We had previously visited Crete, but only had enough time to discover the magical city of Chania for dinner one evening. When we saw the sun set over the picturesque Venetian port, we knew we would need to come back. And so we did – we decided to spend the long weekend around Easter in Chania.
Chania is a great destination for sightseeing – in the summer, the beaches are amazing, and in the spring, it was perfect for hiking/walking and exploring. And all year around, the old town is filled with Greek tavernas, cafes and bars that are open well into the night.
As Greece celebrates Orthodox Easter, Easter weekend was not really a celebration in Crete. However, March 25th (Good Friday) was a celebration of the Cretan independence and therefore, the town was filled with locals enjoying a seafood lunch followed by coffee and then a parade through town.
We decided to let the locals be, and get out of town during the day. The weather was perfect for a hike along Inbros Gorge. We set out for the drive, and along the way stopped at Dourakis Winery, where we enjoyed tasting some local wine from the family run winery.
Imbros Gorge is 11 kilometers long and the total descent is about 600 meters. The walk is an easy trek, but well worth the walk for the amazing scenary, and lovely goats along the way. At the end, there are a few tavernas, offering food, but more importantly offering a taxi service to drive you back to Imbros to pick up your car!
We spent Saturday roaming through the old town, which is situated around the harbor. The town is a maze of alleys and cobbled streets lined with small souvenir shops and restaurants. There are a number of sights as well, the main feature being the lighthouse which was built in 1595 under Venetian rule and is considered to be one of the oldest still standing. The mosque, Yiali Tzami, was built in the late 17th century and surrounds the harbor as well. We visited both buildings, as well the Grand Arsenal, public market and a few others. We generally just enjoyed a lazy stroll through the town, stopping at shops and cafes along the way.
On our last full day, we wandered outside of Chania once again. We spent the morning making our way to the historical village of Theriso, where the revolution of Theriso took place in 1905. While there is a museum and statue commemorating the Greek politician Venizelos. However, despite the history, we visited less so for the village and more so to enjoy the drive itself.
The drive takes you through the Therisino Gorge, which is the only gorge you can drive through and boasts spectacular views.
We continued on to Drakona and stopped in Notounias, a local greek tavern, where Stelios, the owner uses a traditional slow cooking wood stove (no electricity or gas) to make all his food. We enjoyed the traditional recipes based on pure, high quality local vegetables and roast meat cooked in pure virgin olive oil and wild herbs.
We then continued our drive and eventually made our way north in the direction of Akrotiri, where we visited a few of the monasteries and also the Venizelos Graves.
The Monastery of Agia Triada (Holy Trinity) was built in 1634 by two brother monks, Lavrentios and Leremias. In the Greek revolution in 1821, the monks manage to escape but the historical relics and
manuscripts that the highly educated monks managed to collect were burnt by the Turks. After the revolution, the monastery was re-established, and today, it supports schools in Chania, has an operational seminary and produces organic wines and olive oil!
The Monastery of Gouverneto was built in 1537 and also prospered until the Turkish invasion. In the Second World War, the German establish a guardhouse in the monastery to control the area, and since 2005, the monks of the monastery have started restoration on it.
The Venizelos Graves are on the hill of Profitis Ilias. The grave itself is nice, but the real reason to visit are the views. And just next to the Graves, there are a number of little cafes offering amazing coffees and desserts overlooking all of Chania. A perfect place to watch the sunset.