Europe Travel  --  Island Life

Dear Chania and Western Crete

Island Life on Greek’s Crete Island

Location: Chania Crete Greece

Dear Chania and Western Crete. What a lovely surprise you have been during our three week visit. I want to apologize for arriving with low expectations. You were so much more than I could have dreamed of. I also want to apologize for all the islands that have come before you…I just didn’t know how wonderful you were. You ticked all the boxes and I know I will be back. Dear Chania and Western Crete, how do I love thee? Well let me count the ways;

1. Crete

Rethymnos Venetian Harbor
Olive tree outside of Chania estimated to be 3500-5000 years old

Crete, the largest Greek island, known for its rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture, was infatuating. The home to ancient ruins and significant Minoan archaeological sites as well as beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and picturesque villages nestled in the mountains. Your cuisine is a highlight, featuring fresh seafood, olive oil, and local herbs. The people of Crete are known for their hospitality and traditional music and dance and are so welcoming.

Rethymnos Fort offers spectacular views of the White Mountains and the Mediterranean

2. Chania

Chania (pronounced Han-ya) was a perfect choice for our three week stay. We had two couples joining us from the states for the first week of our stay, so we booked an amazing four bedroom historic stone home about 15 min from the center of Chania. Now we are already discussing staying in this Airbnb again. We rented a car on arrival to be able to thoroughly explore all you have to offer, having a car is recommended. Chania has an airport, and so does Heraklion and you can also arrive on the island via ferry from Athens or other Greek islands.

Our Airbnb
We loved our Airbnb
Even in the cool spring the pool was beautiful

Chania is a charming coastal town, known for its picturesque Venetian harbor, narrow streets, and historic architecture. The town has a rich history, with influences from the Venetians, Ottomans, and Egyptians. Chania offers a mix of cultural attractions, vibrant markets, and beautiful beaches, making it a one of the things we really fell in love with.

Venetian old town in Chania
Chania harbor
Old Town Chania after dark with a full moon

Things We Enjoyed in Chania

On our first day we hired Roussos from Alma de Crete to show us the beautiful city on foot. Our four hour tour also included so much food tastes – we needed no other meals that day. We learned from Roussos the fascinating history, cultural insights and local cuisine. Thank you Roussos, your tour helped us start our love affair with Crete.

Watching filo dough be made by hand
Fabulous local seafood at the market, Chania
Cathedral of Mary in old town Chania

We also did something else special in Chania, we learned to make beautiful mosaic art from famous local artists. I highly recommend this activity when in Chania – perfect for groups, families, kids or just couples like us. Look what we made! Not only did we make a great souvenir we met lovely local people. Learn more about it here, Marinella Mosaic Workshop.

Marinella Mosaic Workshop
A perfect souvenir in the works
All smiles with our Masterpieces

3. History

Dear Chania and Western Crete, your history is fascinating and beautiful. We loved the Venetian feel of Chania and Rethymnos, the historic stone farm houses scattered through out the countryside and mountains, the ancient amphitheater in the hills above Rethymnos. We marveled at your culturally rich monasteries, fortresses and ports.

Rethymnos Harbor
Mosque dome at Rethymnos Fort
Chania Lighthouse after dark
Historic chapel in the middle of nowhere

Crete, your rich history dating back to the Minoan civilization makes you one of the earliest advanced societies in Europe. Who knew? The island has been influenced by various civilizations, including the Mycenaeans, Romans, and Byzantines. You played a significant role in Greek mythology and was a strategic location in ancient times.

Aptera Amphitheater near Chania
Dating to 1537 Gouveneto Monastery is one of the oldest in Greece. A definite place to visit.

4. Hiking

Chania and Western Crete offered excellent hiking opportunities for this outdoor enthusiast. The region features diverse landscapes, including mountains, gorges, and coastal trails. One of the most popular hikes is the Samaria Gorge, a stunning natural wonder that attracts hikers from around the world. We explored the White Mountains, hiked to ancient ruins, and enjoyed panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea along the way.

Hiking at Falassarna
Goats joined us for a hike in the White Mountains
A beautiful day to hike at the Gouverneto Monastery high about the sea
White Mountains

5. Beaches

Even during the spring, the Mediterranean beaches of Crete are beautiful. We marveled at the turquoise water of the beaches on the coast between Rethymno and Chania. We hiked the rocky cliffs along the beaches of Falassarna. And we swam in the blue ocean and walked on the golden sands of Elafonisi. Come summer we understand your beaches are packed with guests, but our love affair with Crete began with deserted beaches, and crystal clear water.

The beach on a windy day at Falassarna
Gorgeous weather at Elafonisi
Elafonisi known for the pink sand, though it’s not as pink as it once was

6. Oh the Food

Cretan cuisine is a highlight of this island, featuring fresh and flavorful dishes made with local ingredients. Thank you Crete for the olive oil, herbs, and seafood – staples in Cretan cooking. Traditional dishes like dakos (barley rusk salad), lamb with stamnagathi (wild greens), and kalitsounia (sweet cheese pastries) were delicious, reflecting your rich agricultural heritage and Mediterranean flavors. Oh and the wine. Wow.

