Chania Car Hire
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Chania is the second-largest city in Crete after Heraklion and lies at the western end of the island’s north coast, around 145km west of the capital. Its municipal population is 108,000 and its administrative area includes a clutch of nearby towns and villages including Aroni, Galatas, Perivolia, Daratsos and Souda.
Regarded by many as Crete’s most beautiful settlement, its Venetian and Turkish architecture, old port, churches, museums, labyrinthine shopping streets and laid-back restaurants and cafes serving fine cuisine captivate visitors from around the world. If you want to see Crete at its most spellbinding and spectacular, Chania works like a charm.
Car hire (along with a number of other services) is reasonably priced in Chania. For example, an economy-sized car like a Nissan Micra costs just £30 for four days at present, a neat Volkswagen Up (min-sized) is only £42 for four days and even a roomy Peugeot 301 ̶ ideal for longer road trips ̶ is only £55 for the same hire duration. Rent a car in Chania with Enjoy and you can discover hotspots in the city and beyond on your own timetable, but before you get behind the wheel, here’s some useful information on this inspirational city.
- About Chania: this coastal city clustered around a harbour on the west end of Crete’s north coast was controlled by Turkey and Venice long before it became part of modern Greece and the enduring influence of these civilisations can be seen in the fine ramparts of Firka Fortress and the distinctive architecture of Agios Nikolaos Church, tasted in the multi-faceted cuisine and felt in the cultural milieu maintained by friendly, outward-looking locals. Ancient Minoan history comes alive at sites like Kydonia, the Samaria Gorge is one of the world’s best hiking spots, and there are plenty of brilliant beaches nearby where you can shoot the breeze with friends and people-watch while sipping cool drinks as the sun sets slowly over the horizon and sinks into the sea. With cool cafes, quality restaurants and lively bars and clubs further bolstering Chania’s considerable blessings, this is a city that will soon claim a special spot in your heart.
- Airports and access: Chania International Airport (CHQ) is located 14km from the city it serves, at Souda Bay on Crete’s Akrotiri peninsula. It’s also referred to as ‘Daskalogiannis’ after a celebrated Cretan rebel who took arms against Ottoman rule in the 18th The sixth-busiest airport in Greece, it processes 2.9 million passengers annually, is a main hub for Ryanair and Aegean Airlines and is also served by easyJet, British Airways, Transavia, Scandinavian Airlines and others.
- Driving around Chania: this is a brilliant base for filling up your fuel tank, hitting the road and exploring the best of the surrounding area and further afield. Here are a few terrific road trips from Chania:
- Famous Chania: this city has produced its fair share of famous faces. For starters, singer Nana Mouskouri hails from Chania, as does distinguished painter and sculptor El Greco. Other famous locals include actor Stelios Lionakis and novelist and founding member of the Hellenic Authors’ Society Maro Douka.
Modern Chania sits on the ancient Minoan site of Kydonia and archaeological evidence has been unearthed to suggest it’s been inhabited since the Neolithic era. It later became a prominent city-state in Classical Greece, with the first influx of settlers from mainland Greece (the Dorian Greeks) arriving in 1100BC. After defeating the Cretans in 69BC the Romans took over, although Chania was allowed to operate autonomously, then the Byzantines ruled between 395 -824AD, the Arabs usurped them and the Byzantines recaptured the city and ruled for a second phase between 961AD-1204AD. The Venetians ruled thereafter until the Ottoman Empire captured it in the late 17th Century, a semi-autonomous status for Crete was agreed between the Ottomans and Greece at the end of the 19th Century and Chania was capital of the ‘Cretan State’. Formal unification with Greece occurred in 1913 after the Balkan Wars, Chania suffered greatly under German occupation in WWII and Heraklion became Crete’s capital in 1971. Despite this troubled history, Chania has enjoyed a resurgence since the 1990s thanks to significant infrastructure investments, regained much of its former swagger and developed into a major hub for Crete’s tourism industry.
