Just to the west of Chania is the main tourist area of the western part of the island with well known resorts such as Stalos, Agia Marina, Platanias and Gerani. These resorts have everything you would associate with a typical beach holiday in the Mediterranean, beaches with facilities, tavernas, bars and plenty of shops. The further west you go the quieter and more traditional the resorts become.
Platanias is the largest tourist resort in West Crete. It is built along a sandy beach and caters mainly to tourists. Located on the main coastal road, there is a frequent bus service to and from Chania. There are many restaurants and cafes of all kinds, and plenty of shopping opportunities for when you are not lying on the beach or by the pool. The town has a lively nightlife, with many bars and clubs catering for all tastes.
Opposite Platanias is the island of St. Theodori or Thodorou. The Turks mention it as Tourlou-Andasi, and the Venetians as San Theodoro or San Todaro. In 1574, during the Venetian dominion, it was decided to fortify it, in order to prevent the Turks from landing in Platanias. So they built a multi-angled fortress on the highest point of the island and called it Turluru, and another multi-angled fortress at a lower level, which they called San Theodoro or San Francesco. Only the foundations of the St. Theodori chapel remain today. The island now serves as a rearing place for the Cretan mountain goat, kri-kri.
Maleme is where the Germans attacked Crete in 1941 and is home to the German war cemetery in the hills above Maleme. This part of Crete is dominated by citrus groves behind a quiet sand and pebble beach. Maleme has a good choice of tavernas and a large supermarket.
Tavronitis is a charming coastal village community, west of Maleme on the way to Kolimbari; tourism here is pretty low key but you will still find plenty of seaside amenities including mini-markets, a butcher's, a bakery and a patisserie. A few tavernas line the quiet beach that stretches towards Kolimbari in the west and Maleme to the east. You can take the road south from here enjoying a spectacular drive over the mountains to Paleohora on the south coast.
Tavronitis is located approximately 20 kms from the Venetian town of Chania to the area West of Crete.
A short stroll through the heart of the village where many of the local live, brings you to the shingle and pebble beach. Here you can walk along the tree lined sea front, stopping at one of the small "kantenas" for a drink or snack or enjoy a meal at one of the traditional tavernas.
Visit the famous Tavronitis bridge, the scene of a key fight in the Battle of Crete and the nearby war memorial and German War Cemetery in the village of Maleme next door. Here, on the now disused airfield where the German invasion of Crete took place in 1941, you will find a small number of old aircraft and the scene of an annual commemorative event.
In recent years Tavronitis and the surrounding area has become a popular location with ex pats of all nationalities. It is an ideal base to explore the western most part of Crete including the beaches at Paleochora, Elafonisi and Falassarna, as well as monasteries, gorges and the island of Gramvoussa with the remains of an old fort.
The Venetian town of Chania to the West and the historic town of Kissamos-Kastelli to the east can be reached in around 20 minutes.
The up and coming resort of Kolimbari is 25 kms west of Chania.
For years this was a sleepy fishing village which is now being transformed, it has a new marina, public gardens and popular tavernas serving excellent fresh fish and traditional Cretan dishes. There is a post office, banking facilities and a large supermarket. One or two sophisticated cafes, bars and shops are opening.
There is a long sand and pebble beach stretching all the way to Chania to the east. The 16th century Monastery of Gonias is a must for those visitors seeking out the historical. For fresh fruit and veg with lots of local atmosphere visit the Saturday market in Voukoulies, approx 7kms inland.
Kissamos (or Kastelli) is a small town located in the beautiful gulf of Kissamos. Famed for its wine and olive oil, it has a true Cretan character. There are good restaurants frequented by the locals and some bars. A long beach of sand and pebble stretches around the bay, which is generally very quiet. There is a public bus service to Chania and from the harbor, a regular ferryboat service to Gythion in the Peloponnese and to the island of Kythira. From here you can visit the west coast beaches, among them Falassarna which also boasts an archaeological site, the Gramvoussa isles (pirate isles), the beautiful George of Topolia and the lagoon at Balos.
Kissamos is surrounded by beautiful landscape and has about 3.000 inhabitants. It is not a crowded tourist resort - its development is based mostly in the wine and oil produce, and agricultural products.
