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The region of Chania Greece or Hania, on the western side of the Greek island of Crete, has amazing places to visit, secret villages, fabulous beaches and interesting sightseeing.
Greece » Crete

Why Visit
The most famous town is Chania Town, with the characteristic Venetian, Turkish and traditional architecture. Paleochora and Sfakia, on the southern side of Crete, are also nice villages with relaxing atmosphere. The most impressive beaches are Balos, Elafonissi and Falassarna, while there are innumerable other amazing beaches around the coastline, from organized resorts to totally secluded coves.

A drive around the prefecture will also bring you to many interesting sights. Explore the Medieval Castles you will find on your way, trek the many paths along forests and gorges, visit the small local museums that depict the local history and even try a chat with the locals. You will frequently see them sitting in the village square and enjoying a coffee under the shade of a huge tree. In this holiday, apart from relaxing on a beach resort, grab the chance to experience the famous Cretan tradition and the warm hospitality. A very nice village close to the Town is Therissos, the birthplace of the Greek politician Eleftherios Venizelos.

The town of Chania is built on the site of the ancient Kidonia, one of the most important cities of Crete according to Homer. The surviving architectural remains of the city belong to large size buildings from the Mycenaean times. During the post Mycenaean times, the city flourished greatly and remained such until the Roman era, when August Caesar declared Kidonia an independent town. Many ancient towns and temples had been constructed in the region, such as the temple of Asklepios in Lissos. In 823 AC, the city was surrendered to the Sarakines and in 828 AC, it was destroyed like many Cretan cities.

In 961 AC, the Byzantines rebuilt the entire city using all the expendable material that was left from the ruins. To protect the city, they built a fortress around the hill, known as Kasteli. However, the town started declining, and from that period only some parts of the fortress walls survive to this day.

In 1204 AD, Chania was occupied by the Venetians who fortified the town around Kasteli fortress and restored the ruined city. During the four-century presence, Venetians built their catholic cathedral inside the castle and many elegant mansions. However, their strong fleet was soon attacked by the Genouates and they were defeated. As a result, they remained for some years in Chania but before they left the burned the whole town. The Venetians came back and rebuilt the entire city with a stronger wall around the city of Chania. The following years, Chania flourished greatly with the construction of many elegant buildings and houses according to the Venetian architecture.

This was a very prosperous period in the history of Chania, as it gave an impulse to trade and culture. Elegant mansions were constructed and the connection with Europe through Venice lead to the development of arts and literature. The famous painter Domenicos Theotokopoulos, also known as El Greco, was born that time.

In 1645, after two months of siege the town was surrendered to the Turks and the construction of the city changed as all Catholic churches were turned to mosques. After many battles and revolutionary acts from the inhabitants of Crete against the Turkish fleet the island was declared autonomous in 1897 and became the capital of the Cretan state.

In 1913, Crete was reunited with the rest of Greece after the many efforts of Eleftherios Venizelos, governor of Crete and later prime-minister of the country. The extensive damages from the constant attacks in Crete wiped out the traces of old periods in Chania. From the Mycenaean Kidonia only a few relics have been found from excavations and ceramic signs. Today, a large part of the old town of Chania has survived from the Venetian and Turkish period. The Venetian port and the historical alleys with the tall mansions in Chania give a nostalgic atmosphere. The history of Chania had a huge cultural impact in the life of the Cretans.

Museums - Archeological
The museums of Chania feature excellent archaeological findings and hundreds of exhibits which outline the diachronic influence of the island's cultural history. The most important museum of Chania that provides much insight into the Cretan history is the Archaeological Museum of Chania located in the Catholic church of Saint Francis. The permanent exhibition covers a long period from the Neolithic to Roman times, discovered in the surrounded excavated sites. Ceramics, pottery, sculptures, statuettes and excellent mosaics are on display.

An outstanding collection from the Byzantine era can be viewed in the Venetian church of Saint Salvatore including frescoes, jewellery, sculptures and other specimens of that time. The War Museum of Askyfou is a tribute to the Cretan men who fought for their freedom and is found at the centre of Chania with great historical relics and printed material. In the heart of the old town you can visit the Folklore Museum which hosts several items from the private collection of the locals.

Elafonisi, Balos, Falassarna, Platanias, Georgioupolis, Agia Marina, Agioi Apostoloi, Drapanias, Finikas, Frangokastello beach, Germaniko Pouli, Gialiskari, Glyka Nera, Golden Beach, Grammeno, Kalamaki, Kalathas, Kalyves, Kiani Akti, Kissamos beach, Kolimbari, Koutelos, Krios, Loutraki, Maleme, Marathi, Nea Chora, Orthi Ammos, Pahia Ammos, Sfakia beach, Sfinari, Souda Beach, Sougia, Stalos, Stavros, Tavronitis, Tripiti, Votsalo, Halikia, Paleohora Beach

Religious Monasteries and Churches
A trip to Chania reveals countless sacred sites, more than 300 Byzantine churches, chapels and remarkable monasteries that spread throughout the wider region. Most of them are enriched with exquisite frescoes and holy icons from the Venetian occupation with the basic characteristics of Renaissance architecture.

Among the numerous churches one is worth visiting at the old town is the Cathedral of Chania, a 13th century church that is strongly connected to the historical events of Chania as it was used as a place of refugee. It is dedicated on the three saints, the Presentation of the Virgin Mary, Saint Nikolas and to the three Hierarchs. The churches of Agioi Anargyroi and Saint Magdalene lie also in the town and host precious Byzantine frescoes and icons.

The Monastery of Agios Ioannis the Hermit is located 20 km west of Chania town, close to the sea. It is considered the oldest monastery in Crete founded in 11th century by Saint John who lived inside a cave, where the church is built. Today the monastery is abandoned and can only be accessed through the path that begins from Gouverneto monastery and takes about 20 to 30 minutes to walk. The church is on the bed of an old impressive river and if you continue walking for another ten minutes you can swim at the crystalline waters.

Gouverneto Monastery (also known as the Lady of the Angels) is situated on the northern coast of Akrotiri, 4 km from the Monastery of Agia Triada. Surrounded by a fortress-like enclosure that reveals the strong Venetian influences, the preserved monastery was built in 1548 and one can see the surviving remains like the cells and the two side chapels dedicated to Panagia (Virgin Mary) and Saint John the Hermit. Today, within the monastery’s walls there is a small ecclesiastical museum with precious relics and icons.

Another religious site is the Monastery of Agia Triada located in the area of Akrotiri, 15 km from Chania. It was built by two Venetian rulers and today visitors can see a precious collection of icons and items. The monastery complex remains one of the most important religious sites in Crete with a beautiful courtyard and impressive chapels built on both sides.

One of the closest monasteries to the town of Chania is the Monastery of Chrissopigi where thousands of pilgrims arrive here tp pray to the miraculous icon of the Virgin. The active female monastery was founded in 17th century by Chartofylakas family and today most of the nuns are involved in farming and the preservation of old icons and books. Within the walls of the complex there is an ecclesiastical and a folklore museum and impressive churches to visit.

Chryssoskalitissa Monastery is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is highly admired by all visitors. The monastery rises on a rock, 35 meters altitude above the sea. Within the walls of the monastery lies the icon of the Virgin, which is said that counts more than thousand years. Outside Kolymbari you will find the Monastery of Gonia, an old 17th century complex in the middle of a beautiful lush green forest. It is still active and also exhibits a fine collection of post-Byzantine icons and treasury of holy relics.