Heraklion and Knossos Palace are 143km east of Chania via the E75 coastal road and the journey takes around 2 hours and 20 minutes each way, so you’ll need to head off reasonably early in the morning to make a daytrip viable and leave yourself enough time at your destination. It’s worth the effort though ̶ Knossos Palace was the epicentre of Minoan civilisation between 2700BC and 1400BC and it’s a seriously impressive historical site where some of the features are surprisingly well-preserved. Pop into the Heraklion Archeological Museum afterwards and your window to the past will be expanded even further by fascinating insights into everyday Minoan life. Treat yourself to a traditional Cretan meal in one of Heraklion’s excellent eateries before you cruise back to Chania in the evening, enjoying the cool breeze and coastal views.
Alternatively, the picture-postcard villages of Vamos, Gavalohori and Douliana are all less than an hour south east of Chania via the same E75 main road and the drive rewards you with wonderful views of the sea and White Mountains, rustic buildings, Byzantine churches and varied terrain. Take a dip in the sea in Douliana to cool off before your return journey and treat yourself to a fabulous fresh salad while enjoying the scenic terrace views at the Heliostasi restaurant.
Guide to Chania
Much of Chania’s colourful past is intimately connected to its maritime history and the Old Venetian Harbour is still the heart of the city in many ways. Here you’ll see the romantic ruins of the Venetian castle, museums, art galleries, harbourside cafes and tavernas and an iconic lighthouse. Don’t leave the harbour without checking out the delightful domed structure of the Hassan Pascha Mosque ̶ it’s now used as an art gallery, but its unusual architecture is a potent reminder of the rich cultural tapestry of this fascinating city.
Meanwhile, the Cathedral of Eisodion tis Theotokou in the heart of Chania’s Old Town is a genteel Greek Orthodox church which will please even the pickiest aesthetes with its elegant façade, bold bell tower and intricate interior full of inspirational religious artworks. Furthermore, the Alikianos War Memorial is also worth seeing if you’re visiting this charming village which is around 12km from the city ̶ it pays tribute to the 8th Greek Regiment, Cretan Partisans and ANZAC troops who fought courageously against overwhelming odds while defending the island against German troops during the Battle of Crete in 1941.
Whether you like to balance your historical and cultural daytrips with the occasional lively soiree or partying is the highlight of your holiday, the nightlife in Chania is lively and inclusive. For starters, if you like sinking a few pints of the black stuff while you watch live sports and enjoy lively craic (conversation) with fellow revellers, KaMon Irish Pub at Plateia Katehaki is the place to be, but if you’ve got a more cosy and intimate evening in mind you might prefer Corner of Angels at Akti Kountourioti, near the Maritime Museum ̶ sip a glass of fine wine while you watch the sun set across the marina.
As the evening progresses, move on to the Peacock Tail Bar at Kanevarou near the Old Harbour for excellent cocktails in a chilled-out setting and head to Bazaki on the steps near the Old Market for beers, shots, live DJ tunes and dancing as darkness descends ̶ the décor is delightful and includes an upcycled campervan front which doubles as a DJ booth and a bar decorated with retro music cassettes.
As if sun, sea, sand and historical attractions weren’t enough, Chania also has a wide range of alternative activities to stimulate the mind and body. If you love brain teasers, Mystery Loft-Escape Rooms lets you and your friends pit your wits against various cryptic clues, games and puzzles in order to unlock rooms and proceed through the game ̶ great fun for a group outing! Alternatively, if you fancy something a little livelier, Paintland Chania is just five minutes from downtown in the Nerokouros area. It’s the only paintball arena in the city and vaulting obstacles and performing commando rolls while blasting your rivals with harmless (yet wonderfully messy) paint pellets is extremely cathartic.
What to do in Chania?