Outdoor oven at Veerna’s Kitchen Cooking School
Veerna helps us with the dough

Dear Chania and Western Crete we could not get enough of your delicious, fresh and local food. We learned to cook six local dishes with Veerna at Veerna’s Kitchen Cooking School in Chania, one of the highlights of our visit to Crete. Veerna and her family have created an amazing place to gather, learn and enjoy. We highly recommend every visitor to Chania spend time with Veerna learning about Crete cuisine.

Amazing stuffed vegetables at Veerna’s Kitchen Cooking School
Raki with Dakos
Boureki is one of Chania’s regional dishes, very much like Potatoes Au Gratin

Delicious Dining

During our island visit we ate at some remarkable restaurants that I must mention here, creating more memories of our time in Western Crete. We highly recommend all of these;

Carte Postale when visiting the historic monasteries outside of Chania, Carte Postale is a perfect destination for lunch or dinner. With a beautiful view of Chania, the food was remarkable and so was the service.

Braised lamb so tender at Carte Postale
Feta and Wild Greens Salad, Carte Postale

Raki Ba Raki we stumbled upon this place while visiting Rethynomo and what a treat it was. Great food and ambiance too.

Meze Platter at Raki Ba Raki
Marinated Anchovies at Raki Ba Raki

Ntounias Slow Food – farm to table slow food cooked without electricity over wood stoves specializing in Chania regional cuisine. Don’t miss this. We almost missed it because I could never reach them on their website, but eventually called and got someone. Although when we showed up for our reservations I didn’t really think we needed it. They also have vineyard and farm educational tours. We dined on bouriki (see above), roasted goat, eggplant salad, fava beans and their own wine. Service was amazing!

Tamam our guide Roussos recommended this restaurant for authentic food and we went as a group of six and had a spectacular meal. Located in an ancient building in the Venetian area of Chania, it was a perfect mix of delicious, historic and great service too.

Perfect Moussaka at Tamam
Meatballs at Tamam

And Seafood

Salis, right on the beautiful harbor in Old Town Chania, we loved the view, the food and the service was excellent as well. Great wine list too.

Warm brocoli salad was amazing
Local Corbfish was delicious

Argentina Kapenekis about 30 min from Chania is the lovely beach town of Kissamos. We enjoyed a late lunch with waterside view and a wide selection of fresh caught fish and lovely preparations. If you like seafood this is the place for you.

Spicy Shrimp Saganaki
Beautiful view

Dear Chania and Western Crete

We hope you will welcome us back again with such open arms as you have during our March visit. Thank you for your kind people, and rich and full list of things to keep us busy…but also for quiet days, with filtered sunshine and the sweet smell of lemon blossoms.

View from our Airbnb
Greece – colorful and quaint

How do I love thee? So many ways. I will return. Efcharistó Crete!

Thank you for reading my blog post Dear Chania and Western Crete. We love it when you comment, pin and share our blog posts. Thank you.

Next week I will tell you about our visit to the ancient Knossos Palace in Heraklion Crete. Be sure to come back to read about that.

Chania Venetian Harbor after dark

See last week’s post Athens for First Timers – A Beautiful City.

Also you might like our post My Favorite Greek Food here and The Cyprus Test Kitchen here

See our post Island Hopping From Antiparos here

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  • Reply Lisa

    You had me at beach, hiking (loved the goats joining in on your hike) and amazing food. And being able to spend some time doing things like mosaics would be so much fun.

    April 19, 2024 at 8:39 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      I am definitely going again!

      April 19, 2024 at 9:47 pm
  • Reply Sonia

    We visited Chania last year for a week and really enjoyed many of these activities. It was brutally hot though–I’d love to give it another chance during the cooler months of the year to get the most out of a visit.

    April 20, 2024 at 12:06 am
    • Reply Laureen

      Agreed. We heard a lot about how hot it can get. We lived in spring.

      April 20, 2024 at 12:42 am
  • Reply Terri

    I fell in love with this post as soon as I saw the photo of the cat happily basking in the sun. I hunt cats on my vacations. I love them so much. But back to your post. Wow! I want to go. You did everything that I chose when visiting a new place: walking tour, cooking class, art class.

    April 20, 2024 at 3:36 am
    • Reply Laureen

      I’m a cat girl too! ‍⬛

      April 20, 2024 at 6:28 am
  • Reply Taylor

    Crete looks beautiful! You have definitely sold me as I’m trying to plan my European summer trip. I love how peaceful it looks. 🙂

    April 20, 2024 at 6:25 am
    • Reply Laureen

      Busy in summer though!!

      April 20, 2024 at 6:27 am
  • Reply Mayi

    Ah, it sounds like you had a great time. You can’t go wrong with a charming location, a beach, delicious food, and stunning scenery.

    April 20, 2024 at 12:28 pm

    What a beautiful read! Oh my, the food looked incredible. You have a lovely way of painting the picture of these beautiful places to visit in the world! I will have to add these place to the bucket list! Thank you!

    April 20, 2024 at 3:36 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      Thank you so much!

      April 20, 2024 at 8:58 pm
  • Reply Denise

    Everything looks perfect! I need to get to Chiana and Crete soon!

    April 27, 2024 at 7:34 am
    • Reply Laureen

      I’m definitely going back n

      April 27, 2024 at 10:00 am

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