In Chania, you’ll want to soak up the sights of the city proper, including the Old Venetian Harbor and Chania Old Town; taste wine and olive oil; and feast on Cretan food. But with three days, you’ll also have time to enjoy adventures farther afield, from hiking the Samaria Gorge to lounging on the pink sands of Elafonisi Beach. Read on to find out how.
Day 1: Flavors of the Past
Spend your first day in Chania immersing yourself in this historic little city with its rich food-and-wine culture. Start by taking in ancient sights with a guide who can put the different historical eras in context, exploring by bike, Segway, electric 3-wheeler, or even on foot. Soak up the 14th-century Old Venetian Harbor, with its mosque, fortress, lighthouse, and medieval warehouses, and Chania Old Town, home to Byzantine walls and the 5,000-year-old Kasteli ruins. For lunch, unwind with a cooking class that trains you in the art of Cretan classics, such as cheese pies, hearty stews, and dakos (essentially Greek bruschetta), then enter the rich world of island olive oil on a factory tour. After soaking up a Cretan sunset, continue your foodie adventures as you snack and sip your way through Chania’s wealth of mezedes.
Day 2: Inland Adventures
On your second day, take the opportunity to explore farther afield, heading inland to rugged landscapes and timeless villages. Test your muscles on the 10-mile (16-kilometer) hike through the Samaria Gorge, one of Europe’s most dramatic fissures, which narrows to just 10 feet (3 meters) wide at one point. Travel back in time to World War II as you tour key sites of the Battle of Crete, where Greek and Allied forces and partisans did battle against the Nazis. Blend natural beauty with traditional food and lifestyles among the White Mountains in the Sfakia region or in the scenic villages of Apokoronas, or head out on a 4WD safari in search of the finest olive oil and wine. Wrap up your day with a seafood feast in a waterfront taverna, capped off with Crete’s signature raki (aniseed liquor).
Day 3: Life’s a Beach
Chania itself offers a wealth of water activities: snorkeling, stand-up paddleboarding, scuba diving caves and wrecks, and relaxing on sand or rocky beaches. But to truly discover the joy of the Sea of Crete, devote your last day to a day trip. Try Elafonisi Beach, where pale-pink sands, turquoise waters, and a pristine nature reserve make it a regular on European best-beaches lists. Adventure through the rugged Gramvousa Peninsula, stopping at beaches including the slender sand spit of Balos Lagoon. Or take a 4WD safari into the region around Georgioupolis, including a visit to a secluded beach. Head back to the city and spend your last evening discovering Crete’s rich tradition of wines, from sweet, dessert-style whites to full-bodied reds, accompanied by a selection of local cheeses.