There are plenty of sandy, sun-kissed spots near Chania where you can spend a day unwinding all the way, topping up your Vitamin D and messing around in crystal-clear waters. Agii Apostoli Beach is set in a bijou bay and surrounded with cliffside caves and rockpools, plus the water is reasonably shallow so it’s ideal for families. Alternatively, Iguana Beach is 3km west of Chania on the road to Platanias and its golden sands and deep blue waters are within easy reach of nearby restaurants, hotels and holiday apartments. Nea Chora beach is another prime pick for pleasure-seekers ̶ with a modern promenade, restaurants serving fresh fish daily and a location just a short stroll from the centre of Chania, it has much to recommend it.
On your bike
Fancy swapping four wheels for two for a couple of days? There are plenty of cycle routes in and around Chania, so it’s a great place to get on your bike. For a rapid ride to get your pulse racing, the 7km run from Chania Old Town to Souda Ferry Port takes around half an hour each way and serves up some smashing scenery. Meanwhile, if you’re an experienced (and fit) rider, the 70km route to Sougia on the south coast features a 1,072m ascent and a 1,076m descent, so you’ll definitely stretch your legs while navigating the varied terrain and enjoying stunning views around every corner.
If you’re a footy fan, you don’t need to miss your regular fan fix while you’re in town ̶ pop along to Perivolia Municipal Stadium to see local heroes AO Chania-Kissamikos take on their rivals. The stadium is small by some standards, with a capacity of just 4,527 ̶ but this only increases the intensity of the crowd and adds to the amazing ambience.
Eating out in Chania
Cuisine in Chania is diverse and exciting ̶ you’ll find everything from traditional tasty mezes to delicacies like hohlioi bourbouristoi (escargots), and steaks and seafood to international street food. Here are some of the culinary highlights:
As mentioned, Vamos village is a short drive from Chania proper and one of its foodie highlights is the Parisia Taverna. Situated in a rustic stone building that’s over 200 years old, this romantic setting is the perfect place to sample authentic local cuisine like antikristo ̶ tender ‘mirrored lamb’ that’s been cooked in the same way since the time of Homer’s Iliad. As well as the food, traditional Greek music adds to the earthy, sociable vibe.
If you’re yearning for haute cuisine in Chania itself, Serenissima at Skoufon St always satisfies. Chef Losif Petroff delivers a fab fine dining experience via three specially prepared menus, ‘Earth’, ‘Sea’ and ‘Vegan’ and there’s an impressive selection of fine wines from around the world. Try the smoked sardines with punchy pesto oil starter, the wholesome lamb stew and the moreish cheese truffle tart. At around €100 for a meal for two including drinks, it isn’t exactly cheap by local standards, but you’d pay much more for the equivalent quality in the UK.
American-style burgers, barbecue ribs and hot wings are grilled to perfection at Legends Burgers & Beers in Chania and there’s a superb selection of 25 international beers to wash it all down with. Signature cheese and bacon burgers with tender beef patties in sesame seed buns are stacked higher than the Statue of Liberty and taste out of this world, while a soundtrack of rock, soul and R&B keeps the party swinging.
Chania International Airport (CHQ) is located 14km from the city and has regular connections from a variety of locations across Europe. Enjoy partners with trusted car hire providers like Alamo, Enterprise, Europcar and highly rated local operators at CHQ, so you can pick up your car with complete peace of mind when you land.
The public bus system in Chania and across Crete is reasonably efficient, except outwith the tourist season from May to September when services are reduced and having a hire car will be even more convenient than usual. The main bus company is the state-run KTEL and you’ll find the bus station in Chania by strolling to the top of Halidon Street, heading across the square and turning right, whereupon it’s 100m on the left.
You always drive on the right side of the road in Chania, as you do across Crete and the rest of Greece.
The speed limit is 90 km/h (56 mph) for the highway and 50 km/h (30mph) for built-up areas.
Seatbelts are mandatory for the driver and passengers and the drink drive limit is 0.05%, or 0.02% for drivers who have passed their test withing the preceding two years.
It’s not uncommon to encounter large flocks of sheep crossing the road in rural areas outside Chania. Please slow down immediately when you see them, stop in plenty of time and patiently allow them all to cross.
There are plenty of petrol stations in and around Chania, but many don’t accept credit cards so be sure to draw cash before your journey.
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