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CHANIA PREFECTURE

Chania Town

 

also called CANEA, city and capital of Crete (together with Iraklion, since 1841). It lies along the east corner of the Gulf of Chania and occupies the neck of a low, bulbous peninsula between the gulf and Soudhas Bay on the site of ancient Kydonia. The city was occupied in 1252 by Venetians, who held it, except for a brief period under the Genoese (1267-90), until 1645, when it fell to the Turks. In 1878, after numerous revolts against Turkish rule, various privileges were granted to the Cretans. Chania joined the kingdom of Greece in 1912. It was severely damaged in 1941 during the German aerial invasion of Crete. After World War II improvements to Soudhas Bay strengthened the city's position as a major port of Crete. Chania exports most of the island's citrus fruit as well as olive oil and wine. The population of the city is about 50000 souls.

 

The town is very beautiful with many secluded spots of natural beauty and still bears strong evidence of its Venetian past A whole neighbourhood of that era still remains as well as large sections of the 13th century fortifications including the bastions, the moat and other ruins. In addition, the Loggia (a gentlemanís social club) and other buildings still bear testimony to the cityís importance in the Venetian empire. From later days, the Byzantine churches of Agii Anargiri and Agia Magdalini are worth visiting.

In the town, the Archaeological Museum is a must, housed in the old Venetian church of San Francesco, with important exhibits from western Crete from the Neolithic to the Roman era. In addition, the Historical Archives of Crete offer an interesting glimpse into Creteís past in the form of a very important and large collection of folk items and other historical artifacts. Finally the naval Museum of Crete has many interesting displays relating to the islandís turbulent history.

 

 


Main sights, landmarks and villages in the region:

 

Aptera: About 15 km south of Chania, near the village of Megala Horafia, one of the most important cities of ancient western Crete which flourished during the 8th and 7th centuries BC. The cyclopean city walls are still standing and are awe inspiring. It was developed again during the 1st c. Roman period from which era one can see a temple to Demeter, a Roman theatre and well preserved enormous vaulted cisterns which were apparently used for storing grain.

 


Agria Gramvousa: This is a small picturesque island NW of Chania, where the remains of a Venetian fort are visible. Access is by caique from Kissamos during the summer.

 


Samaria Gorge: At 18km in length, this is the longest gorge on Europe, between the White Mt. (Lefka Ori) and Mt Volikas, 43 km south of Chania with spectacular natural beauty. One can walk through it in the dry season (May to end of October, depending on the weather) from the village of Xiloskalo (with a view to Mt Gygilo, alt. 2083m.), to the village of Agia Roumeli, but always enquire before setting off due to the serious danger posed by flash floods! At some points the gorge is only 3m wide and rises as much as 600m on either side. On arriving at the end one can take a boat to Hora Sfakion and thus avoid the arduous walk back to the base! Rooms can be found for rent before the entrance to the gorge at the village of Omalos.

 


Hora Sfakion (Sfakia): This is a very beautiful, traditional rocky village, 74 km south of Chania, famous for being one of only a handful of places in Greece to have never been invaded or besmirched by turks during the four centuries of their occupation. No wonder: it is built against the mountain facing south and can only be reached by a difficult route over the mountain of Askyphos and through the Nimbros Gorge.

 


Gavdos: A small virgin island 24 miles south of Sfakia with large cedar trees and spotless beaches. The island is one of the really untouched places in Greece where one can still find a friendly taverna or two and a few basic rooms to rent.

 


Therisso Gorge: A smaller gorge, 6km long between Chania and Therisso village, some 15km south of Chania. Not as spectacular as Samaria but worth visiting.

 


Lake Kournas: A lovely, picturesque lake, the only one on Crete, some 48km east of Chania with high surrounding mountains and crystal clear waters.

 


Gavalohori: Traditional village, 26 km SE of Chania, surrounded by extensive olive groves and oak trees boasting an interesting Historical and Folklore Museum with many interesting exhibits. The ground floor dates from the Byzantine period The village was named after the Byzantine Monk Gavalas who was sent there by the Emperor in 1090AD.

 


Polyrhenia: Another important city of ancient western Crete, near the present day Selli or Paleokastro, about 50 km west of Chania. It was founded with the help of the mainland Acheaens, successors of the Minoans as rulers of Crete. Ruined walls and the acropolis are still visible and the remains of a Roman aquaduct can be seen near the village of Kria Vrissi near Kissamos or Kastelli.

 


Falassarna: This was the port of Polyrhenia, northwest of Chania where one can still see tremendous cyclopean fortifications, tombs, house foundations and even sculptured rocks - even a throne - near the present day village of Koutri.

 


Kalathenes: Here, SW of Kissamos, 43 km west of Chania, one can see the weel preserved Villa Rotonda which was the country estate of feudal Venetian lord of the 16th century.

 


Paleohora: At the southern shore of the district of Chania, 73 km south, one can visit the fort Castel Selino, built in 1279 by Duke Marino Gradenigo, the then governor of Crete.

 


Frangokastello: On the south shore, 11km east of Hora Sfakion one can see another Venetian fort, the Castel Franco, built in 1371 as a defense against pirates and Cretan rebels.

 


Akrotiri: Apart from the natural beauty of this area, one can visit the Monasteri of Aghia Triada, c. 1632, with a remarkable gate, chapel and outbuildings.

 

 


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