- 1 DAY TRIPS FROM CHANIA
- 2 Where is Chania?
- 3 The Best of the Day Trips from Chania – Balos Beach and Gramvousa
- 4 Georgioupolis
- 5 Stavros Beach
- 6 Seitan Limania
- 7 Paleochora
- 8 Elafonissi Beach
- 9 Kedrodasos
- 10 Samaria Gorge
- 11 Chania Boat Trips
- 12 Falassarna Beach
- 13 Rethymno
- 14 Arkadi Monastery
- 15 Bali
- 16 Knossos
- 17 Santorini
DAY TRIPS FROM CHANIA
The city of Chania is one of the best places to visit in Crete, and in our view, it’s the best city in Crete. Chania Old Town is a beguiling place, full of atmospheric crumbling back streets, a concoction of pre-Minoan, Venetian and Turkish architecture and one of the most beautiful harbours in Greece. The range of day trips from Chania is also fantastic, making it one of the best places to stay in Crete.
The province of Chania covers the western quarter of Crete, and Chania city is close to some of the big-ticket must-see Crete destinations. Some of the best beaches in Crete are within a 2-hour drive of Chania, and the popular Samaria Gorge walk is also a logistically easy day trip, with many day tours from Chania available.
Our guide shows you the pick of the Chania day trips available, which cover the whole of west Crete, and some Crete attractions to the east, towards Rethymno and Heraklion. We’ll advise how best to reach each destination, and whether you need to drive, catch a bus or book some Chania tours. We’ll even look at the possibility of a Chania to Santorini day trip, and advise on whether this is a worthwhile option.
We hope you enjoy our guide to the best things to do near Chania.
Where is Chania?
Chania is on the north coast of Crete, 138 km west of the island’s capital, Heraklion. It’s in the north-west of the island, around 50 km from its west coast.
The Best of the Day Trips from Chania – Balos Beach and Gramvousa
Visiting Balos Beach is one of the best things to do in Crete, and it’s probably the most popular of all the day tours from Chania. Most opt for a tour to Balos Beach from Chania, and even if you make it to the departure port at Kissamos with your own transport, you’ll still be on the same Cretan Daily Cruises ferry as those who have booked tours. Our guide to how to get to Balos Beach gives you the full lowdown on the Kissamos ferry journey to Balos.
The Balos ferry calls at the amazing Gramvousa Island first, giving you enough time either to walk up the steep hill to Gramvousa Castle, or to linger on the glorious Gramvousa Beach. You then proceed to Balos Beach, a stunning stretch of sand with a rocky cape on one side, a shallow lagoon on another, the crystal-clear seawater on another and the towering Crete mountains on the other. It’s a breathtaking sight, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It’s also too popular for its own good in the summer season, but time your visit right, either for May or, better still, October and you have space to appreciate this wondrous place.
Georgioupolis is one of the best beach resorts in Crete, with several sights to explore in and around the village. Georgioupolis beach is the longest beach in Crete, 10 km (6 miles long), and there are a host of beach bars, cafes and restaurants at the village end of the beach.
At the same end, look out for one of the most iconic sights in Crete, a tiny whitewashed chapel at the end of a rocky causeway. There are also some great boat trips along the coast from there, and the only inland lake in Crete, Lake Kournas, is only 4 km (2.5 miles) up the hill.
Stavros beach is one of the best beaches in Chania province, and our pick of the beaches near Chania city. It’s on the northern side of the Akrotiri peninsula, just to the north-east of Chania, half an hour by car or 40 minutes by bus.
It’s a beautiful sheltered beach, protected by a stretch of rocks which only leaves a narrow inlet for the seawater to reach the golden sand. A dramatic mountain looms across the water, and the scene may look familiar – one of the main scenes from the 1960s movie Zorba the Greek was shot here.
