, there is also access to Psili Ammos nudist beach!
In case you do not believe us enjoy our first drone video from Creta and do not forget to subscribe as more are about to come soon!