Top Things to do Near Chania, Crete

Planning a visit to Crete? Forget Heraklion and the east coast, head west and discover the beautiful Venetian towns of Chania and Rethymno and surrounding countryside. Check out my top things to do near Chania below.

 

Chania

While there are many things to do near Chania, make sure you spend time exploring the its old town. Famous for its 14th century Venetian harbour and it’s waterfront restaurants, it won’t disappoint. It still has an Italian feel, but without the crowds, so I suggest taking an outdoor table in one of the fine restaurants for lunch or dinner, just to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the pretty views. 
 

 

 
While the harbour is the main focal point, don’t miss the narrow side streets, home to some great local and international shops. Depending on how much time you have, you can visit the Nautical Museum or the Archaeological Museum, which was the former monastery of St Francis. There are numerous boat trips departing from the harbour too, from glass bottom boat rides to full day trips to Santorini. 

things to do Near Chania
 

 

 

Rethymno

Rethymno is beautiful medieval Greek town which also preserves much of its Venetian appearance. Although the third largest town in Crete (after Heraklion and Chania) it doesn’t feel like a city. You will see Greek Orthodox and Catholic churches, Mosques, and a must-see Fortress (Fortezza). The town offers a wonderful mix of architecture, history and culture. The harbour is the focal point and is crammed with restaurants and bars offering great views of the port, but there is also a long sandy beach, so it the perfect place if you want to mix some beach time with sightseeing. Make sure you walk right out to the lighthouse and enjoy a meal at one of the waterfront Greek tavernas.

things to do Near Chania
 

 

 

Elafonisi Beach

Crete’s famous Pink Beach gets its name from tiny pink corals in the sand, but its pink appearance is not always visible to the naked eye – it depends on wind, tide and the time of your visit. It was relatively unknown until tripadvisor named it as one of the world’s top 10 beaches. Unfortunately this put an end to the locals secret and it is now is a Mecca for tourists. Now that the secret is out though – would someone build a decent car park?
 

 

 
Elafonisi is actually an island, separated with a sandbar and you will find that temperatures are a few degrees cooler depending on which side you bathe. Loggerhead sea turtles like to shelter here but if you do see one, please know that they are a protected species. Make sure you arrive early or late to avoid the crowds. We arrived at 4pm by car, just as the coaches we leaving. This is not a good idea, as there is only one road in and out of the car park! I suggest arriving early and spending the whole day there, or arriving at 4.30 and leaving after sunset, when the pink hue is more visible. Although there are many things to do near Chania, it is worth the two hour drive to get to Elafonisi beach.
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Georgioupolis

Georgioupolis is a charming Greek town that has a traditional centre, but also some modern hotels and restaurants at the beach. Try to arrive close to sunset and walk out to the church of Aghios Nikoloas. It is a picture postcard Greek Orthodox church that sits on a peninsula about 300 meters off the shore. It is one of the top things to do near Chania so don’t miss it! Catch the best sunset views from GB Rooftop bar, a modern bar / restaurant that serves up tasty American food. If you fancy something more authentic, try Mythos in the centre of the village, the food and setting is superb.
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Kournas Lake

Crete’s only natural freshwater lake is definitely worth a visit. Located just 3km from Georgioupolis, I would suggest combining the two in one day. Although you will find pedaloes, souvenir shops and plenty of restaurants, it doesn’t feel like a tourist resort. There is a small beach at the lake but depending on tides, it can be very small! Take a walk around the lake and see the colours change depending on the time of day. The walk only takes one hour and you are bound to spot some wildlife on and off the lake. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Balos Beach

There are two ways to visit one of Crete’s most photographed beaches. Taking the ferry from Kissamos port is the easiest way, although it does have some disadvantages. You will be arriving with lots of other people and you will only have a limited time at the beach. If you decide to drive, make sure you have a 4-wheel-drive vehicle and be prepared for a bumpy ride. Not only is the road leading up to it in poor condition, but once you get there you will have to hike 1km to the beach and back up again, in probably blistering heat. By visiting this way you can arrive whenever you want and stay for sunset, but note this is not suitable for anyone with walking difficulties.

things to do near Chania

 

 

 

Samaria Gorge

The longest gorge in Europe (16km), the Samaria Gorge is one of Crete’s top attractions and is located in the White Mountains National Park, the only national park in Crete. Temperatures tend to be cooler there as you are in the mountains, but you will still need to be fit for the 8km hike at an altitude of 1,200 meters. It takes between 6-8 hours but thankfully is mostly downhill. If you like hiking you will love this and for the novices, I’m told the views are worth it.  

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Santorini

Yes, that’s right, you can scratch one of your bucket list and visit Santorini for the day. Ferries depart from the ports of Chania or Rethymno and the journey time is only 2 and a half hours. Price is approximately €120 for a full day trip, which is good value to visit to the one of the world’s top bucket list destinations.  

things to do near Chania
 

 

 

Where to stay:

Georgioupolis is the ideal choice as it is located just 20 minutes from Rethymno and 40 minutes from Chania. We stayed in Anemos Luxury Resort and loved it. With a beachfront location, choice of dining options and top-class accommodation, it is not surprising that it is one of the best places to stay in Crete. You can read my review on Anemos Luxury Grand Resort here. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Sarah

 

The Travel Expert