Seitan Limania has become one of the most popular Chania beaches in recent years. It’s a tiny patch of sand in a tiny inlet with pristine turquoise water lapping against the sheltered shore. It’s a short drive (15 km, or 9 miles) from Chania, and you can reach it down a steep path between the cliffs. It’s a magical setting, best visited early or late in the season when the crowds – and buses – are no longer around.
The Crete south coast is a very different proposition to the busy north coast. The rugged mountainous south Crete landscape makes the going a lot slower, with some places only accessible by boat or on foot. Paleochora, a two-hour bus ride or a 90-minute drive from Chania, is a metropolis in south Crete terms, a small, enticing town with stunning coastal views.
One of the main reasons to visit is to see some of the Paleochora beaches, from the exposed beauty of Gialiskari beach to the east to the lovely sheltered Grammeno beaches to the west. There is also a fine sandy beach in Paleochora, and two pebble beaches on the other side of the peninsula. We stopped by for several weeks and were greatly charmed, especially by a couple of its restaurants and the cafes around the main square.
Elafonissi – sometimes spelt Elafonisi – beach is one of the most popular Crete sightseeing destinations. Most travel agencies in western Crete offer Elafonissi tours as it’s very secluded, in the south-west corner of Crete, reached by not-particularly-brilliant roads. Despite its isolation, it’s also been discovered by the tourist hordes, so between June and September it is jam-packed.
Elafonissi is famous as the pink sand beach, and it’s a terrific sight – my son and I decided it was like the sand was fringed with a layer of candy floss. It’s stunning. We were lucky to be able to visit Elafonissi in mid-October, when it was considerably quieter. There is actually a series of beaches at Elafonissi – the main peninsula beach, the lagoon beach and several smaller beaches on Elafonissi Island.
If you take a tour to Elafonissi, you may want to think about making a return trip soon afterwards. Kedrodasos beach is only around 2 km away from Elafonissi, but the 4 hours you tend to get on Elafonissi beach day tours doesn’t give you enough time to see both. If you’re driving to Elafonissi, no problem – you’ll just need a couple of extra hours to explore Kedrodasos. The Chania to Elafonissi bus schedule gives you enough time, provided you
So why schlep all the way back down there from Chania? Kedrodasos is one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece, and it’s one of the wildest beaches in Crete. Its name means ‘cedar grove’, but the trees are in fact junipers. Like Elafonissi, there are a few small coves as well as the main beach. The water there is among the clearest we’ve seen anywhere in the world, along with the gorgeous beaches around Dunsborough in Western Australia. I saw four people in the few hours I was there, and these were naturists looking for a private slice of paradise. They found it alright.
The Samaria Gorge hike is one of the most popular things to do in Crete. It’s a downhill walk from Omalos, up in the White Mountains, down to Agia Roumeli on the Crete south coast, and the only way to accomplish it is on a Samaria Gorge tour, several of which run from Chania.
The walk takes anything between four and eight hours – the tour companies usually allow for ten hours to cover the 16 km (10 miles). You’re then free to explore tiny Agia Roumeli and its gorgeous beaches (try the eastern section of Zeromouri beach, around a mile east of the village) before you catch the Agia Roumeli ferry late in the afternoon. If you’re returning to Chania, you’ll be on the Paleochora ferry; once you arrive in Paleochora you’ll be picked up by bus and driven back to Chania.
Chania Boat Trips
The most popular of the boat trips from Chania harbour runs 10 km (6 miles) west to Agioi Theodoroi Island, which dominates the view from the Chania resorts including Agia Marina and Platanias to the west of the city. The island is a safe haven for the rare kri-kri, the Cretan mountain goat. Many of these also give you the opportunity to snorkel in the beautiful clear waters. Some also stop for snorkelling at Lazaretta Island, which is closer to Chania.
Oh Falassarna. What a place. A wild, mountainous landscape on the edge of the Mediterranean has five stunning, incredibly varied beaches, one next to the other. It has a real wilderness, edge of the world feel about it, and made a deep impression on the three of us – I rate it among my top three most beautiful beaches in Europe.
