At a glance
Chania is one of the most beautiful port towns in Greece, with its extensive harbour surrounded by Venetian fortifications, behind which weave narrow streets of handsome old houses and sleepy squares.
Not surprisingly, considering its advantageous position on a small hill behind one of the region’s few natural harbours, and fringed by fertile land, it has been inhabited since Neolithic times, and was Crete’s capital for nearly 80 years before Herakleion took over the mantle.
It started as a Minoan city named Kydonia (“Quince”, for one of the area’s crops), then under the Arabs it was renamed Al Hanim (“The Inn”), which later morphed into Chania, and during the 13th century it was tossed between the Venetians and Genoans, with the former triumphing and re-christening it La Canea.
It’s an extremely picturesque, popular and charming destination in itself, and is also well-positioned to explore the four very varied compass points of the larger region.
Chania’s neighbours along the northern coastline tend to be characterized for their lively bars, restaurants and beachside resorts; to the west lie infinite exotic beaches and untrodden nature reserves; to the south are the wild ocean-lapped beaches facing Africa and backed by impenetrable mountain ranges; while in the middle the snow-capped White Mountains straddle the island, sliced through by the Samaria Gorge.