Chania – a not so explored Cretan jewel

CHANIA - An Underrated Greek Paradise

Chania can be chosen as your base for many small ventures in the island of Crete.

We had booked an overnight ferry from Athens(9:30 PM) to Heraklion(6:00 AM) – a port city in Crete. After we de-boarded at Heraklion we had to figure out our onward journey. Plan was to find a bus from there to Chania, another city in Crete where we had booked our hostel stay for the night.

Public Transport…

As soon we were off the ferry, out usual search started to find someone who could guide us to the nearest bus station. But unlike Mykonos this was quite easy in Heraklion. Even at that early hour there were police personnel around to guide the traffic and making sure u do not take any wrong turns. We quickly reached out to one of them and were guided towards the bus station which was just a 10 min walk.

Initlally we were a little skeptical looking at the narrow and dark alley that was supposed to be leading to the bus terminal. We stopped at the turn and started looking around just to get some sign that we were on the right track. Just then we saw quite some people include backpackers like us moving towards that alley and this gave our confidence a much-needed kick. When in an unknown country, you always tend to be cautious and sometime over-cautious as well.

At the end of alley was a very quiet and beautiful bus station. Such a well maintained and a clean station with nice seats in the waiting area to enjoy a cup of coffee while you await your bus. We bought 2 tickets for Chania costing 30 EURO. It was around 6:30 in the morning and bus was to start at 7 AM. We had a good half hour with us.  We bought coffee and bought a few magnets and post cards to be sent back home. In usual scenario we could have sent then from there itself but being Sunday the post offices were closed and so we thought to send them from the city.

Bus Journey…

Punctuality is a virtue and it is followed to a Tee in Greece. Bus arrived right at 7AM and we rushed to board it. It was an AC VOLVO bus. We were pretty satisfied with the public transport and happy to board one. Bus had huge windows which you ample opportunity to enjoy the views outside. Since Heraklion (also called Iraklion) is the port city, you get to witness beautiful views of the Aegean Sea while on your way to Chania. The whole route is very scenic and the roads is superb condition. Bus stops at small villages on the way. Quite some office going people board the bus for their short distance travel.

The landscape that you pass through is surreal. At times you see the sea and in between small brown mountains transform the landscape completely then suddenly you will gorges. Ride is quite interesting. Its a 2 hr ride from Iraklion to Chania and bus stops in between at Rhythemno – another beautiful town in the island of Crete. Out initial plans were to stopover at it but we changed our plans and decided to directly head to Chania for now and cover Rhythemno maybe on our way back.

Check-in…

After a beautiful 2 hr ride, we finally arrived in Chania. We had booked Cocoon Hostel for our stay there so the moment we arrived we started asking the bus driver about it and also started checking it on our map so that we do not miss the location and do not end up getting down far off from our hostel. Because one thing we knew – that we will have to walk with all our luggage to reach our hostel. So we were being really cautious. But luckily our bus driver knew the place and informed that the hostel was quite near to the bus station. This was a big sigh of relief for us. We got down at the bus station and had to talk for about 300 mtr.

Chania gave a very small town feel to us and we instantly liked the place. In our hostel, there were lots of backpackers like us. The frontdesk team was really helpful. The check in process was very smooth and uneventful:-). They also helped us with a map of Chania and told us what all can we cover around. We just had a day and half in Chania so we had to choose where to go.

There are lots of things that can be done and you really need 3-4 days to enjoy Chania. Due to lack of time we could not stay longer this beautiful place.

Available Options…

There are 3 major things that can be done –

Samaria Gorge – – Around 40 km from Chania City Center

Elafonisi Beach – Around 70 km from Chania City Center

Balos Lagoon – Around 50 km from Chania City Center

You need complete 1 day to visit Samaria and Balos because both these options include some hiking along the trails. Elafonisi can be done in half a day though. Now depending on your interest and time, you can take a call which one to visit.

We opted for Elafonisi beach.

“Old Town of Chania is vibrant and charismatic. Located by the lighthouse, with beautiful markets and cafes and restaurants, its just a place to spend a perfect evening.”

Bike Ride…

Our hostel told us that we can either hire a rental car or a bike and ride to the beach. We chose the bike and got it from a nearby rental shop for 40 EURO a day. They also took a deposit amount of 100 EURO, which they returned when we returned the bike. They provide you with the helmet for both rider and the pillion. And of course you need to have international driving license to drive in Greece.

This was our first day driving in Greece – we were both super excited and a little apprehensive as well. Bikes here were a little different than what we are used to here in India. After collecting our bike, we off on an adventure ride. From our morning ride we knew that the roads in Greece are pretty good. But we didnt know whether it would be the same for Elafonisi. But we were in for a pleasant surprise – the roads were superb and scenic. We totally loved our bike ride.We crossed so many small villages and beautiful houses and cafes on our way.

