Chania: A world of adventure
Set out with the wind in your sails
When you’re surrounded by all that incredible sea, it’s only right that your adventure-seeking tour of Chania starts in the water. Or rather on the water! And moving just as fast as you dare. If you’re a Stand Up Paddleboard type, that’s also fine. But we’re off windsurfing first – or maybe even kite-surfing, if you’re up to it.
There are so many great options. Agia Marina (just west of Chania town), Falasarna, Elafonisi… all beaches that have great conditions and equipment to rent.
Now to immerse yourself
You’ll also be getting into the water, of course, but not just swimming. There are some great dive sites and snorkelling options around the coastline. You could be a technical diver or a beginner, it doesn’t really matter. Chania’s distinctive rugged terrain continues below the sea surface, with some great caves and reefs to explore with diving clubs. Souda Bay, the Kalyves coastline and Georgioupolis all offer underwater gems.
There’s even the intriguingly named Underwater Cave of Elephants, so-called after the petrified elephant bones still on the sea floor. And if you want a really good tip, there’s a sunken German Junkers 52 aircraft, shot down during World War II, just north of Agia Marina, near the islet of Agioi Theodoroi. Try keeping that one to yourself.
Sky’s the limit
Your adrenaline’s up, so now to get it really pumping. Let’s get airborne. How else to get the most out of a landscape of rugged mountains, dreamy coastline and fabulous greenery? We’re talking paragliding or parasailing. Or perhaps paratriking.
If you’re in Chania town, there are flying options just 2km away in Nea Chora, but it’s worth heading to the Omalos Plateau, around 45km to the south, where you can glide beneath the peaks of the White Mountains at around 1,250m, right over the Samaria Gorge to Gigilos on the south coast.
Too gentle? Then there’s only one other adrenaline adventure for you: bungee jumping off the Aradena Bridge – all 138m of it. It’s the highest bungee jumping bridge in Greece and the second highest in Europe.
A gorgeous landscape
Your feet are back on the ground, so let’s go hiking! There’s the E4 European Long Distance trekking path running along the eastern and southern coastlines. With sea and mountain views and the scent of wild herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage and lavender), the miles tick by. But you can’t talk trekking in Chania without mentioning the gorges: Elygia in Sfakia is special, and others trip off the tongue - Diktamos, Lissos, Topolia, Asfendou, Kambos, Sirikari, Sassalos.
The hands-down winner for sheer majesty is the Samaria Gorge. The 16km path starts at Omalos Plateau and descends through a forest of cypresses and pine trees, squeezing between the narrowest of passages, with 500m vertical walls. Quite extraordinary! Of course, where there are mountains, there’s climbing. In fact, Chania has its own mountaineering club. Exhausted? How about 4x4 experience up to the White Mountains on a private jeep safari? No excuses!
The art of living well
After all that action, it’s time for a well-earned change of pace. Take a look at the scenery – the jagged beauty of the White Mountains, the extraordinary blue of the sea, and all that silky smooth sand. Add to that the sound of birdsong and cicadas, the aroma of mountain herbs and the gentlest summer breeze – and, yes, you could be meditating in a yoga retreat.
After all, Chania has a tradition of spiritual practitioners going back to ancient times, and the principle of "Ef Zin" – the art of living well – is still alive in the region. There are retreats dotted right around the area (Sfakia, Lefka Ori…) offering revitalising and restorative therapies, and specialist detox sessions. Really, though, it’s the energy of Chania that makes it special.
Food for the soul
You’ve fed the mind, now for the body. The locals know a lot about food and even more about entertaining – and there’s nothing they enjoy more than combining the two.
Traditional Cretan cuisine is considered one of the healthiest in the world, so you’ll want to take a gastronomy tour or have a private cooking lesson.
There are options in Chania’s Old Town, and there is the Botanical Park & Gardens, where you can gather self-sown herbs and are learn how to use them in local dishes.
And to really taste the local flavour, you’ll want to visit a raki distillery and sample the local firewater.
Bottling the character of Chania
Or why not head out into the countryside to treat yourself to a wine tour. Vineyards have been cultivated for over 4,000 years in Crete, with more than 10 indigenous grape varietals, seven white and four red. Unsurprisingly, they are perfectly matched to fish, seafood and the local vegetables and wild greens.
Vilana is the main white grape, while Mantilari is considered the leader of the native red varieties. But only a visit to a winery can give the full picture. The Manousakis Winery, committed to organic production, and the beautifully appointed Dourakis or Karavitakis are just a few examples. There are so many options and, somehow, they all seem to bottle the character of the extraordinary Chania landscape.
A world of adventure
Exploring everything Chania has to offer will challenge and reward you beyond your dreams. In the water, in the air, on land, in your mind… or simply in the experience of enjoying its wonderful food and wine. Every season gives its own character to the rich and varied landscape… all the reason you need to keep coming back.