At the western side of Crete, Chania is a popular destination with a long tourist season from spring until autumn and only few visitors during winter. Outside the Old Town, the wider region is far less populatedted and much quieter than the city centre, especially during the busy days of July and August. Rent a car and escape the city centre to explore our driving destinations around Chania, outside the tourist areas and closer to the everyday life of Cretans. Make sure you take some time to stop at a local taverna to try the authentic local tastes.
Our favourite 5 driving destinations around Chania:
Kissamos, 38 km west of Chania
In the large bay formed by the two peninsulas of Gramvoussa and Rodopou lies the coastal town of Kissamos or Kasteli. Built at the location of ancient Kissamos, it is the second-largest centre of Chania prefecture and the fourth largest port of Crete, connecting the island by ferry with Peloponnesos and the small islands of Kythira and Antikythira. Ancient Kissamos was the port of Polirinia, an important Archaic city-state built by Achaeans and Laconians. Visit the ruins of the ancient citadel built at a nearby hill 8 km south of Kastelli and enjoy the view of both the Cretan Sea in the north and the Libyan Sea in the south. Findings from the excavations are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Kissamos.
Vamos, 26 km southeast of Chania, in the region of Apokoronas
Vamos is a beautiful central village in the area of Apokoronas. The whole village has been well preserved keeping the traditional architecture of stone houses and paved streets. The main square of Vamos with the cafes and restaurants under the shade of plane trees is a meeting point for inhabitants of the nearby villages. Vamos is an ideal place to start and end your hikes in the nature of Apokoronas and to participate in cultural festivals or traditional feasts that are organized in the area.
Vrysses, 30 km southeast of Chania
The village of Vrysses, at the foot of the White Mountains, is the administrative and commercial centre of Apokoronas. It is also your best choice for a break in the hot summer days, especially if you rent a car in Chania and drive from north to the south coast. The centre and market of the village are organized around Boutakas river crossing Vrysses and the square with the old plane trees. From here you can also drive to the smaller villages of Fres, Vafes, or Alikampos to explore the quiet side of Apokoronas.
Sfakia, 72 km south-east of Chania
72 km south-east of Chania is the historical region of Sfakia, famous for the proud and strong people who have opposed foreign rule throughout the centuries. The drive alone through the White Mountains will reward you with stunning views of the Libyan Sea, especially when approaching the steep south coast. Sfakia offers a variety of facilities, accommodation, family-run cafes and restaurants by the sea. The port is connected by boat to Sougia, Palaiochora, Gavdos and Agia Roumeli, where Samaria gorge meets the Libyan sea. Nearby beaches are also accessible by boat or car. If you feel a bit more adventurous, take the 12 km winding road to the west towards the mountainous village of Anopoli, the old capital of Sfakia region. Today Anopoli is a small, quiet village known for the hospitable people, the hikes with amazing views and the tasty local baked goods. If you are an adventurous traveller have a look at “Fly me to the moon” post about hiking through the majestic gorges of Chania and Rethymno.
Aptera, 16 km east of Chania
Our Driving Destinations around Chania list ends with a time travel to the Minoan times in the archaeological site of Aptera, standing at the top of a hill overlooking the bay of Souda. From Chania take the North Road Axis toward Rethymno and turn right after 13 km, following the sign to Aptera.
Aptera was a powerful ancient Minoan city which remained powerful due to its strategic location up to the Hellenistic and the Roman period. According to the myth, the name “Aptera”, which means “without wings”, refers to the Sirens who lost their wings after being defeated at a music contest by the Muses. The lost wings became the small white islands of Souda Bay called “Lefkes”.
Discover the marks left behind by the different civilizations that inhabited Aptera: the walls of the ancient city, the ruins of temples dating back to the 8th century BC, the ancient theatre, the Roman cisterns and chamber tombs.
Do you want to find out more about driving destinations around Chania?
Read our post on the Best 5 Beaches in Chania
Post featured photo by Toms Auzins, licensed.