I adored the history of Athens, but it was a busy city.
I found Santorini to be picturesque and as beautiful as I’d hoped, but it was very touristy.
I got to Chania, Crete, and it was juuuuust right.
Pronounced Hania, this charming town with a pretty epic history and lineup of different rulers felt like what I hoped Greece would be. The cobblestone streets in the old town and the harbor area were lined with patio restaurants, locals sitting around sipping Raki at all hours, and ruins from long ago.
Crete is home to the earliest recorded civilization in Europe, the Minoan civilization. There are ruins and relics dating back to 2700BC scattered throughout Chania, and a trip to the ancient Minoan city and palace of Knossos should be on the list. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for us logistically. If you plan to visit Crete from Santorini, the only ferry goes to Heraklion. Knossos is just outside of the city, but the ferry arrives late and Knossos was closed. Chania is 2.5 hours from Heraklion and Knossos, so it didn’t make the priority for our short 3 nights there. My 1 regret about my time in Crete was not visiting here!
History not your thing? That’s fine… The beaches are beautiful! The ones lining the city were crystal clear and scattered with a few people swimming and a little sand area, but the ones you can take a day trip to were like nothing I’ve seen! Balos lagoon is one of the most unique beaches I’ve visited. We booked a tour for simplicity reasons and were surrounded by hundreds of others, I can only imagine what it would be like in the morning hours before the tourist arrive. That being said, If you’re visiting in July or August, I would look into doing the 3 hour hiking in option, or driving and walking in!
The food was another highlight. Snails, grilled octopus, fresh fish, greek salad, tzatziki, and a liter of delicious crisp house white wine. This is what our table would look like at any given dinner on Crete. Throw in some lamb or moussaka here or there, and no wonder I gained weight on this trip. It was all delicious, and ridiculously affordable. Any of the previously mentioned entree would range from 10-15 euro. Ahhh the food, I miss these meals!
These things can make for a great vacation destination, but occasionally you find a place that has a little extra something. Chania was that for me. I loved going for a relaxing run in the morning and seeing the old men playing cards around a table by the harbor. The hospitality was amazing. We messaged our airbnb host asking if we could pay to have a cake waiting to surprise our friend on her 30th birthday and they replied that it would be on them. We arrived to a beautiful cake, prosecco, 2 different pastries, balloons, and raki. Dinners out were an experience, and we had more fun with our servers at restaurants and bars than I have in a year in the US.
It was a charming, relaxing destination, with all of the things I could want and appreciate. Sooo, while my green dress pictures were actually taken in Santorini, I decided I wanted to write and tell yall about Chania instead. I realize there are a lot of Greek islands to choose from, and I haven’t researched or visited many. But, I feel like Crete is overlooked and overshadowed by others, namely Santorini and Mykonos. Locals seemed pleasantly surprised that we chose Crete and then immediately warned us about the amount of Raki that will be drank and told us the food was delicious. They weren’t wrong on either account.
I would love to keep it to myself in hopes that it doesn’t grow anymore and become too touristy, but I was raised to share ;). If you’re looking to travel to Greece, I would suggest that Crete make the list!
My girlfriends that I went with had similar opinions:
“I wish I would’ve spent more time there out of all of the places we went. There’s lots to see and every corner I turned there was a chance to explore new amazing restaurants, bars, and shops. The people were just so welcoming. I wanna go back!”
“I thought it was lovely and very interesting with great food and raki ;P. A town I could happily live in”
“It was charming, the men were gorgeous, and the food was delicious.”