Elofinisi

After an interesting ride of about an hour, we reached at the beach. There was a huge parking lot where we parked our bike, took our belongings and set off towards the beach.

Special mention – We chose this beach based on our reasearch that we had done about places to cover in Greece. We read about a pink beach in Greece – and yes it is Elafonisi. So we had to do it.

This turned out to be one of our best decisions. This beach is exquisitely beautiful. The pristine blue waters and the whole landscape just takes your breath away. We would’nt hesitate to say that this has been the best beach till date that we have been to. It was abuzz with activity and we thought this is it. So we started looking for a place for ourselves. But then we got thinking – that we had heard of it being a Pink beach but it was nowhere to be seen. Out curiosity got better of us and we started asking around for it.

So one of the attendants told us to go to the other end of the beach for it. We immediately started walking immersing ourselves in the beauty around and soaking it all in. With all the excitement we reached the other end but still could not find the pink beach. Now we started getting a little disappointed – because it was not what we had in mind. We started looking to for a shack and got one to just sit and relax and chill.

Pink Beach…

We found a shack and just then arrived a gentleman to collect the rent for tht shack – yup u got it right, it was a paid one. That too 10EURO – damn expensive for just a few hours. But then we had no choice. After we had paid, we asked him about the Pink beach and he asked us to go further ahead. By now we were not that hopeful but thought to give it a chance. We put down our belongings there and started walking towards the pointed direction.

And tadaannnnn – finally we were at the pink beach.

To be honest it is not as pink as we had imagine it to be. It was slightly pinkish and it was breathtakingly beautiful beach. Due to end of season it was not super crowded. We really loved it there and spent quite a good amount of time enjoying the beach. We just didnt wanna leave it and that’s when we realised, if only we knew about this part of the beach a little earlier we would not have ended up spending 10 EURO on a shack at that place. Neverthless, it was all done and dusted.

Pristine Blue Waters…

The water there was so clean and pristine blue. The whole experience was quite surreal. Later we moved towards the other part of the beach where the waters were shallow and the sand was light brown. If you really want to enjoy the serenity of the beach, plan to visit it early in the morning. Later in the day hordes of tourists throng the beach in the buses that ply from Chania or also as part of tour buses operated by the tour operators.

The sand here is very soft and powdery and the touch of it feels so good on the feet. The whole experience here is just out of the place.

Earlier this was a hidden gem but then a few years ago it was rated as one of the top 25 beaches in the world and that’s when it started gaining popularity. Until then it was a secret known only to the locals. Apart from just the pink sand what differentiates this beach from the others is its rocky formation as well. There is a path which connects the main beach to the pink beach which is also an island reserve. No umbrellas and beach chairs are allowed here which is why this part of the beach is less crowded.

Elafonisi is actually an island and hence its a little unique beach. There are 3 parts to the beach – one is the shallow end which is more ofr kids, second part if where all the adventure sports like surfing can be done and there is the third part which is kind of cut off from the main beach is the nature reserve. Its an amazing beach to explore and we simply loved it.

Facilities…

We didnt wanna leave but in the interest of time, we started heading back to our bike. Right outside there are a few washrooms and taps with clean water where you can take a quick shower and change into dry cothes before heading back. But they are quite few in number and you might have to wait in the queue for long. Luckily it was end of season for us so it was not as crowded but in the peak season it can get really tough.

There are a couple small cafes available which serve drinks and seafood. Not many vegetarian options so we gave it a pass and directly headed back to Chania. We left the beach by 5pm and were back in the city by 6:30PM. We quickly got ready and headed back into the town to enjoy our rest of the evening.

An evening in Chania…

Chania dons a very happening look by the eve. Its very energetic and lively with music playing in the cafes and restaurants which livens up your mood. Dine-ins are by the street and you can see the streets abuzz with life and activity. There is never a dull moment.

We were loving our time there taking it all in and enjoying a simple walk while surfing through the cafes to have our dinner. You can see attendants of all the cafes, inviting you into the cafe they represent with their cheerful self. We finally settled into a cafe since it had some promising vegetarian options. Finally we ordered Dolmedes with couple of glasses of wine.

Dolmedes are the stuffed vine leaves. Stuffing is of flavored rice cooked with lots of herbs. Dish tastes really yummm. Since we were enquiring about the local drinks of Greece, the attendant got us couple of shots of Raki to try. Raki is an alcoholic drink which is a little sweet and anise flavored. Its generally treated as a digestive drink in Greece and is to be had after your dinner.

Later we moved ahead and found one other restaurant which seemed to have more vegetarian options and ended up ordering Bruschetta and Risotto with couple of beers.

After having a sumptuous meal, we finally returned back to our hostel and Conked off for the day.

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