The name Kissamos is of pre-hellenic origin - it was the name of an ancient community that existed in the same place. The ancient Kissamos was a marine and commercial centre of the Western Crete, and it was one of the Polyrinia's ports. Ancient Kissamos flourished during the Roman period and continued to prosper during the early Byzantine period when it was an episcopical seat.
Kissamos was always a well-fortified city- due to its wealth and location, it was often under attack. Parts of the wall that the Venetians built are still standing inside the city. The Venetian fortress, Castelo, was the special characteristic of the city and thus the city was named after it - Kastelli. Because in Crete there are many towns with the name Kastelli, it was named Kastelli Kissamou.
Falassarna is the westernmost village in Crete, located approximately 20km from Kissamos in the neck of the Gramvoussa peninsula.
The name Falassarna is pre-hellenic and is derived from the nymph "Falasarni". Falassarna used to be the port of ancient Polyrinia. The city was at its peak during the Hellenistic period and at the time the city had its own coin. Its port was closed and surrounded by walls and it was connected to the sea with a canal.
The port and the canal today are cultivated land due to the fall of the sea level - the ancient remains are located 300-400 meters from the sea. The secure position of the port, the impregnable fort and the rich valley of the area indicate that Falassarna was a great naval and commercial centre.
Present days Falassarna is a quiet resort, with many small hotels, apartments and taverns, close to the wonderful sandy beach. There are also many spots for free camping.
Here the visitor can admire the magnificence of the archaic landscape and the blue sky.
One of the most beautiful stretched sandy beaches in Crete, "Pahia Ammos" (thick sand), is located south of Falassarna.
The journey goes along the green northern coast until shortly before Kastelli, where you turn south and travel through the village of Topolia to the chapel of Agia Sofia, built in a rock face. The tiny church stands hidden in a cave and can be reached in a 10-minute walk.
In the village of Elos, in the middle of a chestnut growing area, you can take a break for coffee under the shade of the trees in the village square. The journey continues through old, tiny villages to the nunnery of Chrissoskalitissa (Golden Step). After taking a walk round the area, then it isn't much longer until we arrive at possibly the nicest beach on the whole of Crete - Elafonissi (Deer Island). In front of the dune landscape, dotted with pine and juniper trees, lies a flat sandy beach, which has a pink shimmer in places - due to coral mixing with the sand.
You can wade through the shallow, turquoise colored lagoon across to the island of Elafonissi. The water is, at the most, waist high.
BALOS AND GRAMVOUSSA
Due to its strategic location, Gramvoussa was fortified by the Venetians, who built a well-fortified castle on the top of a steep rock at an altitude of 137 m.
Construction on the castle of Gramvoussa started in 1579 and ended in 1582. It was destroyed in 1588, however, when thunder struck on the powder store. The castle was rebuilt in 1630.
It was one of the three castles to remain under Venetian dominion after the Turkish occupation of Crete.
Even though the castle was impregnable, during the Venetian-Turkish war the Italian commandant was bribed by the Turks and he gave over the castle in 1692.
During the Greek uprising against the Turks, Gramvoussa played an important and desicive role. After many attempts the castle was finally occupied by the Cretan revolutioners in 1825, when a team of Cretans disguised as Turks entered the castle. Gramvoussa was the first part of Crete to be liberated by the Turks.
The rocky island became a shelter for over 3000 people, and a base of operations for the revolution teams. But it also became a base of pirates that plundered every ship that passed to the seas around the island, so with the agreement of the Greek Government a English-French garrison took over the island of Gramvoussa in 1828.
Today, the high walls of the Gramvoussa are preserved, half ruined but awesome.
Opposite to the island of Gramvoussa is the wonderful beach of Balos.
The beach is covered with fine white sand and is located between the two creeks of the Tigani cape. The same white sand covers the bottom of the sea and grants to the sea an emerald color. In front of the beach is the picturesque island of Gramvoussa and on the back is the Geroskinos mountain (altitude 762 m).
The road from Kaliviani is well-paved dirt road, with amazing view to the steep rocky seaside of the east side of the peninsula. The road ends one-two km before the beach, and the visitor can follow a pave road to Balos.