Chania Region

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About Chania Region

The Prefecture of Chania lies at the westernmost part of Crete. Its terrain is mountainous with dense vegetation. Steep mountains, home to the famous Samaria Gorge, tumble down to the sea where beautiful beaches can be found, like Aghia Roumeli, Sfakia and Sougia. In the north of the region, protected on three sides by the White Mountains, is the large plain of Chania, where olive trees, orange groves and vines grow in abundance.

Chania, Crete's second largest city, was the capital of Crete until 1972. Many centuries ago this was the Minoan settlement of Kydonia; archaeologists believe that there was a large palace here. Many of Chania's residents will tell you that the city is still the spiritual capital of Crete, even if the title is officially bestowed on Heraklion! It is certainly one of the most impressive cities in Greece. The old city has a magnificent harbour and mediaeval quarters, consisting of houses and churches from both the Venetian and Turkish periods. This melting pot of history is part of its enduring charm. Around the crescent-shaped harbour you'll find many excellent restaurants, bars and little shops, as well as the famous cruciform shaped indoor market, with its fascinating array of provisions. Scattered north and west from Chania are countless beautiful beaches along with many villages and pretty coves.

South of Chania is the famous Samaria Gorge. This 18km-long gorge, the longest in Europe, begins just below the Omalos plateau. Its width varies from 3m to 150m and its vertical walls reach 500m at the highest point. The gorge has an vast number of wild flowers and is home to a large number of endangered species, including the Cretan wild goat, the kri-kri.

Lake Kournas is the only fresh water lake on Crete and is a haven for wildlife. The lake used to be called 'Korisia' after ancient 'Korion', a city thought to be in the area with a temple to Athena. Although it tends to be a popular area for holidaymakers it is still a lovely place in which to spend some time.

Frangokastello, in the south, stretches for some distance along the coast and is home to fine sandy beaches. It has a number of tavernas, cafes, and shops as well as specialist fish restaurants, which are much frequented by the locals. This area is noted for attractive gorges which will delight keen walkers, and not far away is Chora Sfakion from where you can take a boat along the south coast to the west.

Georgioupolis enjoys an idyllic setting between sea and mountain and lies between the towns of Rethymnon, a 30 minute journey by car, and Chania, a 45 minute drive away. This charming village, with its long stretch of sandy beach and river running into the sea, was until recently a sleepy fishing village in an out-of-the-way place. Over the past 25 years or so it has slowly grown into a popular holiday resort with a wide range of tavernas, shops, cafes, boutiques and other tourist amenities. The beautiful countryside surrounding the village is ideal for walkers, while the splendid sandy beach and relaxed seaside atmosphere make it ideal for beach lovers. There's an excellent bus service and this makes it possible to go quite far afield, for example to Heraklion (90 minutes by bus) or the south coast to visit Phaistos or Matala. Some distance outside the village a long row of hotels sits alongside its sweeping 10 km-long sandy beach, however a part of timeless old Georgioupolis remains very much in place. As in years gone by, the eucalyptus-tree-lined square remains the perfect place to sit and watch the villagers meet each other in the kafenions to exchange the news of the day over a coffee or ouzo.

Loutro is the sort of fishing village that visitors seek but rarely find. It's only accessible by boat or by taking a long walk down from the village above and along a cliffside path. The small village huddles around the harbour - here you will find a few simple tavernas, which offer some of the best cooking on the island. There are no cars, no nightlife, just a sense of tranquility. The village has a shingle beach and small coves with deep clear water, ideal for snorkelling. The rocky hillside, rising steeply from the harbour, is criss-crossed with paths that make it a walkers' paradise and quite close by there are archaeological remains to be explored. For energetic walkers there are challenging walks with stunning views of the mountains and out across the Libyan Sea.

Paleochora is on the south western coast of Crete. This former fishing village sits on a small peninsula the backdrop of which is a lush green landscape with oleanders and olive trees. To the west is a long sandy beach. The small seaside town has a large selection of tavernas, shops and cafes, and on a summer’s evening the bustling streets become a much-loved strolling and meeting point. The area is suited to beach lovers, or for walkers eager to explore the south-west coast and the surrounding mountains. From Paleochora, boats ply back and forth along the coast, stopping at a number of villages on the way to Chora Sfakion. It is also possible to take boat trips to see dolphins as well as the remote island of Gavdos, the most southerly point of Europe.

Falassarna has a winding mountain road leading down to the beach, offering a panoramic view of the whole bay. Fine white sandy beaches lie at the bottom of a steep rock-faced bay. In the rock structure lies evidence of how much the sea level has dropped in this area since ancient times, witnessed by the remains of an old Roman harbour, now inland. Adjacent to the bay lies the old village of Falassarna where, even today, life is relatively untouched by tourism. There are two tavernas, one of which has a small shop. The village of Platanos, 5 kilometres away, offers a larger selection of shops. This area is ideal for those visitors looking for a quiet holiday, who love open spaces, crystal clear waters for swimming and sandy beaches. This is a great place to experience the simple pleasures of Cretan life.

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