The region of Chania is the most diverse in nature region of Crete, representing a mixture of mountains, gorges, long beaches and fertile valleys. It is home to two extraordinary beaches - Elafonissi and Balos - which appear in top rankings of the best beaches in Europe and the Mediterranean, and the famous Samaria Gorge, one of the longest in Europe with its length of 16 km, is also there.
The region occupies the westernmost part of the island with area of 2 376 km2 and about 160 000 residents. Its capital is Chania Town, a picturesque seaside settlement which is considered the historical and spiritual capital of the island, although Heraklion is the main city. The north and south coast of the region are in high contrast to each other - lively and touristic versus wild and barren, and the inner part imposes with wild mountain landscape and authentic old villages, some of them abandoned, others still keeping life with new buildings and private villas to rent.
The north coast of Chania region is well developed, with numerous resorts, night life and all kinds of facilities and services. The seaside west of Chania Town is so densely built up that in some places the villages have merged and formed agglomerations, making it hard to tell one from the other. Such are Kato Stalos, Agia Marina, Platanias, Gerani and Maleme, sharing a wide beach of almost 10 km length. East of Chania is the hilly cape of Drapanos with traditional old settlements and two calmer resorts - Almyrida and Kalyves. The main island road which goes along the north coast is in a valley and traveling is quite easy and fast. This part of Chania region is suitable for accommodation if you want to be close to large towns, to have plenty of restaurants to choose from, to practice water sports next to the beach bar and to have everything right next to you.
The south coast however, is just the opposite. The high mountains reach the sea, forming big gorges, the longest from which are Samaria, Imbros and Aradena. The seaside villages are less, away from each other and accessible via narrow winding roads, and two of them (Agia Roumeli and Loutro) can be visited only by boat or on foot through Samaria gorge. The largest are Paleochora and Chora Sfakion and yet they are smaller and much more peaceful than the north resorts. The rest settlements are even smaller, some of them having a dozen of houses. The beaches of south Chania region are large and wild, most of them with no facilities at all. The area is considered paradise by hikers because of the numerous hiking trails, not only through the gorges but between beaches, too. The longest coastal hiking trail connects Agia Roumeli with Chora Sfakion, passing through Loutro and a couple of nice beaches.
Reading about Chania region, you may often come across the words Akrotiri and Apokoronas. These two are neither villages, nor sightseeing spots. They are two large areas (like municipalities) which cover a number of settlements. Akrotiri is a peninsula just northeast of Chania Town and there is the international airport. The villages on Akrotiri are small, some with sandy beaches like Kalathas, Tersanas and Stavros, and there are also many monasteries, some of them in ruins and reachable on foot. The most famous beach on the peninsula is Seitan Limania, a narrow canal between two high sea cliffs. Apokoronas roughly comprises of the territory between Chania Town and Georgioupoli, stretching from the foot of Lefka Ori (The White Mountains) to the north shore. It is a very green and fertile region, with many rivers and villages. The northernmost part of Apokoronas ends with Drapanos Cape, with traditional villages like Gavalochori and Douliana, and the seaside resorts Almyrida and Kalyves.
The list (not comprehensive of course) of interesting places to see in Chania region includes:
- Chania town with its old town, market and Venetian harbor
- The islet and beach of Elafonisi in west Chania region, part of nature reserve
- The unique Balos lagoon and the islet of Gramvousa with preserved Venetian castle on the top (both can be visited by boat trip from Kissamos)
- Cape Drapanos in Apokoronas area, with its traditional villages of Douliana and Gavalochori
- The castle of Frangokastello right on the homonymous beach, on the south coast
- The villages of Agia Roumeli and Loutro (both with ruins of castle above them)
- The ancient church of Agios Pavlos on the homonymous beach in south Chania region (accessible by boat or on foot)
- The ruins of the Katholiko Monastery, the Monastery of Agios Antonios and the Arkoudiotissa cave located in the north part of Akrotiri peninsula and accessible on foot
- The Intzedin castle and the archeological site of Ancient Aptera near Kalami village