Combining a touch of Venetian beauty with Crete’s rugged landscape and dazzling beaches, Chania is an enchanting welcome to this legendary Greek island. Waterfront restaurants spill out onto the gorgeous 14th-century Venetian harbour, which hums with clinking coffee cups and laidback chatter during sunny afternoons. Later, the sounds of popping corks and rattling cocktail shakers take over, as the harbour’s lights sparkle romantically, and the stars glitter overhead.
Chania is Crete’s second largest, and undoubtedly its most beautiful, town. The showpiece harbour is a cluster of colourful buildings, guiding you amiably towards the scenic old town - a mesmerising interplay of narrow cobbled streets. There’s a Turkish touch to some of the architecture, and the dusty domes of an Ottoman-era, former mosque overlook the undulating waterfront. It now serves as a unique venue for art exhibitions. Wander out across the thin sea walls to the 16th-century lighthouse – a charming hodgepodge of architectural styles, with influences from the major occupations of Crete’s history.
Leave the gentle clamour of the old town to unwind on luxurious Agia Marina, a coral-specked stretch of clear turquoise water, lapping gently against a band of soft golden sand. Bali’s beaches are another option, with curves of protected sandy sheltering inside rocky coves. Flip through the pages of a paperback, or enjoy strolls with the lazy loll of the waves washing over your feet. Back in the city, settle in to eat on that evocative waterfront, and rip freshly-baked bread, drizzled with golden olive oil, squeezed from olive groves nearby. Afterwards, enjoy platters of mussels, prawns and grilled sea bream from the Cretan waters. Be sure to try local mizithra - a rich, creamy cheese with echoes of ricotta.