It’s a tiny, strung-out hamlet with a couple of shops and a beach bar for each section of beach – with the exception of the main Falassarna beach, which has several tavernas and the most facilities. Each of the beaches has its unique features – from the natural rock pools on the northern Agia Paraskevi section to the watersports-friendly main beach. It’s around two hours from Chania by bus, and you can make a day trip there until around the 15th of October. Falassarna tours from Chania run until the same point in the season.
Charming Rethymno is the third largest city in Crete, an hour east of Chania. The Venetian and Turkish Old Town is lovely, as is the tiny Venetian harbour. The city is dominated by the Fortezza, a sprawling hilltop castle with superb views of the town and Psiloritis, one of the highest mountains in Crete, dominating the horizon. The Old Town gets pretty busy in summer, but it’s easy to find a quiet corner in the warren of narrow lanes.
Rethymno – sometimes referred to as Rethymnon, though nobody in the town does – also has the best city beach in Crete, a long strand stretching 13 km (8 miles) to the east. It’s very much of the ‘organised’ variety where you pay for your sun bed and umbrella at one of numerous sections. It also has great views over to the Fortezza and Old Town, especially at sunset.
Arkadi Monastery is part of the soul of Crete, and its tragic past makes it one of the most compelling Crete attractions. It’s the site of a siege during the 1866 Cretan Revolt when over 300 soldiers, women and children sought refuge there, holding out against the overwhelming numbers of Ottoman Turkish forces. When it became clear that defeat was inevitable, those left inside opted to be blown up in the monastery’s gunpowder store room rather than face capture.
There’s a small museum onsite dedicated to this traumatic episode, but it’s also worth the drive in up to the hills to see the cloisters and reconstructed monk’s cell.
It’s roughly.a 90-minute drive from Chania, otherwise it’s two buses each way with a change at Rethymno. It’s also possible to go on an Arkadi Monastery tour from Chania
Bali is a small resort village on the north Crete coast, between Rethymno and capital Heraklion. The five Bali Crete beaches are packed during the season, but become a more pleasant option once the main summer season is over ion early October. The furthest beach from the main road, Karavostasi beach, is the best, and it’s surrounded by striking cliff scenery and a secret beach only accessible to swimmers and snorkellers.
Bali is fairly easy to reach from Chania as it’s next to the main road to Heraklion. It’s a straightforward drive, otherwise the Chania to Heraklion bus stops on the main. road next to the Bali turn-off. A tourist train runs from there to the village in the daytime during summer.
Knossos is the best things to see in Crete if you want to delve into the island’s ancient history, which preceded the Ancient Greece of the Classics by well over a thousand years. It’s a Bronze Age site, and probably the main palace complex of the Minoan civilisation. It’s on many a what to see in Crete wishlist, and rightly so.
The Knossos complex is around 6 km (4 miles) south of Heraklion, and rather than driving halfway across Crete island to get there, a Knossos tour is an easier option. It’s one of the most popular Crete tours, and these also give you an introduction to Heraklion, a city we intend to explore much more in the near future.
You’re not just limited to Crete day trips in Chania. It’s also possible to do a day trip to Santorini from Chania. You only get around seven hours on the island of Santorini, but if it’s the one chance you’re ever likely to get to visit Santorini, dream big and go for it.
The day trip from Chania to Santorini entails two four-hour ferry trips. We wouldn’t normally recommend such a long journey each way for a relatively short time, but Santorini is an exceptionally beautiful place, and one of very few places worth such an effort.
With the limited time you’ll have, your best option is to join a Santorini day tour, ideally taking in some of the best villages in Santorini – Fira, Firostefani and Oia. There are tour pickups at Santorini port, and they take you up to the three villages mentioned, all of which overlook the spectacular Santorini caldera. Otherwise it may be worth considering a bespoke private Santorini tour to make the very most of your time there.