Excursions from Chania

Chania - Akrotiri

A short trip from Chania takes you out to the peninsula of Akrotiri, and on the way, you may want to drive up the hill of the Prophet Elias. just six miles from town, where is a spectacular view over the bay. Close by, are the graves of two revered Cretans. the Venizelos, father and son, both former prime ministers of Greece. Ten kilometers further on you' II come to Moni Tzagarolou. the Monastery of Aghia Triada, and beyond to the beach ot Stavros. a splendid spot for swimming and lunch.

- Omalos - Samaria (44 kms)samaria

Unless you have only a very short time on Crete, in which case it's doubtful if you can make this excursion, the trip down the Samaria Gorge is an experience that you positively shoutdn't miss, for it is one you 'll never be able to duplicate elsewhere.
The well - paved road starts from Chania and passes through the orange groves of the villages of Aghia Alikianou, and Fournes. Several Byzantine churches are found in this area. whose 14th century frescoes are representative of the best period of the Cretan School of painting. A trip from Fournes to Meskla, a prosperous village amidst greenery. is worth the visit for its Church of Christ the Savior, graced with some of the finest l5th century frescoes.
The road continues through the village of Lakoi and then climbs to the Plateau of Omalos, 1100 meters high, surrounded by the awesome peaks of Lefka Ori (The White Mountains). After traversing the plateau, you reach Xyloscalon "the wooden staircase" and the entrance to the Gorge. In a small pavillion. refreshments are available. The Gorge of Samaria, one of the largest and most impressive in Europe. runs for eighteen Kilometers, and its steep cliffs tower from 300 to 600 meters above you. Parts of the gorge are forty meters wide. but at the narrowest point. your outstretched arms can almost touch both walls. Even if you can't afford the minimum of six hours needed to pass through the entire gorge on foot, perhaps you can find time for a shorter trek of a few kilometers, enough for a glimpse of this majestic landscape.

- Moni Gonia - Kastelli - Platanias (53 km:)

Taking the road along the Chania Bay, head westward in the direction ot Kastelli Kissamou. About five kilo meters out of Chania, you' ll notice an imposing war memorial erected by the Germans during their occupation of Crete. Soon you' ll be in a rich orange-growing region accentuated by charming little villages. But if religious art is your interest, you'll want to move ahead to the west corner of Chania Bay to see Moni Gonias as the Monastery of Odigitrias is known. It is located at the curve of Rodopou Peninsula, near the village of Kolimbari. Founded in 1618, its buildings show a strong Venetian influence, but the fine view over the bay, the exceptional icons and frescoes, and the rich treasury are the high lights here
The Kolimbari, a turn to the lett leads to the village of Spillia, just two kilometers away, whose Church of Our Lady (Panagia) is noted tor its l4th century frescoes while the Church ot Michael Archangelos display a sumptuous altar.
After Kolimbari. the road crosses the peninsula at its base and reaches Kastelli Kissamou, a small seasidetown nestled amidst olive trees and vineyards. This is a wine producing center of note, and some of the local vintages have earned themselves a high reputation throughout Greece and abroad
From Kastelli, a short trip is suggested to the .yuins of Polyrrinia, seven kilometers to the south. The old town is situated on a hill, providing a splendid view to those visitors who can spare a few minutes to climp up to the town. There you can see the remnants of the ancient fort walls, yhe aqueduct and tombs, all in a good state of preservation.
Just a few kilometers past Kastelli, the main road passes a lovely sandy beach, where fresh fish of the day is the speciality in the small tavernas. The asphalt road terminates at the rustic village of Platanos, affording a nice glimpse of Crete's west coast. And while you're in the area, another good bet is the ruined city of Falassarna, which you can reach by an adequate dirt road forking off the main road, just before Platanos. The remains of this ancient port city are scattered over a wide area, but pay special attention to the harbour area itself, now located a hundred meters from the shoreline.

- Vrysses - Chora Sfakion (74 kms)

Another pleasant side venture leads from the village of Vrysses (33 kilometers from Chania along the main road to Rethymnon) to the district of Sfakia, and most notably to Chora Sfakion, the legendary citadel on the South coast of Crete which was never occupied by conquerors.
While climbing the mountains, the landscape becomes at first defiant with jagged rocks, but after reaching the Plateau of Askifou, hospitable little villages at the foot of high mountains greet your eyes. From there, the road runs parallel to another fine gorge, that of Imbrou, and then begins its descent to the coast. As you drive this stretch, an almost aerial view of the Libyan Sea escorts you downwards, untit you reach Chora Sfakion, a picture book village tucked into a small bay. The houses are in pure Cretan style, and several of its churches are bedecked with Byzantine frescoes.
It is a good place to stop for a while and relax, and the small but colourful Hotel Xenia affords nice accommoda tion. Several short excursions can be made from the village Eastward lies the excellently preserved l4th century fortress of Frangokastello. Local legend claims it is haunted, too, although the ghosts of Turkish soldiers apparently only condescend to appear in the dawn hours in the late spring. In the other direction from Chora Sfakion lies the enchanting village of Loutro, but you will have to leave your car behmd because the only approacr is via a long footpath or by caique. a delightful half - hour trip. The beach here is worth the visit in itself, and the crystal clear water provides some of the best swimming anywhere in Crete

paleochoraChania - Kandanos - Paleochora (17 kms)

At the village of Tavronitis, twenty - one kilometers past Chania on the way to Kastelli, a turn to the left takes you through the isolated and little known region of Selino, poor in everything but history, visible testaments of which span the centuries from the Post Minoan period to Byzan tine and Venetian times.
The road runs along the river Tavlonitis, then climbs to the village of Voukolies, where an interesting fair is held each Saturday. Afterwards, the area becomes mountainous and the road continues to ascend until reaching the Plateau of Kandanos. The capital of the district, Kanda nos, has been rebuilt since its complete destruction in the war, and from here you branch out across the Plateau to take in any of a number of Byzantine chapels with excellent frescoes. Especially vivid are the chapels in the villages of Kavalariana and Anisaraki, both in close proximity to Kandanos.
After crossing the plateau. the road winds down toward the southern coast. passing through Kakodiki, until it ends at Paleochora, a small town with an excellent sandy beach, also known as Kastelli Selinou due to its Venetian fortress. But the town is rich in Byzantine buildings and monuments as well, and a small hotel and several restaurants make it pleasant to linger a while.
The area of Selino, though remote, has the advantage of being off the proverbial beaten track, and an added divident is the veritable network of ancient Greek Roman and Byzantine towns, all close to one another. A hike around the ruins can provide an unusual sideliqht to your trip in this region.