Chania is the last of the four regions of Crete for us to visit; it covers the westernmost quarter of the island. Its capital is the city of Chania. Chania borders only one other region: that of Rethymno to the east. The western part of Crete is bounded to the north by the Cretan Sea, and to the west and south by the Mediterranean Sea. The regional unit also includes the southernmost island of Europe, Gavdos.
Coordinates: 35°25′N 23°55′E
- Chania (1)
- Apokoronas (2)
- Gavdos (3)
- Kantanos-Selino (4)
- Kissamos (5)
- Platanias (6)
- Sfakia (7)
Chania region or ‘Western Crete’, is a beautiful and in many parts unspoilt part of the island. Districts include verdant Apokoronas, mountainous Sfakia, and Selino in the far South West corner. Some other notable towns in the Chania prefecture are: Hora Sfakion, Kastelli-Kissamos, Palaiochora, Maleme, Vryses, Vamos, Georgioupolis and Kalives.
The natural park of Samaria Gorge, a major tourist attraction and a refuge for the rare Cretan wild goat or kri kri, is in the South of the regional unit. The White Mountains or Lefka Ori, through which the Samaria, Aradena, Imbros and other gorges run, are the limestone peaks topped by snow until May that occupy much of Chania regional unit. They contain more than 40 peaks over 2,000 meters high. The highest peak in this area is Pachnes, at 2,453 meters above sea level.
Western Crete is popular with tourists for its spring flowers that linger on into early May in the mountains. Birdwatching is also popular, with the lammergeier and golden eagle especially sought for. Being an island, Crete has many endemic species of plant and animal.
Crete’s only freshwater lake, Lake Kournas, is in the region close to the border with Rethymno region, 47 km from Chania. It is relatively large, with a perimeter of 3.5 km. The lake used to be called ‘Korisia’ after ancient ‘Korion’, a city thought to be in the area with a temple to Athena. The lake used to be reportedly full of eels but now it is better known for its terrapins and tourists. Tavernas and pedalo rental shops line part of the shore. Overall, however, the lake retains its beauty, the White Mountains reflected in the mirror-like waters. Chania is the region of Crete that receives most rainfall during the year.
White Mountains (Lefka Ori)
The White Mountains or Lefka Ori occupy a good part of the centre of Western Crete and are the main feature of the region. They consist mainly of limestone, from light grey to bluish or black color. The “White Mountains” have got their name from the white color of their peaks as the off-white of limestone during the summer and fall interchanges with the snow that covers the peaks until late in spring.
The highest summit is Pachnes with 2,453 m and there are over 30 summits that are over 2,000 m high. The Lefka Ori also have about 50 gorges, the most famous being the Samaria Gorge. Another characteristic of the mountain range is that there are a number of plateaus that exist at heights of 500–1,100 metres, such at those of Askifou, Impros, Kallikratis, Anopolis, and Omalos which are all surrounded by mountains.
Things to do
- The Volikas Refuge was built in 1958. It is located above the village Kampi Keramion, at an altitude of 1,450 metres. It can accommodate up to 30 persons. (Further reading…)
- The Kallergi Refuge was built in 1970. Its altitude is 1,650 m and it can accommodate 45 persons. It is located 5 km from Omalos. (Further reading and maps…)
- The Tavris Refuge was built in 1992 and it is located near Ammoudari, 7.5 km from Askyfou, at 1,200 metres. It can accommodate up to 45 persons. (Further reading and maps…)
- The Svourichti Refuge was built in 1994. It is located seven hours from Anopolis at 1,980 m and it can accommodate 20 persons. (Photos and maps…)
- Just south of Georgioupolis town is the lake of Georgioupolis which is home to a number of different species of birds such as Herons, the Black-winged Stilt, Waders, various species of Ducks and Geese, as well as Coots and the Great Reed Warbler.
- Again regarded specifically as a hiking site, the Imbros Gorge is a great natural habitat for a variety of birds including the Raven, the Griffon Vulture, the Falcon and the Alpine Swift.
- Set amongst a stunning backdrop of mountains Lake Kournas is the only natural freshwater lake in all of Crete and covers an area of approximately 579,000 square meters and is only 22.5 meters at its deepest point. Home to different species including Herons, Cormorants, Ducks, and Warblers.
- Generally regarded for its fantastic hiking, the White Mountains provide an ideal habitat for bird lovers and nature enthusiasts looking for species of large birds like Eagles and Vultures, the Golden Eagle and the Red-Billed Chough.
- Hellenic Ornithological Society
- Greek Birding
- Climb in Crete